November 07, 2010

Centre de Sciences Humaines New Delhi

Centre de Sciences Humaines ( CSH ) is based in New Delhi. It has a wesbite at

According to the site description, “The Centre's activities are primarily oriented towards the study of issues concerning the contemporary dynamics of development in India, in its regional and international context.”

As per the history of the Centre given of the site, it has shifted to New Delhi from Kabul. At that time, it was working as the French Archaeological Delegation in Kabul and on arriving in India, it became French Archaeological Mission in India. The CSH was created by it in 1990. It is stated there that “n 1995, there was a shift in the research focus and the CSH became a centre specialising in contemporary India and South Asia.”

It is part of 27 research centres of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The object of the Centre is and I quote from the site that “As a research centre, the overall objective of the CSH is to examine India as an emerging power on the international scene, and to analyse the various transition processes that affect India and the South Asian region.”

It conduct many research projects with a pre-defined objectives already given on the site.

It provides the information on its activities through a news magazines which is interestingly titled “Pattrika” which is a Hindi term for magazine. The Pattrika is available online.

There are no online full length papers available on the site. However, the papers which are being produced by the Centre through research has been mentioned there with required glimpse of the contents of the papers.

I have come across the activities of the centre through the email listing of H-Asia and edited by Frank Conlon on November 3, 2010.

In battle of Wandiwash, the British company defeated the French company. I continue to read about the British empire especially its rule in India. The question comes to mind again and again that what scenario would have been there if British did not win that battle. Well, in history, you can not think like that. Even then, there remains a streaks of French presence in India. The times have changed. Now, India as a nation has matured. However, it attracts attention rooted in fascination for those nations which once ruled over India. The activities of the present governments of erstwhile imperial powers in their erstwhile colonies attract attention of any student of history. I have not gone through whole of the site and papers displayed there. But, the presence of such an institution in India definitely attracted my imagination and curiosity. The aim of the blog is to collect the the material/source on history at one place. No doubt, the institutions which are engaged in undertaking the research also come under such intellectual interest. Therefore, I include it in the list.

June 29, 2010

Kudhabaksh Oriental Public Library Patna Online

It is a pleasure to write about the online Kudhabaksh Oriental Library Patna.

It is after a long time, I am putting such a writeup on this blog. This blog was envisaged to emerge as a source of original sources and related comments along with discussion on the intricacies and methodology of the craft of history. I was surprised to find this online source and that in case of India by the Indians.

First, the main attraction of this heritage site is the availability of the Rare sources online for the rest of the humanity to use. It was envisaged by the founder and his father for that. The present version was also envisaged in prophetic words by the Prime Minister of India, Jwahar Lal Nehru when on his visit to the library he wrote and I quote, "I should like to see them reproduced by the latest techniques, so that others can see them and share in this joy." That has been achieved with marvellous success in its present avatar.

The contents and format provoked in me such a sequence of thoughts which will be out of place to bring it here. However, some of the major features are the availability of the different kinds of primary sources online as envisaged by Jwahar Lal to be presented ‘by the latest techniques so that others can see them and share in this joy”. The feeling of joy is definitely there but the actual vision of its original founders remained unachieved. Anyhow, one can find in its Online Catalogues Persian and Arabic Volumes. In the collection, one can find poetry, histories, encyclopaedias, biographies, work on jurisprudence, Islamic laws, theology, medicine treatises, Quran based literature, Metaphysical and philosophical literature and miscellanies.

The Rare Collections , which was reported to have been procured by Maulvi Khudabaksh beyond borders such priceless items of antiquity, are beyond description.

In order of the things, the Album section (it is a publication of the library) deserves special mention. It is worth visiting for any antiquarian and research scholars.

I had always been critical of the government departments and e-governance policy of Indian government. However, in this case, NIC Bihar State Unit under the Department of Information Technology had accomplished the job in a manner in which such activities should be performed. They have developed the site from all perceivable requirements. The address is nicely placed. The administration of the library is described in the required in manner. However, there is some shortcoming in the navigation feature. But, on the whole, it is a online source which is precious gift for Digital Historians.

June 10, 2010

Tattered Indian Historiography

J. L. Mehta had remarked that the contribution of Japial has been underrated. It is not a over statement. Rather, it is a 'matter of fact' statement. It can be put in other terms and can be said that it is one of the biggest shortcoming of Indian historiography. There are similar cases throughout the history writing in India.

There is need to define the issue underlying the above assertions. Alberuni had remarked that Indians did not have the awareness of the intellect of maintaining historic record. It is very difficult to contradict the statement of Alberuni. He was not an employ of Ghori. He was a type of a free lancer. He remained in India. He had undertaken empirical study. Then only he wrote his Tarik I Hind. He was not there to appease any patron. All these arguments favour the validation of the observation of Alberuni. Further, before Alberuni, Mahmud Ghazni deputed Fartishta to write his chronicle. Utbi covered his reign in detail. Amir Timur had to his name his autobiography. However, the scholars have found that it was got written by the Amir. Froze Shah Tughlaq wrote his autobiography though in form of small notes. Babur wrote Baburnama. Humanyun was a scholar. Akabr did not have liking for writing himself but he was highly fond of listening to the books. He had used his resources to arrange for writing and translation of many books. Jahangir had written Jahangirnama. There was a tradition among the Turkish political leaders to maintain a record. The same thing can not be said about the Indian political leaders.

Now the preceding observations are open to debate. We can say there is every reason to say such a thing that the absence and non-availability of any written record was not an evidence of its non-existence. We have cases contrary to that. Chandar Bardai wrote about Prithviraj. Kalhan and then six next authors continued to write about Rajtrangani. Every king tried to relocate his ancestry to a Puranic King. The inscriptions are found written on mathas and temples. There is every possibility that if political accounts were there, then they were destroyed. We have a case for it. It is recorded evidence that Ikhtiyarudin Bakhtiyar Khilji used the leaves books to warm the water for his bath. Bakhityar Khilji could have been a stupid person who was not able to learn the value of written books found at Nalanda. But such a justification is a very simplistic justification. It is rather a cunning way of hiding the bigger game plan which had been played by the invaders. Probably Khilji was just repeating a practice which was in force since the days of Ghori when he crossed Indus. The case of Khilji had come on record and the earlier acts were not recorded. Who was there to record? The invaders had it a part of their strategy to destroy the written records of the vanquished.

Now if there was any written record and that was destroyed by the khilji act, even then work of historians was not hampered. They had the testimonies of the foreign writers to extract the references and resurrect the history the period. However, that was not to happen. The invaders were followed by invaders. The next invader was Europeans. They were more committed. They did not have the policy of Dar-ul-harb and Dar-ul-Islam. But they had a mind set of 'White Men Burden'. It was more cruel and nasty mind set. The mind set get reflected in the first fully formulated work of J. Mills. The characterization hides beneath it the overtones of a racial invader. The issue is not that who were more racial – Nordics or Turks. The issue is the failure of Indian History. The finest example is the history of V. A. Smith published in 1904. The author and a retried bureaucrat had performed his work as per the craft of historian. But a discerning reader and analyst can easily find a truck load of paragraphs standing alone in his work which mocks at the failure of Indian historians. They are surfeited with racial bias. At many places the author just stop his narration and write a paragraph mocking at the Indian history. He had been quoted on Akbar that Akbar was a foreigner with no drop of Indian blood in his veins. The preceding and succeeding contents get dragged with the racial tinge. There are numerous such examples which could be gleaned from the book.

The above points can be authenticated by true evidences. Here, the argument is taken forward and it can be said that bit too abruptly taken forward to 1960's of Indian historiography. The European world was taken over by the spirit of post-modernist idea. They had started dismantling their own percepts of their history in light of the experiences of the post World War Second period. The Renaissance period was revisited. The concept of 'Dark Age' was dismantled, devastated, destroyed and liquidated. A new concept of Middle Ages was brought out in its place. In India, there was a chance for Indian historians to play their role. India was a free country then. It had started providing solutions to her own problems in her own terms. Historians had a chance to define India. They could also have dismantled, devastated, destroyed and liquidated the mindset about India which have been breathing life since the days of Alberuni. The task devolved upon such historians who were good analysts. But that became their shortcoming. They were good analyst. Their analytical tool was mathematical in nature. Their guru in India was an established mathematician, D. D. Kosambi who rubbed shoulders with Einstein and von Nuamann. But they were wedded to a philosophy which had a different goal which unfortunately had been missed in a miserable manner at a time when chasm between rich and poor was widening and the capitalist mindset through liberal use of impartial but more powerful technological marvels had pervaded everything which is called human.

The Marxist historians revisited the history of India with an intellectual anchor of Marxist philosophy. This became the cause of their failure to define the history of India for the the Indians. All their intellectual exercise revolved around the core of Marxist theory of fight between the classes and economic forces as the major engine of history. It was desired that they should have written history for India but they were under the subjugation of a western philosophy.

The Indian continent suffered the shower of Turkish races, the swords and hoofs of their horses from the beginning of the second millennium. After that they just poured down on Indian land and it seems if there was no one in India to stop them. Now it is a historic fact. They came, they saw and they conquered. Was there no effort on the part of the actual habitants to counter them, to oppose them and push them back? You read the history books and you find that all that is written is just the success stories of the successes of invaders. While writing about Akbar, V. A. Smith boldly wrote that there was not a single drop of blood from India in his veins. He was a foreigner, a complete foreigner. He was just there in Gurdaspur when he became the king without any territory in Indian to his name but when he died, he had his own city at Fatehpur Sikri where he was buried. It was an achievement and a great achievement from every angle. He had his son who had Indian blood in his vein. But Jahangir, the son of Akbar, was boldly proud of his Turkish origin and his son Shahjahan who had crossed over the other side of Vindhya dreamt of even conquering Farghana, totally in the different direction, the original land of their origin. Between, Jahangir and Shahjahan, there was a Prince Khusrau. The history books do not narrate much about him. His father was annoyed that the boy was imprudent. His brother took him along to south and then killed him. Later he killed his nephews also. Everyone knew about it. Jahangir knew about it. But no body spoke. Shahjahan might have destroyed every evidence of the greatness of Khusrau. Akbar wanted him to succeed him. This is how the invaders work.

There are references in Akabrnama, that Akbar had in his library more than 24000 books. Abul Fazal had it on record that his brother Faizi contributed the choicest books to the library. There was a team of fourteen writers, two each for every day, who wrote down every thing about the happenings in the court of the Mughals. Anybody could get a copy of those writings. Aurangzeb had even passed an injunctions that the minutes of the courts as prepared by the department on daily basis would not be available to the scholars in his time. There was a department and there was a system to maintain the record. Those papers were definitely kept in Agra Fort. But where are those papers? There are historians who have found many manuscript from the offices of the Mughals in different archives. But that would definitely have been a big treasure from where history of the period could have been written. But they are not available. What would have happened to them. They would have perished or was they destroyed by the English administrators the way the Khilji did to the Nalanda library. There was not one paper burning Khilji.

It was not only J. L. Mehta, who got disturbed by many patches in Indian history. Even, probably more famous and popular than him, the student of A. L. Basham, Dr. Romila Thapar had also brought on record some similar judgements in her writings. She had given an opinion that the Indian historians did not try to write history for India. They had been merely reacting and criticising what had been written about India.

The main issue is that there is a need to dismantle many of constructs which are raised by the invaders about India. Then, there is dire need to define the India as it has been existing since the antiquity. Mind it, it can only be done if you dismantle the theory of nation in making of nineteenth century. As long as Vishnu Purana is there, nation in making is a construct. The English should have burnt the Vedic literature also. However, they had a problem because there were some sick minded scholars among them whom they had called Orientalist. Those guy were bend upon preserving some of the literature. Then, it was to be followed by revisiting the India history once again. The government of India establishes committees and commission on the use of technology for empowering India. It forms groups on the judicious use of water resources. It forms groups on alleviating the poverty of the masses. Similarly, there is a need to form a group of scholars to revisit the history of India.

The Essay is Open. It means that the contents may be altered.

Edit Report
Date of Posting: June 10, 2010

Post-Modernism, Economics and KnowledgeFrom Expressionism to Post-Modernism: Styles and Movements in 20th Century Western Art (Grove Art Series)Historiography and Writing Postcolonial India (Routledge Studies in South Asian History)Historiography and Writing Postcolonial IndiaCreative Pasts: Historical Memory and Identity in Western India, 1700-1960 (Cultures of History)Presenting the Past: Anxious History and Ancient Future in Hindutva India

June 04, 2010

Turkish Women and India: A Suggestive Topic

The idea of this title came to my mind when I was reading the Mughal as well as the Delhi Sultanate history.

I am unable to understand that how had India remained under subjugation. When it is said that India as a nation a concept, did not exist, I am not able to adjust to this observation. I am also not able to refute this observation also because the facts and evidences prove that had India be a nation, it could not have remained under such a long subjugation. Even the countries like Italy and Germany which are of recent origin, they existed in a thought and that was why they came up. The divisive forces were strong. The foreign intervention was there. Some times it was the Guals and on the other hand there was the Austrain empire. But, somewhere, there was a sense of belongingness there all through their non-existence. In case of India also, there was sense of belongingness. The regions might have been under the control of different political powers, but people moved across. People bought from people across their boarders. People exchanged even cultural things across the boarder. The Raja ji was there but one could move from one side to the other. No doubt, during the Mughal period, we have on record that those people who had escaped from their villages, they were brought back to their villages. So there was sense of belongingness. The Turks came. But this sense of belongingness did not developed into a sense of preservation. There had been resistances. But there are no accounts which could bring out the feature of India as a nation.

Well, the above idea is different from what I am suppose to write here. While reading the history of the period of Mughals and the Turks, I have found that again and again there were references to the women of these people playing the role in political arena. Babur was guided by his dominating maternal grandmother. He was assisted by the Mongols when he himself had written dereogatory remarks against the Mongols. Similarly, in case of Akbar also, it was for a long time, it was the women who influenced the political acitivities of the court. The role played by this gender had made one historian, V. A. Smith to call it even a petticot government. During the period of Jahangir, the Nurjahan was dominating the whole show. The foriegn visitors had clearly recorded that how she dominated the court activities. It was other thing that she was not of Turkish lot. She was a Persian. But Jahangir was very proud to declare that he was from the Turkish blood even if he was born of a Rajput lady. On the other hand, the mother of Prince Kusrau, committed suicide when she found that her son had revolted against the father. Man Bai, the mother was a Rajput lady. Similarly in case of Shamsuddin Iltutmish, there was the dominance of women during his time as well as after his death. He had even tried to give throne to his daughter. In case of Alauddin Khilji, it was his wife and mother in law who had played a major role in making of the events as they turned up. Hence, there are enough clues to suggest that there is need to study the role of the women of Turkish clans in making of the history of India. Now comes the same proverbiale problem of sources on women. There are no specific histories written for the women. In case of Minhas, there are some pages on the character of Razia. Gulbadan Banu had written Humanyun Nama. But they are very scarce sources. However, even then, we find references here and there. There are enough references wherein there are clear cut verdict that the Turkish women had played and changed the course of history of Muslim period. There should be study on this angle. 

Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern DebateWomen in IslamBound By a Mighty Vow: Sisterhood and Women's Fraternities, 1870-1920Infidels, Turks, and Women: The South Slavs in the German Mind, Ca. 1400-1600

February 19, 2010

The Corporate World of India: Jati, Sangha, Gana and Sreni

Jati, Sangha, Gana and Sreni

I must first emphasize that I am not in favour of Jati system as such. However, I, being a student of history, get amused and amazed on learning that when it is claimed that times are changing and old things are dying out and new things are replacing. I till this day have not understood the actual meaning of Jati. I am called Brahmin. There are suggestions and expectation for being a Brahmin to behave in an expected manner. However, I find that many Brhamins do not follow what they preach. I find the same things in case of other Jatis.

I am not sure those who say that old is dying out and new things are replacing, do actually know that what is dying and being replaced by new. The democratic processes had changed the political arena of human life. The stories about Monarchies are now dumped in untouched titles of history books. The family system is loosing its actual efficacy and marriage system has been reduced to a social contract attended by legal mechanism. A new factor of technology is bringing out more radical and extreme paradigm shift even in the democratic world. Even new is dying out faster than the old one but no body knows what actually is dying out and what new is replacing them.

Anyhow, I came across a book, which was a Thesis published in form of a book by a name in history books of India and it is 'Corporate Life in Ancient India' by R. C. Majumdar. I found in introduction a highly arresting hypothesis which just grabbed my attention and soothed me at some subconscious level. I am not going to pass any judgement. Being a student of history, I have learnt that it is foolish to pass a judgement. The best way to treat a fact as a fact as given in a language medium is  to keep on visiting it again and again with keeping alive a question or query still the actual truth behind the fact as given in a language dawns upon your perception or the mental eye. Say it cognition or perception, as you like but here I am reproducing the lines from the book which requires attention by the world of scholars.

The spirit of co-operation was a marked feature in almost all fields of activity in ancient India and was manifest in social and religious as well as in political and economic life. The well-known ' Jati (caste)and the Samgha (the community of the Buddhist monks) are the most notable products of this spirit in the first two spheres of life. The same spirit, however, played an equally important part in the remaining ones, and its effect may be seen typified in Gana (political corporation) and Sreni (guild)."

Quoted from Corporate Life in Ancient India by R. C. Majumdar, 1920. pp 1-2.

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