Saturday, October 17, 2020

Migrations and the making of cultures in Early India- Prof. Romila Thapar

Prof. Satish Chandra Memorial Lecture

Lecture Notes-

Introduction by Prof. Mridula Mukherjee-

Prof. Satish Chandra's work- Argued it wasn't Aurangzeb's religious outlook but structural issues with Jagirdari System that led to the decline of the Mughal Empire. Part of galaxy of RS Sharma, Romila Thapar, Romila Thapar, Arjun Dev.

Indian Historical Congress

Indian Ocean Studies

His work was inspired by the Anti-Imperialist, Nationalist framework of the Allahabad School. And by Marxist thought.
He was always stringently secular.

Prof. Romila Thapar's work- Pre-eminent Historian of Early India

Books- Penguin History of Early India, Ashoka and decline of Maurya Empire, Past and Prejudice, Past is present

Her work was to focus away from kings to a larger public.

She rejected the idea of India as an unchanging society and worked extensively to answer the British question that Indians didn't have a sense of history

Migration and the Making of Culture in Early India- Prof. Romila Thapar

Prof. Chandra's contribution- Indian History advanced out of a Colonial perspective and even a national perspective to a much larger scope.

"How does the past relate to the present was a question all of us were driven by"
If you understand the past, you might begin to understand the present. And if you are able to understand the present, you might begin to understand what the future holds.

The choice is subject is in the nature of a plea that India's historians should focus more on migrations as shapers of cultures
3 examples:
1. Aryans in 2 BCE
2. Kushans in Early centuries CE
3. Arab traders in second millennia

Today we may call them foreigners but earlier we understand how much they contributed to the host culture

Migration should not be mistaken for Invasion
Invasion: Can be dated to a particular point in time. A large body of trained and armed soldiers, who use maximum violence to conquer and loot. If they're victorious, they take over governance and appropriate revenue
Migration: Entirely different in historical impact. Is not a uniform process. Who came, from where, to where etc. Large groups of people in a slow place move about. Migrants transported their goods and cattle, so their progress was slow.

Migrations do not become invasions; Invasions at most indicate possibility of a migration

Pre-modern times:
Pastoralists- for new grazing lands or when they were driven out. Look for places with similar ecology and more sparsely populated regions. A small group generally set out first.
Peasants- seldom migrate. When they migrated, it was because of high taxes.
Traders- Much lesser numbers compared to pastoralists. Migrant traders often had partners in their home country.
Eg: Cities like Bukhara had areas specifically assigned for traders

Historians these days are arguing that what we call tradition is invented. But the invention of patterns of living come from many sources including many groups who migrated to an area and settled there.
a. If the language of the migrator and the host differ, then one of them adopts or a mixed language comes up
b. Status is based on technology, if the migrant brings superior technology and Inter-marriage (surprisingly high numbers)
c. Religion

The above dimensions contribute to creating an identity. Identities are consciously constructed and are multiple.

1. Harappa- There's a new argument now if Aryan speakers were migrants or indigenous people
Data to consider- Structure of linguistics of Indo-Aryan language, DNA and Genetics etc.
Rig Veda- It was familiar to only North-western parts of India. The later Vedas speak of regions in the East.
Shatapatha Brahmana
Language of Rig Veda similar to language of Old Iranian
Awastha- Apta Hindu/ Saptha Sindhu
The mlechchas (who couldn't speak the Indo-Aryan language) confused the r and l sound.
Dravidian languages do not have the retroflexive sound- Ta, Tha, Da, Dha, Na
Aryavarna vs Dasavarna- The dasas are culturally differentiated (amanusha, adeva) and are said to be phallic worshippers.
Aryas were associated with the horse. People consigned to more servile work started to be addressed as dasas/ dasis.

Wealth- Cattle, dasis etc.
Satyakama Jabala- Brahmin father, dasi mother

One of the things genetic analyses are teaching us is that there is no absolute purity of descent. "We are all hopelessly mixed".

Symbiosis- Peasants let pastoralists after crop is harvested for the animal to eat the stubble and improve the soil by animal droppings

2. Same area but a millennium later- Type migration here is different from the first. These are pastoralists who later became traders.

--Abandoned at this point in the lecture because I was bored

No comments: