A Book Conversation on Settlement and Local Histories of the Early Deccan

Thursday, 26 November 2020. 5.30 p.m.

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Its ‘Histories’ in the plural primarily because our vantage point is to discuss regional, sub-regional and local historical tendencies that then define the whole region we have identified as the Deccan. It’s also our concern to move beyond linguistically defined modern regional entities that are of recent origin to argue that most of these were historically constituted differently, often with flexible boundaries. Emphasizing on looking at histories of small regions and localities also enables one to move beyond mere dynastic history, which in their aim to valorise the present, talk of great individual rulers and icons to then privilege only political history to justify similar tendencies in the contemporary.

The task then is to share with you an inclusive historical narrative that suggests that before and after the rise of the so-called big ‘empires’ there were political systems of organisation that we dismiss as merely ‘tribal’ or those lacking in monumental grandeur. At another level, we also intend to discuss social and economic processes that defined much of the hinterland of the various Deccan sub-regions to reveal both differences and similarities that then give a character to early Deccani history. This character, I argue is one that is in a constant state of negotiating plurality so that Deccan can be characterized a region where cultures meet.

And finally, in interrogating the cultural and religious landscape, writing on localities, places and sites focuses on the ‘fragment’ – epigraph, sculpture, artefact, shrine — as a source of history. This enables us to move away from a meta-narrative of this region’s history built around literary sources from outside the region. As we argue, we are then able to contextualize the monumental and question theoretical models of historical explanation applicable for other spatial units of the sub-continent.
Aloka Parasher Sen

ALOKA PARASHER-SEN has been teaching History at theUniversity of Hyderabad, India since 1979 where, since 2018, she is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Sanskrit Studies.

Her main area of research interest is in social history of early Indian attitudes towards foreigners, tribes and excluded castes and different aspects of the history and archaeology of Early Deccan. Her major writings include Mlecchas In Early India (1991); Social and Economic History of Early Deccan – Some Interpretations (1993); Deccan Heritage, Co-Editor (with Harsh K. Gupta and D. Balasubramanian), Universities Press, Orient Longman, Hyderabad, 2000; Kevala Bodhi – TheBuddhist and Jaina History of The Deccan (2003); Subordinate And Marginal Groups In Early India Up To 1500 ADOxford in India Readings Themes in Indian History (2004; 2nd Paperback edition 2007); Religion and Modernity in India (with Sekhar Bandhyopadhyaya) (OUP 2016); Settlement and Local Histories of the Deccan(Manohar 2020 in Press) among others.


‘I was living and trying to survive through the lockdown. Alone. Seeking refuge in a city hospital.I was in what can best be described as acute depression. A sense of hopelessness. A ‘decaying’, even.
There I met Dr. Sourabh Kole who would visit the Corona ward with other doctors.
He taught me to fight with my own ‘self’. One day at a time. For days on end. He made me realise you do not fight alone.
Later I saw him contract Corona himself. Lose both his parents. After a few days gap he was back at the hospital for his patients.
Our life-journeys make us meet amazing people sometimes. People who are like the definition of god.I came back to life, warmth, love, my own feminineness of colours, my ma’s world of recreating, bonding, loving deeply.
The oils and water colours are from this ‘rebuilding’ of life. And it is also in a way a tribute to all the people who are intertwined in this process of living, specially Dr. Sourabh Kole, my mother, my father, my work people—Noor, Sanchita, Lakshmi, Jharna—and friends.This show contains works which are conceived during Corona and post Corona time.’
Chandana Hore

The History for Peace quarterly newsletter is out with a fresh teaching learning resource for these times and many other updates!: https://conta.cc/2GMy5mo

Writing Early India:
Conversations with Romila Thapar

Developing sound historical consciousness is critical in our ability to effectively respond to the realities we are faced with. Active reading of a vast multiplicity of narratives, critical thinking and analysis, and questioning existing knowledge opens up our sensibilities to the pasts.

How do we write history? How has it been written so far in relation to early India? How do we bring the complexities of multiplicities in everyday classroom? How can we oppose any one linear narrative?

In this conversation, Professor Thapar responded to pre-submitted questions from teachers across the country based on her lecture titled Conversations with India’s Ancient Past (available at https://bit.ly/3j88fH9) and on her work titled Talking History: Romila Thapar in conversation with Ramin Jahanbegloo, with the participation of Neeladri Bhattacharya.

It is this crucial and deceptively simple question with which History for Peace—an initiative of The Seagull Foundation for the Arts—works to critically engage the social science teaching community. 

A subcontinent-wide network of social science teachers History for Peace has organized several conferences on themes of ever-increasing relevance that demand a space in the classroom. 

Seagull Books now brings you the History for Peace Journals—meticulous compilations of the content of these conferences, which include lectures by Romila Thapar, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Irfan Habib, Krishna Kumar, Audrey Truschke, Sundar Sarukkai, Jerry Pinto, Vijay Prashad, Naeem Mohaiemen, Anam Zakaria, Sohail Hashmi and Aanchal Malhotra amongst many others. An invaluable resource for anyone who believes in the importance and persistence of asking ‘why’.

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This year began on a busy note, with two History for Peace conferences back to back.

How do we equip our teachers to become enablers of life affirming education? How do we create classrooms that deal with ideas and teachers who nurture intelligence plus character, wonder plus amazement, curiosityplus questioning, thought, reflection, creativity and imagination.These were some of the questions that were explored with over 130 teachers from across the country.

In July 2019, Romila Thapar opened the first chapter of The Idea of the Indian Constitution, a conference for teachers, in Calcutta, with the question: When does a constitution become a requirement? What followed was an explosion of ideas and thoughts from some of the finest minds in the country over three days. Read the report here

This was followed by chapter II of The Idea of the Indian Constitution in Pune with fresh insights and new voices.