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Title: Ideas of history in the historical literature of Early Mediaeval India
Author: Pathak, Vishwambhar S.
Awarding Body: SOAS University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 1962
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(Ch. 1) In order to give dimension to the historical writings of the Early Mediaeval Period, the origin, development and standardisation of the tradition of itihasa, through the various forms of gatha, narasamsi, akhyana and Parana are studied from the Early Vedic Age to the advent of the Early Mediaeval. The role of the Bhrigvangirases and the sutas in the development of Vamsa composition is assessed and explained. The chapter is rounded off by a discussion on the characteristics and patterns of the mediaeval historical narratives, and the philosophy of time in the Early Mediaeval Age. (Ch. 2) Since the misconception that the Hershacharita is fragmentary has distorted the vision of modern historians, a fresh approach towards the problem of its historical content is suggested. After studying the formative influences of the Bhrigvangiras ancestry of Bana, the works of the itihasa s a tradition, the Ratnavali and the Brihatkatha on the Harsha- charita an attempt is made to understand the methods of historical organisation and inference implied in the narrative. An analysis of the theme shows that in' the Harshacharita, besides the central story, there is another tale which emerges from discrepancies, the refractory snippets of the central theme. The author holds that both stories should be taken into account when reconstructing history from the Harshacharita. (Ch. 3) The Vikramankadevacharita shows how the poet-historians became the instruments of princely propaganda and how Bilhana, taking the role of a defence counsel, distorted historical facts. The distortion further enables us to perceive the drama of a clash of ideas, and the tricks and side-steppings which the historian employed to gain his end - the plea of the defence counsel. A comparison with the Harshacharita helps us to appreciate the technique of these artistically designed narratives. (Ch. 4) The unpublished biography of Vikramaditya VI by his royal son Somesvara III Bhulokamalla further carries the tradition of the Mid-land school of itihasa and evinces the process which under the influence of the transcendental world-view of the agamas culminated into the 'divinization' of history. (Ch. 5) Here, we attempt to study the process of the transfiguration of the popular tradition of itihasa into the imperial school of Chahamana history. The Prithviraja-Vijaya illustrates how the Vamsa tradition which sent out several offshoots in India, Ceylon, Burma and South East Asia, developed in the mediaeval courts under the influence of poets; how the tales of mystery are the expression of the trend of rationalisation, which worked within the theoretical framework enshrined in the scriptures; and lastly how the anachronistic representation of contemporary persons in the form of the heroes of olden days brought about the 'Ramayanization' of historical thought. (Ch. 6) "The subjugation of the ancient kingdom of historical thought by the modern Industrialism of Western life", to quote Toynbee, resulted in mechanical histories of mediaeval India, manufactured or semi-manufactured by the 'assemblage' of raw materials like inscriptions, coins and documents. An attempt is, therefore, made to assess the possibility of reconstructing history by the study of the mediaeval historical works in the light of the dominant trends of the mediaeval age. Appendix: A study of the role of imagination in reconstructing history, and of the development of historical myths.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral