Everyday Lives, Everyday Histories – Beyond the Kings and Brahmanas of ‘Ancient’ India

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Uma Chakravarti

Jan 2006

9.5 x 6.25 inches
Hardback
ISBN: 81-89487-04-3
Rs. 595

The volume of essays moves the historiography of ancient India in the service of a history of the present.  The cultural onslaught of a brahmanical saffron culture within popular discourse, and the fight against entrenched class and caste interests led by women, dalits and other marginalized groups, frame this battle for ‘ancient’ India.  Through an in-depth analysis of myths and original sources, the author provides novel grounds for contesting the foundations of such charged concepts as ‘nation’, ‘civilization’ and ‘womanly honour’.  Reading against the grain of canonical sources, she presents a distinctive reading of lesser known Buddhist Pali texts, the Jataka stories, and even contemporary texts like the television serials Chanakya and Ramayana, to demonstrate the stratifications in early Indian society.

The book brings to life several crucial concepts and categories that make possible a sensitive delineation of social alienation, class antagonism and gendered violence in ancient Indian society.  The everyday lives and histories of dasas, karmakaras, ‘a’grihinis, bhaktins and gahapatis provide an understanding of ancient India away from the cliched invocations of ideal kings, brahmanas and pativratas.

Uma Chakravarti taught history at Miranda House College, University of Delhi.  Her publications include Delhi Riots:  Three Days in the Life of a Nation (joint editor, 1987), The Social Dimensions of Early Buddhism (1987), Rewriting History: The Life and Times of Pandita Ramabai (1998), From Myths to Markets:  Essays on Gender (joint editor, 1999) and Gendering Caste:  Through a Feminist Lens (2003).

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