KRISHNA MOHAN SHRIMALI*
Reflections on Recent Perceptions of Early Medieval India
I am deeply beholden to the Executive Committee of the Andhra Pradesh History Congress for the honour they have bestowed upon me by electing me to preside over the Historiography Section of its XVIII annual session. Since I have made no meaningful contribution to the history of Andhra Pradesh, I see in my elevation to this august chair an urge on the part of this very active regional congress to integrate its activities with pan-Indian developments. I am really overwhelmed at this honour from professional colleagues.
I would like to share with you my thoughts on some recent constructions or rather 'deconstructions' of socio-economic and political formation of early medieval India. Since some of the recent writings have acquired a degree of respectability and even a status of paragons of scholarship, it is time their real objectives are unfolded.
One does not have to overstrain himself to recognise that the post-Independence historical writings in India have been dominated by Professor R.S. Sharma's construct of Indian Feudalism.1 Expectedly, it generated considerable debate, sometimes even quite acrimonious, but largely raising legitimate academic issues of historiographic significance. Though three categories of 'fashionable but fundamentally inadequate* objections to Sharma's thesis have been identified in a recent analysis of the Asiatic Mode of Production,2 we shall largely confine ourselves to:
(a) alternative paradigms, specially in the context of north and east India, and
(b) the emergence of some disturbing neo-colonialist strains noticeable in the debate on 'Orientalism* in general and more specifically in the critique of the feudal construct.
While R. S. Sharma's writings in the last three decades have tended to take cognisance of multi-polarity of his thesis,3 much of the
* Dept. of History, University of Delhi..
Social Scientist, Vol. 21, No. 12, December 1993