BPIAIRABI PRASAD SAHIP'
Brahmanical Ideology, Regional Identities and the Construction of Early India^^
Recent researches demonstrate that for a proper appreciation of Indian history the regions must be a central focus.1 One can recognise and accept the significance of the regions while simultaneously emphasising the all-India socio-political and economic processes. The multiple sources of cultural antecedents, varying across spatial segments, pluralistic tradition of the Indian historical experience and the reality of an overarching cultural ethos and civilizational universe have been mutually interacting, not exclusive, phenomena. I propose to draw your attention to the enduring significance of the regions, the variegated historically constituted cultural entities,2 while simultaneously arguing for the reality of a pan-Indian ideology and civilization, emanating from the operation of historical processes which intertwined elements of the local and the transregional, which in turn helped to universalise aspects of the local and the regional cultures.
We now come to one of the most basic oppositions in historical literature - viz., the opposition between the pan-Indian view from the top and perspectives from the regions. Colonialist writings characterised Indian history either in terms of its bewildering variety — constructing exclusive identities on considerations of region, caste, language, ethnicity, etc., — rendering it impossible to be held together as a socio-cultural and political unit or constructed a totalising and consequently hegemonic picture where the unchanging caste system and 'the village community9 were represented as the defining traits. The politics of imperial enterprise and administrative requirements dictated these shifts in perceptions.3 Notwithstanding their rebuttal
'r Professor of Ancient Indian History, University of Delhi, Delhi.
"'^ Presidential Address, Ancient Section, 33rd Session of Punjab History Conference held at
Patiala, March 2001.
Social Scientist, Vol.29, Nos. 7 - 8, July - August 2001