Previous Page [Digital South Asia Library] Next Page

Schwartzberg Atlas, v. , p. xviii.

Switch to image view

cultural and commercial contacts with the West, Southeast Asia, and China were forged, largely in connection with the wide spread of Buddhism; and the patterns of Indian religion, society, literature, and art assumed something of their present forms. The early culture of India reached its zenith during the "Classical Age" under the Gupta rulers, its creative originality subsequently giving way to exegeti- cal scholasticism and increasing conventionalization of the classical traditions in most aspects of cultural life.

Among the reasons for establishing a unit (section IV) entitled "Kingdoms and Regional Cultures from the Eighth Century through the Twelfth Century" are the then maturing and increasingly differentiated regional cultures and the evolution of a regional balance of power system based largely on dynastic considerations. The emergence of new warrior elites, the creation of tribal or clan monarchies, and the gradual "feudalization" of the political and military system were significant processes during the period.1 Another important development was the Arab con- quest of Sind in A.D. 711-12, anticipating a more widespread Islamic penetration and cultural confrontation. Virtually throughout the period various Muslim groups made incursions into northwest India, and occasionally much deeper, but the som- nolent Hindu kings failed to perceive the looming crisis in store for them.

The history of South Asia from late in the 12th century through the beginning of the 18th century can be divided into two periods, which we cover under the titles "The Period of the Delhi Sultanate" and "The Mughal Period" (sections V and VI). The first of the two periods is marked by the attempts of a series of dy- nasties based in Delhi (captured by Muhammad Ghūrī in 1193) to extend their sway over the whole of India and simultaneously to promote the religion and cul- ture of Islam in their conquered domains. Though the militant new alien elite displayed remarkable unity of purpose during the period, it could not yet effect a major alteration of the indigenous culture. Politically, the regional power systems of the North, the Deccan, and the far South of India were readjusted but not sup- planted. There was also a readjustment of power relationships between South Asia as a whole and the region to the northwest; but now the perennial external threat was the Mongols, who, as a sequel to Chingiz Khān's conquest of Central Asia, implanted themselves in Afghanistan early in the 13th century. The persistent Mongol (more properly Turko-Mongol) threat culminated in Tīmūr's invasions in 1398-99, precipitating the disintegration of the Delhi Sultanate and ushering in a period of extreme instability, ending only with the establishment of the Mughal Empire.

The period of the Mughal Empire, which begins rather later in the South of In- dia than in the North, constitutes a great epoch in South Asian history. The em- pire differed from the sultanate in that its elite were willing to become an integral part of the Indian social environment. It succeeded in identifying the rulers with the ruled and in harnessing the energies of its subjects for the promotion of the power of the emperor and the well-being of the people. From Akbar through Au- rangzib the empire was expanded, consolidated, and administratively integrated. And under Akbar and his successors there emerged a new Indo-Muslim cultural rapprochement. At the same time, on the periphery of the subcontinent a vanguard of European traders was sowing the seeds of yet another great cultural transfor- mation that was to await the dissolution of the empire before attaining significant growth. This dissolution proved to be inevitable; for the emerging new Indo- Muslim culture could not transcend the irreconcilable differences between the religions of the rulers and the majority of the ruled.

Section VII, headed "The Contest for Power and the Establishment of British Supremacy, 1707-1857," carries us through the time when the Mughal Empire ceased to exist de jure as well as de facto. The sustained Mughal decline, however, does not provide its unifying theme. In fact, rather than having a single theme, the period is marked by three successive but overlapping developments; the resurrec- tion of a system of regional powers, the ascendancy of the Marathas, and, finally, the emergence of the British as the paramount power in India. The period also witnessed the political revival of Hinduism under the Marathas and the Rajputs and the rise of the militant Sikh community in the Punjab, putting Islam on the defensive. However, the Hindu community was confronted with a new alien ruling class more advanced in political insight, diplomatic dexterity, and technological skill, and with a culture even more vigorous and forward-looking than that of the great Mughals. The political confrontation between the old order of the Hindus and the Muslims and the new order of the British took place on a restricted scale in the Revolt of 1857-59, when it was proved that the British raj had come to stay. That revolt ended the dual fictions of Mughal suzerainty and East India Company rule.

The complex process of "Westernization" or "modernization" was now well on its way. The objective of a single overlordship was steadily pursued, and means were constantly being devised to establish a coherent administrative system. These processes are treated in section VIII, entitled "Imperial India and the Growth of National Identity." While the period demonstrated the success of British imperial- ism, it also witnessed an Indian renaissance and a movement for self-rule that were finally transformed into the struggle for independence. New pride now arose in traditional culture, both Hindu and Islamic, and a sense of Indian dignity was awakened, culminating in the drive for and achievement of freedom from colonial rule.

That drive, however, was lacking in national unity, and with independence in 1947 came the division of the subcontinent into two nations. Freedom for Ceylon and Burma followed shortly. The separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan came 1 The quotation marks around "feudalization" are necessary because the analogue of Euro- pean feudalism is far from perfect and because the use of the term, even as a convenient shorthand, has been severely criticized. in 1971. The period of independence constitutes the last major chronological di- vision of our atlas. The problems of South Asia in the modern world are legion, and in treating many of them, particularly those that are economic or social in nature, there is little point in distinguishing between the late colonial and the most recent period. Hence, while there is a separate unit of the atlas devoted to "Post- Independence Political History" (section IX), the two large sections (X and XI) entitled "Modern Social and Cultural Evolution" and "Modern Demographic and Economic Evolution" each span roughly a century.

For each major period of South Asian history, beginning with the Vedic age, we have tried in this atlas not only to reconstruct as objectively as we could the events and processes of the time, but also to recreate in one or more ways the view(s) of the region held by people(s) living within it, interacting with it, or re- porting, secondhand, information on South Asia gathered by those who had been there. A fuller understanding of history, in our view, entails more than an accurate representation of the past as it was; it must also include the subjective past as it was thought to be by persons living at the time. Hence, we depict the geographical content of the Vedas, the great Indian Epics, Pā&ntod;ini's A&stod;&ttod;ādhyāyī, Kau&ttod;ilya's Arthaśāstra, and the Purā&ntod;as; portray India as seen by ancient Greek and Roman writers as well as by Arab writers and mapmakers at a somewhat later date; and present facsimiles of maps, town plans, and pictorial views by Europeans during the Age of Discovery and Exploration and of more detailed maps of relatively re- cent vintage. Views of South Asia's place within the universe are indicated in the representation of several ancient cosmographies. We have also depicted the routes of many celebrated travelers whose writings present a view of India: Fa-hsien and Hsüan-tsang, among other Chinese in ancient times; Marco Polo and Ibn Batūta at a much later period; and a large number of Europeans from the 15th century onward. The time in recent centuries when Europeans first explored areas beyond the frontiers of India is also plotted in some detail. Finally, for the contemporary period, for which a rather accurate picture of South Asia can be obtained from a diversity of sources, we provide cartographic indexes or guides to the extent of topographic map coverage, coverage by gazetteers, the locations of detailed ethno- graphic studies, and the locales of novels with a distinctly regional flavor.

One of the principal reasons for attempting to recreate the past from the per- spective of the peoples living at the time is our concern with the dynamics of re- gionalism. Regionalism stems from the identification of peoples with particular areas to which they form strong psychic bonds. It is manifested through expres- sions of nationalist sentiments, in the evolution of iconography, in the establish- ment of monuments, through the institution of pilgrimage, and in many other ways. In all ages peoples have tended to invest regions with their own conscious identity and thereby have given rise to what might be considered cultural regions. Often the identity of a people is a reflection or an extension of the identity of the elite groups among them—for example, the K&stod;atriyas and Brāhma&ntod;s, ruling and reli- gious elites respectively, over most of nearly three millennia of Indian history. These groups were of particular importance in the formative stages of that history, and many of the regions on which they then set their distinctive stamp remain evident to the present day. In this atlas we have mapped cultural regions at vari- ous periods, beginning with the evidence of the Vedas and Epics and the early literature of Buddhism and ending with the contemporary era. We have also mapped for various periods a number of the material and ideological manifesta- tions of cultural regionalism: most notably artistic and architectural monuments, religious centers, and the areas of religious movements.

While the expression of regional sentiments may be an all-but-universal attri- bute of human societies (gypsies, perhaps, excepted), the manner and force of that expression may differ greatly from one cultural group and time to another. In early Indian thought a region and its people were often considered as a unit, both being subsumed under the single term janapada. Certain regions, such as Kuruk- &stod;etra, the field of the great battle of the Mahābhārata epic, were invested with par- ticular sanctity because of their religious associations, and more encompassing macroregions, such as Āryāvarta or Madhya-Deśa, the heartland of north Indian Aryan culture, were also imbued with a sacred character. Among Muslims a basic distinction was drawn between areas that were under Islamic rule and those that were not—Dār-ul Islām and Dār-ul Harb; but within the former no region was any more sacred than another (apart, perhaps, from areas directly associated with the life of the Prophet). Moreover, regional sentiment probably existed in spite of, not because of, Islam, which emphasized attachment to the community of the faithful (Ummah) rather than attachment to place.

Primary objectives of early ruling and religious elites were to establish and ex- ercise their exclusive territorial claims over particular areas and to defend them against outsiders. They gave substance to their claims by founding towns, building forts and other prominent edifices, laying out roads, and otherwise altering the cultural landscape; they provided coherence to their domains by imparting to them a political structure. Thus, out of cultural regions political regions time and again emerged. Much of this atlas is concerned with mapping political regions. For the largest and most important states of Indian history, organizational charts are also provided to show the nature of the polity and in particular how the government was articulated at various administrative levels from the center down to the ulti- mate unit of governance, the individual village.

Coexisting with the enduring forces making for regional differentiation are other forces leading to the integration of peoples and regions into larger entities. The latter forces have waxed and waned markedly over the course of history. Inspired and resourceful personalities, such as Buddha and Aśoka, broke through the con- straints that regional differentiation placed on the process of integration by iden- tifying themselves with universalistic ideologies. Other integrators, the British most successfully of all, unified much of South Asia through force of arms. The achieve-

Previous Page To Table of Contents Next Page

Back to Schwartzberg Atlas | Back to the DSAL Page

This page was last generated on Monday 18 February 2013 at 16:26 by
The URL of this page is: