ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Writing Histories of Regions in Premodern India

The Making of Regions in Indian History: Society, State and Identity in Premodern Odisha by Bhairabi Prasad Sahu, Delhi: Primus Books, 2020; pp xvi + 274, 1,095.


From the 1970s, when Hermann Kulke and subsequently B D Chatto­padhyaya conceptualised and out­lined the contours of the “early medieval” phase in Indian history, the decentralising of history from the Ganga plains has been one of the most significant discursive shifts in premodern Indian history. Bhairabi Prasad Sahu has been an important contributor to this shift; the current volume compiles, and further adds on to his existing scholarship on the region of Odisha. Largely, the volume understands the “premodern” period in the context of Odisha as beginning with state society in the mid-first millennium BCE to the emergence of region-specific monarchical states and other cultural developments up to mid-second millennium CE.

Over this long-time span, Sahu focuses on interlinkages to explain the macro-processes of the period, especially important historiographical questions on kingship and legitimation, through a microhistory analysis of the Odisha region. Over three thematic sections, in addition to an introduction, Sahu brings forward the interlinkages bet­ween state, society and the distinctive flavour of the region. While Section 1 focuses largely on differentiating and “disaggregating” the early historical and early medieval periods, Sec­tion 2 focuses more on the early medieval phase. Each chapter follows a similar structure. Sahu first outlines the empirical evidence and the different case studies, and the last section in each chapter, “Discussion,” presents a bird’s-eye view, helping the reader to contextualise the macro-processes vis-à-vis the micro. In the compilation of the old and new, the volume retains a strong emphasis on empirical data, tying together archaeological finds, inscriptional and textual evidence across multiple languages.

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Updated On : 18th Oct, 2021
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