Indian civilisation, it has been said, was characterised by an absence of a sense of history. This view has been held since the 18th century, when the early Orientalists first read Sanskrit texts and argued that there were no histories of India in Sanskrit. But few attempts were made to explain why this was so, if, in fact, it was so. The search was for histories that would conform to post-Enlightenment European histories, which emphasised a chronological frame and a sequential narrative of mainly political events with some attempt at evaluating sources and drawing out causes. Unsurprisingly, such histories, which were specific to European traditions about the past, were not to be found in India. The one exception that was always quoted was the Rajatarangini. This was written by Kalhana in the 12th century and is a history of Kashmir from what he saw as the earliest beginnings.
The insistence on Indian civilisation being ‘ahistorical’ facilitated the claim that the Indian past was being rediscovered by colonial scholarship. This was not altogether incorrect. The deciphering of the Brahmi script in the early 19th century introduced the vast body of inscriptions as sources of history. Archaeological excavations revealed tangible evidence of historical activity. This was done partly out of curiosity about the Indian past. But the more significant aspect was that the texts used for writing Indian history were now supplemented by inscriptions and archaeology. However, the interpretations provided were coloured by colonial policy. The absence of historical writing was attributed to Indian society having been static and unchanging. The recognition of change and the explanation for it is essential to a sense of history. It was a common belief that only societies such as the Judaeo-Christian had a concept of history. This had a clearly marked beginning and end, and an understanding of change determined by a sense of linear progress. India, it was said, knew only a cyclic concept of time that emphasised repetition, whereas a historical sense required linear time to emphasise the uniqueness of events.
Critical enquiry into historical texts has emerged from the extensive discussion of the past in recent times. What is of interest is not so much the question of how closely these texts approximate to our modern notions of history, but rather why they were written, what they were intending to say, and whether they referred back to records of the earlier past. Were the later texts that drew on the earlier intended to create a historical narrative? In India, the historical tradition was expressed in various genres of texts – genealogies, biographies claiming to be historical, chronicles and annals in the form of inscriptions. These tended to provide the official version of social links and events. The oral tradition was also present, although it was largely confined to genealogies and epic poems. These also claimed to be historical. The category that this piece shall focus on, however, is the vamshavali, the chronicle written as historical narrative. These were written in various parts of the Subcontinent, but always pertained to the local area. Their format and content suggest attempts to retain elements from earlier genres of texts as representative of the past.
Thus it was
It has repeatedly been said that only one text in early India could be regarded as history, and this was the Rajatarangini. Without doubt this was the foremost of the chronicles, and is impressive on all counts. Nevertheless, it is one among many. A lesser one is related to what is called the itihasa-purana tradition: itihasa meaning ‘thus it was’ and purana being ‘that which is old’, the compound phrase suggesting a historical tradition. Chronicles of lesser importance maintained locally often provide a different glimpse of events from depictions in the major ones. My example is the vamshavali from Chamba, a small hill state in the western Himalaya on the banks of the upper and middle Ravi River. Its style is by no means as sophisticated or elegant as that of the Rajatarangini. It is a fraction of the length of the Kashmir chronicle, but the text illustrates several important points about early Indian chronicles. It relates the history of a small kingdom, hemmed in by larger ones.
Let me first sketch in the background. Spatially, the territory is well defined. The Ravi rises in the Pir Panjal range, and flows through the broad Chamba Valley. In the upper, narrower valley there were meadows close to the settlement at Brahmor. Livelihood came from agro-pastoralism with ‘transhumance’ or when animal herds were taken to the higher mountain pastures in the summer. Brahmor is also referred to as Gaderan, or the habitat of the Gaddi shepherds. There are many more river tributaries in the middle reaches at lower elevations around Chamba, which provided the required fertility to establish a kingdom drawing revenue from agriculture.
Three aspects are significant and characteristic of vamshavalis. These texts suggest the point when the state emerges as a kingdom; they provide legitimation for rulers through genealogies and marriage alliances; and they set out the process of acculturation to Sanskritic culture that became a significant historical change. The establishing of a state in the form of a kingdom was necessary not only for the assertion of power and the organising of an administration, but also for welding the many diverse groups living in a particular area. From separate communities, they had to be converted into the subjects of the king, and the record of this change was the chronicle. It was written in a form constructed around a linear chronology, with a sequential narrative relating events that involved the elite of the region. Most of these events revolved around establishing kingdoms and dynasties; as a consequence, each new dynasty required legitimation. This drew on a connection with the past. Links were fabricated between local rulers and the ancient gods and heroes listed in the Puranas. The kingdom came to be established only when the links were accepted. The Puranas were generally texts focusing on a particular deity and its sect, though some (such as the Vishnu Purana) included lengthy sections of ancient genealogies and dynasties. Later writers sought links with these genealogies.
As part of the transition to a kingdom, any area would undergo a process of acculturation. The mainstream Sanskritic culture, dominant in the powerful kingdoms of the plains, was introduced into the local culture in regions where kingdoms were in the process of being established. This enabled those who were inducted into this culture to obtain positions of dominance, and this acculturation also took the form of introducing caste as a form of validating social hierarchy. It also tended to change the economies of the area from agro-pastoralism to peasant farming and trade. Further, it brought in a new religion or changed an existing one to suit the needs of the state. Patronising a particular religion was a historical choice. Literate, ritual-knowing Brahmins, catering to the needs of those now claiming to be royalty, thus had an edge over others in this process of acculturation.
Chronicles have a recognisable format, and the Chamba vamshavali is no exception. There is generally an initial section that is concerned with cosmology and mythology, providing links to the descent lists of early heroes that are then connected to the origins of local clans and lineages. This is followed by an often-garbled history of early rulers in the area, and sometimes of the dominant neighbour to whom local history is linked – in this case, Kashmir. Chamba lay in the shadow of Kashmir. It was also accessible to the plains of the Punjab, the routes being along the rivers. There was therefore some vacillation in the politics and alliances of Chamba – between being close to the kingdom of Kashmir or to the political structures of the North Indian plains. Finally, in the third section, often coinciding with the firm establishment of a kingdom, the history of dynastic succession is narrated at greater length. This often coincides with evidence from local inscriptions on which it may have been partially based.
For Chamba, access to the plains meant that communication from the plains to the mountains went through these major river valleys. This resulted in trade routes along which goods travelled from one elevation to another, what has been referred to as a ‘vertical economy’. The routes also came to be used for the initial coming of Puranic Hinduism through the arrival of the Shakta, Shaiva and Vaishnava sects. These were to become the established religions supported by royal patronage, their distribution largely being in the fertile plains and the lower Himalaya. Nevertheless, despite the overlay of Puranic Hinduism, local religious beliefs and practices continued, with Buddhism the more commonly established religion beyond the mountain passes and into the higher Himalaya. Given the flexibility of frontiers, there was much interface between various religious groups and communities.
One may well ask, what led to the writing of chronicles? The historical scene in North India underwent a mutation in the post-Gupta period. A rise in the number of small kingdoms increased competition for political power among tributary rulers. This inevitably meant even more attention than before was paid to campaigns, marriage alliances and the establishing of status – in short, the basic data for chronicles. In the late first millennium AD, individuals sought opportunities for upward mobility that frequently took the form of establishing principalities and claiming Kshatriya status. Modern scholars have assumed that these were Rajputs, the commonly held explanation being that the Rajputs were threatened by the Turkish invasions and fled to safer places. But in fact, these movements began prior to the Turkish invasions, and the vamshavali from Chamba, for instance, makes no reference to the Turushka/Turk or the Yavana/West Asian at the start of the narrative. It is more likely that the fertile, uncultivated valleys of the lower Himalaya attracted adventurers from the plains during the earlier period.
Control over an area was often established by conquering it. Conquest and heroism therefore became significant idioms, reinforced by evoking past heroes. Alternately, forested areas and wastelands, of which there were plenty, could be colonised by making extensive grants of land or even villages. These were made to Brahmins or to religious institutions as gifts, and to a lesser extent to administrators, who could claim the revenue in lieu of salaries; eventually, the claim was extended to the land itself. Such grants assisted in the transition to states and to the gradual acculturation to the marga, the established mainstream norms. Grants to religious beneficiaries had multiple purposes. They accumulated religious merit for the king. They assured him legitimacy by providing a genealogy that covered up obscure origins and allowed claims to Kshatriya status. And they established a network of support for the king and for Sanskritic culture. Above all, the grant became the starting point for opening up wasteland to cultivation and tapping resources from a rich environment with a scanty population. Brahmins, for example, as recipients of such grants, were often pioneers in agriculture even if, in theory, they were not permitted to be agriculturalists. Kingdoms required a developed agrarian economy and/or substantial commerce to support the administration of the state. Conversion of forest-dwellers into tax-paying peasants was a source of revenue.
The spread of Puranic Hinduism from the plains facilitated the conversion of local clan-based societies to jatis/castes. Yet conversion from clan to caste was not one-sided, and some local rituals, beliefs and customs became part of Puranic Hinduism. Migration of professionals from elsewhere at the upper social levels was frequent, as among learned Brahmins and Kayasthas who sought employment in the new kingdoms. But others also migrated, such as stonemasons and craftsmen employed in the construction of temples in the style of conventional architecture. The local shrines, often built of wood in the hills, were superseded by the royal stone temples. Conventional iconographic representations of deities decorated the temples, replacing the earlier forms. Religious icons encrusted with symbols are among the more obvious reflections of acculturation – in Chamba, stone temples are said to bear the imprint of the Gurjara-Pratihara style of the plains.
Eventually, the court poet and the royal priest emerged as authors of the chronicles, taking over from the bards. The vamshavali is then written in the form common to Subcontinental culture. The bards continued to record genealogies, marriage alliances and minimal property relations. Yet the tradition was reformulated, and those that now became its authors controlled this source of royal validation. The attempt was to authenticate this version by reference to what was believed to be past tradition. Recipients of grants of land were potential founders of dynasties, and the requirement of founding a state was therefore not confined to conquest. Internal confrontations and competition could also result in a reshuffling of social groups, with some emerging as more powerful than before. Nonetheless, the rhetoric of conquest remained a necessary part of the heroic and courtly image.
For the king, legitimacy could be further endorsed by claiming to be an incarnation of a deity. This also served to attract the loyalty of his subjects. Even where incarnation was not claimed, the king in the court and the deity in the temple became counterpoints of power, extending political strategies. The royal temple receiving patronage from the king was additionally symbolic of the political authority of the patron, and incorporated some of the local religious idioms.
Chronicles use multiple sources. Among the more important were inscriptions of the same period, issued as the official record of royal activities. And where chronicles are absent, inscriptions often read as annals. Many inscriptions focused on the king and the court, but in their function and intention they reached out to a wider audience than did the chronicle. They were located at places frequented by the public, such as temples, where they are often inscribed on temple walls and on the pedestals of images. The precise dating of inscriptions provided a skeletal chronology for the chronicles, as well, while their locations were useful in setting out the geography of events. Inscriptions that were legal documents – recording a grant, for instance – tended to be inscribed on copper plates, which were kept safely by the family of the recipient.
The plundering mouse
In many ways, the vamshavali of Chamba is typical of regional chronicles. The version that was obtained from the family of the erstwhile rajaguru about a century ago had been up-dated to about the 17th century, authored (it is said) by Chamba Brahmins attached to the royal court. It is written in Sanskrit, but of a poor quality, while there might have been a version in Chambayali as well. Elements of Chambayali are recorded in the later inscriptions, suggesting the gradual forging of a local identity – a fusion of local culture with the cultural and linguistic idioms used by the elite and in accordance with more distant fashions. Nineteenth-century scholars report the existence of a rendering into Urdu as well, which was consulted for corroboration. This doubtless coincided with the use of Persian in Mughal times. Some Persian technical terms related to administration are used in the inscriptions of the late period.
As with most such texts, it is not a completely reliable history in the earlier part. But it does become more dependable, in terms of cross-reference to other sources, from the founding of the first dynasty. The genealogies of the kshatriyas in the Puranas were divided into two major lineages, the Suryavamsha or Solar and the Chandravamsha or Lunar. The Chamba kings sought connections with the heroes of the Solar Dynasty, the Suryavamsha. The first part of the vamshavali provides a list of ancestors from whom the Chamba rulers claimed descent, though with some emendations. Mention is made of the late Bhagavata Purana as a source. Descent is traced from deities to human ancestors – from Narayana to Brahma, Marica, Kasyapa, Vivasvant, Manu and then to Iksvaku, the ancestor of the Suryavamsha lineage. The list goes down to the Kshatriya hero Rama, and further, in accordance with the pattern of descent in the Purana. Names are bunched together either with common suffixes such as -asva, or taken as a group from Puranic sources. There is also an attempt to link ancestors to believed events from the past. One ancestor is said to have been killed by Abhimanyu in the war at Kuruksetra. The last of the ancestors died childless, thus bringing the succession to an end. Despite its being in a line of patrilineal succession, these ancestors did not establish a dynasty, and are therefore listed as individuals. The narration of origins with Puranic links ends the first part of the chronicle.
At this point, there is an apparent break. What follows is a narrative of local rulers, with some background material on those seen as more important. The precise status of the earlier among these is somewhat ambiguous, and the ambiguity gives way subsequently to a history that is more firm.
The narrative continues with the statement that after many years the Raja Maru established a succession. Maru was both a yogi and a king, and is said to have re-established the Suryavamsha that had faded out in the early Kaliyuga, the current cycle of decline. This re-establishment of status enabled Maru to marry the daughter of a king and, presumably, claim to be a Kshatriya. Yet his territorial base was the Kalapa grama, technically a village. Such rajas were more likely chiefs of clans, where the root meaning of the word raja is ‘the one who shines’. The transition to raja meaning king would assume the existence of a state system to support the title, which would have to come later. The fact that Maru had to go to Kashmir with his eldest son, Jayastambha, suggests that he was actually a subordinate intermediary. The family established itself at Varmapura – possibly what is later referred to as Brahmapura, present-day Brahmor, the first town of importance in the valley.
Jayastambha was brought up in Kashmir, and therefore Chamba may have been part of the territory of Kashmir at this time. The reference to Maru being a yogi is suggestive of possible shaman connections common to the early religious expression in the region. Maru anointed his son as king and departed to practice his yoga, a narrative that can be read as a cover-up for Maru having been superseded. The departure of rulers given to tapas and yoga in favour of successors occurs at various points of the narrative and although it may have been a legitimate preoccupation of some, it could also have signified an enforced dynastic or generational change. There is a shift now from ancestors to dynasties.
After a few successors, we are told that because a particular heir apparent was devoted to yogic practice, the reigning king appointed as his successor a king named Meruvarman. This is explained as being for the good of the state/rajya siddhaye. With Meruvarman, the history of the kingdom comes to the forefront. The suffix -varman perhaps suggests a claim to Kshatriya caste. He is said to be the 10th in succession after Jayastambha, but his relationship to the previous king remains ambiguous – he may not have been the son or even a kinsman. Meruvarman, in his inscriptions, claims to belong to the Adityavamsha, an alternate name for the Suryavamsha, and to the moshuna gotra. One wonders why this gotra, not mentioned up to this point, is now introduced and why it should carry a seemingly uncomplimentary name.
Meruvarman’s act of what might be called ‘Sanskritisation’, or upward social mobility, was to do what was required of Kshatriya rulers. He installed images of deities such as Narasimha, Durga, Ganesh and Nandi – both Shaiva and Vaishnava deities – at Brahmor, the political centre at that time. The image of Nandi had a rajashasana written on the pedestal, in somewhat faulty Sanskrit, dating to about the late ninth century AD. Today, these images are still in worship.
Meruvarman’s grandson, Lakshmiv-arman, was killed in an attack by the Kiras, the neighbouring people of the mountains. The story about the birth of Lakshmivarman’s son, Mushanavarman, was a stereotype, narrated curiously in chronicles from various parts of the Subcontinent. The widowed queen, being pregnant, was rescued by the ministers and went into hiding in the mountains, where she was taken care of by the family’s Brahmin guru. (The appurtenances of a kingdom, in the form of ministers and rajagurus, are by now established.) In the mountains, she gave birth to a son who, when he came of age, faced both alliances and hostilities. Eventually, he regained the lost throne, and ruled independently as Mushanavarman. This story seems to emphasise a link with Meruvarman through taking his gotra name as a personal name. But it could also be suggesting a break – acting as it does as the origin myth of this second section of the chronicle, and serving to introduce the third section. The third echoes the pattern of dynastic descent in the Puranic tradition, wherein the legitimacy of the dynasty came through caste status and political power. By now, genealogical connections were less important.
From the inscriptions of Mushanav-arman’s successors, it is clear that the name had a special significance. They refer to themselves as belonging to the Adityavamsha and the moshuna/musuna gotra, or the mausana kula or the mushana vamsha. The root for the name is musa, meaning a mouse. The archaeologist Jean Phillippe Vogel mentions that the popular explanation for the name Mushanavarman is associated with the child in exile being guarded by a mouse. The mouse could have been a totem animal of the clan, and the word was later linked to other meanings. It could also be associated with Ganesh, who is sometimes referred to as mushavahana in mythology, his vehicle being the mouse.
The words mushaka and mushana can also refer to a thief or plunderer. Was this, then, a memory of how local people viewed the intrusion of a new family where intervention is seen as plunder? Or, does it indicate a local family claiming greater rights in a system that had previously supported a relatively egalitarian distribution of resources? The establishment of the state sharpens the divide between those who produce and those who appropriate. The existing order could have been disrupted, and control over land obtained through violent means. The mouse in the ancestral myth may have been invented to provide a more acceptable explanation of the word mushana, when its meaning of plunder or theft had to be avoided. This anecdote may also illustrate the rise of obscure families to Kshatriya status, which is referred to in the Puranas as the creation of new and other Kshatriyas.
A few generations later, the king Sahilavarman was granted a boon of 10 sons by the 84 siddhas who appeared and blessed the king. Their presence points to the continuing importance of earlier religious idioms and to sources of religious power alternate to the Puranic religions. The Natha yogi, Charpata, is said to have blessed the king to ensure his victory against other Kshatriyas, presumably the feudatories; the yoga siddhas, meanwhile, remained a source of power because of their popular following and claims to their control over the supernatural. The association of Charpata underlines the arrival of the Natha religion as well as the increasing contact between this region and the northern plains. Possibly, it was also a concession to non-Sanskritic culture, since yogis and siddhas related more closely to the popular religion.
Judging by the vamshavali, Sahilavarman was active in the evolving of the state of Chamba. He founded the city of Champa on the Iravati/Ravi River, which is said to have been protected by the goddess Champavati who slew the demon Mahisha. Temples were built to house the lingams that had appeared miraculously prior to the reign of Meruvarman, doubtless viewed as a benediction from Shiva. Further temples were required to house Vaishnava deities. A royal capital would be the seat of the court and of the administration supporting the kingdom, both of which presuppose prosperity. The location of Chamba meant a shift from the higher, narrower valley of Brahmor to a fertile plateau at a lower altitude. This provided more land for cultivation and access to other valleys, where agriculture could be introduced through grants of land. In turn, agriculture brought revenue through taxes. The location was also more accessible to the trading networks that were emerging in the lower Himalaya. The state of Chamba was taking shape.
But validation was also required from the ideology of Puranic Hinduism to support the king and his kingdom. King Sahilavarman was anxious to install an image of Vishnu, to be carved from a special stone only available in the Vindhya mountains of central India. He sent nine of his sons to fetch the stone, but they were unsuccessful. But a 10th son was able to bring back the stone, and the image was installed in the royal temple. This story marks another phase. The image from central India would confer another kind of status on the Chamba ruling family. The Bhagavata religion, focusing on the worship of Vishnu, was a religion of assimilation. It incorporated local social groups and their varied practices and beliefs, thus facilitating the trend towards political centralisation. Not surprisingly, Sahilavarman’s successors take the exalted title of paramabhattaraka maharajadhiraja parameshvara, “the most noble lord, the great king of kings, the supreme lord”. Substantial grants of land date from this period, referring to a range of officials and thus indicating a more complex administration than had previously existed. The vamshavali mentions kings granting land to Brahmins together with seed, rent and so on. The coming of Vaishnava Bhagvatism helped integrate social groups and linked Chamba with wider geographical networks, as the story of the stone suggests.
The subsequent period was one of campaigns against Kangra in the neighbouring plains and other hill states, with varying degrees of success. Hostilities against Kashmir were not always to the advantage of Chamba, as the version from the Rajatarangini states. The vamshavali continues the history but pares it down to a list of local rulers, who were by now, in effect, feudatories rather than independent rulers. The chronicle narrates their campaigns, marriage alliances and religious benefactions – indicators of status rather than records of actual power. Among the later kings, Janardana, despite being a considerable hero comparable to Arjuna in archery, lost his kingdom to the Yavanas now ruling in Kashmir. The reference would have been to the rulers of Kashmir now called Sultans. His son avenged his father’s defeat and retrieved the kingdom after many bloody battles, and eventually made an alliance with the lord of the Yavanas. The campaign against the neighbouring state of Nurpur was a major event in the closing section of the vamshavali. The later rulers of Chamba gradually replaced the suffix -varman in their names by -singh, perhaps because the Rajputs were using this suffix and they had political clout in the Mughal court.
Other sources inform us that subsequently Chamba was attacked by Kashmir, and the reigning king was replaced. This event inaugurated intermittent periods of the subordination of Chamba to Kashmir. Not surprisingly, there is little mention of this in the chronicle. Perhaps this was due to embarrassment at being subjected to attacks, or else it could have been unimportant to the history of Chamba. Independence was reasserted when Kashmir itself failed to withstand the power of Delhi.
Incorporating the past
This vamshavali of Chamba is the chronicle of a relatively unimportant state, and illustrates the kind of record maintained in such states. The focus is on the kingdom itself, with little interest in the wider world except when it impinges on the kingdom. This may have been in part because the succession of authors was closely associated with the royal court. The imprint of what might be called a historical tradition, encapsulated initially in the Puranas and subsequently based on other sources, is evident. There is a consciousness of incorporating the past using sources believed to record the past. The narrative registers historical change through varying patterns of succession. It is not a continuous, unbroken descent. A change from lineage to dynastic form is recorded, as also the changes of dynasties. Founders of dynasties could have been adventurers from elsewhere or a local chief asserting himself more forcefully than others. The structure of kingship is supported by territorial expansion, by the hierarchy of landed intermediaries, and by administrative functionaries. A noticeable change is that of social hierarchy following the rules of caste.
There is a shift from local cultural forms to those represented in the more powerful kingdoms of Kashmir and the northern plains. These latter forms are adopted locally by those of higher social status. This is apparent in visual artefacts such as temple architecture and iconography. Still later, however, images of a local style tend to reappear when the status of the kingdom declines in the later period. Puranic Hinduism is accepted in the initial change to a kingdom, but loyalty to the earlier sects, perhaps more localised and with a sufficiently impressive following, is not discarded. There are three religious strands that weave their way through the narrative – the Natha Yogis, the Shaivas and the Vaishnavas – each suggesting a different form of acculturation. The yogis represent both the continuation of local religion and an initial movement towards mainstream religion. The establishment and validation of the state seems to be more closely linked to Vaishnava benediction. The proximity of the Lakshmi-Narayana temple to the king’s palace at Chamba would also emphasise this. Status is asserted through presumed genealogies, matrimonial alliances, the granting of land to Brahmins, and the building of temples to Puranic deities. That the chronicle was maintained in a small kingdom may be because marginal states require greater validation. The more powerful states articulated their history in other forms as well, such as in the charitas, or historical biographies, and frequent lengthy official inscriptions. There is a purposeful selection from the past of what was thought to be relevant and worth reformulating, and there is a concern for sequential narrative in chronological order. The attempt is to bind groups together and to provide identities that may be new but are relevant to the times. The timeframe of cosmic, cyclic time as set out in some Puranas with the grandiose measurement of time in the theory of the yugas – the four immensely long cycles of time – is used as a background. However, the central chronology of the vamshavali focuses on the more limited span of generations of earlier heroes followed by dynasties. The use of ‘regnal’ years (pertaining to the reign of a monarch) in the vamshavali and calculations based on eras in the inscriptions indicates an alternative linear sense of time, additional to the cyclic yugas. Linear time was closely tied to the historical tradition.
In conclusion, it is striking to note the parallels in form and the similarity of concerns of the Chamba vamshavali to other vamshavalis. It seems there is scope here for comparative studies of the vamshavali as a historical tradition that had currency in many parts of the Subcontinent. Juxtaposing and cross-referencing the information from these texts are likely to throw more light on them as historical writing and the society they represent. What these texts suggest is that far from there being an absence of history, there was a deep involvement with the past and its historically recognisable forms.
This is the slightly edited text of the Mahesh Chandra Regmi Lecture 2009, delivered by Romila Thapar on 14 October 2009 in Kathmandu. The series is organised by the Social Science Baha, and the Himal editors thank the Baha and Romila Thapar for allowing us to carry this lecture.
Romila Thapar is a historian based in Delhi.