Historical Traditions in Hindu Texts

Adam Bowles

in Hinduism

ISBN: 9780195399318
Published online May 2012 | | DOI:
Historical Traditions in Hindu Texts

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“Hinduism has no sense of history,” or so it has been commonly thought in much of the scholarship on Indian history and literature of the last two hundred years (and more). The same judgment, reflecting the frequently implicit equation between “Hindu history” and “Indian history,” has more often than not been extended to India in general. This reflects the historically overwhelming position that Sanskrit literature has held in scholarship on and within South Asia. As has frequently been pointed out, Sanskrit literature does not have a “scientific” class of literature (śāstra) specifically dedicated to history. Furthermore, as it is also often noted, Sanskrit literature, particularly between the “Vedic” period and the medieval period, has a tendency to avoid reference to concrete historical events located in time and place. Yet, this focus on Sanskrit literature (though in a somewhat reductionist manner) has led to the often complete disregard for historical materials in languages other than Sanskrit. The 15th to 18th centuries were particularly fertile periods for the composition of historical documents and narratives in India. It has been the study of these compositions, many of which are in languages other than Sanskrit, which has especially provoked a substantial rethinking of the historical sensibilities found within Hinduism and India. This bibliography has been arranged to reflect the debates that surround the question of Hindu historical writing, as well as studies and translations of what might be considered exemplars of such writing both in Sanskrit and in non-Sanskrit languages. The first three sections establish the broad historical context of the debate. Subsequent sections are dedicated to the problem of historical writings in Sanskrit, before moving to region-by-region accounts of traditions of historically focused compositions. These include writings in Sanskrit, regional vernaculars, and in some cases, Persian in order to suggest that regional traditions of historical writing may transcend boundaries between literatures of distinct languages. The last two sections contain general surveys of items that, in the first case, consider life history and hagiography as modes of historical discourse, and in the second case, reflect on historical writing during the colonial period and from the perspectives of postcolonial thought. Apart from those bibliographic items that reflect broad surveys of Indic materials, Buddhist and Jain textual traditions have been excluded from this entry because they are beyond its parameters, though they are clearly relevant for a more thorough understanding of Indian historical traditions.

Article.  11711 words. 

Subjects: Hinduism

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