September 25 For our first meeting we are going to discuss the role of history and memory in the politicization of communal identities in South Asia. After you have read the assigned texts by Thapar, Davis, Ernst (reading them in this order might be helpful for the background information in each reading), try to take notes on the following questions which we will discuss in class. The “maps” link on the class website can take you to maps of S. Asia at the time of Mahmud of Ghazni’s last invasion around 1030 and the later Sultanate period. If you have questions about anything, note it down, and we will tackle them together in class. Some background information: In order to get a sense of what each of the authors is trying to address keep in mind that the temple of Somnath has a highly disputed and politicized past (quickly google “somnath” to get a sense of some popular perceptions). These popular perceptions arose from long years of British colonial and Nationalist writings about the events surrounding Somnath and are enshrined in textbooks, novels, tourist material. It is only recently that scholars have started examining the origins of the stories around Somnath, the actual sources, and even the broader understanding of Royal temple patronage and the concept of Iconoclasm in medieval India. Not surprisingly, the scholarly narratives on these subjects are not unified nor do they support the more popular colonial or nationalist accounts. In part the varying approaches have to do with the vast period being covered in these projects—the actual invasion of western India by Mahmud of Ghazni (1026), the long period of regional kingdoms that followed with rulers of various ethnic and religious persuasions (1000s-1200s), the beginning of the Delhi Sultanate (1200-1526) during which four different dynasties of Turkish and Afghan ancestry would rule North India and five other dynasties would rule of the South, and finally the Mughal period (1526— mid 1700s) during which much of South Asia would be incorporated into a single Empire. For a long time scholars did not distinguish between Mahmud, a lone raider from Central Asia, versus the later dynasties that became rooted in South Asia and persisted for many generations. Starting with early British works, it became common to lump all these dynasties into the “Muslim or Medieval Period.” Thus, Mahmud’s raids appear in these early histories not as events connected to the politics and economy of Central Asia (an expanding Ghaznavid kingdom that desperately needed cash to pay for its expansion in Central Asia), but as an inevitable prelude to the dynasties that follow some two centuries later. Although, it is quite clear that Mahmud never meant to incorporate S. Asia into his empire—the raids were not expansionist but intended to amass wealth. In these three readings we have a different approach taken by three scholars of very different training—Thapar is a historian of Ancient India, Davis a Religious Studies scholar specializing in Hinduism, and Ernst, a Religious Studies scholar who is an expert in South Asian Islam and Persian texts. Thapar is writing for a popular audience in the magazine Frontline and using a chronology that sweeps from the 10th century to the 20th. Davis is mainly concerned with translating and contextualizing a Sanskrit inscription associated with Somnath when the temple was rebuilt in 1169. Ernst, on the other hand, wants to broadly approach and de-center the very idea of an “Islamic” iconoclasm. Let us try to use the following questions to dwell further into the readings: 1. What is the context each of the authors provides to explain the problem that they will examine? How useful is the context in understanding the issues that the author explores—in each case how complete is the information the author provides? 2. When we examine the early sources about Somnath, or the text by Shirazi used by Ernst, what can we surmise about the audience that each text addresses, the perspectives that each source reveals? 3. How have local politics dictated the ways in which the history of Somnath or the issues of temple/idol destruction have generally been presented in South Asian history? What similarities and differences separate the early narratives from the modern ones?