Romila Thapar

Romila Thapar



After graduating from Panjab University, Thapar earned her doctorate under A. L. Basham at the School of Oriental and African Studies, the University of London in 1958. Later she worked as Professor of Ancient Indian History at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, where she is Professor Emerita.

Thapar's major works are "Asoka and the Decline of the Maurya", "Ancient Indian Social History: Some Interpretations", "Recent Perspectives of Early Indian History" (editor), "A History of India Volume One", and "Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300".

Her historical work is critical of elitesRonald Inden, 1990, "Imagining India", pp. 154-156, 197] and portrays the origins of Hinduism as an evolving interplay between social forces. Her recent work on Somnath examines the evolution of the historiographies about the legendary Gujarat temple. [ Perspectives of a history] - a review of "Somanatha: The Many Voices of a History"]

In her first work, "Asoka and the Decline of the Maurya" published in 1963, Thapar situates Ashoka's policy of "dhamma" in its social and political context, as a non-sectarian civic ethic intended to hold together an empire of diverse ethnicities and cultures. She attributes the decline of the Mauryan empire to its highly centralized administration which called for rulers of exceptional abilities to function well.

Thapar's first volume of "A History of India" is written for a popular audience and encompasses the period from its early history to the arrival of Europeans in the sixteenth century.

"Ancient Indian Social History" deals with the period from early times to the end of the first millennium, includes a comparative study of Hindu and Buddhist socio-religious systems, and examines the role of Buddhism in social protest and social mobility in the caste system. "From Lineage to State" analyses the formation of states in the middle Ganga valley in the first millennium BC, tracing the process to a change, driven by the use of iron and plough agriculture, from a pastoral and mobile lineage-based society to one of settled peasant holdings, accumulation and increased urbanisation. [cite book | title = A Textbook of Historiography, 500 B.C. to A.D. 2000 | author = E. Sreedharan | publisher = Orient Longman | year = 2004 | ISBN = 8125026576 | pages = 479-480 ]

Recognition and honour

Thapar has been a visiting professor at
Cornell University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the College de France in Paris. She was elected General President of the Indian History Congress in 1983 and a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy in 1999. [,,1000031775,00.html Penguin publicity page] ]

Thapar is an Honorary Fellow at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, and at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. She holds honorary doctorates from the University of Chicago, the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales in Paris, the University of Oxford and the University of Calcutta.cite web | url = | title = Romila Thapar Named as First Holder of the Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the South at Library of Congress |publisher = Library of Congress |date=April 17, 2003 | accessdate = 2007-04-04]

In 2004 the U.S. Library of Congress appointed her as the first holder of the Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the South.

In January 2005, she declined the Padma Bhushan awarded by the Indian Government. In a letter to President A P J Abdul Kalam, she said she was "astonished to see her name in the list of awardees because three months ago when I was contacted by the HRD ministry and asked if I would accept an award, I made my position very clear and explained my reason for declining it". Thapar had declined the Padma Bhushan on an earlier occasion, in 1992. To the President, she explained the reason for turning down the award thus: "I only accept awards from academic institutions or those associated with my professional work, and not state awards". [ "Romila rejects Padma award"] - Times of India article dated January 27, 2005]

Views on revisionist historiography

Thapar is critical of what she calls a "communal interpretation" of Indian history, in which events in the last thousand years are interpreted solely in terms of a notional continual conflict between monolithic Hindu and Muslim communities. Thapar says this communal history is "extremely selective" in choosing facts, "deliberately partisan" in interpretation and does not follow current methods of analysis using multiple, prioritised causes. [cite web | title = The Rediff Interview/ Romila Thapar | publisher = Rediff | date = February 4, 1999 | url =]

During the 2006 Californian Hindu textbook controversy, Thapar joined Michael Witzel in opposing changes proposed by US-based Hindu groups to the coverage of Hinduism and Indian history in school textbooks. She contended that while Hindus have a legitimate right to a fair and culturally sensitive representation, the proposed changes included unscientific, religious-based material that distorted the truth and pushed a political agenda. [cite news|url = | title = Creationism By Any Other Name... | first = Romila | last = Thapar | publisher = Outlook | date = February 28, 2006 | accessdate = 2007-04-04]

Thapar's appointment to the Kluge Chair was opposed in an online petition [ "Romila Thapar's appointment to Library of Congress opposed"] - Rediff article dated April 25, 2003] bearing more than 2,000 signatures. Praful Bidwai criticized the petition as a "vicious attack" by communalists who are "not even minimally acquainted" with her work. [cite news | title = McCarthyism's Indian rebirth | url = |date=May 13, 2003 | first = Praful | last = Bidwai | publisher = Rediff | accessdate = 2007-04-04] A number of academics sent a protest letter [cite news | url = | title = Hating Romila Thapar | first = Subhash| last = Gatade | publisher = Himal South Asian | date = June 2003 | accessdate = 2007-04-04 ] [(Text)cite web | url = | title= Letter of Protest by Scholars and Intellectuals Against the Attack on Romila Thapar | date = 7 May 2003 | publisher = South Asia Citizens Web | accessdate = 2007-04-04] to the Library of Congress denouncing the petition as an attack on intellectual and artistic freedom.

Criticism on concealing facts about history

Thapar is generally considered the "dean" of the Marxist school of Indian historians. Many of their claims have been challenged by journalists such as Arun Shourie and historians such as Sita Ram Goel and Ram Swarup. For a detailed refutation of their claims, see the book "Eminent historians: their technology, their lie, their fraud" by Arun Shourie.



* "A History of India: Volume 1", 1966; Penguin, ISBN 0-14-013835-8
* "Asoka and the Decline of the Mauryas", 1961 (revision 1998); Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-564445-X
* "Ancient Indian Social History: Some Interpretations", 1978
* "Cultural Pasts: Essays in Early Indian History", 2003; Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-566487-6
* "Cultural Transaction and Early India: Tradition and Patronage"1994 Art patronage
* "Dissent in the Early Indian Tradition " 1979 Indian Renaissance Institute
* "Early India: From Origins to AD 1300", 2002; Penguin, ISBN 0-520-23899-0
* "Exile and the Kingdom: Some Thoughts on the Rāmāyana" 1978 Original from the University of California
* "From Lineage to State: Social Formations of the Mid-First Millennium B.C. in the Ganges Valley", 1985; Oxford University Press
* "History and Beyond " 2000 oup
* "Interpreting Early India", 1993 (2nd edition 1999); Oxford University Press 1999, ISBN 0-19-563342-3
* "India: Another Millennium?" 2000, Viking
* "India: Historical Beginnings and the Concept of the Aryan" 2006 National Book Trust
* "Sakuntala: Texts, Readings, Histories", 2002; Anthem, ISBN 1-84331-026-0
* "Somanatha: The Many Voices of History", 2005; Verso, ISBN 1-84467-020-1
* "The Past and Prejudice (Patel Memorial Lectures)", 1971
* "The Mauryas Revisited " 1987 K.P. Bagchi & Co.

Edited anthologies

* "Situating Indian History: For Sarvepalli Gopal"
* "Indian Tales", 1991; Puffin, ISBN 0-14-034811-5
* "India: Another Millennium?"
* "Communalism and the Writing of Indian History " By Romila Thapar, Harbans Mukhia, Bipan ChandraPublished 1969 People's Publishing House

elect papers, articles and chapters

* "India before and after the Mauryan Empire", in "The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Archaeology", 1980.
* "Imagined Religious Communities? Ancient History and the Modern Search for a Hindu Identity", Modern Asian Studies 1989 23(2): 209-231.
* [ "Somanatha and Mahmud"] , Frontline, Volume 16 - Issue 8, 10 April - 23, 1999


External links

* [ Audio and video of Romila Thapar's 2005 lecture, "Interpretations of Early Indian History"]
* [ EMINENT HISTORIANS: Their technology, their line, their fraud, by Arun Shourie.]

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