The Origins of Modern Historiography in India set out to argue that what resulted from the two disciplinary dispositions of antiquarianism and philology in early colonial India was a greater adherence to a progressive conception of history and an empirical historical method that privileged the establishment of “fact” and a linear “chronology” over precolonial narrative traditions of legitimacy, which were differently structured to convey historical truths. In precolonial India, historical memory and knowledge were indeed embedded in a variety of forms in Indian textual traditions. While oral transmission was an important avenue for historical memory to remain in circulation, recent scholarship has shown that regional and local traditions indeed produced distinct record keeping practices and narrative traditions—inclusive of chronicles, genealogies, and other narrative forms.


Historical Narrative Modern History Early Colonial Historical Method Historical Truth 
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    On December 6, 1992, the Babri Mosque in the city of Ayodhya was de molished by Hindutva (the Hindu Right) activists, who claimed that a temple devoted to the god Rama was originally built on the very site of the mosque. The dispute has become politically charged, and both sides have involved archeologi-cal and historical expertise to bolster their rival claims. The use of evidence employed by Hindutva forces mimics the disciplinary protocols of modern historiography. They have not eschewed the use of historical and archeo-logical evidence for legitimizing their version of history, namely, the claim that the site of the mosque was indeed the very site of the Ramjanmabhoomi temple—the purported birthplace of Rama (the god-hero in the Sanskrit epic The Ramayana). The reaction of the historical discipline in India has been to oppose vociferously the demolition of the Babri Mosque. Historians and archeologists have mobilized their expert knowledge to dispute the historical claims of the Hindutva activists. Armed with archeological evidence, the historians have challenged Hindutva historical claims in Ayodhya. However, the Hindutva side has not forsaken scientific history to further their own claims to historical truth. They too claim there is scientific evidence proving that there had been a temple devoted to Rama on the site of the mosque. Ashis Nandy has pointed to this commonality to demonstrate that the secularist historians and the Hindu Right historians share the same idea of history and that both try to enforce their version of the past using similar methods and tools of modern historiography. The fact that both parties rely on scientific history to further their claims of historical truth should cause us to critically consider the status of history in modern India. See Anish Nandy, “History’s Forgotten Doubles,” The Romance of the State: And the Fate of Dissent in the Tropics (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2003), 83–109.Google Scholar
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    See Burton Stein, Vijayanagara (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1989), 4. A chair in Indian History and Archaeology was established at the University of Madras for S. Krishnaswami Aiyangar, whose role in historical scholarship in south India represents a shift from the older tradition of colonial historiography that had mostly been headed by British scholars. Aiyangar is most famously known for editing and publishing Sources of Vijayanagar History (Madras: The University of Madras, 1919). For a new crop of historians, Sources made available a compilation of “non-historical”, that is, literary sources, from Sanskrit and Telugu as opposed to relying exclusively on European travel accounts for the history of Vijayanagara. Also seeGoogle Scholar
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© Rama Sundari Mantena 2012

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