Historical regions evolved in different parts of South Asia during the first half of the Second millennium CE as a consequence of the gradual convergence of society, culture, language and territory. However, in spite of the discernible commonalities in terms of the processes of change, the constituent ingredients and chronologies varied across spaces, leading to the unfolding of Spatially identifiable and culturally distinguishable regions. This volume, focused on Odisha, situates the region in the wider context of its trans-regional background for as the archaeological and epigraphic evidence available shows that it was an integral part of a wider Zone from the early historical period. Juxtaposing the patterns obtaining in the region with developments in other parts of the subcontinent, the making of regions in Indian history: society, state and identity in premodern Odisha delineates the cultural transactions within and beyond that went into the making of Odisha.
Bhairabi Prasad Sahu is Professor of ancient Indian history at the University of Delhi, Delhi. His interests are in the areas of political processes, social and economic history and historiography. His publications include From Hunters to Breeders: Faunal Background of Early India; The Changing Gaze: Regions and the Constructions of Early India; Society and Culture in Post-Mauryan India, c.200 BC-AD 300; and with Hermann Kulke, History of Precolonial India: Issues and Debates. He has also edited the following volumes: Iron and Social Change in Early India; Interrogating Political Systems: Integrative Processes and States in Pre-modern India; and History and Theory: The Study of State, Institutions and the Making of History (with Kesavan Veluthat).
This collection of essays derives from my interest in the history of regions in the subcontinent, and the desire to understand their specificities and varying trajectories through time, and in this case Odisha. The making of regions in Indian history, as also their remaking, has attracted the notice of historians during the last two decades. The simultaneous interplay of the panIndian and the regional as well as the sub-regional and the local cultural flows-constituents of the regional-have continuously shaped and reshaped each other. Varied regions ranging from the Western Himalayas to Kerala and from Rajasthan to Andhra have benefitted from this perspective of historians working in these cultural regions. Commonalities across spatially proximate regions are more than those separated by distance. It emerges that though the processes across regions were largely comparable the chronologies of the shaping of regions and their ingredients were dissimilar. This work makes an effort to understand the patterns obtaining in the region known as Odisha today. Although my interest in early Odisha goes back to 1978-80, the years I spent on my MPhil dissertation and associated courses, I did not have the opportunity to work on the region continuously almost till the turn of the new millennium. Between 1999 and 2005 along with some friends-Shishir K. Panda, late Biswamoy Pati and Chandi P. Nanda-I collaborated with Professor Hermann Kulke in the Orissa Research Project II, supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG), and since then have been more involved with the region that I come from. The kind invitations from the Aligarh Historians Society to their annual panels organized at different locations in the country during the annual sessions of the Indian History Congress provided the congenial platform to share my ideas with an informed audience. The fact that almost half the essays in the volume were presented at these panels earlier visibly drives home the significant role it has played in the shaping of this anthology.
The volume comprises about a dozen essays, besides the Introduction, some published and others presented in recent years at seminars/conferences. They were written on different occasions for diverse audiences; and it is natural that there will be some repetitions and overlaps. I would urge the readers to kindly bear with it. The essays are focused on Odisha, but they continuously situate the region in the wider context of its transregional background, networks of people, places, goods and ideas, and also juxtapose the patterns obtaining in the region with developments elsewhere. The concern has also been to delineate the cultural transactions within and beyond the region in its making. That the region from the early historical period onwards was an integral part of a wider zone is evident from the archaeological and epigraphic evidence. The use of the expression 'premodern' in the title of the work was necessitated by the fact that the terminal point of some of the essays moves well into the fifteenth-sixteenth century and the term 'early Odisha' would have been unsuitable. That apart, it is also partly influenced by the recent discussions surrounding the idea of the `early modern', which seems to have set in around 1500 CE with India being very much a part of it, largely as a consequence of European expansionism, Indian Ocean trade and concomitant socio-cultural and political developments.
In completing this work, I have drawn on the generosity of many friends and institutions. I am thankful to the authorities of the University of Delhi for granting me a sabbatical year, which helped me considerably in revising and rewriting several of these essays, and putting them all together. I am more than thankful to Professor Hermann Kulke for having rekindled my interest in Odisha, and would also like to express my gratitude to Professor B.D. Chattopadhyaya for his encouragement and support through the years. I am thankful to Professors Irfan Habib and Shireen Moosvi of the Aligarh Historians Society for their continued kindness, which has greatly helped me in my pursuit of piecing together the premodern pasts of Odisha. I am grateful to Professor Kulke especially for the photographs, which he sent unhesitatingly from his personal collection. I would like to also acknowledge the help I received from the library staff at the Indian Council of Historical Research-especially Ms Jyotsna Arora-for their courtesy. As with my other books, my wife, Gayatri and our son Devavrata have helped me in various ways in completing the manuscript; and I am thankful to them for their time and patience.
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