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A full account of Indian history from the establishment of Aryan culture to the coming of the Mughals in 1526 A.D. This work brings to life thousands of years of history, tracing India's evolution before contact with modern Europe was established: its prehistoric beginnings; the great cities of the Indus civilization; the emergence of mighty dynasties such as the Mauryas, A full account of Indian history from the establishment of Aryan culture to the coming of the Mughals in 1526 A.D. This work brings to life thousands of years of history, tracing India's evolution before contact with modern Europe was established: its prehistoric beginnings; the great cities of the Indus civilization; the emergence of mighty dynasties such as the Mauryas, Guptas, and Cholas; the teachings of the Buddha; the creation of heroic epics such as the Mahabharata and the Ramayana; and the creation of regional cultures. Thapar introduces figures from the remarkable visionary ruler Ashoka to other less exemplary figures. In exploring subjects as diverse as marriage, class, art, erotica, and astronomy, Thapar provides an incomparably vivid and nuanced picture of India. Above all, she shows the rich mosaic of diverse kingdoms, landscapes, languages, and beliefs.


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A full account of Indian history from the establishment of Aryan culture to the coming of the Mughals in 1526 A.D. This work brings to life thousands of years of history, tracing India's evolution before contact with modern Europe was established: its prehistoric beginnings; the great cities of the Indus civilization; the emergence of mighty dynasties such as the Mauryas, A full account of Indian history from the establishment of Aryan culture to the coming of the Mughals in 1526 A.D. This work brings to life thousands of years of history, tracing India's evolution before contact with modern Europe was established: its prehistoric beginnings; the great cities of the Indus civilization; the emergence of mighty dynasties such as the Mauryas, Guptas, and Cholas; the teachings of the Buddha; the creation of heroic epics such as the Mahabharata and the Ramayana; and the creation of regional cultures. Thapar introduces figures from the remarkable visionary ruler Ashoka to other less exemplary figures. In exploring subjects as diverse as marriage, class, art, erotica, and astronomy, Thapar provides an incomparably vivid and nuanced picture of India. Above all, she shows the rich mosaic of diverse kingdoms, landscapes, languages, and beliefs.

30 review for A History of India, Vol. 1: From Origins to 1300

  1. 4 out of 5

    Alok Mishra

    Romila Thapar is a historian within her own rights. For her, the early texts are myths generated by 'certain people' without any base. She contradicts her own thesis many times in the course of the narrative of this completely distorted history book. Many reviewers have already pointed out her shortcomings as a historian. "A historical study is not a juxtaposition of islands or fragments of historical facets which are lined up: political, environmental, technological, economic, social, religious Romila Thapar is a historian within her own rights. For her, the early texts are myths generated by 'certain people' without any base. She contradicts her own thesis many times in the course of the narrative of this completely distorted history book. Many reviewers have already pointed out her shortcomings as a historian. "A historical study is not a juxtaposition of islands or fragments of historical facets which are lined up: political, environmental, technological, economic, social, religious and other histories. A historical analysis requires recognizing the fragments, but relating them to a whole that determines what causes events, and formulating an explanation." She writes. And then she does this later: "The Ramayana is more clearly an endorsement of monarchy and the heroes are of the Solar line. Within each epic, societies that do not conform to monarchy are also visible. The epics therefore give us a glimpse of that which had receded or was different from conventional kingship. They are each concerned with events that are difficult to date since many passages were added at times later than the original composition. The versions we have today are generally placed in a chronological bracket between the mid-first millennium BC to the mid-first millennium AD. Therefore they can hardly be regarded as authentic sources for the study of a narrowly defined period. Hence historians have abandoned the concept of an 'epic age'. Incidents from the epics, in the nature of bardic fragments, can have some historical authenticity provided supporting evidence can be found to bear them out. Attempts are therefore being made to correlate archaeological data with events described in the epics. An example of this is the flood at Hastinapur, evident from archaeology and mentioned in the epic, which has been used to date the war to c. 900 BC. But such correlations remain tenuous since chronologies and locations pose insurmountable problems. Poetic fantasy in epic poetry, undoubtedly attractive in itself, is not an ally of historical authenticity." Something that the 'historians' cannot digest because of its 'perfection' per-say, they will call it fancy and will pass over it. But something that they 'think' to be history even after it was not having any recorded evidence and has pure fallacy, should be passed off as history because it is what 'historians' think! The writers like Thapar have done a disservice to the cause of history, especially Indian history and it is high time that we get our authentic records gathered once again and rewrite our history with values that these eminent historians have 'missed' deliberately. It is because of many of bogus accounts of 'history' that Ram Setu, even after being found, becomes Adam's bridge...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Saket Niranjan

    Very unprofessional book of history, I must say. This does not tell what is the truth but tells what is truth according to a person's beliefs. The author forgets that this is a book of history and not of philosophy where she can act upon her whims and inclinations. Very unprofessional book of history, I must say. This does not tell what is the truth but tells what is truth according to a person's beliefs. The author forgets that this is a book of history and not of philosophy where she can act upon her whims and inclinations.

  3. 4 out of 5

    S Sharma

    Invalid history of India this is... the author has not given 'proofs' or her 'assumptions' and had challenged the facts that were established. Invalid history of India this is... the author has not given 'proofs' or her 'assumptions' and had challenged the facts that were established.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Chitranjan Kumar

    An overrated book that was academically imposed upon the readers of young age for so long.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Vikas Lather

    To describe Romila Thapar, I would like to employ (with slight variation) an unknown quote by a famous journalist for Indira Gandhi, "She is the only MAN among the Indian intellectuals" Early India is one of the best books I have read this year. Romila Thapar is among handful of Indian intellectuals who have the courage to stand up against the cultural distortion of our history. She is not famous among Hindutava circle because her work stands between their ambition to distort the past and depres To describe Romila Thapar, I would like to employ (with slight variation) an unknown quote by a famous journalist for Indira Gandhi, "She is the only MAN among the Indian intellectuals" Early India is one of the best books I have read this year. Romila Thapar is among handful of Indian intellectuals who have the courage to stand up against the cultural distortion of our history. She is not famous among Hindutava circle because her work stands between their ambition to distort the past and depress the present with religious flavor. In future, when there will be a debate with misogynistic men about the self-evident fact that female writers can not only produce first-rate fictional and emotional writings but also illuminate serious historical writings by their multidisciplinary approach. Great and brave work produced by Hannah Arendt, Rosa Luxemburg, Arundhati Roy and Romila Thapar will effortlessly champion the cause.

  6. 5 out of 5

    John

    I enjoy reading history, and am just becoming interested in the history of India and central Asia. I figured a Penguin book on the topic would be just what I needed. That was not the case. I was looking for a book which told me stories about Indian history, instead I got a soulless Marxist manifesto. This year I've read two great history books - "The Fall of the Roman Empire" by Peter Heather, and "Consuming Passions" by Judith Flanders. Both were great books which entertained me and left me wit I enjoy reading history, and am just becoming interested in the history of India and central Asia. I figured a Penguin book on the topic would be just what I needed. That was not the case. I was looking for a book which told me stories about Indian history, instead I got a soulless Marxist manifesto. This year I've read two great history books - "The Fall of the Roman Empire" by Peter Heather, and "Consuming Passions" by Judith Flanders. Both were great books which entertained me and left me with a sense of having learnt something. Not so with Romila Thapar's book - I feel like I've learned a lot about Romila Thapar, but very little about history. I may have some feeling of the great ideological battle raging to define India, but I didn't want to read a book about politics. Sadly, I feel that Thapar cannot write otherwise. Let me fill you in on some of the conflicts I sense. Everybody knows that India has Hindu and Muslim inhabitants. If you've seen "Gandhi" you'll know there were terrible massacres perpetrated after partition in 1948. The historical question is: have Hindu and Muslim always been enemies, or have they lived together peacefully? Your answer to that question will influence your position on the war in Kashmir, Pakistan's role within the world, and hence your opinion on what to do about Afghanistan. Everybody knows India has a caste system. The highest caste is the brahmins, the priests; then kshatriya, the warriors; then vaishya and shudra. Brahmins have traditionally been well-educated - these days it is family tradition - so brahmins are more often professionals from wealthy families. In modern India there are quotas for non-brahmins at universities because the brahmins tend to oversupply students. This means that there is effectively anti-brahmin discrimination, resulting in a brahmin diaspora as budding professionals travel overseas for education. Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on your historical perspective - did brahmins achieve their advantageous position by generations of hard work, or did they achieve it by preferential treatment by the kings (who were mostly kshatriya)? Thapar takes the opportunity to mention that "brahmans" as she spells it counter to convention, were the recipients of land grants from the rulers. Brahmins then became administrators of the land, employing the lower castes to do the labour. She then casts brahmins as a "ruling elite". Strangely she doesn't use this description of the kshatriyas. Sadly, her evidence for this judgement is so vague that I can't say whether she has a point or not. Speaking of vague, this book is infuriatingly so. For example, discussing the status of women when social groups moved from clans (family groups) to jatis (subcastes) she says: Kinship patterns and gender relations would have differed between the major groups of castes and between regional practices. It is likely that in the initial stages of conversion jati status, some customary practices from the previous status were retained. What I want to know is, is she telling me something, or is she guessing? Is there any evidence at all for this statement? And if there is, what the hell does it mean anyway? If you ask me where to catch the bus, do I say "it is likely that the bus will continue to arrive in the traditional location, and it would possibly do so at approximately the same time as it has previously." The book is full of this sort of meaningless, vague waffle. Admittedly, as the subject is Indian history from prehistoric times until 1300AD, it's likely that the concrete knowledge available if detailed. However that's no excuse for publishing 489 pages of guesses. Unless you're interested in the political issues in Indian historiography, this is one to stay well away from.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Deepika

    I am very happy that I did not have to go through this poorly written history book during my childhood. Horrific narration of Indian history.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Shivani Singh

    I cannot think of a better genre than propaganda for this book of 'history' which morphs, falsifies and distorts the history that was to make it history as it had to be for her... author's deceptions have been caught and challenged on many occasions but she does not bother. I cannot think of a better genre than propaganda for this book of 'history' which morphs, falsifies and distorts the history that was to make it history as it had to be for her... author's deceptions have been caught and challenged on many occasions but she does not bother.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nilesh Ranjan

    Instead of full account, this book is rather a 'failed account' of Indian history which betrays the basic tenets of historical writing. Romila Thapar has misled her readers. Instead of full account, this book is rather a 'failed account' of Indian history which betrays the basic tenets of historical writing. Romila Thapar has misled her readers.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Harsh Tiwari

    I don't call this forgery of facts a book of history. It has been written with a certain purpose to ride one's own path in spite of the available resources that do not corroborate with her conclusions. I don't recommend this book at all. I don't call this forgery of facts a book of history. It has been written with a certain purpose to ride one's own path in spite of the available resources that do not corroborate with her conclusions. I don't recommend this book at all.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Avdhesh Anand

    I would suggest avoiding this book as I have studied it ins and outs. During my graduation, I had to study this book to compensate my history syllabus and I found it to be highly confusing, agenda-driven and too biased a narrative to be passed off as history.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rupesh Kashyap

    This is not a recommended book if you want to understand and learn history.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Radhika Sharma

    While I was a student at a reputed University, I read her books as primary sources. I was highly disappointed and I won't suggest anyone reading her books. Her history is 'ill-conceived' fancy of her mind and what her heart actually wills. Avoidable. While I was a student at a reputed University, I read her books as primary sources. I was highly disappointed and I won't suggest anyone reading her books. Her history is 'ill-conceived' fancy of her mind and what her heart actually wills. Avoidable.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Gudiya Rani

    This version of history is articulated from a point of view that is not of a historian but rather of a distorian who thinks that what she thinks is right and what others think is wrong, always. There are many contradictions in the book because the author has sometimes been a theorists of literary theories and at times, when she wants, a historian within her own rights to judge historical events from her narrow and mice-eyed point of views.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Riya Gupta

    I have never such big hypocrisy in my life than this. An author who does not believe in the existence of India and thinks when Mughals came Indian becomes a world leader. And she is telling me about Indian from origins. These left-liberals historians have done enough to defame India on world platform but the reality is coming now.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Himanshu Bhatnagar

    Penguin claims this book "brings Indian History to life". I would posit that this book and its author kill Indian history, dismember the corpse, burn the remains and plod mechanically through the ashes. Now that I've vent my spleen, so to speak, let's vent a little more. :) This isn't a book meant for the lay reader or the history buff. If anyone, it is suited for First Year students of BA (History). You lucky guys can just copy-paste paragraphs from the book right into your answer sheets. :D To ca Penguin claims this book "brings Indian History to life". I would posit that this book and its author kill Indian history, dismember the corpse, burn the remains and plod mechanically through the ashes. Now that I've vent my spleen, so to speak, let's vent a little more. :) This isn't a book meant for the lay reader or the history buff. If anyone, it is suited for First Year students of BA (History). You lucky guys can just copy-paste paragraphs from the book right into your answer sheets. :D To call this book academic would be an understatement; to call it "not interesting" would be an even bigger one. The author consistently fails to grip the reader's imagination. Nor does she seem interested in gripping his intellect. The book is a series of such a dry, boring iteration of facts (as interpreted by the author)that it seems that Ms. Thapar has simply transcribed her lecture notes and made a book out of them. With such a vast tapestry of civilization and culture (in both time and space; one of her favourite phrases) the author fails to capture a single colour, shade or hue, a single thread to weave a riveting narrative with. The author drones on, page after page, enumerating facts (some often repeated throughout the book) and giving her view on how certain events may be interpreted. Which brings me to my next point. The author's leftist leanings shine through whenever she pauses to give her personal interpretation of any event. Turk and Persian invaders destroyed many Hindu temples? Well, some Hindu ruler destroyed a temple here or there, so it's all the same! Chinese scholars visiting INdia were all praise for the country? Well, they were just trying to build up the image of the land where Buddha was born. In fact, anyone wrote anything in praise of monarchic India? They were surely exaggerating! But even her leftist viewpoints would have been more palatable or at least forgivable if Ms. Thapar had the writing talents to present her (sometimes unsubstantiated and often poorly supported) theories in a more vibrant and engaging manner. Unfortunately, there is an utter lack of wit, humor, wonder, passion, warmth.......the author consistently refuses to be drawn into the history she attempts to narrate. While being dispassionate in writing on such a subject is not, in itself, an undesirable quality in an author, Ms. Thapar should realize that there is a lot of difference between being dispassionate and being uninteresting or even worse, disinterested, The book reinforces my belief that Indian authors of non-fiction should be made to read Sagan, Shubin, even someone as polemic as Dawkins to get some idea on how to present their subject matter in a readable, engaging format. For me, I'm pretty sure this is the first and last Romila Thapar book I'll buy. P.S. All the diagrams (and they're precious few) are unlabelled. Have fun deciphering them!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rishi

    I really can't imagine whether I am reading a book of history or a book of lies and propaganda. I really can't imagine whether I am reading a book of history or a book of lies and propaganda.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rajveer Singh

    This book doesn't stand as a history book. It rather tends to be a book which is bent by the author to claim that her propositions and notions are right and others' are wrong. Waste of my time. This book doesn't stand as a history book. It rather tends to be a book which is bent by the author to claim that her propositions and notions are right and others' are wrong. Waste of my time.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dharmendra

    A wonderful fiction book. I will not say anything more than this.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ravi Gupta

    I wasted my time reading this book for nothing! The book is based upon imagination more than it is written as history.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ashutosh

    If you ask me to give my honest opinion about who is the best fiction writer in India, then my reply would be Romila Thapar. I have never seen any historian writing such a baseless book. She has nothing do with history. She has a single work to do eat, praise Mughals and sleep and repeat.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lalan Jha

    This history needs to be corrected by a copyeditor and an abstract editor who can teach this historian that history writing is not like writing a piece of fiction.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jagdish

    This is a book of false propaganda rather than a history book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rahul Sharma

    Does the title say history? It should say opinions! Romila Thapar is an arrogant intellectual who is not even ready to accept her mistakes even after they have been busted many a time. She has written history as if she is writing opinions on some literature. Strange!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Arpita

    I would never recommend this book or any book written by Romila Thapar to any one (except you are preparing for UPSC exams). Utterly disgusted by this leftist history telling, felt as if Indian history narrated by some India hater. Be it Ram Guha or Romila Thapar they mastered the art of demeaning India's past, fabricating theories and applying western sense of righteousness in their history telling. For a 555 page History book, evidences/facts are seldom referred, on the contrary the entire boo I would never recommend this book or any book written by Romila Thapar to any one (except you are preparing for UPSC exams). Utterly disgusted by this leftist history telling, felt as if Indian history narrated by some India hater. Be it Ram Guha or Romila Thapar they mastered the art of demeaning India's past, fabricating theories and applying western sense of righteousness in their history telling. For a 555 page History book, evidences/facts are seldom referred, on the contrary the entire book is written based on assumptions of 'Sigmund Freud' style of thought by the writer of what she thinks or imagines would have been India's history. To read 555 pages of assumptions is too much for me to read. I have no clue why this writer is so popular? She feeds you with fabricated stories, conspiracy theories of her weird imaginations but definitely not History of India. I am giving 1 star to the publisher for publishing a 555 pages book on 'Fictional History of India'.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Hamza

    This one took me much longer than I expected, but there is a lot of dense information packed into this small volume. I won't pretend I memorized everything in the book, since it packs a period of over 2000 years into less than 400 pages. That said, it entertained me for the most part, and informed me a great deal about Indian societies of the past. My one minor beef is Ms. Thapar's claim that Sufism came from Shi'i Islam against Sunni orthodoxy. Say what? Unlike her detractors, however, I can fo This one took me much longer than I expected, but there is a lot of dense information packed into this small volume. I won't pretend I memorized everything in the book, since it packs a period of over 2000 years into less than 400 pages. That said, it entertained me for the most part, and informed me a great deal about Indian societies of the past. My one minor beef is Ms. Thapar's claim that Sufism came from Shi'i Islam against Sunni orthodoxy. Say what? Unlike her detractors, however, I can forgive a small error instead of claiming the entire book is thus false. Hindutva-lovers won't enjoy this book, but I sure did. I can't wait to eventually read the rewrite she did 30+ years later.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Vivek Singh

    No other work comes close to it in subject matter. Sanghi retards who most probably haven't even read this book are giving it one star like butt hurt idiots they are. No other work comes close to it in subject matter. Sanghi retards who most probably haven't even read this book are giving it one star like butt hurt idiots they are.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Vinod Manas

    I don't like this book and I would not recommend this book to anyone who wants to study History. I don't like this book and I would not recommend this book to anyone who wants to study History.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bryan--Pumpkin Connoisseur

    This book may have all the information one might require for a general survey of India before the coming of the Mughals and the Portuguese, but the style is listless and documentary. Better, I suppose, than sensationalistic, but it was still difficult for me to shoulder on through it. Part of the problem I admit was my own lack of knowledge about Indian geography and political divisions. The author frequently referred to geographic areas of India which I couldn't place in my head (the maps were This book may have all the information one might require for a general survey of India before the coming of the Mughals and the Portuguese, but the style is listless and documentary. Better, I suppose, than sensationalistic, but it was still difficult for me to shoulder on through it. Part of the problem I admit was my own lack of knowledge about Indian geography and political divisions. The author frequently referred to geographic areas of India which I couldn't place in my head (the maps were few and far between and not as good an aide as they could have been), and without that grounding, I felt like I was reading a lot of disconnected material which didn't relate to what came before or after. Another problem is the nature of Indian history itself, which doesn't really follow an easy narrative. At any given point in time, the subcontinent may have had several areas in ascendancy and in decline, some which interacted with one another and others that were in more or less a constant state of warfare. My frame of reference is European history, which is also fragmented, but still is more unified than Indian history, at least as far as I could tell from this survey. On the other hand, I was exposed to a tremendous amount of information about which I had no idea. I don't know how much I'll retain, but again, that's more my problem than anyone else's.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Shanthanu

    The first half of the book is quite interesting where Thapar talks about historiography and how biases and agendas of diverse groups affect their periodization and narrative of history, and the book begins quite promisingly with a the description of the social milieu. However, in the later chapters, especially after the Gupta empire or so the book becomes too unfocussed and difficult to follow when it ends up as a listing of too many facts without any sort of clear thread of events. Sure, histor The first half of the book is quite interesting where Thapar talks about historiography and how biases and agendas of diverse groups affect their periodization and narrative of history, and the book begins quite promisingly with a the description of the social milieu. However, in the later chapters, especially after the Gupta empire or so the book becomes too unfocussed and difficult to follow when it ends up as a listing of too many facts without any sort of clear thread of events. Sure, history is sometimes like that and forcing an ideological narrative is not something I want, but it should be possible to have a somewhat loose narrative thread of sorts to make it easier to make sense of what's going on. Another really annoying thing was the lack of any diacritics in the transcription scheme for Prakrit/Sanskrit terms which confuses long/short vowels, and some consonants. Overall, the first few chapters are a fairly good introduction to early India, but it gets too disorganised to follow soon after.

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