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7 - Notes on Political Thought in Medieval and Early Modern South India

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 January 2014

Velcheru Narayana Rao
Affiliation:
Emory University
Sanjay Subrahmanyam
Affiliation:
University of California
Richard M. Eaton
Affiliation:
University of Arizona
Munis D. Faruqui
Affiliation:
University of California, Berkeley
David Gilmartin
Affiliation:
North Carolina State University
Sunil Kumar
Affiliation:
University of Delhi
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Summary

In these days, when we don't have any kingdoms worth the name, texts on statecraft are of no use for ruling the state, and they are useful only for historians of shāstra texts.

—Veturi Prabhakara Sastri

This country has seen the conflict between ecclesiastical law and secular law long before Europeans sought to challenge the authority of the Pope. Kautilya's Arthashastra lays down the foundation of secular law. In India unfortunately ecclesiastical law triumphed over secular law. In my opinion this was the one of the greatest disasters in the country.

—B. R. Ambedkar

INTRODUCTION

Past works on the nature and content of state-building in medieval South India have focused largely on the inscriptional corpus, and a limited set of narrative accounts, in order to support classic formulations of such ideas as the ‘segmentary state’ and ‘ritual kingship’. In this essay, we return to some of the questions raised by our colleagues and predecessors in the field, but with a view to looking at ideological and ideational issues far more than concrete institutional arrangements. We should note at the outset that the specter of a perpetually receding horizon of universal concepts—those that can be used with equal confidence, say, for the analysis of pre-1800 societies in Europe, Asia and Africa—has taken something of a toll in recent decades. Is it at all legitimate to assume that ‘money’ existed in all or even most of these continents? What of the ‘economy’ itself, or even ‘society’?

Type
Chapter
Information
Expanding Frontiers in South Asian and World History
Essays in Honour of John F. Richards
, pp. 164 - 199
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2013

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