Published online by Cambridge University Press: 26 October 2011
The study of disasters runs parallel to the study of Indian society, economy, polity, music, paintings and sculpture. One need not go too far to seek the reason. As part and parcel of the planetary process, earthquakes, floods, droughts, and cyclones or for that matter, cold and heat waves are neither alien nor recent entrants to India. Arriving suddenly or building steadily, natural disasters have continued to take a toll on life in India since eons. Even though they are perceived as natural events, the fact that they are not viewed as ‘normal’ implies that they cannot be overlooked. The result is that references to natural disasters are interpolated into travel accounts, chronicles, and administrative reports and inscribed in edicts or weaved within legends. Strewn across this ‘literature’ is the source of the study of natural disasters in India. Be it an account, description or even a story, these involve research, imagination and thought. There is little doubt that if such sources were amassed from every language, class and creed of India, the wealth would enrich our understanding of the study of natural disasters.
While the retrieval, translation and analysis of these materials is a project worth a lifetime, yet its scope unfortunately falls out of the compass of this book. This is because in all such references, the description of disasters is embedded within larger texts and is incidental to the context.