Using historical sources, including official and nonofficial, published and unpublished in combination with oral tradition and other sources, Kamlesh Mohan attempts an exploration of the varied formulations of culture and their interplay with economic forces from the colonial period to contemporary India.
The work under review is the third of a series of works focusing on religious reform in South Asia. The two preceding volumes in the same series, both edited by Antony Copley, were titled Gurus and Their Followers and Hinduism in Public and Private and brought out in the years 2000 and 2003 respectively.
Is the historical meaning of the partition exhausted by the bewildering and horrifying nature of the event itself or of the moment of loss, violence and multiple re-orderings of lives by governments and communities? The concern with the proliferating tracks of the event has been the dominant one in partition studies since its founding moment in the texts of Kamla Bhasin, Ritu Menon, Gyanendra Pandey and Urvashi Bhutalia; its lineage extends to Vazira Zamindar’s recent book* that has addressed the Pakistan side of the story as well.
The book is based on detailed and extensive readings of travel accounts in Persian related to India, Iran, and Central Asia that revelled in Indo-Persian culture. Focusing on a specific historical period that extends from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries, this work comes across to us as the first comprehensive understanding of Safar nama, a genre of literature, not much studied by scholars.
Structured into ten chapters, the book starts off with features of the main physiographic zones of the subcontinent, periodization, and changing interpretations of early Indian history. The first chapter constitutes a detailed discussion of literary and archaeological sources.