The Book Club Pune
India in the Persianate Age: 1000-1765 by Richard Eaton
Presented by Runa Mukherjee.
- Review by Latika Padgaonkar
India in the Persianate Age in a story of the merging of two trans-regional cultures in India – the Sanskritic and the Persian – over the course of eight centuries. Presenter Runa Mukherjee gave her listeners a gist of this long and
complex interaction which, in many ways, led to the cultural enrichment of both. Ms Mukherjee referred to the intricate relationships between the rulers and the ruled, and to the stalemates and equilibrium between dynasties. Given the enormous canvas and time span Richard Eaton’s book covers, it was difficult to deal with every aspect of this mingling and change. But Ms Mukherjee did underline the many fields of life in India where foreign influences were absorbed: art, architecture, spirituality, administrative measures and structures, sartorial fashions, the importance of the horse in warfare, modes of conquest by the military, modes of subjugation and even incorporation of peoples – including slaves.Before the 11 th century, said Mukherjee, the Sanskritic world stretched from Gandhara (the area around resent-day Kabul)to Singapura (present-daySingapore), while the Persianate world included Central Asia, and would moveto South Asia following the raids by Mohammad of Ghazni.According to Eaton,the two worlds were not centred on religion. More likely, they focused on power. If Ghazni destroyed and looted the Somnath Temple, Rajendra 1 Chola did likewise with the Shiva Temple in Bengal.If the Sultanate leaders went into battle to conquer lands and peoples and plunder in order to expand their empires, they also followed a policy of co-opting local leaders (if there was no opposition) and assimilating and skilling them, and ‘adopting’ them to gain their loyalty.Ms Mukherjee also emphasized that there was no significant religious consciousness, nor any significant religious clashes.
If anything, the Chisti School of Sufism laid stress on humanism, tolerance and on the separation of religion and the state. No religious identities were forged and the local people accepted the Sultanate as long as justice prevailed.
Mukherjee ended her presentation by stating that both Sanskrit and Persian would morph into modern Indian languages (Braj and Urdu)