ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Mobility, Martiality and Memory of the Thar

Nomadic Narratives: A History of Mobility and Identity in the Great Indian Desert by Tanuja Kothiyal,Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 2016; pp xix + 299, price not indicated.

Rajput pasts have had thickly contested claims, both in scholarly historiography and popular memory. They are also sharply contentious due to the ways in which post-independence politics have tried to produce convenient chunks of “usable pasts.” The uniquely rich archive of early modern as well as modern textual and oral material that is available for this region has attracted a large number of modern scholars to this field of study. For these reasons, medieval and early colonial Rajasthan appears to have been very densely researched.

Tanuja Kothiyal’s book, Nomadic Narratives, however, is not about Rajputs, at least not ostensibly. It is, as the subtitle suggests rather aptly, “a history of mobility and identity in the Great Indian Desert” of Thar. It provides a connected narrative on the Thar from roughly the 15th to the 19th centuries. Corresponding to the long time span that the book covers, it engages with a vast array of sources that include a number of Rajasthani texts of the khyat (glory) and the vigat (the bygone) genres,1 bahis (bounded state documents) of Rajput principalities, oral and folk narratives of the medieval period compiled by colonial and postcolonial ethnographers, and colonial archival materials. It does not directly use the Mughal chronicles, but partially makes up for this omission by drawing upon the works of modern historians in the relevant areas.

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Updated On : 5th Feb, 2018


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