The Concept of Bharatavarsha and Other Essays

By B. D. Chattopadhyaya

Subjects: India And South Asian Studies, Intellectual History, Literature
Series: SUNY series in Hindu Studies
Hardcover : 9781438471754, 250 pages, September 2018
Paperback : 9781438471747, 250 pages, July 2019

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Table of contents


1. The Concept of Bhāratavarṣa and Its Historiographical Implications
2. Space, History and Cultural Process: Some Ideas on the Ingredients of Subregional ‘Identity’

3. The State’s Perception of the ‘Forest’ and the ‘Forest’ as State in Early India

4. Rāma’s Acts in Exile and in Kingdom

5. Local and Beyond: The Story of Asura Naraka and Society, State and Religion in Early

6. Festivals as Ritual: An Exploration into the Convergence of Rituals and the State in Early India

7. Accommodation and Negotiation in a Culture of Exclusivism: Some Early Indian Perspectives

8. Interrogating ‘Unity in Diversity’: Voices from India’s Ancient Texts


This exploration of key terms related to social and political order, found in early Indian texts, challenges the idea of a unified ancient India and a unified national identity at that time.


This collection explores what may be called the idea of India in ancient times. Its undeclared objective is to identify key concepts which show early Indian civilization as distinct and differently oriented from other formations.

The essays focus on ancient Indian texts within a variety of genres. They identify certain key terms—such as janapada, desa, varṇa, dharma, bhāva—in their empirical contexts to suggest that neither the ideas embedded in these terms nor the idea of Bharatavarsha as a whole are "given entities," but that they evolved historically.

Professor Chattopadhyaya examines these texts to unveil historical processes. Without denying comparative history, he stresses that the internal dynamics of a society are best decoded via its own texts. His approach bears very effectively on understanding ongoing interactions between India's "Great Tradition" and "Little Traditions."

As a whole, this book is critical of the notion of overarching Indian unity in the ancient period. It punctures the retrospective thrust of hegemonic nationalism as an ideology that has obscured the diverse textures of Indian civilization.

Renowned for his scholarship on the ancient Indian past, Professor Chattopadhyaya's latest collection only consolidates his high international reputation.

B. D. Chattopadhyaya retired as Professor of History, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. His work on ancient India has been widely acknowledged. His many books include The Oxford India Kosambi: Combined Methods in Indology and Other Writings; Studying Early India: Archaeology, Texts, and Historical Issues; and The Making of Early Medieval India.