[WSMDiscuss] Partha Chatterjee on the Myth of Ancient (Indian) Nation
sukla.sen at gmail.com
Tue Aug 24 12:38:35 CEST 2021
Regardless of the various fabricated (whether benevolent or malevolent)
myths - mostly of modern origins, a *nation* calls for, at the very
minimum, at least some degree of spontaneous emotional integration over and
above, at least to an extent, a stable political administration and a
unified market covering a more or less fixed geographical area and its
That's why India - once very much a part of the British *empire*, was
nevertheless *never* a part of the British *nation*, nor was even
Moreover, as a *nation* - no *eternal* entity by any stretch, may come to
be formed via a specific historical process at a given juncture of history,
it's also perfectly capable of getting disintegrated or even dissolved in
course of further developments.
Pakistan, the USSR and Yugoslavia are just three graphic illustrations.
That's, in this context, so very necessary to be kept in mind.
<<There are no ancient nations anywhere in the world. All nations (rāstra)
are modern. Ancient Greece, ancient Egypt, ancient China, ancient India –
all of them may have had great civilisations whose architecture, art, and
literature are objects of admiration. But they were not nations.
...I will show you that this is merely a conventional idea, a samskār. You
take it for granted because everyone says it is so. In actual fact, it is
The Indian rashtra as a nation-state has only been in existence since the
middle of the twentieth century. If you want to push that history a little
further back by claiming that the Indian National Congress as an organised
political body was the Indian rashtra in waiting, even that would not take
you beyond the last decades of the nineteenth century. The Indian nation
would still be a very modern entity.
But, you may ask, what about the great kingdoms and empires of the past?
The empires of the Mauryas, the Guptas, the Delhi Sultanate, Vijayanagara,
the Mughals, the Marathas – were they not great states? They certainly
were. But they were empires, not nations. The various parts of those states
were held together by military force and tribute-paying arrangements.
That is not how the parts of a nation-state are supposed to be bound
together. Even the Marathas held territories outside the Maharashtra region
by the regular use of armed force and extraction of tribute from local
rulers and populations who were looked upon as subjected peoples. The
Marathas too had an empire, not a nation.>>
(Excerpted from: <
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