Interpreting Dynastic History in Western India, c.1090-2016
The ethnographic approach to Indian history and genealogy; the making of dynastic history in the kingdom of Jhalavad; the history of Gujarat.
‘Genealogy, Archive, Image’ addresses the ways in which history and tradition are ‘reinvented’ through text, memory and painting. It examines the making of dynastic history in the kingdom of Jhalavad, situated in Gujarat, western India, over the longue durée, from the eleventh to the twentieth centuries. The essays critique a collection of contemporary miniature paintings, which chart the dynastic history of Jhalavad’s rulers and the textual and ethnographic archive upon which they are based. A multidisciplinary work, it crosses the boundaries of history, anthropology, folklore and mythology, gender, musicology, literary studies, and visual, film and digital media. The essays draw upon a variety of voices, spanning various religious and ethnic communities, including Hindus, Muslims, Jains, Parsees and Siddhi Africans, and caste identities, such as that of the bard, ballad singer, king, priest, court chronicler, soldier, mason and drummer.
The dynastic history explored in this volume continues to be created—at several levels and by multiple communities in Jhalavad, where Hindus of all castes, Muslims, Afro-Indian Shiddis, Sikhs, Jains and other ethnic and religious groupings interact and make an environment where myth and music, poetry and painting, dance, theatre and storytelling revitalize and reinvent tradition. Superbly executed and coloured miniature paintings, drawing on traditional styles and digitally (re)produced, are part of the weave of the work, which recognizes the aesthetic dimension as integral to people’s everyday lives. And while the book’s foundations were laid by H.H. Maharaja Meghrajji III of Dhrangadra, father and grandfather of the editors, one of its many achievements lies in the way those often marginalized in written historical records actively and expressively take their place in this picture. Domestic staff and praise singers, rural theatre troupes, pastoralists and people once considered ‘untouchable’ are here and part of the rich and always-changing fabric of life. Dr Lorraine Mortimer, University of Sydney, Australia
Using a series of digitally produced miniature paintings to track and interpret a dynastic history in one small kingdom in Gujarat (India), this volume illuminates the making and remaking of identity in Jhalavad, India. It shows how rulers and their kinship and affective ties are integral to understanding how a kingdom becomes a democratic state and how the aesthetic, personal, and political domains thoroughly imbricated each other from precolonial times to the present. This is indeed a rare work of scholarship that successfully traverses history, anthropology,and musicology, as well as literary and visual studies. Dr Parvis Ghassem-Fachandi, Rutgers University, USA
This highly innovative and experimental book explores the memory of a particular place in western India – the former kingdom of Halvad-Dhrangadhra. It powerfully evokes the specific “genealogical geography” of this ancient kingdom by promiscuously drawing upon such diverse fields as history, gender studies, anthropology, literary studies, and biography. More unusually, this study also transgresses the normal boundaries between academic knowledge and artistic performance through the commissioning and reproduction of a series of extremely beautiful, contemporary miniature paintings, which lyrically evoke a specific sense and sensibility of place and past. The unexpectedly delightful synergies between written word and painted image make this study truly sing! Dr Norbert Peabody, University of Cambridge, UK
Even as scholarship on the history and culture of South Asia has burgeoned, gaps in our knowledge still remain. We still don't have very many caste histories, or histories of individual families, or for that matter many longitudinal studies of localities below the provincial level. Genealogy, Archive, Image addresses all these lacks splendidly. Setting out to trace the thousand-year history of the Jhala dynasty of north-western Gujarat, it not only tells that story, but explores the culture, customs, folk-traditions, and art enacted at, and patronised by, the Jhala court during this period to show how Jhala history was made and remade by generations of bards, chroniclers, singers and especially painters, whose work has been lavishly reproduced. This is an important and very welcome book which merits comparison with the great Ras Mala: Hindu Annals of Western India, compiled a century and a half ago by Alexander Forbes. Professor Ian Copland, Monash University, Australia