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28th Gonda Lecture by Upinder Singh: Inscribing power on the realm - royal ideology and religious policy in India, c. 200 BCE - 300 CE

In her lecture Upinder Singh, Professor of History, Ashoka University, Sonepat, India, argues that the fundamental template of ancient Indian political ideology and religious policy was established during the period c. 200 BCE-300 CE through a continuous dialogic process revealed in the manner in which kings inscribed their power on their realm. She does so by drawing on epigraphic evidence to focus on three themes.

  • 10 June 2022
  • 16:00 - 17:30
  • Trippenhuis - Kloveniersburgwal 29, AmsterdamTravel directions
Decoratieve afbeelding Gondalecture Upinder Sing - foto door Anna Slączka

Photograph with the kind permission of Anna Slączka

The first theme is religion, ideology and historical memory in the Hathigumpha inscription of Khāravela in eastern India. The second is the emergence of Purāṇic Brahmanical kingship in Sātavāhana and western Kṣatrapa inscriptions in the western Deccan. And the third is the extent to which episodes of religious persecution created ruptures in the general pattern of multi-directional and inclusive royal patronage.

The analysis involves reconstructing the strands of action, reaction and influence that constituted the epigraphic process and reflecting on the complex relationship between the history of political ideas and practice.

Further, the changes in the religious landscape between the post-Maurya and Gupta--Vākāṭaka periods -- from one dominated by burgeoning Buddhist establishments to a close monarchical embrace with Brāhmaṇas, Vaiṣṇavism and Śaivism – can only be understood by making inferences that go beyond what is directly visible in the epigraphic and archaeological record.

About Upinder Singh

The interests of Upinder Singh range over various aspects of ancient Indian history and archaeology, the history of ideas, and India’s interactions with the wider world. She is the author of Kings, Brāhmaṇas, and Temples in Orissa: An Epigraphic Study (AD 300–1147) (1994), Ancient Delhi (1999), The Discovery of Ancient India: Early Archaeologists and the Beginnings of Archaeology (2004), A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the Twelfth Century (2008), The Idea of Ancient India: Essays on Religion, Politics, and Archaeology (2016), and Political Violence in Ancient India (2017). She has edited Delhi: Ancient History (2006), Rethinking Early Medieval India (2011); and has co-edited Ancient India: New Research (2009), Asian Encounters: Exploring Connected Histories (2014), and Buddhism in Asia: Revival and Reinvention (2019). Her most recent books, published in 2021, are The World of India’s First Archaeologist: Letters from Alexander Cunningham to J.D.M. Beglar and Ancient India: Culture of Contradictions.

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