What is history? How does a land become a homeland? How are cultural identities formed? Offering cogent new answers to these fundamental questions, The Making of Early Kashmiris a cultural history of the birth of Kashmir and the discursive and material practices that shaped it up to the 12thcentury CE.
Reinterpreting the first work of Kashmiri history, Kalhana’s Rajatarangini, this book argues that the text was history not despitebeing traditional Sanskrit poetry but becauseof it. Organizing Kashmir’s past around a deeply ethical understanding of time and human action, myth, memory, rhetoric and the didactic were crucial strategies of the Rajatarangini’s historical vision. Moreover, the text elaborated a poetics of place, implicating the sacred geography of Kashmir, a stringent critique of local politics, and, spectacularly, a regional selfhood that transcended the narrow limits of vernacularism.
Combined with longue durée testimonies from art, material culture, script, and linguistics, this book jettisons the image of an isolated and insular Kashmir. It proposes a cultural formation that straddled the Western Himalayas and the Indic plains with early Kashmir as the pivot. This is the story of the connected histories of the region with the rest of India.
Extraordinary multidisciplinary scholarship crafted in compelling prose, The Making of Early Kashmir challenges influential cultural binaries like centre-periphery, myth-history, classical-folk, and political-spiritual while proposing a fresh model of regional process in early South Asia. A timely revelation of the pluralistic and dynamic origins and identity of a land battling religious extremism and exclusionism today.