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Kingship and Authority in South Asia. (Brief Reviews of Books).

Kingship and Authority in South Asia. Edited by J. F. RICHARDS. Delhi: OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, 1998. Pp. 7 + 375. $35 (cloth).

This volume reprints the proceedings of two conferences on "kingship and authority in South Asia," the first held in Madison in June 1974, the second at Leiden in July 1976. The proceedings were first published, from a typescript copy, by the Department of South Asian Studies at the University of Wisconsin (1978, rpt. 1981).

The editor's introduction is followed by nine contributions, by J. C. Heesterman (the "conundrum" of kingship and the brahman-king dyarchy in classical Sanskrit texts), Ronald Inden (the cyclic alternation between the king's ritual and political sovereignty according to early "medieval" Sanskrit texts, especially the Visnudharmottarapurana), Toshikazu Arai (the contrast between Jaina and Hindu kingship in Merutunga's fourteenth-century Jaina Prabandhacintamani), Burton Stein (the Pallavas' adoption of the Jaina ideal of the moral king as opposed to the warrior king of the Tamil puram poetry), Brenda E. F. Beck ("The Story of the Brothers," a contemporary Tamil oral epic of Coimbatore district), Peter Hardy (the early Delhi sultanate as a case study of "the growth of authority over a conquered political elite"), Norman P. Ziegler (the sixteenth-century chronicles on the Mughal-Rajput relations), J. F. Richards (the building of a cohesive and efficient service elite of Muslim nobility in the period of Akbar and Jahangir), and Steward Gordon (political reconstruction in the Muslim successor states of the eighteenth century, exemplified by the case of Dost Muhammad).

The purpose of the volume is to contribute to a reevaluation of monarchy in South Asia, because--with few exceptions, such as J. D. M. Derrett's The Hoysalas--"the conventional historiography of kingship in South Asia is a flat, monotonous landscape" (p. 1). The main impression one gets from reading the several contributions is that, in India, classical, medieval, and early modern, there was not just one type, but an infinite number of different types of "king." One is tempted to ask, with Burton Stein (who in his own essay distinguishes no less than three different types of kingship, heroic, moral, and ritual): "Will the real, or true, Indian king please stand up?" (p. 133). Heesterman's conclusion, "there is no consistent theory of kingship: there cannot be one" (p. 35), appears to he valid not only in ancient times, but throughout Indian history.

These important and wide-ranging contributions deserved to be made available in printed form. It is to be regretted, though, that, twenty-two years after the second conference, the authors were not given the opportunity, if not to update their essays throughout, at least to add endnotes and/or bibliography to them. In the case of Brenda Beck, for example, her contribution in this volume was only the prelude to much more extensive work to follow: her typescript translation of the Annanmar Katai (1975?) hardly antedates the conferences, but her edition and translation of the Elder Brother Story (Madras, 1992) and many of her articles came later. The indices of subjects and names are a useful addition to the 1978/1981 typescript report.
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Author:Rocher, Ludo
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 2002
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