Cultural History of Early South Asia: A Reader presents a wide-ranging survey of the diverse art forms of early South Asia.
In doing so, it departs from the dominant tendency of treating the arts as static ‘heritage of the past’ with just exhibition value, and instead perceives them as dynamic processes of meaning and communication in the past. It connects cultural production with ordinary life, to explore the various roles which literature and visual arts played in the lives of their communities. Here, art is investigated as objects of aesthetic enjoyment, but also as creations of rhetorical or philosophical moment, as well as of utilitarian value.
Through its broad chronological sweep covering the earliest specimens of cultural expression like the prehistoric rock paintings of Bhimbetka; the ornaments of the Harappan culture; the frescoes and rock-cut temples of Ajanta and Ellora; the Pali Jatakas, and South Asian folklore, the book argues for a variety of audiences in ancient and early medieval South Asia.
Bringing together authoritative voices on South Asian history, archaeology and literature, The Cultural History of Early South Asia: A Reader presents complementary views which will help in understanding the popular dimensions of the subcontinent’s art and culture. It will acquaint its readership with fundamental contributions to the region’s art history, and yet do so in a way that questions and opens up received wisdom, and initiates a new understanding of early cultural processes. Scholarly, yet accessible, it will be of enduring relevance for researchers, students of history and cultural studies, as well as lay readers interested in the artistic traditions of South Asia.
Edited by Shonaleeka Kaul