Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

A traveller’s history of India

A Traveller's History of India (2nd ed)A Traveller’s History of India by Sinharaja Tammita-Delgoda
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I added this book to Good Reads, and discovered it was my 1000th book, a figure that seemed to deserved some sort of notice.

As the title suggests, it’s a traveller’s history, a compact book intended to be read by foreigners travelling to India, and taken along for reference when there. It has a gazetteer of historic towns mentioned in the text, with indications of what can be found there, in addition to a brief outline of Indian history. I’m unlikely to visit India in my lifetime, so it won’t serve its purpose for me, but I nevertheless found it an interesting account.

It did, however leave me with some questions. Though the author is himself a foreigner (Sri Lankan) and so sees India with an outsider’s eye, he seems to adopt a north India point of view, and the south is only mentioned in connection with attempts by the north to conquer it.

He mentions the Aryan invasions (which many Hindu nationalists dispute) but says little about the people that the Aryans found when they invaded, other than that they tended to become members of the lower castes as Hinduism developed. It would have been interesting to know how this worked out in the south, where the Aryans barely penetrated.

There are also gaps in the story of the development of languages and religion. It appears that Sanskrit was brought by the Aryan invaders, but the Buddhist scriptures were mostly written in Pali, and won wonders where that came from, and somehow both got replaced by Hindi somewhere along the line.

Obviously one can’t fit everything into a small book, but a few extra paragraphs on these topics would only have added about 5-1o pages to the book.

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