Prof. Suchandra Ghosh, Department of History, School of Social Sciences, University of Hyderabad (UoH) virtually delivered the prestigious BD Chattopadhyaya Memorial Lecture titled ‘Locating Indo-Iranian Borderlands Between Central Asia and South Asia: A Reading of the past Connected history (3rd Century BCE to 6th century CE)’, organised by Visva-Bharati, Shantiniketan on 28-07-2023
The presentation attempted to locate Indo-Iranian borderlands, extending from Afghanistan to north-west India as a blend zone which fostered hybridity. This could be taken as a pronounced ‘third space’ following Homi J. Bhaba, the first being Central Asia and Iran and the second space is South Asia. Though this concept of ‘third space’ is located in the context of colonial and post-colonial period, it is possible to articulate it in the context of the Indo-Iranian borderlands, where understanding the mutuality of culture in expressions of syncretic ideas and transculturation is possible. The cultural objects retrieved from the archaeological sites demonstrate that here, there was no attempt to iron out, de-historicize and de-locate cultures from their temporal, spatial and geographical aspect.
Movement and migration through this space enabled trans-regional cultural dialogue. I have attempted to foreground this conversation between Central Asia and South Asia locating Indo-Iranian borderlands at an intermediate position through the lens of epigraphy, texts, letters, paintings and examples from material culture, thus bringing in the tangible and the intangible domain in close contact where the human agency played a significant role. A sense of the new was created here and in this context, I have tried to explore Bhaba’s idea of “third space” where meanings and symbols of culture “had no primordial unity or fixity” for a period which was far removed in time. A close encounter with the history of the borderlands would reveal that it cannot be seen as a homogenous spatial unit or cannot be identified having a homogenous national culture. Nor was it a melting pot. Rather this was a region which entertained differences and retained its vigour navigating through multiple cultures.