The Department of History, University of Hyderabad organized its “UoH History Webinar Series, No. 6” with Prof. Aloka Parasher-Sen (Professor Emritus, Department of Sanskrit Studies), who had delivered her lecture titled, “Remembering the Past, Writing History – The Fragile Archive” on 31 July 2020, which was attended by enthralling audience of 150 people, both from the university as well as across India.
Prof. Aloka Parasher-Sen, at the outset, pointed out that her talk would dwell on the larger issues affecting the writing of Indian history, in particular, the problem with writing ancient Indian history. By contrasting ‘remembering the past’ with ‘writing history, Prof. Parasher-Sen told the audience the ways in which the ancient Indian intellectual tradition looked at ‘Memory, Time, and History’. This understanding, the speaker claims, impacts the construction of ancient sources, what she called as ‘the fragile archive’, that historians used to write the modern history of ancient India. The difference between how to look at ancient Indian past (that was outside history), and when we remember that past which was written down through ancient literary texts was explained in juxtaposition to our understanding of modern history, where higher education institutes and universities conduct research and teach about the idea of history in scientific and rational terms nowadays.
Prof. Aloka Parasher-Sen concluded that there is no unilateral way of looking at the past or ancient Indian historical traditions, but instead one that is embedded in complex ways of looking at time, space, and individual in a multi-layered society like ours. ‘Openness and inclusion’ is something we have to keep in mind against the exclusive and restricted domains of ancient Indian history. The Q&A had very interesting and probing questions, both from the students and academics from the university and across India, which the speaker answered tolerantly with the same level of depth and enthusiasm, like her talk itself.
The idea of initiating “UoH – History Webinar Series” culminated into action, when Prof. Bhangya Bhukya (Head of the Department of History) discussed the possibilities with Dr. V.J. Varghese and Dr. Vijaya Ramadas Mandala a month ago. Since then, the Department has organized six webinar talks, till date, including distinguished historians like Prof. Mahesh Rangarajan (Ashoka University, India) and Prof. Dilip Menon (University of Witwatersrand, South Africa), as well as Indologist, Prof. Ines G. Zupanov (CNRS, Paris, France), among others. The Department of History at the University of Hyderabad has already lined-up some eminent historians for the upcoming webinar talks in next two months, both from abroad as well as within India.
–Dr. Vijaya Ramadas Mandala, Assistant Professor, Department of History