Harvard scholar says the idea of India dates to a much earlier time than the British or the Mughals.
By Mridula Chari
Scroll.in - April 18th 2016
It wasn’t just a cluster of regional identities, and it wasn't ethnic or racial, says Diana L Eck, as she talks about her latest book, 'India: A Sacred Geography'.
Did the British really invent India or did Indians always have a sense that this land was united? It is a question that has puzzled nationalists and historians alike, with ideology often feeding into the answer.
Diana L Eck, a professor of comparative religion and Indian studies at Harvard, wanted to change that. In her newest book India: A Sacred Geography, published in 2012, she turns her attention to how Hindus in India evolved a cultural imagination of a land unified through pilgrimage and myth despite political and regional separations over time. She drew on texts with the dry eye of a scholar, but also travelled on old, arduous pilgrim routes, gathering pamphlets and talking to people about what these stories meant to them.
Eck is perhaps best known for her seminal book Banaras that maps in painstaking detail the myths, rituals and sites of worship in the north Indian city. She began research for her latest book India: A Sacred Geography in the 1980s, when studying Varanasi, before Hindu nationalism had begun to redefine how Hindus looked at sacred spaces. This was in part why she finished it only three decades years later.
In conversation with Scroll.in, Eck speaks of how this old idea of a "sacred geography" collides with Hindu nationalism and why it really should not.
http://bit.ly/1NhZjxL It wasn’t just a cluster of regional identities, and it wasn't ethnic or racial, says Diana L Eck, as she talks about her latest book, 'India: A Sacred Geography'.