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Books on India

January 2008
Books on India

Two high-profile Indian anniversaries in 2007 were marked by a slew of new books. Ramachandra Guha’s India After Gandhi provides a wide-angle view of the 60 years since independence, while Willam Dalrymple’s The Last Mughal zooms in on an important turn of events 150 years ago. Now comes Maria Misra’s Vishnu’s Crowded Temple, which takes us again to the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857, although in this case we get a panoramic view of Indian history since then. Published to acclaim in the U.K. last year, the book is being released here in March. “Building on recent specialist research, she shows how the British passion to classify and analyze Indian society led to the formulation of rigid concepts of caste, often on the basis of pretty dodgy information,” notes The Independent.

Rather than doing just a political narrative, Misra examines Indian history through a sociological and anthropological lens. India is a land of differences and contrasts, as anybody who’s been there knows, but it’s also true that British and Indian rulers have exploited—and reinforced—those divisions over the past century and a half. “This book also dissects,” adds another review, “the intervening attempts of various polemicists, politicians and prophets to transcend those inherent contradictions: from the baroque pseudo-traditional fantasies of the British to the religious arcadia of Gandhi; from the planned paradise of Nehru to the Hindu Raj of high-caste elites or the cyber utopias of its new business moguls.”


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