New Delhi, March 1 : Here is an original, riveting and extensively researched social and cultural history of India. Namit Arora’s “A brief History of a Civilization” (Penguin) takes the reader through nearly 5,000 years of India’s history, revealing the worldview of early Indians at various times — and what of it lives on and what has disappeared among modern Indians.
What do we really know about the Aryan migration theory and why is that debate so hot? Why did the people of Khajuraho carve erotic scenes on their temple walls? What did the monks at Nalanda eat for dinner? Did our ideals of beauty ever prefer dark skin?
Indian civilization is an idea, as the book reimages in rich detail the social and cultural moorings of Indians through the ages. Drawing on credible sources, the author discovers what inspired and shaped them: their political upheavals and rivalries, customs and vocations, and a variety of unusual festivals.
Arora makes a stop at six iconic places — the Harappan city of Dholavira, the Ikshvaku capital at Nagarjunakonda, the Buddhist centre of learning at Nalanda, enigmatic Khajuraho, Vijayanagar at Hampi, and Varanasi — enlivening the narrative with vivid descriptions, local stories and evocative photographs.
Punctuating this are chronicles of famous travellers who visited India-including Megasthenes, Xuanzang, Alberuni and Marco Polo-whose dramatic and idiosyncratic tales conceal surprising insights about our land.
In lucid, elegant prose, Arora explores the exciting churn of ideas, beliefs and values of our ancestors through millennia-some continue to shape modern India, while others have been lost forever.
This is an original, deeply engaging and extensively researched work that illuminates a range of histories coursing through our veins.
Namit Arora chose a life of reading and writing after cutting short his career in the Internet industry. Raised in the Hindi belt of India, he lived in Louisiana, Northern California and Western Europe, and travelled in scores of countries before returning to India over two decades later in 2013. He is the author of “The Lottery of Birth”, a collection of essays, and the novel “Love and Loathing in Silicon Valley”. For more about him, visit shunya.net.