India: A Short Cultural History

India: A Short Cultural History

India: A Short Cultural History

India: A Short Cultural History

Excerpt

INDIAN HISTORY, declared The Times less than half a century ago, has never been made interesting to English readers except by rhetoric. Since then, the devoted work of a generation of scholars has thrown a flood of new light upon the subject, but the results of their investigations have been chiefly intended for the specialist. English people as a whole have been singularly blind to the significance of India's contribution to world-culture; there has even been a positive distaste, born of prejudice and apathy, for Indian spiritual and æesthetic values. To-day, when India is once more emerging, with that persistent vitality which has been her characteristic through the ages, from eclipse, it is more than ever incumbent on us to realise the greatness of her past achievements in religion, politics, art and literature. It is impossible to belittle or ignore a culture which gave the world a religious teacher such as the Buddha, rulers like Asoka and Akbar, Kālidāsa Sakuntald, the superb plastic masterpieces of Sānchī and Borobudur, the Ajantā frescoes, the South Indian bronzes, the Hindu temples of Orissa and the Muslim mosques and palaces of Hindustan. "If I were to ask myself," wrote Max Müller, after a lifetime devoted to the study of Sanskrit, "from what literature we here in Europe, who have been nurtured almost exclusively on the thoughts of the Greeks and Romans, and one Semitic race, the Jewish, may draw that corrective which is most wanted in order to make our inner life more perfect, more universal -- in fact, more human, I should point to India." To write a short book on a vast subject is always a difficult task, involving as it does the inevitable problem of what to select and what to reject. The author's object has been to avoid, as far as possible, a mass of detail and of unfamiliar names, always bewildering to the reader who is not acquainted with the subject already, and confine himself to those aspects especially significant or distinctive. The British period, about which much has been already written, has been only incidentally touched upon; the main theme of the book is the history of the Indian peoples.

It is difficult to express obligations to all who have assisted by giving permission to use copyright passages and illustrations, but . . .

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