An Agrarian History of South Asia

By David Ludden | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
TERRITORY

The long history of agriculture is of countless ecological interventions that have given nature its civility, and imparted personality to the land, as people have cut down forests, diverted rivers, built lakes, killed predators, tamed, bred, and slaughtered animals, and burnt, dug, and axed natural growth to replace it with things that people desire. Farming occurs in a land of emotion, and agrarian territories need gods, poetry, ritual, architecture, outsiders, frontiers, myths, borderlands, landmarks, and families, which give farms meaning and purpose. Together, brute power and refined aesthetics culture the land, and war is so prominent in old poetry because making a homeland is violent business. In the long span of agrarian history, therefore, a great variety of skills have combined to make nature a natural environment, and agrarian territories have emerged historically much like cuisine. Clearing the land and sculpting the fields create a place for the nurture and collection of ingredients. Skilled labour selects, cultivates, kills, dresses, chops, and grinds. Fuels, pots, knives, axes, hoes, mortar and pestle, and many other implements are involved in making all the daily meals and special feasts that sustain work, family, and community. Like a farmer's home territory, a cuisine's complexity and refinement always develop within networks of exchange and specialisation, because materials, ideas, techniques, and tastes come from many sources; but each cuisine also emerges inside spaces of cultured accumulation and experimentation, in which people experience their place in the world, territorially, as they make their very own set of special ingredients into appropriate foods for appropriate occasions.

Radiocarbon dates indicate that people were inventing agriculture in various parts of South Asia 7500 years before the Common Era (BCE).1

____________________
1
Carbon-14 dates indicate the indigenous, multiple origins for agrarian communities in the valleys of the Ganga and Belan rivers (in the Vindhyas) over the millennia before 7000 BCE, which included plant and animal domestication, changing food habits, seed selection, population growth, and the cultivation of rice (oryza sativa). See G. R. Sharma, V. D. Misra, D. Mandal, B. B. Misra, and J. N. Pal, Beginnings of Agriculture: From Hunting and Food Gathering to Domestication of Plants and Animals. Studies in History, Culture, and Archaeology, Volume IV, Allahabad, 1980, pp. 30–1.

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An Agrarian History of South Asia
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The New Cambridge History of India *
  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • General Editor's Preface xi
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - Agriculture 6
  • Chapter 2 - Territory 60
  • Chapter 3 - Regions 113
  • Chapter 4 - Modernity 167
  • Bibliographical Essay 231
  • Index 249
  • The New Cambridge History of India 262
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