Tuesday, October 27, 2009

History of India - UCLA lecture podcast

With great enthusiasm I started a new lecture series at UCLA: History 9A - Introduction to Asian Civilizations: History of India (feed). Not all courses at UCLA are available as free podcasts, but this one is. I call myself lucky.

I have a great interest in the history of India. The fascinations stretches from the earliest of Indus Valley civilizations to modern day India and its neighbors. I have complained in the past that a good history podcast about India was sorely missing and here we are, UCLA meets the challenge. I have gone through the first four or five lectures and so the most I can say is about the early history.

For one, there is the Indus Valley Civilization (IVC). The lecturer, professor Vinay Lal makes it very clear: we have little to go on. We have to rely on archeology, as the script has not been deciphered yet - it is a script Lal assures. The archeological finds are few and far apart and many of those are in Pakistan and this makes for some irony and political contention around everything involved in IVC. And it is not just the Pakistan-India collision that plays in these politics. Also other issues in modern politics are played out in the archeology and interpretation of the Indus Valley Civilizations.

Then, when the IVC leaves the scene, in whatever way, the Aryans arrive and with them the Sanskrit language and the texts that found Hinduism (or should we say Brahmanism?). This, also, is politically laden and so, again, the lectures concentrate very much around the meanings and interpretations of the Sanskrit texts. This is very interesting, but it gives the series, so far, much less the character of a narrative and much more the quality of a lecture on historiography. Nevertheless, those facts that I found so sorely missing in my education, are given and beginning to connect.

Apart from this podcast, I also follow the blog Varnam in order to get a grip on Indian History. Reading Varnam's articles in conjunction with Lal's lectures are a truly enriching experience.