Currently Professor in the Department of Ancient Indian History & Culture at University of Calcutta, her specialization is in Epigraphy and Numismatics. She is trained in early Indian scripts and her research interests include political and cultural history of early India, regional history (southeastern Bengal and Assam), India’s linkages with early southeast Asia, and Indian Ocean Buddhist and trade networks.
Prof. Suchandra Ghosh has been the recipient of fellowships and awards, including the Charles Wallace Visiting Fellowship, UK; The Empowering Network for International Thai and Asean Studies (ENITAS) Scholarship, Chulalongkarn University, Bangkok; Lowick memorial grant for Oriental Studies by the Royal Numismatic Society, London; and visiting fellowships from the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, Paris.
Prof. Suchandra Ghosh has published over sixty essays in journals and books in India and abroad. Her own books include Exploring Connectivity: Southeastern Bengal and Beyond (2015) and From the Oxus to the Indus: A Political and Cultural Study (c. 3rd century BCE – 1st century BCE) (forthcoming).
Abstracts of the lectures
- Understanding Everyday Life of Early India: Case Study of Bengal
“Everyday life consists of the little things one hardly notices in time and space”. Thus wrote Fernand Braudel in his Structures of Everyday Life: The Limits of the Possible. Social history in general encompasses the study of everyday life, but of late historical enquiries into everyday life have emerged as a distinct sub-discipline within the broader framework of the study of a given society. It is a complex mosaic of events, moments and activities in the day-to-day existence of an individual, belonging to a given society. It is generally taken to be ordinary or routine and therefore often misses the deserved gaze of the historian who is more attentive to major changes occurring in the remote and recent past. But if viewed carefully, the extraordinary or outstanding features in the ordinary aspects of life, experienced everyday in one’s social existence, become visible. An exercise to comprehend everyday life in historical terms requires an interdisciplinary approach. Gordon W. Hewes once lamented the absence of the daily life component in civilizational analysis. He showed how historians are pre-occupied with “grand” achievements such as philosophical systems, the fine arts, relation between states and the dramatic march of great events. Thus topics like houses, clothing or costume, cooking or cuisine, funerals and feasts are hardly represented in historical writings. He felt that though the addition of daily life information would not be a magic key to understand civilizational system, its incorporation would make historical writings much more exciting, meaningful and lively.
While social scientists and historians tend to agree that the quotidian is usually embedded in a structure and presents an impression of invariance over a long range of time, the study of everyday life in Bengal in the remote past cannot be appreciated merely in terms of immutability. This lecture wishes to capture the salient features of everyday life in early Bengal by paying attention to the factors of continuity.
- The Household
Closely linked with everyday life is the household. In this lecture the concept, representation and the practice of the household through a thorough reading of the Arthaśāstra, the Manusmṛti and the Kāmasūtra, three texts belonging to three genres. Different types of households, royal, ministerial and commoner’s would be discussed. How differently the three different texts conceived the physical structure of a household would be probed in the lecture. Thus while the Arthaśāstra discusses in detail the requirement of the household and allocates space for various activities, the Manusmṛti visualizes the physical structure of a household as a ritual space, Kāmasūtra on the other hand envisages the household as an arena of activity of a nagaraka, the man about town. Rites and rituals practised in a household would also be discussed. Finally questions regarding an ideal household would be raised.
- Brāhmaṇa and Non- Brāhmaṇa land holders through epigraphic lens
Historians of the state, society and economy in India during the period 600 CE to 1300 CE have enormously drawn upon and carefully investigated copper plate charters. In other words copper-plate charters recording the king’s grant of villages or land to Brāhmaṇas or temples are one of the basic historical sources of early medieval India. With these charters numerous revenue-free settlements (agrahāra, brahmadeya, devadāna etc) were created in almost every part of India. This resulted in significant proliferation of Brāhmaṇa settlements. Proliferation is integrally linked with the migration of Brāhmaṇas too, a special focus of this lecture. A less chartered area of study is non-Brāhmaṇa land holders. An attempt would be made to trace their ethnic / occupational / professional character as mentioned in the epigraphic records. It should be noted that these non-Brāhmaṇa landholders are mostly found in the boundaries of the settled land. As case studies inscriptions from Bagh in Madhya Pradesh, Assam and Bengal would be discussed.
- Early Indian Urban Culture: Amusements and Festivities
Early South Asia experienced urbanization that also nurtured urban culture. The urbanity in early south Asia was responsible for not only creating a life-style but also for defining the ultimate utilization of urban space and ambience that have numerous references in variety of sources. This ambience was again central to the activities of an urban community. The waves of urbanisation continued through ages and redefined the notions of urbanity. In fact the ancient cities of India demonstrate contrary and multiple images. But cities are more than material structures. Different forms of amusements were part of city life and the lecture would focus on these. There was no dearth of festivals in early India. However, some festivals appear to have acquired universal acceptance as days of public celebration, and occupied special places in the urban calendar, all over the Indian subcontinent. The festival of Indra, or Indramahotsava, seems to be one such festival, present throughout early Indian history. Dīpavali was also a grand festival. But Vasantotsava surpassed all the other festivals. Many agrarian festivals evolved into urban festivals. The highlight of the lecture would be the portrayal of these festivals in our sources.