His father had been a journalist who served in the Indian Army at Kasauli , near Simla during World War I , and it was the stories that his father told him about India that first introduced him to the culture of the country to which he would devote his professional career. As a child, he was also introduced to music and learnt to play the piano to a high standard, writing a number of his own compositions by the age of sixteen. One morning in we noticed that an upright piano had been left from a performance the previous evening. Upon arrival for his lecture, Prof Basham calmly strolled over to the piano, sat down and played the most beautiful Chopin for five minutes or so.
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Oct 19, Arun Divakar rated it really liked it While getting down from a train recently, a small post-it on the wall of the coach caught my attention. It was a quote from Stephen Covey There are three constants in lifechange, choice and principles. I do not know about principles but change and choice are always prevalent when you pause to think about life and also about history.
If you were to take only a sample of Indian history prior to the arrival of the Mughals and examine it, the sheer number of dynasties and empires that passed While getting down from a train recently, a small post-it on the wall of the coach caught my attention. It was a quote from Stephen Covey — There are three constants in life…change, choice and principles. If you were to take only a sample of Indian history prior to the arrival of the Mughals and examine it, the sheer number of dynasties and empires that passed through the Indian stage are mindboggling.
The timeline we are talking about is from the rise of the Indus valley civilization to the first arrival of the Mughals. Reading the book was like a trip down memory lane. This feeling was not because I am fully well versed with Indian history but more because this is written in a style that reminded me of high school history classes. I harboured no special liking for this subject in school and to this day I have no idea how I managed to clear that paper. The dry and factual descriptions in the book brought me back to those soporific afternoon classes…sigh!
But I digress and so getting back — change is the most common factor in this book. The first big chapter in the book is a brief history on the dynasties that rose and fell across the length and breadth of the subcontinent in the eras gone by.
In hindsight it all seems so fickle and tiny. The power plays, the decades of warfare, blood and glory, the opulence of the royal households are all now recorded for posterity only on files hosted on some database with the Government of India. There are still standing testimonies scattered across the vastness of this landscape with a personal favourite of mine being Hampi in Karnataka. The grandeur of the constructions and the sheer scale of it all made me marvel at the effort that would have gone in to create such a place.
Then again a stroll to the magnificent Vijaya Vittala temple or gazing at the Narasimhamoorthy statue tells you how that glorious kingdom was ravaged by the invaders following the Battle of Talikota in This gets a mention of two lines in the book but having walked those streets, the past glory was still fresh on my mind.
The most famous early empire of India of Ashoka has been all but forgotten now even though his is a very popular name in India. Thereby you get a rough picture of the scale of changes that the landscape has been witness to. On the contrary the writing style is purely dispassionate and dry.
Basham is a competent chronicler who relies heavily on the available literature of his time as the base for his work. The chapters are broadly divided into art, politics, religion and theology, culture and social structure. Summed together they give an in depth understanding of the Indian subcontinent when the Mughals arrived on the scene. A lot of criticism is levelled against Basham for the glaring omissions and errors in the book but having being first published in , this would have been pretty much obvious.
Recommended for its breadth and scope and also for the unintentional nostalgia!
The Wonder That Was India By A L Basham
Arthur Llewellyn Basham
The Wonder That Was India By A L Basham PDF Download