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India is known as a land of unity in diversity. Unity of the country is often invisible but the diversity is quite obvious and palpable. it lies out not only on the surface but also within a region and is easily perceived. Region, therefore, becomes important in historical studies.
A former professor and Head post graduate department of History, Tilka Manjhi Bhagalpur University, Rajiva Kumar Sinha has strengthen the need for a systematic study of regional history within the border framework of national history is well recognized. In the context of country like India, Sinha admits that it is very difficult to find a central theme in such a country of continental dimension.
Sinha in his recent book “ Understanding Early Bihar” Bharati Prakashan, Varanasi (UP), Price Rs 995/- has attempted towards understanding issues related to history, culture of early Bihar and archaeology. Sinha has adopted multidisciplinary approaches to present the early days of Bihar. He also has included several issues which are thematic and provide new perspectives to establish the fats in the book. As he has strengthen the need of the study of past cultures and other related issues in its totalities, so he focused on contextualizing issues in his book. He very minutely observed issues while keeping in mind the historical forces and the undeniable intersection between ecology and cultural change in an evolutionary framework.
Keeping in mind the importance of history at doorstep, the author mentioned how it could influence sub-regional and local history. He has strengthened the need of making the history easier for common people. According to him, studies related to common people are negligible. Lack of source material has hindered the study of common people or low living people and clear gap exists between the people’s history and the official history. Besides this another factor that has widened the gap was the attempt of the ruling class to ignore historical forces which were contrary to their political ambition and socio-religious beliefs. The ruling class in fact took steps to circumvent event in such a way that only specific facts could percolate in history. The history of lower and deprived classes is therefore ignored and partial and may be termed as distorted. Hence the author has carefully observed the material culture revealed by such issues and managed to brought to light through excavations explorations.
This book is ideal for fresher in conducting research works related to ancient Bihar. It would also help the students particularly those who involve in completing doctorate in related subjects to ancient Bihar. Sinha’s early books like ‘Factors in Early Indian Economy’, Manjusha Art : Reflection in Folk Lore’, ‘Trade and Religion History’ are some of his classic examples to explore history in new dimensions. Sinha, a member of Board of Governors, Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, very successfully protracted the how Buddhism had influenced early Bihar in this book.
The book having 14 chapters in 269 pages along with maps could help an ordinary reader to know what exactly was happening at Bihar in ancient times. As one will start reading the book, automatic interest would influence the reader’s mind to go ahead as the author described historical facts categorically chapter wise.
The book starts with emerging prospective and has detail description of archaeological in the wider context of mainstream national history. The dynamics of culture change is described in this book in another chapter. The author also has focused how was the early farming culture and the beginning of urban developments in Bihar. In another chapter, the author has described the early trading system particularly at ancient Magadha and Anga, two most advanced regions inside Bihar.
In his best efforts, Sinha has elaborated different stages while incorporating the then social structurers in terms of culture, religion, social norms and traditions, economy, agriculture and other related issues in chapter wise. In this book he vividly depicted how Mauryan dynasty came in power in Bihar along with the trades of Champa which connected Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka. He also pointed out many silent features of Nalanda Mahavihara in a separate chapter. Besides he discusses issues like worshiping of Mother Goddess, folk art like Manjusha of Anga etc in this book.
The classification of history, archaeology and culture has been nicely presented in this book with simplicity. However, this book could have made more beautiful if the author had added some important historical events in it. Similarly, Sinha could have focus on Vikramshila Mahavihara, this book would have more essence. In Chapter 11 which is about the worshiping of Mother Goddesses, the author assumed Kushana influence on such tradition and like other authors he too claimed some sculptures of Mother Goddesses are from Sunga periods. But modern researches has established the fats that the tradition of worshiping Mother Goddess were existing at Harrapan civilizations and soon with the downfall of that civilization, a similar trend was noticed on eastern part of the country which later called as Greater Banga. Like the maternal society at Harappan civilization, the people of eastern part of the country adopted the same style. In the pre Vedic period, Tantraism was evolving. Samkha philosophy of the ancient hermit, Muni Kapila had its great influence on Tantra at that time. Bhagwat Geeta and even the basic concept of Buddhism is said to be based on Samkha philosophy.
Then than maternal society hence gave importance in worshiping Mother Goddess and the Motherly deities had their significances both in Tantra and Samkha philosophy. Since a vast part of modern Bihar was falling inside the geographical boundary of Greater Banga, the tradition of worshiping by default became the part and partial of the inhabitants of this vast region of Bihar. Though Sinha mentioned other historical facts, but he should mention such facts also.
Above all, it can be said without a doubt that of all the books published so far, this one is undoubtedly one unique book that would help the readers to know the whole past of Bihar.
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