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Romila Thapar

Romila Thapar, an Indian historian, was born on November 30th, 1931. Her main subject of research is ancient India, and she is a leading expert in this field. Professor Emerita of Ancient History at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, Thapar is an expert in ancient history.

Lieutenant-General Daya Ram Thapar, CIE, OBE, the Director-General of the Indian Armed Forces Medical Services, is Romila’s father. Her brother was the late journalist Romesh Thapar. She went to school in many cities in India as a child, depending on her father’s military assignments. She went on to Wadia College in Pune for her intermediate arts. Thapar earned a second bachelor’s honours degree and a doctorate in Indian history from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, under the supervision of A. L. Basham, after graduating from Panjab University with a degree in English literature.

Thapar criticises what she refers to as a “communal view” of Indian history, in which events throughout the last thousand years are interpreted purely in terms of a hypothetical ongoing war between monolithic Hindu and Muslim groups. This communal history, according to Thapar, is “very selective” in its facts, “deliberately partisan” in its interpretation, and does not follow modern methods of analysis, which include various, prioritised reasons.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Indian coalition government revised social science and history textbooks in 2002, claiming that certain portions insulted the religious and caste sensibilities of some students.

Thapar’s unique contribution is the application of social-historical methodologies to comprehend transformation in northern India during the first millennium BCE. Caste-based governments arose as lineage-based Indo-Aryan pastoral communities moved into the Gangetic Plain. According to her research, the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata provide vignettes of how these and other communities negotiated new, more sophisticated forms of allegiance in which stratification, purity, and exclusion played a greater, albeit still variable, role.

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