R: Burton Stein

nas_ng at lms420.jsc.nasa.gov nas_ng at lms420.jsc.nasa.gov
Sat May 11 18:19:04 UTC 1996


             R: Burton Stein

As a non-specialist in Indology but loving to read any material
especially about South India, Tamil Nadu, etc., I am always impressed
by Burton Stein's insights and formulations. Especially striking
is his Priest-Peasant/Brahman-Vellala alliance of the Chola times.
This is attested  in  grama sabhas/ cittira mEzhi n^aaTTaar 
(in tamil) in the many available Chola age inscriptions. Before Prof. Stein,
great historians like K. A. Neelakanta Sastri were mainly inerested
in the ascension dates of Kings and their disappearance from inscriptions 
caused by death or losing power. What emerged about Chola 'empire'
was the vertical nature of command almost like contemporary business
corporations. Recently I read a history-from-below 
(Subaltern) type of work in tamil by Dr. Raj Gowtham, a 
Professor from Dalit background. It repeats many of Stein's ideas.

Then he went on to study Vijayanagara state. How the war lords/Nayaka rule
is different from the traditional Chola rule is very well explained.
His book, Vijayanagara, is a masterpiece. Even though I have read many 
books on Vijayanaga in English and South Indian languages, nothing
can begin to match his work. His work on Thomas Munro shows how Munro
learnt from Nayak rule and used the knowledge to formulate British rule.
I did not know anything about Munro except the following Madras joke. 

Thomas Monroe statue sits on top of a horse on Marina beach road. 
The horse looks very real (neo-classical style?)
A father and his son go past the Munro & the horse. Dad tells, "Look
at Thomas Monroe". The child immediately asks back "Who is sitting on top
of Munro?" Evidently, the kid who is used to the symbolic nature of indian art
is more captivated by the realism of the horse than Munro!

May Prof. Stein's hardwork inspire more to pursue South Indian studies.
For many years, this Ekalavya learnt many things from the professor's

Heartfelt condolensces to the late lamented Professor's family.

N. Ganesan
nas_ng at lms420.jsc.nasa.gov

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