Reflections on Caste

Suvira Jaiswal, former Professor of History at Jawaharlal Nehru University, did her M.A. in History from Allahabad University and Ph.D. from Patna University under the supervision of Professor Ram Sharan Sharma. In 1971, she joined the Centre for Historical Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, where she taught till her retirement in 1999. Her major publications include The Origin and Development of Vaishnavism (first edition 1967, enlarged second edition 1981) and Caste: Origin, Function and Dimensions of Change (1998). She was General President of the Indian History Congress in 2007. 

Her new book, The Making of Brahmanic Hegemony: Studies in Caste, Gender and Vaishnava Theology is recently out from Tulika Books, New Delhi. 

History is under attack in India – not only from those who popularize a mythical version of the past with ill-concealed political objectives, but also from those who, through theoretical relativism that emphasizes cultural specificity and difference, re-orientalize the Orientals. Both approaches leave intact the hegemony of thought that underlies today’s social and economic inequalities.

This collection of essays focuses on the role of religion and mythology in making Brahmanical hegemony through the institutions of caste, gender and religious ideology. The aim is not to dismiss myths as false, distorted or bad history, but to examine the kind of reality they represent, to delve into the dynamics of their formation and their impact, and to account for elements of continuity and change. The collection features studies on caste-related social differentiation, drawing on sources from the history, society and polity of early India, as well as on the work of R. S. Sharma, the eminent historian of the period. It also includes studies on the gendered development of Brahmanical hegemony and studies on the historical valences of the various mythological incarnations in Vaishnava theology: Rama, Narasimha and Hayagriva.

In hardcover, x + 246 pages, Rs 695.  ISBN: 9789382381839