Years of Rice and Lentils

Going back twenty years I have been fascinated by “alternative history” science fiction. This is often termed “Uchronia.” If you want to explore this genre, I suggest the Uchronia website.

Probably the biggest breakout into “mainstream” science fiction of this sort of work is Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Years of Rice and Salt. Here the “Point of Departure,” where history forks from our timeline, is the Black Death. White Christian Europeans go extinct, with small groups getting absorbed by expanding West Asian and North African Muslims. Eventually, Europe becomes one of the outposts of the Near Eastern Islamic civilization.  The world becomes defined by a “Cold War” between a Chinese-led bloc, and an Islamic-led bloc, with the Indian subcontinent, split between the two (though leaning toward the Chinese-led bloc).

The reason I’m bringing this up is that it presents a thought experiment: what if the Hindu Rajputs had managed to prevent the expansion of Turco-Muslim polities into the Indian subcontinent beyond the Sindh and parts of Punjab? If this had happened, the shock of the Mongol sweep south would probably be even more devastating for the Turco-Muslim polities of Persia and Central Asia (India being less of a fallback). One can imagine a scenario playing out where Islam and Muslims in the Indian subcontinent remain a small distinct minority, with higher concentrations in coastal areas impacted by trade. Islam would perhaps play the same role in India as it does in mainland Southeast Asia: a minority religion that serves mostly as an interface with the Indian Ocean trading network, rather than a religion of a dominant ruling class.

A more interesting question is what are the cultural ramifications of this historical fork? A comment was made on this weblog stated that to a great extent it is hard to imagine North Indian culture without Muslim (so Turkic and Persian) influence. One may disagree with this comment, but it is not a crazy assertion.

But the question of the nature of the alternative history is interesting. Because it is a way one can get at an answer as to what a reconstructed Hindu identity which genuinely strips away Islamicate accretions would look like. Something some people do aspire to…

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83 Replies to “Years of Rice and Lentils”

  1. What if Jabal al Tariq , who commanded the Arab entry into Andalusia , sent a pack of ships bit northwards and conquered Britain. Britain in the 8th century was a non-centralized weak country . It was easy picking for a determined conquerer.

    In that case Islam would be religion of Britain – without sexual grooming news since it would be taken for granted and not news at all. Anyhow Islamic Britain would never have developed scientific or industrial revolutions or top class navy to make an empire. Indian sub continent would have been free of British colonialism. All these blogs would be written in in some language other than English. Also no US, cool

    You don’t need Black Death to make vast historical changes – retrospectively

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    1. Going deeper into counterfactual history, it may not have been that easy for an Arab fleet to conquer England, given that the Danes never managed that fully either. And even if England had become Muslim, it’s hard to see it remaining that way for very long surrounded by Christian countries (remember, the Arabs lost to the Franks.) And I’m not impressed with arguments like “If the Arabs have won at Poitiers, every hotel room today would have a copy of the Quran”. The Moors dominated Spain for centuries, leaving behind precious few Muslims to show for it.

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      1. \leaving behind precious few Muslims to show for it.\
        Christian Reconquista was a brutal affair and no time for religious toleration- get out or convert was the message to the defeated party. Also, the Islamic jurists of those days did not want Muslims to live under Non-Muslim rule ..

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    2. You do realize that there was a golden age of science in the Arab world right? “Algebra” and “algorithm” both come from the Arabic. So in a counterfactual world, the Industrial Revolution could have happened somewhere else.

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      1. Algebra has its origins in Greece, Babylonia, Egypt and India. It coalesced in Persia. Al-jabr’s etymology is indeed Arabic, but it came from the Arabic title of a book written by a Persian.

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        1. in the details you are correct. but this is an asinine comment. this cultural efflorescence was due to the abbasids, who were muslim arabs. i don’t defend kabir often (and he probably doesn’t know most of the scholars themselves with the exception of al-kindi were not arabs), but here i am…

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      2. On a long enough timescale anything is possible. The Industrial Revolution was not an inevitable outcome of algebra and algorithms however…

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    3. In this scenario Britain wouldnt be “Britain”. Maybe some other place would be. Perhaps the arc of history is convergent.

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    4. my favorite point of departure in an alternate history comes down to a literal split second in a battle.

      the period is ridda wars following muhammad’s death. arabian peninsula is split between hejaz controlled by muslims under the leadership of abu bakr, and yamamah controlled by musaylima.

      muslims under the leadership of khalid bin walid have marched into musaylima’s territory, and battle of yamamah is raging in full fury. wahshi bin harb throws a javelin at musaylima, but misses him by a couple of inches. (in real history he impales musaylima with this javelin and the battle is over).

      musaylima’s followers regroup and forces muslims to take flight. chasing them all the way to madina, they storm into madina, put an end to abu bakr’s fledgling polity, and establish musaylima’s “islam” over arabia. (musaylima also called his religion islam)

      how the world would have looked different in this alternate history? there is evidence that musaylima was made of humbler and gentler stuff than muhammad. he was willing to concede far more rights to women than muhammad. he outlawed polygamy for e.g.. he married a fellow “messenger of god”, a female leader called sajah and allowed her to share the political power with him. there is no record of him encouraging rapes of women, or their use as sexual slaves.

      there is no record of him being a uncompromising iconoclast either. may be he would have allowed pagan arabs to continue practicing their old religion under an overall monotheistic framework. and if this alternate islam would have developed without the fanatical iconoclasm, it would have had far reaching, definitely positive, implications for the countries that came to be ruled by various islamic empires centuries afterwards.

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  2. “What if the Hindu Rajputs had managed to prevent the expansion of Turco-Muslim polities into the Indian subcontinent beyond the Sindh and parts of Punjab?”

    The nature of the Indo-Gangetic plain is such that any aspiring feudal lord in north India (let’s say located near Delhi) would desire to annex land downstream eastwards via the Yamuna-Ganga to Bengal and westwards via the Indus + Punjabi rivers to Sindh. From a medieval perspective, this whole stretch is juicy fertile land good for taxation and to provide manpower for armies to fight wars and labourers to make monuments to sustain said ruler’s delusions of grandeur. Even from a logistical perspective, this makes sense thanks to transversable rivers.

    Once this land is secure and provided he hasn’t been assassinated yet, the by now powerful king would seek to gradually expand southward to encompass central India (for better access to trade and resources) and attempt to create a buffer zone in the north-west using the Hindu Kush (the north-east would be secure, not enough threatening polities there). Down south, there’d likely be a powerful kingdom encompassing Maharashtra and Karnataka that it would eventually clash with.

    There would eventually be a large northern Indian kingdom, irrespective of whether it’s Hindu or Muslim, simply thanks to geography, as well as improving technology and communication. (it’s rather similar to how most local Chinese empires’ centre of power was in the Yellow river basin, because lots of people + viable centralization)

    Many of the large dynasties in India followed this means of expansion (Mauryas, Guptas, Harshavardhana, Sultanates, Mughals) and even the British had most of the Indo-Gangetic under their direct control.

    Assuming that there wasn’t any dominant empire, the Europeans would still take control of the coasts eventually (their naval tech and doctrines were simply better). Depending on the durability and institutions of the larger Indian kingdoms, the Europeans would either take over the rest of India like it actually happened or be confined to the coasts like the Chinese concessions if a post-Mughal anarchy equivalent wasn’t present.

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    “A more interesting question is what are the cultural ramifications of this historical fork?”

    Perhaps the culture of Orissa could serve as an example? It historically has very few Muslims so maybe a Gangetic plain variant of the Hinduism practiced there would be more common. Also, more grand temples instead of mosques, noticeably different architecture. Mughlai food would be seen as foreign but still well-liked (like Chinese and Thai food) and vegetarianism may have been more common. As for music, perhaps not as much Sufi poetry, but it may still be taken up by innovative poets and playwrights who like using foreign styles in their work.

    Assuming the British still took over the country, no two-nation theory of course, this India would have been significantly more isolationist as its culture and religion is sui generis, and is geographically separated from the rest of Asia enough for isolationism to be a viable option.

    The rulers would still have to eventually deal with the caste system, it may have evolved to something else, maybe not, too many variables to say. Ambedkar-like people would still come up and get a fraction of the less privileged castes to convert to Buddhism. Hindu Marriage / Succession Acts – equivalent would still be necessary to modernize society. Reservations would still be required to deal with inequality. A Braj Bhasha derived Indo-Aryan language would still be used for the official business of the state. The Arabic script would be seen as an interesting foreign thing, and not as a part of Islamic culture, the star and crescent would be seen as a symbol of the Turks and not the Muslims.

    In the public sphere, I think Indians would be more culturally secure, and concentrate more on science, research, arts, and cultural exchanges rather than spend such an inordinate amount of time and resources just to deal with Hindu-Muslim issues.

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  3. I believe the Indo Aryan and Dravidian split may have taken on greater importance, with possibly two major empires in the subcontinent (one in the north, one in the south).

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  4. Perhaps I’m missing something, but there is a reasonably extant record of pre-Islamic North Indian civilization – the centuries around the Gupta Empire (so roughly from 0 AD – 700 AD). There is a lot of literature from that time still existing, from some of the classical works of Hinduism to the Kama Sutra to dozens of very good quality Sanskrit plays. We have a decent idea of what the architecture of that time looked like through cave temples, temple frescoes, and temple reliefs. Granted those temple artifacts are Buddhist, but they still give you and idea of North India that time. We also have the rise of classical Hindu deities along with their sculptures.

    I mean it’s not perfect in the sense that we don’t have thousands of well-preserved ruins of everything like from Ancient Roman times, but it’s also not a huge mystery what that time in North India was like. You can extrapolate it evolving without a strong Muslim incursion, and there is your OG Hindu India.

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  5. We even have a decent idea of the food back then! I vaguely remember some find of Indian curry from Harappa times that was surprisingly similar to modern curries. I doubt that Indian breads came only with Muslims. Sure you’ll be missing some stuff like Biryani, but the food would be recognizable.

    I’ve only read one play from Kalidasa, but even there I could get a bit of feel for at least a stylized pre-Islamic India. It reminded me of the Mahabharata actually – because they were anyway probably written down within a half-millennium of each other. So therefore similar enough just like Classical Athens was very recognizable to the high Roman Empire. And just like you get a feel for the Ancient Roman world through reading Lucian or Juvenal, you get a feel for India back then from Kalidasa or even from the Mahabharata. There are a ton of casual references to life back then in the very extensive literature still existent from that time.

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  6. @ Bulbul
    Mixing later term Hinduism with Vedic culture with extension of Buddhism/Jainism to Shaivism/Vaishnavism
    Kama Sutra is not north indian civilization it is western indian civilization( lata region/dravidian lands), mentions about their women written by Vatsayana. There is strong historical evidence whole of India got converted from buddhism
    @Indthings
    North and South are united by cultural and religious elements(never split). The languages are preserved for their importance.Three scripts brahmi, kharoshthi and classical sanskrit

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    1. Sometimes people assume the conversion of India back and forth between Buddhism and Hinduism must have been accompanied by the kind of hostilities and brutality that accompanied events like the reconquista or the fall of Byzantium.

      If you visit the cave temples of Ajanta/Ellora, you see Buddhist, Jain and Hindu temples standing side by side unmolested for centuries. Whichever of those came later was patronised by someone who didnt see the need to break ‘kaffir’ structures or uproot heathen images.

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      1. There was also this – {Carefully listen to Johannes Bronkhorst theory to understand why interpretation difference was not religious difference in traditional modern sense in Ancient India.}

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8Y-G6bU798 – Cultic Encounters between Buddhism and Brahmanism in Early Medieval Bihar

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umvq9IpMATc – Johannes Bronkhorst Lecture

        But there were differences & competition so one can insert Kuffar ideology among them even when there is a larger history of common royal patronage, merchant patronage & competition. An ideology that has been used to greatest of extent of othering & which has justified killings of others is equal to claim of multiple interpretations of same texts.

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  7. @RomaBhatt There’s plenty of ancient temple reliefs and sculptures from places like the Barabar Caves, Sanchi, and Bharhut which are very much part of the core North Indian area. And it’s actually those reliefs that give you the best sense for Indian architecture before the Muslim period. These were Buddhist temples, but the reliefs show a lot of a secular buildings and scenes. And they are quite consistent with Buddhist temple artifacts in Western India.

    Regarding language/literature, from the Maurya down to the first few centuries AD, prakrit languages (descended from Sanskrit in the same way as French is from Latin or for that matter Hindi is from Sanskrit) were the main written and spoken languages. Then sometime in the early centuries CE, Sanskrit made a comeback as a literary language. But the different languages didn’t define totally different cultures. The idea is no one actually spoke Sanskrit as their main language, they spoke various prakrits, even during the golden age of Sanskrit literature around the Gupta Empire.

    So if someone has the inclination, they can google those Buddhist temples, reliefs, sculptures and frescoes, they can read the plays of Kalidasa or Bhasa, read the Mahabharata and Ramayana and the myriad other religious and non-religious Sanskrit texts from 200 BC – 800 AD that have survived, and get a pretty good sense of what India was like before the Muslim invasions.

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  8. “A comment was made on this weblog stated that to a great extent it is hard to imagine North Indian culture without Muslim (so Turkic and Persian) influence.”

    The high culture of N-India is of course unimaginable without the Islam-icate part of it. But the subaltern does not show that degree of effect. Rather its the opposite, the Hindu-ized sub-culture actually makes the muslim do “Hindu” stuff. Taking part in Ram-Leela, using Hindu idioms, calling pandits on auspicious days etc.

    Without Islam, this sub culture would have refined and became the culture of N-India. Something similar to (coarse) Khari Boli–>Braj Bhasha—->Hindi

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    1. As far as imagining north indian culture without islamicate elements, we should probably not conflate the latter with all of central asian and iranian culture. It seems clear that there have always been deep exchanges along a cultural continuum from NW India through the passes into adjacent regions. Textile traditions, agricultural techniques, handicraft, music and storytelling traditions and other customs traversed the western borders of the subcontinent. Islam and Buddhism were just other things to cross over. If Islam made it as far as Khorasan and DIDN’T influence N India after centuries of being adjacent, that would be bizarre and require explanation, as would the complete absence of muslim communities on the west coast of india. Also, the predominantly hindu cultures of Rajasthan and Gujarat have in some ways a west asian feel to them that the more Islamicate east gangetic region doesn’t. Perhaps its because of a deeper shared cultural substrate with Balochistan and SE Iran.

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  9. We know the high culture of pre-Islamic India. About as well as we know the high culture of Han dynasty China. There is a ton of still existing Sanskrit literature, much of it non-religious, and a good amount of visual representations in terms of sculptures, reliefs, frescoes, and rock-cut temples.

    The culture was different from modern India but not alien. The architecture was most different, but other things like the Mahabharata and Ramayana (with all their little references to the elite culture of when they were written down) are still very much around and culturally influential. Other things like Kalidasa are just waiting to be rediscovered when the mass of Indians become wealthier and better educated.

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  10. Sometimes people assume the conversion of India back and forth between Buddhism and Hinduism must have been accompanied by the kind of hostilities and brutality that accompanied events like the reconquista or the fall of Byzantium.

    my argument is that these religious categories were developing in situ before 1000 AD. in some ways the muslim shock froze things in place and we back project distinctions of confession that don’t make sense back then?

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  11. I believe the Indo Aryan and Dravidian split may have taken on greater importance, with possibly two major empires in the subcontinent (one in the north, one in the south).

    geography is determinative. it looks like the gangetic plain favors a single empire when strong polities arise. not so in the south, which is too fragmented (vijayanagar was pretty decentralized).

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    1. Or a peninsular power would have leveraged its maritime power to conquer the gangetic plain. The deccan sultanates, marathas, and mysore hinted at the advantages of earlier contact with europeans by adopting certain tech and warfare doctrines. They would have wanted to pillage that agricultural surplus of the northern plains as much as anybody else. In the 13th century, If there were no Alauddin Khalji, would the seuna yadavas, kakatiyas and hoysalas projected influence north? There was still a chaulukya succesor state in Gujarat, and the Parmaras of Malwa still claimed rashtrakuta antedecents.(indicating that central india was more deccan controlled)

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      1. In a way the Southern dynasty sort of faired even worse than the Northern dynasty. I think perhaps it had to do with the use of cavalry which was quite alien to the south , up until even the time of Vijaynagar , who too struggled against Bahmanis initially.

        During the Delhi Sultanate time, like kingdoms in Deccan fell like house of cards to even normal raids by Kafur, and momentarily Khilji’s empire became bigger than even Aurangzeb’s. And that too in one lifetime. Perhaps the only other region which fared worse than South was Bengal, which fell in like 20 years (with almost no fight back) , after the fall of Jaychand.

        The only thing which kept the south from any sustained aggression from Sultanate was distance.

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        1. Interestingly, Kafur was a Hindu (Gujarati or Marathi) from the very wealthy port of Khambat (Cambay) in Gujarat..He was a eunuch before being presented to Khilji, was converted to Islam, became his lover and then conquered vast swathes of Deccan for him. Also, controlled the reigns of power in the last years of Khilji and almost became Sultan too after Khilji’s death..
          Interestingly another recent Gujarati convert, 600 years later, had an outsize impact on India’s trajectory

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          1. When Bukka and Harihara were born there was hardly anything muslim , south of Vindhays. In their own lifetime there was hardly anything (apart from Kerala) , Hindu dominated ,south of Vindhyas.

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        2. The complete termination of all the classical dynasties in that time period is something thats sort of a mystery because it affected SE asia as much as India. I don’t know if distance alone explains southern preservation. If anything turko-afghans gathered force after settling in the northern plains and multiplied their resources. It may be that the deccan has innumerable redoubts for native populations to retreat to and have a less sedentary way of life compared to the plains. Might also explain the relative independence of rajasthan and patches of madhya pradesh compared to the great river valleys. Malik Kafur did raid his way all the way down to Madurai, but also accumulated alliances along the way. They didn’t retain much in the way of administrative control over new territory but they did set the stage for the tughluq and later shahs to become political forces. Although, in contrast to northern islamicate polities, direct control of land revenue was retained by native castes.

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      2. “Or a peninsular power would have leveraged its maritime power to conquer the gangetic plain. ”

        I wonder how these maritime powers would fare in the discovery of the new world. There’s a reasonable chance a place like Australia would end up a Tamil colony.

        Would we see competition amongst the various Deccan kingdoms in an alternate Age of Discovery?

        There would be significant second order effects from the backflow of riches and migration of people.

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  12. no two-nation theory of course, this India would have been significantly more isolationist as its culture and religion is sui generis,

    or maybe not.

    one hypothesis i have is that groups like jews and hindus who experience shocks of dominant oppositional cultures (islam/xtianity) have to undergo involution to protect themselves. an overwhelmingly dharmic india would probably be more self-confident, and MORE engaged with other societies, rather than worrying about reconstructing their own ‘pure’ culture due to the conflict with islam.

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  13. 1) i appreciate the constructive comments. my goal with this post is to have a comment-section which isn’t food-fights.

    2) one thing that might be a reasonable analogy is china. it has a small, visible, muslim minority. but the han identity is pretty unperturbed. one thing to remember is that han culture has changed a lot in the last 1,000 years. han cuisine before 1000 for example was more like japanese cusine. less flavor. dress was different. even religion was different. so we can’t just project from 1000 AD.

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  14. “what if the Hindu Rajputs had managed to prevent the expansion of Turco-Muslim polities into the Indian subcontinent beyond the Sindh and parts of Punjab?”

    Lot of things makes me curious that in this alternate timeline.

    Sindh is still seen as being “lost” to muslims. Would the rajputs have tried to liberate Sindh, and then their Arab masters would have come to their outpost;s aid? Would Sindh being majority muslim opted to join Iran in 47? Would sikhism even be born in this timeline?

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    1. Sindh was ruled by a native Sindhi Muslim dynasty before the Gaznavids ever arrived, so I don’t know about this “Arab masters” stuff.

      The region has generally been estranged from the rest of India, geographically and culturally. Conquests from Gujarat or Rajasthan are incredibly unlikely, it would have to come from Punjab (which we are assuming remains under Turkic control).

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      1. the thar is a bitch. genetically sindhis unique cuz LOTS of IVC, but not so much steppe. there is some connection along the cost tho.

        i think sindh is likely to be majority muslim (tho let’s recall minority hindu pop was not trivial at partition, 2.5 million sindhis in india today are mostly hindu), but probably included in ‘india’ like northern arakan is part of burma. but if not, it wouldn’t be a big deal either. kind of like nepal.

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        1. Wouldn’t Baluchistan be far more difficult to transverse than Thar? Bin Qasim did use that route to come to Sindh.

          Also as far as i remember the Rai dynsaty was a cadet branch of Rajput clan in Rajasthan , and once Chach killed Rai, a member of that dynstay did challenge Chach for the throne. So perhaps not as estranged from India proper , at least at that point in time.

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          1. The conquest of Sindh and Multan was a real pain in the ass for the Arabs exactly because it was such a trying route.

            I haven’t heard anything about cadet branches or what not, but its common for royals to flee to far flung regions for political reasons (Iranians royals fled from the Arabs all the way to China), but this does not imply significant avenues for population/cultural movement existed.

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          2. Bro, the Sindhi muslim dynasty u talked about, themselves “claimed” to be Rajputs. So yeah i would say they was far more cultural movement than what one accounts for. How else would a brahmin become a King of Sindh?

            I get it, everything in Pakistan was always distinct from India 😛

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          3. Rajput does not imply Rajasthan origin, its a post-hoc term applied to various North/Western Indian dynasties who weren’t specifically Brahman or Kshatriya.

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      2. Sindhis are not estranged from India culturally. The language is very similar to Kutchhi (they are dialects of the same language so not surprising) but also to Gujarati and Marwari..The dress is very similar to again both of those states; in fact before the late 19th century Sindhi (Muslims included) women wore very Kutchi/Gujarati/Marwari type dresses (ghaghra with odhni, and not Salwar Kameez as they do now)…Culturally in terms of family structure (joint family etc) also they are very much Indian..There is simply not a reasonable case that can be made about the non-Indianness of Sindhi and Punjabi Muslims (and this is evident in their tilt towards India when it comes to entertainment etc..where they don’t look to Iran or Afghanistan)..Sindh is the boundary of India (and not estranged as Indthing says..although he tends to overemphasize any differences between present day Pakistan and India / Hindus..)

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          1. Oh just wait until they have to add another one or two letters to some ‘true true’ south Asian ancestors of AASI.

            Seriously though, AASI itself should have just been called ASI, and what was called ASI should have just been another point on some cline instead of being its own well defined group.

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          2. It will become a surname if they keep on adding letters to it.

            Than perhaps we can also debate AAAASS- VS AAAASI invasion theory or something

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  15. [I get it, everything in Pakistan was always distinct from India 😛]

    Exactly..As I just wrote in another post, forget about the 7th century, Sindh was very much part of India and similar to Gujarat and Rajasthan that it borders in many ways (except having a different dominant religion) as late as the 19th and 20th centuries…

    I remember seeing a video of protests and narebazi in Larkana post Benazir’s assassination. And although I don’t know a word of Sindhi, I could get the main refrain “Pakistan khapey na” because the word “khap” is an archaic Gujarati /Rajasthani word that is still in use among Jains in a particular context (around what the monks/nuns will accept as alms..in general they are supposed to be very abstinent with food etc, so would say “khap nathi/nahi”)

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    1. woah! ppl bow and touch my mom’s feet who are FOBy before plane trips cuz she’s great-granddaughter of a well known sufi. so strange i just realized it IS not islamic

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      1. Sindh is non-Indian has been forever so estranged culturally from India that…

        One Abdul Jamil Khan says this in his book:

        “Many Muslims touch elders’ feet a mark of respect, a purely cultural practice widespread in Sindh and Bengal, where they also sometimes greet with folded hands,…..”

        https://books.google.com/books?id=nH1HBxdA1UIC&pg=PA383&lpg=PA383&dq=sindhi+muslims+touch+feet&source=bl&ots=6LgC4y6lLo&sig=ACfU3U26g2qfenNmE5yzVU1ROZ32HbMtVg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjrjLOm45PnAhW1OH0KHU6xBwYQ6AEwEXoECAcQAQ#v=onepage&q=sindhi%20muslims%20touch%20feet&f=false

        Razib – He mentions Bengal too..explains the practice that you have observed wrt your mother

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        1. Everything which the muslim does in the subcontinent, which he is too cagey of not being “Islamic” enuf, automatically becomes “not really Hindu, but South asian” culture

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    2. gujus do it too. my parents made me as a kid

      and yes Sindhi and Kutchi are asimilar

      Kathiawadi dialect of guju is also more Sindhi influence than standard guju

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  16. “Perhaps the culture of Orissa could serve as an example? It historically has very few Muslims so maybe a Gangetic plain variant of the Hinduism practiced there would be more common. Also, more grand temples instead of mosques, noticeably different architecture. Mughlai food would be seen as foreign but still well-liked (like Chinese and Thai food) and vegetarianism may have been more common. As for music, perhaps not as much Sufi poetry, but it may still be taken up by innovative poets and playwrights who like using foreign styles in their work.”

    Having lived in that state for a while , its N-Indian state mascara-ding as an Eastern one. Very N-Indian influenced Hinduism. Brahminical, puritanical and conservative. Little to no sub national identity and not much language chauvinism (unlike its neighbors). Also it does have its local variant of “muslims broke our temples” . Just that it not known elsewhere. All very N-Indian traits.

    2 crucial differences , no vegetarianism politics , and its cultural flows more from architecture than literature considering almost all writings are post 15th century (when the language crystallized) , so not much on poetry and plays.

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    1. Regarding orissa – “Little to no sub national identity and not much language chauvinism ”

      didn’t navin patnaik’s govt recently jailed a journalist just because he mocked the erotic sculptures on konark temple walls?

      also, in my college days in 90s, there was an incident when the entire orissa assembly was up in arms over some real or perceived slight to oriya pride. i remember the incident because i used to joke with my oriya friend – in your entire history of 2500 year you just fought 1 war, (the famous kalinga war or ashoka’s times), that too you guys lost, and you still carry a chip on your shoulders over oriya pride. 🙂

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      1. LOL, i have been to the place where that war took place. Curiously there are not many major monuments, as well as this whole event does not register in Orissa psyche. Nor is Ashoka seen as foreign figure , since the only monument there is a depleted Buddhist stupa , perhaps built by him. They see it as some sort of pre-history.

        As i said they have other local wars which they talk off, and even I once asked an oriya friend the same question, he retorted , if we didn’t fight any wars, how come we remained free for so long? 😛

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      2. The Kalinga’s seem to have been the seafarers of Eastern India.

        Saurav,
        maybe you have forgotten the post on the Kalinga links to Sri Lanka with documented evidence in the Mahavamsa. There are also stone inscriptions too in Sri Lanka.

        https://blog.ksom.ac.in/2019/03/odisha-maritime-museum-the-intrepid-seafarers-of-kalinga-and-their-forgotten-legacy/

        https://seanews.co.uk/features/kalinga-the-ancient-shipping-gateway-of-south-east-asia/

        https://www.brownpundits.com/2018/06/01/lanka-and-kalinga/

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        1. Well they themselves have no memory of anything remotely linked to Sri Lanka. Some mythos related to sea voyages to S-E asia, but that too is very minimal.

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          1. Saurav
            Well they themselves have no memory of anything remotely linked to Sri Lanka. Some mythos related to sea voyages to S-E asia, but that too is very minimal.

            Asoka was forgotten in India, till the English with the help of the Mahavamsa re discovered him. Asoka (also Chandragupta, Bimbisara) were never forgotten in Sri Lanka and fondly remembered, as the one one who introduced Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

            Was the Tambaralinga Kingdom set up by the Kalinga’s. One of the Kings Chandrabanu, a Buddhist invaded and occupied Northern Sri Lanka. The Kalingas thought they had the right to rule Sri Lanka.

            So was Kalinga forgotten because post Asoka it it was a Buddhist Kingdom.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chandrabhanu

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          2. I think Chandragupta was never forgotten though. Especially if u look at the number of emperors who too his name afterwards, and due to Chanakya’s work.

            Ashoka, yes, but again i think there is a bit of exaggeration with this forgetting part. As someone rightly said dont impute motive to something which u can put down to incompetency. 🙂

            On Kalinga-Sri Lanka thing, i have a theory. Many of Orissa dynasty especially of Southern part were in various matrimonial alliance with the Telugus and Tamils.Over time this branches separated and this southern dynasty (who now started ruling the whole of orissa) fully identified themselves as Oriya. Perhaps all the Sri Lankan parts was done earlier, when there was exchange of royals b/w these two areas. That’s why there is no memory of Sri Lanka , in Orissa.

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  17. “Rajput does not imply Rajasthan origin”

    Indthing is actually right here. rajputs are now found all over N india and pak. pak in fact has a substantial muslim rajput population. northwest punjab (patohar plateau) has many rajput clans like janjua, awans etc. i believe they are found in pak administered kashmir too.

    in india they are found as far east as bihar, and as far south as maharashtra. i doubt if they all have a common geographic origin. most likely they are all local landholding tribes with enough political power to start claiming royal origins.

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    1. ”Rajput does not imply Rajasthan ”

      This *is* a thread about counter factual histories after all. 🙂

      You find Gujjus in Texas. Who says they are from a common geography ?

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  18. what if the Hindu Rajputs had managed to prevent the expansion of Turco-Muslim polities into the Indian subcontinent beyond the Sindh and parts of Punjab?

    Do analogies with Europe make sense here? If the Rajputs had successfully turned back the Turkish invaders, maybe their regions would have followed similar trajectories to the Wallachians and Austrians? Biding their time until they could turn back the tide? And peninsular India, with a large buffer between them and the invaders, plus the advantage of coastlines and access to trade networks, may have gone the direction of the English/French/Iberians? Or is this too much wishful thinking?

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  19. My problem is with how Islamic ideology has negatively impacted the region historically & how it has cultivated bad influences more than the good influences due to Islamic ideology which centered around identity instead of ideas resulting in decline of various Sciences like Maths, medicine etc. in certain regions.

    Any regions pre-Islamic history always points to multiplicity of ideas in cultures {but multiplicity meant constant contestations & negotiations along Tribalistic impulses} but after Islam’s incursions ideas took backseat {except in regions which completely submitted to Islam} & Identity became the core source of rights claim aka Haq.

    This singularity meant that all communities took cover as ‘Muslims’ but then used Islamic texts to suit their own agendas resulting in internal conflicts that has been ravaging the Islamic nations since.

    What we can learn –
    The negotiation was easier when differences were openly acknowledged were not sidelined in the name of identity & false claims of equality {when people constantly feel themselves to me in different power positions in relation to each other – Sociologically “Civility of Indifference”}.

    Negotiations became difficult when tribalistic instincts were suppressed in the name of common identity resulting in beliefs getting contested & decreased ability to acknowledge differences esp. within religious identities {esp. in Abrahamic traditions}.

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  20. What IF – Dupleix had worsted Robert Clive in the Carnatic wars and made sure Siraj Uddaula won the battle of Plassey . Dupleix would have made India a French Colony. Laicite would have been imposed by the French and made sure religious parties or even religious approach to politics would have been stamped out. That would have ruled out both Jinna and Gandhi. Jawaharlal Nehru would have fared better.

    OTOH, French had no qualms about suppressing independence movements with military force like they did in Vietnam or Algeria or even in Syria. So, the Indian independence would not have taken non-violent path since gandhian method was to play within British legal system. Nehru-Bose line would have been the successors of French India

    Indians would be eating croissant for breakfast – instead of Idly or dosa – with Foie gras for supper washed down with champagne instead of whiskey

    est ce juste ?

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    1. “Indians would be eating croissant for breakfast – instead of Idly or dosa – with Foie gras for supper washed down with champagne instead of whiskey”

      you can add the joys of menage a trois to that.
      …and i am not talking about the wine 😉

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      1. Whatever would all that all be, at least it would be several times better than taste less British food

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  21. I wonder if the Bengalis would have fared better under the French.

    In some ways Bengalis and the French are alike. They both have some cool stuff but both are permanently pissed off the world doesn’t acknowledge them as much they think they should be.

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    1. Also they both share interest is softer, more artistic side of life. War or martial-ness is not for them.

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      1. “Also they both share interest is softer, more artistic side of life. War or martial-ness is not for them.”.

        french were very warlike till the days of napoleon. it was their abject surrender in ww2 that sent their reputation to gutters.

        they share a taste for commie politics with bengalis tho. (french are the most left leaning people in western world).

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  22. martial-ness is not for France ?? what a sacrilege of calling French peaceful? French gladly gave 1000000 French lives for the sake Napolean’s conquest of Russia – which ended in failure. French have been warlike except after WW2. Even then they were the first to bomb Gaddafi and Libya . In their Revolution and subsequent civil wars as many lives were lost. In the first world word war, French losses were ENORMOUS to protect their Patrie

    Bengal and Bengalis is a diferent matter , they come under general Indian ethos of war or absence of it.

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    1. Nver called them peaceful, more like better at artistic stuff than martial ones. The latter, they had outsourced to the german tribes.

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  23. // hard to imagine North Indian culture without Muslim (so Turkic and Persian) influence //

    This statement is probably true but trivially so.

    It is as hard to imagine English identity without French influence but how useful is that statement when describing the English to a non-European outsider?

    (Our choices make us)

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  24. This talk of Turco-Muslims has made me think of resurrecting my piece on the fall of the Hindu Shahis. Will put it up again but with more easily readable translit.

    I plan to write another one on the revenge of the Hindu Shahi princes on the Turks and their darada allies later.

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  25. “I plan to write another one on the revenge of the Hindu Shahi princes on the Turks and their darada allies later.”

    Woah! Akshay Kumar just got his next movie 😛

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  26. If some Rajput confederacy would have repulsed Turkic invasions, it would have just been temporary respite. Indic polities needed to venture out of South Asia – be it through trade or military ventures, in order to have kept “invaders” out, be they Turkic or a few centuries later the Europeans.

    The reason is simple. Unless you are constantly absorbing the advances in military technology, science, math, etc., and are willing to incorporate them in your own world, you are going to be a backwater that is going to be easy picking for a better “integrated” foe.

    Continental Indic/Dharmic civilization as a political/military power probably reached its maximum extent under the Mauryas. Though Buddhism spread Indic influence far and wide in later centuries, there was no accompanying political influence.

    Indic influence in South East Asia is the sole exception to this. But even here Indic peoples did not supplant natives. Kalingan, Chola and Pandyan power projection in South East Asia was episodic and there were no long term military outposts/bases that ensured the continued exercise of political influence. South East Asia proved to be extremely resilient. Basically, while Chola and Paandyan elites benefited from trade with South East Asia, the riches were never as outsize as the Europeans found in Central and South America.

    After the Mauryas, India turns inward looking a constant magnet for military adventurors.

    Delhi Sultans ruled over Afghanisan similar to the but were unable to penetrate further north and east. Perhaps the pickings in these areas were slim. Why bother trying to humble people of the steppe who were extremely well versed in cavalry warfare when there are more attractive targets south of the Vindhyas!

    Even British India’s Afghan adventures were not so much an attempt to grow their empire into Central Asia, but to hold the line against Russian empire.

    More recently, the ISI has attempted to build “strategic depth” in Afghanistan and many Pakistani generals dream of an expansive Islamic power that straddles Central Asia and Northern India. But these are feverish dreams.

    Sorry for the rambling post…..

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