Ram Sharan Sharma

Ram Sharan Sharma

Ram Sharan Sharma (born 1919) is Emeritus Professor, Department of History, Patna University and an eminent [cite news
url = http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/2378645.cms
title = Scholars divided on Setu issue
publisher = The Times of India
date = 2007-09-18
accessdate = 2008-08-13
] [cite news
url = http://www.tribuneindia.com/2007/20071231/delhi.htm#3
title = Ram lives beyond history: Historians
author = Prashant K. Nanda
publisher = The Tribune
date = 2007-12-31
accessdate = 2008-08-13
] historian of Ancient India.

He has taught at Delhi (1973-85) and Toronto Universities. It was during the tenure of Professor R.S. Sharma as the Delhi University Dean of History Department in the 1970s that major expansion of the Department took place. [cite news
url = http://www.du.ac.in/show_department.html?department_id=History
title = History of Department of History
author = History Department
publisher = University of Delhi
date = 2008-08-13
accessdate = 2008-08-13
] The creation of most of the positions in the Department owes to Professor Sharma's efforts. [cite news
url = http://www.du.ac.in/show_department.html?department_id=History
title = History of Department of History
author = History Department
publisher = University of Delhi
date = 2008-08-13
accessdate = 2008-08-13
] He was the first (founding) Chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR).

Till date he has written 115 books [cite news
url = http://www.tribuneindia.com/2007/20071231/delhi.htm#3
title = Ram lives beyond history: Historians
author = Prashant K. Nanda
publisher = The Tribune
date = 2007-12-31
accessdate = 2008-08-13
] published in fifteen languages.

Early life

Professor Sharma was born on 26th November, 1919 in Barauni,Begusarai,Bihar in a lower middle-class family. [cite news
url = http://www.pucl.org/reports/Bihar/2001/begusarai.htm
title = PUCL Begusarai Second District Conference Report
publisher = People's Union for Civil Liberties
date = July, 2001
accessdate = 2008-08-13
] In fact, his father had to struggle a lot to make both ends meet. With great difficulty his father sponsored his education till matriculation. After that he kept on getting scholarships and even did private tuitions to support his education.

Education and Achievements

He did his M.A., Ph.D. from University of London. He taught at colleges of Ara and Bhagalpur before coming to Patna University. He became the head of the department of History at Patna University from 1959-1973. He became a University Professor in 1959. He became Professor and Dean of History Department, Delhi University from 1973-1978. He got the Jawaharlal Fellowship in 1969. He was the founding Chairperson of Indian Council of Historical Research from 1972-1977. He became the President of Indian History Congress in 1975-76. He became the deputy-chairperson of UNESCOs International Association for Study of Central Asia from 1973-1978. He got The Campbell Memorial Gold Medal from the Asiatic Society of Bombay in November, 1987. He is a member of many academic committees and associations. The Indian History Congress gave him the Vishwanath Kashinath Rajwade Award for his life-long service and contribution to Indian history. Prof. Dwijendra Narayan Jha published a book in his honour in 1996 titled "Society and Ideology in India: ed. Essays in Honour of Professor R.S. Sharma" (Munshiram Manoharlal, Delhi, 1996). He is a National Fellow of Indian Council of Historical Research. He is also the President of the editorial group of the scholastic magazine Social Science Probings. In his honour, a selection of essays was published by the K.P.Jaiswal Research Institute, Patna in 2005. His works have been translated into many Indian languages apart from being written in Hindi and English. Fifteen of his works have been translated into Bengali. Apart from Indian languages many of his works have been translated into many foreign languages like Japanese, French, German, Russian etc.

Major Works

Aspects of Political Ideas and Institutions in Ancient India

Aspects of Political Ideas and Institutions in Ancient India (Motilal Banarsidass, Fifth Revised Edition, Delhi, 2005)

It discusses different views on the origin and the nature of the state in Ancient India. It also deals with stages and processes of state formation and examines the relevance of caste and kin-based collectivities to the construction of polity. The Vedic assemblies are studied in some detail, and developments in political organization are presented in relation to their changing social and economic background. The book also shows how religion and rituals were brought in the service of the ruling class.

Extracts from reviews"This is a most useful handbook, as well as a most original and meticulous piece of research, on the political theories of ancient Indians and on some of the main political institutions." A.K.Warder, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies.

"...competently surveys many interesting aspects of the political thought and practice of Ancient India on fresh and sometimes strikingly original lines. The author has a thorough grasp of the relevant sources and uses them with telling effect." K.A.Nilakantha Shastri, Journal of Indian History

"The revised edition...is clear in exposition,up-to-date in method, and displays remarkable power in handling masses of material. It is by far the best summary of the present state of our knowledge of ancient Indian thought and institutions which is now available; ... This is a first rate book, which is as interesting as it is scholarly." Times Literary Supplement

"This work is well researched and documented, and is especially useful in terms of the historical development of ancient Indian politics. Dr. Sharma's book has a better balance between theory and practice than most books on the subject. There can be no question, however, that this is one of the major pulications in the field which no serious student of ancient Indian politics can ignore." J.W.Spellman, University of Windsor

udras in Ancient India

Sudras in Ancient India: A Social History of the Lower Order Down to Circa A D 600 (Motilal Banarsidass, Third Revised Edition, Delhi, 1990; Reprint, Delhi, 2002)

Prof. Sharma's preface(part) to the first edition- "I took up the study of this subject about ten years ago, but the pressing duties of an Indian university teacher and lack of proper library facilities prevented me from making any appreciable progress. The major part of the work was done in two academic sessions (1954-56) at the School of Oriental and African Studies, made possible by the generous grant of study leave by the Patna University. This book, therefore, substantially represents my thesis approved for the degree of Ph.D. at the University of London in 1956."

Extracts from Reviews"This is an outstanding piece of research and an authentic history of Sudras in ancient India. Professor Sharma has made use of all published sources, literary as well as archaeological, bearing on the social and economic position of Sudras. It gives a lucid and comprehensive account of all aspects of the anguished career of Sudra community. L.M.Joshi, Journal of Religious Studies, Vol 10, No. I & II, 1982.

India's Ancient Past

India's Ancient Past (Oxford University Press, 2005)

In this engaging narrative the author provides a comprehensive and accessible account of the history of early India. Beginning with a discussion on frameworks of the writing of history the book sheds light on the origins and growth of civilizations, empires, and religions. It covers the geographical, ecological, and linguistic backgrounds, and looks at specific cultures of the Neolithic, Chalcolithic, and Vedic periods, as well as at the Harappan civilization. The author discusses the rise of Jainism and Buddhism, Magadha and the beginning of territorial states. The period of Mauryas, Central Asian countries, Satvahanas, Guptas, and Harshavardhana are also analyzed. He highlights important phenomena such as the varna system, urbanization, commerce and trade, developments in science and philosophy, and cultural legacy. He also examines the process of transition from Ancient to Medieval India and addresses topical issues such as the origin of the Aryan culture.

Looking for the Aryans

Looking for the Aryans (Orient Longman Publishers, 1995, Delhi)

Who were the Aryans? Where did they come from? Did they always live in India? The Aryan problem has been attracting fresh attention in academic, social and political arenas. This book identifies the main traits of Aryan culture and follows the spread of their cultural markers. Using the latest archaeological evidence and the earliest known Indo-European inscriptions on the social and economic features of Aryan society, the distinguished historian, R. S. Sharma, throws fresh light on the current debate on whether or not the Aryans were the indigenous inhabitants of India. This book is essential reading for those interested in the history of India and its culture.

Material Culture & Social Formations in Ancient India

Material Culture & Social Formations in Ancient India (Macmillan Publishers India Ltd., 2nd Revised Edition, Delhi 2007)

The author surveys theories of social change and underlines the key role of production techniques together with climatic conditions in shaping ancient social formations. Several questions are raised: What was the extent of cattle pastoralism in early Vedic times and how was it linked with tribalism and booty capture? Why could the later Vedic people not develop a full-fledged state and class system? What part did iron play in war and production in northern India? Why did Buddhism appear around 600 BC and why did this happen in the middle Gangetic plains? How many forms of society are reflected in the epics? Rural relics of ancient life and its glimpses in terracottas are also discussed. To tackle these problems, Vedic, epic and Buddhist texts are examined in the light of material remains, tribal studies and archaic social survivals.

Indian Feudalism

Indian Feudalism (Macmillan Publishers India Ltd., 3rd Revised Edition, Delhi, 2005)

This book analyses the practice of land grants, which became considerable in the Gupta period and widespread in the post-Gupta period. It shows how this led to the emergence of a class of landlords, endowed with fiscal and administrative rights superimposed upon a class of peasantry which was deprived of communal agrarian rights.

Early Medieval Indian Society: A Study in Feudalisation

Early Medieval Indian Society: A Study in Feudalisation (Orient Longman Publishers Pvt. Ltd., Delhi, 2003)

The early medieval period is the focus of R S Sharma’s analysis. In this book Sharma highlights the feudalization of the socio-economic structure of India in early medieval times and attribute the rise of land grants to the varna conflict and the decline of trade. His panoramic sweep takes in he situation of the peasants and he underlines their loss of control over production due to the dominance of landlords. Sharma also examines the traditional varna system and reveals how it was adjusted to the landed hierarchy.

A riveting discussion of the influence of tribals on Brahmanism and the proliferation of the sudra and other castes is included. Sharma argues that the presence of landed magnates altered ways of thinking in legal, social and religious matters.

R S Sharma’s compelling style and breadth and depth of vision make this book accessible to professional historians and sociologist as well as to those interested in the medieval roots of many of our social and cultural ideologies and institutions.

Perspectives in Social and Economic History of Ancient India

Perspectives in Social and Economic History of Ancient India(Munshiram Manoharlal, Delhi, 2003)

The stage constitutes a very important chapter in the social and political history of a people and the bend of the national genius can't be fully comprehended without its study. A puritan may look askance at the play-house but its influence over the mass can't be ignored, and it is no exaggeration to say that a `nation is known by its theatre`. One can know more about Greek character from their immortal plays than from the pages of a formal history. Likewise the Mricchakatika or the `Toy-cart` gives us a more graphic picture of the ancient Indian society than any other treatise of that time. From the pure standpoint of art, dramas and the stage have an ethical and historical value of their own. Bengali drama, like Bengali language, has its origin in the remote past, but like many other modern institutions of the country, is an adoption after the western ideal, and the modern Bengali stage was, in fact, first founded in imitation of the early English theatre of Kolkata. Still the spirit of a Bengali drama is essentially eastern, and some of the present techniques of the Bengali stage can't be fully understood without a study of Sanskrit drama and the ancient Indian stage.

Urban Decay in India

Urban Decay in India c. 300- c. 1000 (Munshiram Manoharlal, Delhi, 1987)

The book focuses on the decline of the towns and their desertion in late ancient and early medieval India on the basis of archaeological evidence. The author has material remains to study crafts, commerce and coinage, and identifies and illustrates signs of growth and decay for more than 130 excavated sites. The strata with poor remains are taken to indicate decrease in construction, manufacturing and commercial activities, and are hence associated with de-urbanization. The reasons for the urban eclipse are sought not only in the fall of empires but also in social disorder and the loss of long-distance trade. The disintegration of the town life is seen not as social regression but as part of the social transformation which generated classical feudalism and promoted rural expansion. The book explores the link between urban decay and land grants to officials, priests, temples and monasteries. It shows how the landed elements collected surplus and services directly from the peasants, and remunerated artisan servicing castes through land grants and grain supply. The monograph should interest students of pre-modern urban history and those who study processes of change in economy and society in Gupta and post-Gupta times. It may also provide basic information on the urban horizons of excavated sites during the second half of the first millennium BC and the following six centuries AD.

Advent of the Aryans in India

Advent of the Aryans in India (Manohar Publishers, Delhi, 2003)

The book highlights the distinctive traits of Aryan culture and discusses the identity of the Indus civilisation. It presents the archaeological counterpart of the Vedic culture reconstructed on the basis of textual and lexical evidence. The presence of the Dravidian language followed by the spread of the Indo-Aryan language in the Indian sub-continent receive considerable attention. The features of the Aryan culture in Central Asian archaeology during the second millennium BC are pointed out, and the question of migration of horse-using tribes from there to the sub-continent is examined. This study will historians, linguists and archaeologists as well as general readers.

Political controversies

His 1977 'Ancient India' was banned by the Janata Party government in 1978, among other things for its criticism of the historicity of Krishna and the events of the Mahabharata epic, reporting the mainstream position that:"Although Krishna plays an important role in the Mahabharata, inscriptions and sculptural pieces found in Mathura dating back to 200 BC and 300 AD do not attest to his presence. Because of this, ideas of an epic age based on the Ramayana and Mahabharata have to be discarded."

He has supported the controversial addition of the Ayodhya dispute and the 2002 Gujarat riots to school syllabus calling them 'socially relevant topics'. [http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1906378.cms]


Andre Wink, Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison in "Al-Hind: The Making of the Indo-Islamic World" (Vol. I) criticizes Sharma for drawing too close parallels between European and Indian feudalism. But in the revised edition of Prof. Sharma's work the criticisms have been proved to be biased and frivolous. Prof. Sharma's work on Indian Feudalism has stood the test of times and has remained as the most authentic and acceptable account of the same. Professor Sharma’s work on Indian Feudalism has gone into the cannon of classics.

elect Bibliography of works in English

* Aspects of Political Ideas and Institutions in Ancient India, (Motilal Banarsidass, Fifth Revised Edition, Delhi, 2005), ISBN 8120808983.
* Sudras in Ancient India: A Social History of the Lower Order Down to Circa A D 600(Motilal Banarsidass, Third Revised Edition, Delhi, 1990; Reprint, Delhi, 2002).
* Perspectives in Social and Economic History of Early India, paperback edn., (Munshiram Manoharlal, Delhi, 2003).
* Material Culture and Social Formations in in Ancient India, (Macmillan Publishers, Delhi, 1985)
* Urban Decay in India (c.300-1000), (Munshiram Manoharlal, Delhi, 1987)
* Advent of the Aryans in India (Manohar Publishers, Delhi, 2003)
* Early Medieval Indian Society: A Study in Feudalisation (Orient Longman Publishers Pvt. Ltd., Delhi, 2003)
* Higher Education, ISBN 8171693202.
* Looking for the Aryans, (Orient Longman, Madras, 1995, ISBN 8125006311).
* India's Ancient Past, (Oxford University Press, 2005, ISBN 978-0195687859).
* Indian Feudalism (Macmillan Publishers India Ltd., 3rd Revised Edition, Delhi, 2005).
* The State and Varna Formations in the Mid-Ganga Plains: An Ethnoarchaeological Vew (New Delhi, Manohar, 1996).
* Origin of the State in India (Dept. of History, University of Bombay, 1989)
* Land Revenue in India: Historical Studies, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1971.
* Light on Early Indian Society and Economy, Manaktala, Bombay, 1966.
* Survey of Research in Economic and Social History of India: a project sponsored by Indian Council of Social Science Research, Ajanta Publishers, 1986.
* Communal History and Rama's Ayodhya, People's Publishing House (PPH), 2nd Revised Edition, September, 1999, Delhi.
* Social Changes in Early Medieval India (Circa A.D.500-1200), People's Publishing House, Delhi.
* In Defence of "Ancient India", People's Publishing House, Delhi.
* Rahul Sankrityayan and Social Change, Indian History Congress, 1993.
* Indo-European languages and historical problems (Symposia papers), Indian History Congress, 1994.
* Some economic aspects of the caste system in ancient India, Patna, 1952.
* Ancient India, a Textbook for Class XI, National Council of Educational Research and Training, 1980.
* Transition from antiquity to the middle ages in India (K. P. Jayaswal memorial lecture series), Kashi Prasad Jayaswal Research Institute, Patna, 1992.
* A Comprehensive History of India: Volume Four, Part I: the Colas, Calukyas and Rajputs (Ad 985-1206), sponsored by Indian History Congress, People's Publishing House, 1992, Delhi.

elect Bibliography of works in Hindi

* Vishva Itihaas ki Bhumika, Patna, 1951-52.
* Bharatiya Samantvaad, Rajkamal Prakashan, Delhi.
* Prachin Bharat Mein Rajnitik Vichar Evam Sansthayen, Rajkamal Prakashan, Delhi.
* Prachin Bharat Mein Bhautik Pragati Evam Samajik Sanrachnayen, Rajkamal Prakashan, Delhi.
* Shudron Ka Prachin Itihaas, Rajkamal Prakashan, Delhi.
* Bharat Ke prachin Nagaron Ka Patan, Rajkamal Prakashan, Delhi.
* Purva Madhyakalin Bharat ka Samanti Samaj aur Sanskriti, Rajkamal Prakashan, Delhi.

Edited Works

* Indian Society: Historical Probings (In Memory of D.D.Kosambi); Sponsored by Indian Council Of Historical Research; Fourth Edition:December, 1993; People's Publishing House (PPH)

* A survey of research in Social and Economic history of India, (New Delhi: ICHR and Ajanta Press, 1986)

* Land Revenue in India, Historical Studies (Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1971)

elect Papers, Articles and Chapters

* "Mode of Production in Ancient India", in D.N.Gupta (ed.), Changing Modes of Production (Delhi: Hindu College, 1995)
* "Exploiting History through Archaeology', The Statesman Festival, 1995
* "Issues in the Identity of the Harappan Culture", in Joachim Heidrich, Hiltrud Rustau, and Diethelm Weidemann (eds), Indian Culture:Continuity and Discontinuity, Berlin.
* "Identity of the Indus Culture", East and West, Vol.49, nos1-4 (December 1999)
* "Superstition and Politics in the Arthashastra of Kautilya," Journal of the Bihar Research Society 40, no. 3 (1954)

ee also

*NCERT controversy


* http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl1815/18150930.htm

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