New articles by this author. New citations to this author. Labour Rent and Produce Rent: This article examines how owing to complex factors Kerala came to be identified as a definite region by the sixteenth century, so identified not only by its mainstream tradition but also by people external to it. Proceedings of the Indian History Congress 58, Stated briefly, our argument in the present paper will be that the symbols of the Agamaic Hindu religion, which was propagated through the temples and the aggressive bhakti movement, were used for legitimising the particular Brahman Settlements in Kerala: Log In Sign Up. The political structure of early medieval South India by Kesavan Veluthat Book 12 editions published between and in English and held by 71 WorldCat member libraries worldwide.

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Devadevan writes poems in Kannada and is a prolific translator as well. A Marxist historian and political theorist, Devadevan specialises in political economy of precolonial South India. Kesavan Veluthat is one of the most important historians of precolonial South India from his generation. He taught at a couple of government colleges before joining the Department of History, Mangalore University, where he taught from to He joined the University of Delhi as Professor of History in , from where he retired in Raghavavarier of the Tarisappalli copperplates.

These were to be seen even in his earliest works. As early as the year when, incidentally, the doyen of South Indian history, K. Nilakanta Sastri passed away , he carried out a study of the shalas that figure with great regularity in the inscriptions, and established that more than being institutions dispensing instructions in religious, scriptural or secular forms of knowledge, they were centres for military training.

This was the second research paper that Veluthat had written. The first paper, which appeared in , was no less important, for in this paper, he marshalled evidence from the Sangam Tamil songs that, as early as the first centuries of the Christian Era, there existed a brahmana settlement at Chellur Perunchellur, now Talipparamba in northern Malabar.

He argued, instead, that Alvar and Nayanar devotionalism was a state-sponsored project that found expression through the temples established or supported by the state and its functionaries. He presented Bhakti as a feudal ideology through which the state sought legitimacy and through which diverse sections of the population were brought into the ambit of the state. In this work, he argued that the early medieval state in South India was feudal in structure. The thesis was, in theoretical terms, far reaching.

In this sense, the advent of the state in this part of the world was itself characterised by feudalism. It presented a picture that was at variance from the influential thesis of Ram Sharan Sharma that Veluthat otherwise admired.

Sharma had argued that feudalism in India was the result of the break up of an already existing centralised state and its replacement by numerous regional states. Veluthat awakened historians to the fact that there existed no state in South India before early medieval times that could have undergone fragmentation. In more recent times, he has nuanced this position, arguing that one of these states, the Chera state, was marked by feudal as well as integrative and early state features.

From a study of political structures, Veluthat moved forward to make a broader study of the early medieval period of South India, which led to his emergence as the theorist of the early medieval in South India. He made the first clear statement of his theory of the early medieval in his presidential address to the Medieval India section of the Indian History Congress in , held in Bangalore. The new world was a product of agrarian expansion and hierarchical patterning of landholding, in which the presence of the peasantry as a class that functioned on the principles of extra-kin labour was crucial.

This transition was, prima facie, a fundamental structural transformation in the mode of production. Labour—in the present instance, peasantry with its extra-kin form of labour—was the fulcrum of this understanding of the mode of production.

This estimate of the mode of production and its categories was rigorous and marked by amazing clarity. They were not stained by eclecticism; nor were they diluted by flexible and endlessly malleable definitions. Few epochal transformations in Indian history have had the benefit of so rich an analysis. Veluthat has continued to inspire awe by his unconventional approach to history writing that has constantly challenged accepted representations of the past.

His interests and areas of engagement have expanded manifold, making occasional forays into early historical northern Indian history. But for his writings, the historiography of precolonial South India would have been more than a trifle poorer. Manu Devadevan A poet and historian, Manu V.

Here is the third part of the edited transcript of a three-part video interview with Kesavan Veluthat conducted by Manu Devadevan in Delhi, Manu Devadevan MD : You have given us the most rigorous explanation I should say of the transition from the early historical to early medieval in South India. This was addressed to the Indian History Congress in I guess, to the medieval section.

You argued that the spread of agriculture in the Cauvery delta and elsewhere, this eventually led to the rise of a peasantry class, a new class as it were, organised on the principles of extra kin labour.

In fact, you had called it the thin wedge that eroded an earlier system and brought the new one in its place. Why do you think epochal transformations such as these can be understood in terms of change in forms of labour? Because changes in the means and relations of production are seen in the base of major historical changes. Now when epochal transformations take place, behind these epochal transformations we have changes in the means and relations of production.

Relations of production naturally involve changes in the form of labour, the way in which labour and its fruits are exploited. In the context of South India, what we see in the period before the formation of the state, that is the Pallava, Chera, Chola, Pandya kinds of state earlier, what we see is a situation where such economic activities that existed, such processes, production that existed, were managed with just family labour.

So, you have a group of people living by cattle-keeping. You have a group of people living by just hunting and gathering. The requirement of such labour, as was necessary, was available within the family itself. There may be slash and burn cultivation, there may be fishing, there may be hunting, there may be gathering.

When, in that society, the process of production [begins]—where land is cleared, larger areas of land are brought under the plough, etc. Agriculture is extremely labour-intensive.

And when this labour-intensive process of agriculture is adopted, naturally this demands a lot of labour. And it produces a lot of surplus with which labour can be remunerated also. So, you have extra kin labour which must be, and can be, rewarded from the surplus that is produced. So, there is a total transformation in the way in which labour is employed. So, you have a situation where there is considerable surplus that is produced and the way in which the surplus is redistributed.

In the redistribution, unequal redistribution, this leads to stratification in society and stratification in society is at the base of the reformation of the state. So, it is here that I see labour as central. To begin with, it is not visible. That is why I described it as the thin end of the wedge. Now as it goes deeper and deeper, the system gets eroded.

This is why I saw that the change in the character of labour was at the root of social transformation. Now perhaps the whole thing derives from my orthodox reading of Marxism. MD: But let me repeat an earlier question in a different context. You were writing in the s and that was the time when India was undergoing a very major transformation towards liberalisation. And our approach to the question of labour had also begun to change both in terms of practices as well as policies.

Did that worry you and did that in some sense reflect in your work? KV: I do not know if it gets reflected in my work but I was personally really affected by this. That is, as I was telling you, I was shuttling between Mangalore and home at that time and changes that were taking place in the social and economic setup particularly with a large number of labourers from the village migrating to the Gulf countries and non-availability of labour for purposes of agriculture, etc.

And the major changes that were taking place in economy and society on account of the changes in the nature of labour, that certainly I had been really impressed with.

Perhaps this may have affected, this may have influenced my way of looking at it, but not so much directly as in my reading of the theoretical literature, particularly Capital, Volume 3 of Marx. MD: Ideology figures in a major way in your understanding of historical transformations. And in your work, ideology appears as an aspect of power.

So, it is much more easy to gain consent or acceptance just by distributing power in various ways, as military tenures, as revenue farming assignments and so on.

Why then would society require ideology in that context? That is, distribute this revenue farming and such lollipops to the people and ask them, come and stay with us. Any situation where there are sections in positions of power, they will have to communicate and come to terms with the dominant sections of society, groups like.

I was talking about the land-owning groups. I was talking about the trading magnates. I was talking about the brahmanical temple-centred agrarian corporations. So, the rulers, sections of society which were in positions of power and control, they had to come to terms with these major nodes of power. These are the real nodes of power. And this coming to terms with these nodes of power, this required some extra economic factors. These extra economic forms of coming to terms with the nodes of power, one of the best means is ideology.

Again, I go back to Engels who says that idea itself is a material force when captured. It becomes a material force. Now for instance, when Rajaraja decides to build the Brihadeeswara temple in Thanjavur, Rajaraja was very conscious of the way in which it can communicate with the people.

Now he boasts, saying that he, Udaiyur Rajaraja-deva, was building a temple for Rajarajeshwaram Udaiyur. So, he transposes himself in the position of Shiva consecrated there.

And Shiva is seen in his own image. I have written about the number of Tripurantaka images and the way in which he was patronising this. There are temples with Tripurantaka motifs, this is amazing. The reason is Tripurantaka was a metaphor for Rajaraja himself. He was using it in the sense that, you know the famous story of Tripurantaka. When the Tripuras were brought in, two of them were put as the doorkeepers of Shiva—Parashupani and Shulapani and Chandeswara as the nirmalyadhari sub-deity to whom leftovers of main offerings are given.

So, when this is happening, this is actually a representation of what was happening at the political level. The local chieftains like the Paluvettaraiyar or the Kodambalur chieftains, [they] were being run over by the bulldozer of the Chola state under Rajaraja, and [they] were made so many functionaries of the Chola state. So, this he was representing at the ideological level. So, through this ideology he could communicate better with the nodes of power.

And these nodes of power could accept it rather than accepting it as if some revenue farming or the other things were given. He thinks that there was no political hegemony. Here, there is political hegemony and it is not a make-believe thing.


Kesavan Veluthat in Conversation with Manu Devadevan: Literature and History

Devadevan writes poems in Kannada and is a prolific translator as well. A Marxist historian and political theorist, Devadevan specialises in political economy of precolonial South India. Kesavan Veluthat is one of the most important historians of pre-colonial South India from his generation. He taught at a couple of government colleges before joining the Department of History, Mangalore University, where he taught from to





Kesavan Veluthat in Conversation with Manu Devadevan: Bhakti and the State


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