Kaleidoscopic view of Deccan

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This volume focusses on the socioeconomic and cultural aspects of Deccan region

HISTORY OF MODERN DECCAN — 1720-1948, Vol. II: Edited by A.R. Kulkarni, M.A. Nayeem and Radhika Seshan; Abul Kalam Azad Oriental Research Institute, Public Garden, Hyderabad-500004. Rs. 1000.

This volume is the culmination of the decades-old Deccan History Project initiated by the Nizam of Hyderabad and continued by the Government of Andhra Pradesh. ‘Deccan’ has been variously interpreted by historians. Vincent Smith described it as a “territory south of Narmada.” According to Ray Chaudhuri, the region stretches from the Sahayadry Mahanadi and Godavari in the north to the Krishna and Tungabadhra in the south, with the Arabian Sea in the west to the Bay of Bengal in the east. French Historian Dubreil described it as the tract “bounded on the north by the Narmada and Mahanadi, on the east by Bay of Bengal, on the west by the Arabian Sea and on the south by the Nilagiri Hills.” Sardar Panikkar considered the whole of the peninsula south of the Vindhyas as Deccan.

The original editors of the Deccan project, P.M. Joshi and H.K. Sherwani sought to cover the history of the regions that are now Telangana, Marathwada, and parts of Karnataka, spread over three distinct periods — ancient, medieval, and modern. While the work related to the first two periods got completed by 1975, the third, with different editors, has taken three decades and more to complete. The first volume covering political and administrative aspects was published in 2000 and the second, under review, focusses on socioeconomic and cultural aspects.


The book has contributions from 37 scholars discussing a wide range of themes under six heads. The section on economic aspects throws light on, among others, the demographic trends, the land tenure and revenue system, the structure and functioning of the village community agrarian system, professional crafts, trade and commerce, banking, trade unions, and the postal system. We get to know the distinctions between the various land tenures such as Khalsa lands covering Pattadari, Shikmideri Jamiat, Asami Shikmi, Pan Maqtas, and Agrahara and non-khalsa lands such as Sarf-i-Khas, Peshkash, Inam and various types of Jagirs. The trends in agriculture, the crops cultivated and the revenue contributed to the state are also described. There is an interesting paper on 26 non-agricultural professional crafts and another on industrial crafts like Bidriware Kalamkari, Silver Filgree, and Nirmal Artware.

The emergence of organised industry was marked by the establishment of Singareni Collieries (1921), Nizam Sugar Factory (1937), Praga Tools (1943), Allwyn Metal Works (1942), Sirsilk (1946), and Hyderabad Asbestos (1947), signifying that the industrialisation of Telangana preceded Independence. Likewise in Karnataka, gold mining started at Kolar in 1886, a spinning and manufacturing mill was started in Bangalore in 1885, Iron and Steel works at Bhadrawathi in 1918, and the government-owned porcelain and electric factories in 1933 and 1934 respectively.

The paper on banking in western India during the 18th and 19th centuries speaks of the advent of chartered banks in an area that was held initially by agency houses.

Educational system

The section on educational system in Hyderabad, Andhra, Karnataka, and Maharashtra helps us appreciate how initially the seats of learning focussed on theology and philosophy and later the establishment of various institutions led to the spread of science and humanities education.

The importance of vernacular teaching is highlighted by a report of Sir Akbar Hydari that referred to a growing volume of opinion in the country “which demands that the highest kind of education should be made available in the vernacular not only because the strain of learning a foreign language is great but also because the ideas conveyed through the medium of one’s mother tongue became part and parcel of one’s mentality to an extent impossible in a foreign language.” The starting of Osmania University (in 1917) with Urdu as a medium of instruction should be seen against this background.

The piece on the education system in Maharashtra brings out that, while facilities were initially availed of by higher castes, the advent of the British enabled a broader spread of these facilities to other communities.

The section on the development of classical languages such as Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian, and Urdu, dwells at length also on Telugu and Kannada and helps us appreciate the roots of multilingual Deccan, without helping us get into the ‘whys’ of the familiar ‘kaiku,’ in Hyderabadi lingo. With articles of varying lengths and hues, the volume gives a kaleidoscopic view of modern Deccan. By providing extensive bibliography and citing contemporary references, the contributors have lent the weight of a scholarly study even to the papers that are short in length.



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