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D. D. Kosambi Lectures
Nayanjot Lahiri (Professor of History at Ashoka University)
Date & Time
16 January 2020, 16:30 to 17:30
Ramanujan Lecture Hall, ICTS-TIFR, Bengaluru

Nayanjot Lahiri will explore the interplay of history and memory in relation to Ashoka, the third emperor of the Maurya dynasty. The memory and memorialization of this historical emperor, as her lecture will underline, was expressed in various ways, from the presence of relics like dharma chakra which appear to be quintessentially Ashokan to the chronicles in which the emperor figures well into medieval times as also in stupas and Buddhist temples, and even in the names of local rulers whose dynastic affiliations were deliberately forged to evoke an association with that ruler. While the historical emperor’s sphere of influence was largely across South Asia, what has emerged in Lahiri’s fieldwork in parts of India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand, is that the remembered emperor has not merely a far wider sphere of influence but one that has less to do with the persona of the communicator-emperor as he appears in his own inscriptions and more with regional religious interests and political ambitions. Through such evidence, a more general question will also be posed by the lecture. This concerns how different societies and writers impose new meanings upon old events, and the ways in which memory is generally reconstructive, based less on ‘what happened in history’ and more on our own presuppositions and mindsets.