Religions of South Asia, Vol 5, No 1/5.2 (2011)

Lineage, Power and Perception: Comparison of the Royal Chambā Genealogy with Contemporary Epigraphs, 800–1650 CE

Mahesh Sharma
Issued Date: 23 May 2012


This paper deconstructs the royal genealogy (vaṃśāvalī) of Chambā, a western Himalayan kingdom in present-day Himachal Pradesh, and compares it with other such attempts to recast and/or reassert the dynastic lineage in the contemporary epigraphs issued over a period of eight hundred years. My assumption is that genealogies should be critically treated, like any other literary texts or other cultural objects which are influenced by, or have a bearing on, contemporary social and political issues. I argue that genealogies are systemic responses to strains and ruptures, and that they manipulate the lineage and social distinctions. They help not only in forging links with larger Indian political and socio-cultural ideologies, but also in contriving a sacred-cultural space through cultic affiliations, through the appropriation of history and charismatic personalities, and by antiquating legitimatory symbols to lend validity to the state process and manufacture ‘consent to rule’. Genealogies are also the sites of authorized perceptions, whereby the rulers manipulate facts and events in order to fashion the past in a particular perspective. In the process, genealogies not only manipulate history, but also (re)invent the trajectory of the lineage, cultural tradition and polity.

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DOI: 10.1558/rosa.v5i1/2.389


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