History Optional Paper-1 Solution – 2003: Q.5 (a)
Q.5 (a) Write a short essay on: “Kalhan as a historian”
Kalhan wrote “Rajatarangini” in Sanskrit which is a historical chronicle of early Kashmir. This historical account is considered to be the best and most authentic work of its kind. It covers the entire span of history in the Kashmir region from the earliest times to the date of its composition in 12th century.
Kalhan is a renowned name in history world not because of his history of Kashmir but because of his modern sense of historiography which is reflected in Rajatarangini.
Following are Kalhan’s view on historiography and his way of writing history which makes him the greatest historian of his time:
(1) Kalhana says that a good history has power to take the person into past and explore in a way like eye witness.
(2) He says that historian should be appreciated who honestly judges the past incidents; unaffected by his personal likes and dislikes. His minute details of contemporary court intrigues is considered authentic due to his access to the court because his father was in the Kashmir court of King Harsha of Lahore Dynasty. Though he was under several kings, he didn’t get any patronage from them. So, his writing was devoid of rhetorical and clear of praises, evident in other writers under the patronage of the kings.
(3) Kalhan criticized his earlier historians. He explained that there were many missing and even wrong things in early history books.
For example: Kalhan criticized the text “Nripavali” for lack of historical content. He blames that the book is more like a literature and less like a history.
(4) Kalhan explain his extensive study. According to him, history should be written only aftet comprehensive study.
(5) Kalhan displayed surprisingly advanced technical expertise for his period. He had given the sources of his writing. For example: for writing history, he gave importance to viewing the inscriptions, recording construction of temples and other architectures, inspecting several kinds of grant plates given by ancient kings, looking up epigraphic sources relating to royal eulogies, studying coins, monumental remains & family records and studying several other texts like Harsacharita, Brihat-samhita and some previous works on Kashmir like Nripavali by Kshemendra.
His use of records as reason based sources of history was indeed an important contribution to history.
(6) In Rajatarangini, not only had he described the events but he had also tried to understand and explain the conditions of that time. He wished that people should learn lesson from the mistakes of their past.
He chose the medium of verse for his writings and his writing was inclined towards ornate style, he has mingled some fiction with the historical truth.
There are few inconsistencies in the earlier chapters of his book, especially the first three parts (out of total 8 parts of Rajatarangini)
He was not clear about the dates. Besides this regionalism was apparent in his writing. He had included all the famous kings (i.e. Maurya kings) as the rulers of Kashmir which was clearly a mistake.
Despite some inconsistencies in Rajatarangini, his writing is really unique in every sense and qualitatively much ahead of his time and no other contemporary historian can be compared with him.