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Regions and Regional Consciousness

Sudha Pai

Edited by Rajendra Vora & Anne Feldhaus
Manohar Publishers, Delhi, 2006, pp. 380, Rs. 795.00


In recent years the study of regions has assumed importance among social scientists in India. The process of transforming cultural regions into politico-administrative units is not over as seen from numerous demands for dividing larger states into smaller ones. There is much greater recognition that language is not the only basis on which the states can be divided. The role played by regional parties in governance at the Centre has changed the balance of power among states/regions in the post-Congress era. The volume under review through fourteen essays attempts a multidisciplinary analysis of the processes through which regions and regional consciousness has been created and sustained through history and in contemporary India. The contributors to the volume have studied these processes through analysis of oral and written literature, festivals, pilgrimages, everyday rituals, caste and religious identity and politics. The essays cover a number of states across the subcontinent including studies on sub-regional identities and two studies on cities.   In the introduction Rajendra Vora and Anne Feldhaus reviewing the various ways in which regions have been defined by geographers, sociologists and anthropologists, argue that regions are ‘mental constructs’ by its inhabitants. Regionalism is the expression of ‘regional consciousness’ an ideology founded on the linguistic, ethnic and cultural identity of the people of a particular area. Based on it regionalist movements make demands for greater autonomy, cultural recognition, or secession. The editors point out that throughout history pan-Indian and regionalist forces have interacted with each other—throwing up both regional kingdoms and central empires—constantly redrawing the map of the sub-continent. However, the feeling of belonging to India and a consciousness of both the separate regions and of India as a country as a whole, or of unity in diversity, emerged only in the nationalist period through the writings and activities of nationalist leaders. But the nationalists nurtured an already existing sense of commonality and coherence among various parts of the country. Thus, India need not be seen as an invention of colonialism or of the nationalists, but as constructed on the foundations of a civilizational bond.   Unlike some scholars who have maintained that Indian culture is more a union of distinctive cultures of different regions, or others who hold the position of “cultural holism” (p.10) Vora and Feldhaus argue that both positions are tenable. For them both region and nation are a reality in the contemporary period, the tension between ...

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