Dr. Shonaleeka Kaul
is a cultural historian of early South Asia specializing in working with Sanskrit texts. She is Associate Professor at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and has worked extensively on Sanskrit kavya, a genre of highly aesthetic poetry and prose. She is the author of The Making of Early Kashmir: Landscape and Identity in the Rajatarangini
(Oxford University Press, 2018) and Imagining the Urban: Sanskrit and the City in Early India
(Permanent Black and Seagull Books, 2010), and has edited Cultural History of Early South Asia: A Reader
(Orient BlackSwan, 2013). The interview is about her second and recent book The Making of Early Kashmir
, in which she upturns many prevalent views about the cultural history of Kashmir. As many would know, Kashmir is right now a highly contested territory within India, and as it happens with all such spaces, there is equally a contestation over the reconstruction of the historical memory related to the land. In this book, Shonaleeka Kaul challenges the view that Kashmir had an isolated, insular and unique regional and cultural identity, separate from the identity of mainstream India. She argues that it was in fact the opposite, and her argument is based on, among other things, her highly original reading of the Sanskrit kavya, Rajtarangini, composed by the Kashmiri author Kalhana in the 12th century AD.
Arpita Mitra has a PhD in History and specializes in intellectual and cultural history of India and history of Hinduism.