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Parasher, Aloka (1978) A study of attitudes towards mlecchas and other outsiders in Northern India (c. A.D. 600). PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This study attempts to elucidate the meaning of the word mleccha in its comprehensive sense and examine how it was applied as a designation for outsiders in the period before c, A.D. 600 in northern India. The first chapter discusses early Indian society and some of the concepts on which it was founded. The notion of the mleccha was part of the moral and social framework of this society which believed in its inherent cultural superiority. We further discuss the various source materials that have been utilized as far as they bear on our study. The first outstanding problem, studied in the second chapter, is the origin of the Sanskrit term mleccha and its relation with the Pali variant milakkha. This chapter is largely concerned with the varied implications of the theories on the etymology of these terms. The theories advocating either an Indo-European or a non-Indo-European origin of mleccha/milakkha produce inconclusive results which prevents us from placing our ideas on the concept of the mleccha on a firm linguistic basis. The reasons why mleccha first occured in the context of speech are presented in Chapter III. Both in this chapter and in the next we are concerned with the distinction on the basis of speech and the area of habitation which set the mlecchas apart. The Buddhist, Brahmanic and Jaina texts all emphasize these differences. At the same time we are able to show that there were changes in the attitudes towards mlecchas. We are, however, unable to define speech or area of habitation as the ultimate reasons for the separate existence of mlecchas in ancient Indian society. In the first half of Chapter V, we discuss the reasons why the mlecchas and outside groups were tolerated on a political level despite the fact that Indian monarchs worked within the brahmanical system. In the second half of the same chapter we consider the pejorative implications of the cultural discrimination of the mlecchas. However, the basic prejudice against the mlecchas had. to be modified in the face of historical changes. Finally, in Chapters VI and VII, we examine the flexibility in the treatment and categorization of the various outside groups. In Chapter VI the focus is on tribes and indigenous peoples designated as mlecchas. The comparison of the term mleccha with dasyu and with the names of individual tribes such as Kirata, Nisada, and Pulinda, which are often used to denote less developed tribes, is undertaken here. The subsequent chapter surveys the foreigners associated with ancient India as conquerors and rulers and the manner in which the brahmana literary writers viewed such invasions. The ambiguity in the use of the term mleccha in brahmanical writing has to be explained in the light of the political and economic status acquired by certain outside groups.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:07

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