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first volume of the

Government of Maharashtras State

Gazetteer - History: Ancient Period (Volume I)
proves that its time to bring
these traditional large-format publications


Lets admit it. Very few of us have ever laid our eyes on a
gazetteer, let alone read it. I suspect many of us dont even know
what a gazetteer is. Traditionally, a gazetteer is defined as a
geographical index or dictionary, but the scope of gazetteers is very
wide. Gazetteers could be in the long or short form, and of the
thematic or descriptive type. They may contain information on a
host of subjects including the geographical makeup of a region, and
its social statistics such as the population, GDP and literacy rate.
Descriptive gazetteers often contain exhaustive textual
descriptions of industries, the government, historical perspectives,
maps and photographs.
The history of gazetteers is an interesting one and apparently goes back to the Hellentistic Era!
The first known gazetteer is from the 1st cent. CE (Common Era corresponding to AD) China and
Europe zealously followed suit by the 6th century. Once printing technology was invented,
many nations were putting together cyclopaedic volumes about themselves as a source of
information and pride. In India, the British first started this practice helping document the
mind-boggling diversity of the country. The tradition continues to this day, whereby the
government gazetteer departments routinely publish volumes containing invaluable
information about the state.
However, the commonest association is perhaps that of hardcover tomes sitting on the highest,
most inaccessible spot of your grandfathers bookshelf or in a sleepy government office. Few
are aware of the scholarly quality of the articles and the incredible amount of research that
goes into them. Especially in the age of the Internet, when information is so readily available,
few would care to leaf through these voluminous works. Thankfully, many gazetteers are now
available in online archives and offer detailed, and most importantly, accurate information.

But for the history student, researcher, and bibliophile that I am, getting my hands on a
freshly-printed copy of the
Maharashtra State Gazetteer - History: Ancient Period (Volume I)
was something of a treat. This thematic gazetteer offers a detailed history of the Deccan,
Konkan and some parts of the present-day Andhra region, starting from the prehistoric
Palaeolithic Age (thats 2 million years ago!) right down to the 13th cent. CE. The book
chronicles the history of dynasties like the Satavahanas, Western Kshtrapas, Vakatakas,
Chalukyas of Vatapi, Rashtrakutas, Chalukyas of Kalyana, Silaharas, Yadavas of Devagiri and the
little known Traikutakas. Renowned scholars like Dr. SN Rajguru, Dr. MK Dhavalikar, Dr. RS
Pappu, Dr. Harihar Thosar, Dr. SJ Mangalam, Dr. Malati Mahajan, Dr. Ajay Mitra Shastri and Dr.
AS Pathak have authored various articles in this book.
Each article contains not just detailed chronology and archaeological evidence, but also recent
research in the domain. Solidly backed by bibliographical and other proofs, these articles are
works of true scholarship. Whether you are a history buff, a scholar, a research student, this
book is an absolutely invaluable resource. Even for someone who is simply curious about his
past, this book offers plenty of takeaways, especially from the last two sections of the book on
Society, Economy and Religion. Unlike the era-wise chapters, which may seem a tad too
technical to the lay reader, these chapters offer a wonderful cultural connect. They talk about
the structure of the society, caste systems, religious practices, trade & commerce, agricultural
patterns, education and many other aspects of the ancient society. It helps understand greatly
many things we believe in, see and do even in the 21st century. Add to it, the robust binding,
(photographic) plates and abundant cross references and the volume becomes a must have.
My only grouse with the publication is the sloppy proofing. Careless spelling errors left
uncorrected on the editing table often served as jarring reminders of fact that this was afterall a
government product. If the Gazetteers Department spent a little more time and effort on the
polishing and presentation of the book, it would easily become an epi-tome!
Priced at just INR 00.00, the volume can be bought at XYZ in paper and electronic formats. A
preview is available on the ABC app.

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