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Romila Thapar

Romila Thapar




  • Romila Thapar was born in India in 1931 of a wellknown Punjabi family and spent her childhood in various parts of the country, as her father was then in the army.
  • She took her first degree in India from the Punjab University and her doctorate at London University in 1958.
  • She has taught Ancient Indian History at London University, Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University.


  • She was a reader in Ancient Indian History at Kurukshetra University between 1961 and 1962 and held the same position at Delhi University between 1963 and 1970.
  • She was also an honorary fellow of Lady Margaret Hall at Oxford, and has been a Professor-at-large at Cornell University in the United States. She is currently Emeritus Professor of History at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.


  1. A Study of the Emperor Asoka
  2. Asoka and the Decline of the Mauryas (1961, 1973)
  3. From Lineage to State (1984)
  4. Indian Tales
  5. The Past and Prejudice
  6. Exile and the Kingdom: Some Thoughts on the Ramayana (1978)
  7. Ancient Indian Social History: Some Interpretations (1978)
  8. The History of India (1990)
  9. Interpreting Early India (1993)
  10. History and Beyond (2000)


  • There are two volumes of A History of India. While the first one contains a classic introduction to the history of India written by Romila Thapar, in the second volume, Percival Spear handles the Mughal and British periods.
  • This absorbing narrative covers some 2,500 eventful years of history, from the establishment of Aryan culture in about 1000 BC to the coming of the Mughals in AD 1526 in northern India and the first arrival of European trading companies.


  • In particular, Thapar deals interestingly with the many manifestations of Indian culture, as seen in religion, art, literature, ideas and institutions.
  • There are five important aspects of Indian society:
  1. Religion
  2. Culture
  3. Caste
  4. Agrarian system
  5. Polity


  • The Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) administration has sought the curriculum vitae (CV) of Romila Thapar to review her status as professor emerita.
  • The authorities have justified the move on the grounds of changes in rules and regulations of the university regarding the continuation of a professor emeritus after turning 75.
  • The move has stirred a controversy as a section of the academia feels that this is being done to “dishonour the acclaimed historian”, who has been critical of changes in the JNU and for not being on the ‘right’ side of history writing


  • Thapar has often been accused of toeing a particular political line of thought in the writing of textbooks, including those prescribed at primary and secondary schools by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT).
  • Her work on ancient India has often been questioned by the right-wing or Indic thinkers. In one of her articles, Thapar has claimed that “those who question their theories are dismissed as Marxists.”


  • Thapar and four other activists — Prabhat Patnaik, Devaki Jain, Satish Deshpandey and Maja Daruwala — have filed a plea in the Supreme Court against the arrest of Left-wing activists by the Maharashtra Police for suspected links with Maoists.
  • In May 2019, Thapar wrote in NYT about the Narendra Modi government’s fascination for history and writing “make-believe-versions of the past.” While expressing her wonder at why was history so important to “Hindu nationalists