Sourav Ghosh

Sovereignty and Kingship Between Empires: A Bottom-up study of Eighteenth-Century India
Summer 2019

In I707, following the death of the last powerful Mughal emperor Awrangzīb, most of the subcontinent came under the sway of powerful regional successor states. Almost coterminous with Awrangzīb’s death, several supra-local Rajput little kingdoms (previously landlords under the Mughals) sprang up in a central Indian Mughal province, Malwa. An internal frontier for North India based Mughal empire; it would become a bone of contention and the main theatre of multifaceted conflicts that unfolded in the first half of the eighteenth century between two early modern empires — Mughal and Maratha. In this uncertain political world, in a period of interregnum, caught between a rising and falling Goliath on either side,  how did these kingdoms resolve the dichotomy between symbolic Mughal sovereignty and Maratha political ascendency in their system of rule? What elements did they pick from the ‘library’ of categories of techniques in the process of state formation? What spatial, symbolic acts and languages were used to communicate this new notion of kingship to the people over whom they ruled? In what ways did such actions change the meanings and symbolism of kingship? By addressing these questions, and situating the little kingdoms at the intersections of multiple sovereign claims, my dissertation presents a bottom-up study of state formation and sovereignty in Early modern India.