Symbols of Substance – Velcheru Narayana Rao, David Shulman & Sanjay Subrahmanyam


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Symbols of Substance is a groundbreaking analysis of the political culture and political economy of the small Nayaka states that emerged and flourished in the Tamil country in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. An unusual product of triple authorship, the book examines how such states emerged, what their ideological moorings were, and what they have left us in terms of a cultural heritage.

In so doing, it overturns the cliché of a South India in terminal decline after 1565, which had long dominated the narratives of both historians and popular writers. In the decades since its original publication in 1992, Symbols of Substance remains an indispensable reference for the study not only of South India but of early modern state formation in South Asia.


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