Nomadic Narratives: A History of Mobility and Identity in the Great Indian Desert

The Thar Desert, which is today divided by an international boundary, has historically been a frontier region connecting Punjab, Multan, Sindh, Gujarat and Rajasthan. This book looks at the Desert as an historical region shaped through the mobility of its inhabitants – warriors, pastoralists, traders, ascetics and bards, often in overlapping capacities. It challenges the frames of Mughal-Rajput relationships generally employed to explore the histories of the Thar, arguing that Rajputana remains an inadequate category to explore polities located in this frontier region, where along with Rajputs, a range of groups, such as Charans, Bhils, Meenas, Soomras and Pathans controlled circulation, and with whom the Rajput states had to constantly negotiate. Sifting through a wide range of Rajasthani written and oral narratives, travelogues of British administrators, and vernacular as well as English records, the book explores long-term relationships between mobility, martiality, memory and identity in the desert expanses of the Thar.

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