This fascinating new study traces traditions and memories relating to the twelfth-century Indian ruler Prithviraj Chauhan; a Hindu king who was defeated and overthrown during the conquest of Northern India by Muslim armies from Afghanistan. Surveying a wealth of narratives that span more than 800 years, Cynthia Talbot explores the reasons why he is remembered, and by whom. In modern times, the Chauhan king has been referred to as 'the last Hindu emperor', because Muslim rule prevailed for centuries following his defeat. Despite being overthrown, however, his name and story have evolved over time into a historical symbol of India's martial valor. The Last Hindu Emperor sheds new light on the enduring importance of heroic histories in Indian culture and the extraordinary ability of historical memory to transform the hero of a clan into the hero of a community, and finally a nation.
Cynthia Talbot is Associate Professor of History and Asian Studies at the University of Texas, Austin. She is author of Precolonial India in Practice: Society, Region, and Identity in Medieval Andhra (2001), co-author (with Catherine B. Asher) of India before Europe (with Catherine B. Asher, Cambridge, 2006), and editor of Knowing India: Colonial and Modern Constructions of the Past (2011). Her scholarship has been supported by numerous organizations including the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Institute for Advanced Study, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Institute of Indian Studies.
1. Introduction: layers of memory; 2. Literary trajectories of the historic king; 3. Delhi in the making of the last Hindu emperor; 4. The heroic vision of a regional elite; 5. Imagining the Rajput past in Mughal-era Mewar; 6. Validating Prithviraj Raso in colonial India, 1820s-70s; 7. Contested meanings in a nationalist age, 1880s-1940s; 8. Epilogue: the postcolonial Prithviraj; Bibliography; Index.