Fortified Cities of Ancient India: A Comparative Study.

Author:McClish, Mark
Position:Book review

Fortified Cities of Ancient India: A Comparative Study. By Dieter Schlinoloff. Cultural, Historical and Textual Studies of South Asian Religions. London: Anthem Press, 2013. Pp. 110. 60 [pounds sterling], $99.

The most detailed instructions on the building of fortified cities in ancient India are found in the second book of the Arthasastra (ca. first to second century C.E.). Kautilya treats the subject in two chapters: one on the construction of fortifications (2.3) and another on city planning (2.4). In the late 1960s Dieter Schlingloff produced two groundbreaking studies using archaeological evidence to shine light on these difficult chapters: "Arthas'astra-Studien II. Die Anlage einer Festung (durghavidhana)" (WZKSO 11, 1967) and Die altindische Stadt: Eine vergleichende Untersuchung (Wiesbaden, 1969). Although they remain perhaps the most significant studies of these important chapers and demonstrate close linkages between the Arthasastra and archaeological data, they have been too frequently neglected in more recent English-language studies of the ancient Indian city. It is hoped that the present volume, which presents "revised and enlarged" translations of both, will amplify their influence going forward. Also included in the volume is the translation of the very brief "Das Schema der Stadt in narrativen Ajantamalereien," which appeared in Vanamala, Festschrift fur Adalbert J. Gail (Berlin, 2006).

The first chapter, entitled "The Layout of the City," is a translation of Die altindische Stadt. Schlingloff here "attempt[s] to verify the literary picture of the old Indian city by means of actual excavated remains" (p. 16). He begins by examining the description of cities from the Ramdyana, Milindapanha, and Aupapatika Sutra in order to establish a common set of "generally known concepts" (p. 14) through which cities are conceived. This literary archetype is then linked to specific instructions from the Arthasastra, which presents the fortified city as possessing "three parallel moats close to each other," a "compressed earth rampart" "behind them rising to a height of 10m," "a wall 5 to 10m high and half as wide ... built of brick or stone" upon the rampart, "towers quadratic in section" interrupting the wall "at regular intervals of 54m," twelve gates where the main thoroughfares perforate the wall (four in the "narrative literature") (p. 16), and "a rectangular grid of streets creating] uniform living quarters" (p. 27). Further information on archetypal dwellings and their relation to this urban plan is extracted from the depiction of cityscapes at Bharhut, Ajanta, and Sanchi.

This general picture is...

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