From Serindia to Sogdia: Indo-Central Asian Trade, Travel and Thought on the Silk Road (AD 200-800)
Burzine Waghmar
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Direct and indirect Indic influences, following those spectacular finds among Serindian oases, were acknowledged in scholarly discourses of the early twentieth century as artistic, mercantile and spiritual transactions of a ‘Greater India’ with Chinese Turkestan. Such indigenous Indologists, in conceiving and situating a nationalist narrative of Indian history, likewise extrapolated parallels within an Indo-Iranian oral heritage of proto-historic Vedic and Avestan societies for underscoring similarities between peoples subsumed as ancient Indians and Iranians. In marshaling eastern Middle Iranian sources, epigraphic and palaeographic, this aerial survey alternately endeavours, however, to enkindle awareness within the subcontinent and Silk Road successor states of religio-linguistic substrata containing administrative, geographic and confessional references of conspicuous Indic provenance. Khotanese notwithstanding, Bactrian and Sogdian literatures respectively too, whether discovered (Rabatak inscription) or reconsidered (Ancient Letters, Upper Indus inscriptions, Buddhist Sutras), must be deployed in expanding and enhancing a comprehension of cosmopolitan frontier zones straddling southern Central Asia during the first millennium AD. It is apposite to recall this legacy, in a disquisition offered under the aegis of the ICCR, as a contribution to commemorative events elsewhere marking 25 years of diplomatic relations between India and the Central Asian republics (1992-2017) and its ‘Connect Central Asia Policy’ heralded at the First Indo-Central Asian Dialogue (2012).

Burzine Waghmar is at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) Senior Teaching Fellow (Hindi, Urdu, Gujarati and Pashto); Senior Library Assistant; former editor of the Circle of Inner Asian newsletter (2001-05); and member, Centre for Iranian Studies, SOAS South Asia Institute and London Middle East Institute. He is also a governing body member of Mumbai’s K R Cama Oriental Institute, where he convened a seminar, From Nisa to Niya: Reappraising Cultural Conduits and Commercial Centres along the Silk Road, 6-7 January, 2018. Its forthcoming volume of papers is under his editorship. He co-edited recently with Sunil Sharma, Firdawsii Millennium Indicum: Proceedings of the Shahnama Millenary Seminar 8-9 January, 2011 (Mumbai, 2016). Besides authoring articles, encyclopaedia entries and book reviews, he also edited the posthumous English edition of Annemarie Schimmel, The Empire of the Moghuls: History, Art, Culture (London, 2004); and co-compiled Bibliography of the Works of the Scholar-Hermit, Prof. Dr. Annemarie Schimmel from 1943 through 2003 (Lahore, 2004).
Burzine served as research consultant to Sarah Stewart, curator of The Everlasting Flame: Zoroastrianism in History and Imagination exhibition at SOAS (2013), which was next mounted at the National Museum, New Delhi (2016). Concomitantly at New Delhi's Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) was a PARZOR exhibition curated and edited by Shernaz Cama, Threads of Continuity: Zoroastrian Life and Culture, whose namesake catalogue's lead essay was authored by him. Both exhibitions were subvented under the hamari dharohar scheme of the Ministries of Culture and Minority Affairs, Government of India during 2016, which year saw him also deliver the centennial lecture of the history of the School of Oriental and African Studies at the Royal Asiatic Society, London.