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Audrey Truschke: "Beyond Conventions: Praising Cross-Cultural Interactions with the Mughals in Sanskrit"

This paper examines the Kavindracandrodaya (Moonrise of Kavindra), a collection of Sanskrit verses and prose by nearly seventy Brahmans that honor Kavindracarya Sarasvati for convincing the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (r. 1628-1658) to relinquish taxes on Hindu pilgrims to Benares and Prayag (Allahabad). Scholars have rightly dubbed this work “the first festschrift in Sanskrit” and have frequently plucked historical information from individual contributions. But nobody has considered the full panegyric as a praise poem that encodes a historical memory of cross-cultural negotiations and religious concessions for an early modern Brahmanical community. In this paper, I analyze how the authors of the Moonrise of Kavindra negotiate the complex and shifting relationship between religion and power within the political reality of Indo-Islamic rule. I argue that far from constraining Indian intellectuals, the deep Sanskrit tradition of praise poetry provided them with multiple options for addressing and reimagining changing social and religious configurations.
Audrey Truschke received her PhD from Columbia University in May 2012. Her work concerns literary and historical interactions between members of the Sanskrit and Persian traditions in Mughal India. During the 2012-2013 academic year, she was a Research Fellow in History and Asian & Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge (Gonville and Caius College). In September 2013, she joined Stanford as a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Religious Studies.



Tuesday, May 20, 2014. 12:00PM


Encina Hall West, Room 208


Center for South Asia