Anne Monius | Rāma and Sītā in a Śaiva Literary Key?: Rethinking the Literary and Religious Orientation of Kampaṉ’s Irāmāvatāram

Lecture | May 3 | 5-7 p.m. | Stephens Hall, 10 (ISAS Conf. Room)

 Anne E. Monius, Professor of South Asian Religions at Harvard Divinity School

 Robert Goldman, William and Catherine Magistretti Distinguished Professor of Sanskrit at the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley

 Institute for South Asia Studies, Sarah Kailath Chair of India Studies

A talk by Anne E. Monius, Professor of South Asian Religions at Harvard Divinity School.

Talk Abstract
Contemporary scholarship has long assumed Kampaṉ’s magisterial twelfth-century retelling of the Rāmāyaṇa narrative in Tamil to be a work primarily of Vaiṣṇava devotion, akin to Tulsīdās’ sixteenth-century Avadhī Rāmcaritmānas. Yet a close reading of Kampaṉ’s text itself suggests a more complex project at work, that of a Śaiva poet (“Kampaṉ” is also a name of Śiva) seeking to understand the workings of the divine on earth in avatāra or incarnational form. This talk will examine the interpretive possibilities that reading the Irāmāvatāram as a work of Śaiva literary art opens up for contemporary scholarly understandings of its place in Tamil literary history.

Speaker Bio
Anne Monius is a historian of religion specializing in the religious traditions of India. Her research interests lie in examining the practices and products of literary culture to reconstruct the history of religions in South Asia.

Her first book, Imagining a Place for Buddhism: Literary Culture and Religious Community in Tamil-Speaking South India, examines the two extant Buddhist texts composed in Tamil; her current research project, "Singing the Lives of Śiva's Saints: History, Aesthetics, and Religious Identity in Tamil-Speaking South India," considers the role of aesthetics and moral vision in the articulation of a distinctly Hindu religious identity in twelfth-century South India. Both works point to a larger research focus on the ways in which aesthetics and ethics define religious identity and community in South Asia, as well as to the creative and productive encounters among competing sectarian religious communities.

Future research projects will explore the relationship of Hindu devotional and philosophical literature in Tamil to its Sanskritic forebears, as well as consider the transmission of South Indian strands of Buddhism and Hinduism to Southeast Asia.

Read more about Prof. Monius at her faculty webpage HERE

Event made possible with the support of the Sarah Kailath Chair of India Studies

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