Associate Professor of Hindi Literature in the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University; Jack Hawley,
Claire Tow Professor of Religion at Barnard College, Columbia University; Philip A. Lutgendorf,
Professor of Hindi and Modern Indian Studies at the University of Iowa
Assistant Professor of Hindi Literature in the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies at University of California, Berkeley
A workshop on early Hindi literature that brings together research on a range of literary traditions from the 16th to 19th centuries in an attempt to rethink standard narratives on periodization, genre and context.
12:30 pm: LUNCH
1:30 pm: Welcome Remarks & Introductions
1:45 pm: PAPER I Jack Hawley: THE EMERGENCE OF A VISUAL SURDAS: 17TH-CENTURY PORTRAITS FROM UDAIPUR It is quite rare for a Hindi poet to be depicted in venerable manuscript illustrations of the works he or she is believed to have composed, yet this does happen with Surdas. Was it perhaps Surs blindnesshis invisibility with respect to the objects of his visionthat made it possible for manuscript illustrators to include him in the Krishna-līlā scenes they painted without fearing that they might compromise the integrity of Krishnas charmed Braj world? I will raise this question in connection with the earliest trove of Sūrsāgar illustrations that has come down to us, those produced in Mewar as the seventeenth century drew to a close. In particular, I will consider a fifty-page set of illustrated Surdas pages, now dispersed, that almost certainly originated at the court of Amar Singh II (r. 1698-1710). Almost entirely focused on bal-lila poems, this manuscript is one of the earliest expressions of the view that Surdas is, above all, a poet of Krishnas childhood. Notably, it is called Sursagar, and the poet is almost always shown singing.
2:40 pm: BREAK
2:50 pm: PAPER II Philip A. Lutgendorf: THE CLUE IN THE LAKE: TULSIDAS AND THE SUFIS OF AVADH When the poet-saint Tulsīdās composed his celebrated retelling of the Rāmāyaṇa, entitled Rāmcaritmānas, in circa 1574 AD, he created a powerful vehicle for the transmission of Rām-devotion in northern and central India. Although scholars have identified the principal Sanskrit sources on which Tulsī drew, they have largely ignored the four long allegorical poems known as prem-kahānī (love stories), composed between the late fourteenth and mid-sixteenth centuries in the same poetic dialect and verse format, by Muslim authors affiliated with Sufi lineages. Drawing on recent research on the cultural context of these enigmatic Indo-Islamic poems, this talk proposes their significant influence on the genesis of the famous Hindu epic.
3:40 pm: BREAK
3:50 pm: PAPER III Allison Busch: CHARISMA AND KINGSHIP: VIEWS FROM MUGHAL-PERIOD HINDI POETRY Brajbhasha sources are widely recognized as important for understanding early modern religious values, but they are also a valuable resource for accessing visions of kingship as well as local perspectives on Mughal politics. Exemplary here are the Brajbhasha literary records relating to Raja Chatrasal Bundela (1649-1731), the charismatic rebel king from Bundelkhand. In the presentation I give special emphasis to the works of Lal Kavi, a leading figure from Chatrasals court at Panna. His acclaimed Chatraprakāś (Chatrasals Brilliance, c. 1710) is a complex literary biography that, while marked with bhakti hues that shade into hagiography, also exposes the fissures in Mughal political legitimacy that were already being expressed in the early eighteenth century.
4:40 pm: BREAK
4:50 pm: PAPER IV Vasudha Paramasivan: PIETY AND PLEASURE: REPRESENTATIONS OF LOSS IN COLONIAL NORTH INDIA In the nineteenth century, the small kingdom of Rewa (Madhya Pradesh) emerged as an important center of patronage to various Vaishnava devotional communities. At the same time, Rewas power began to wane in the face of aggressive colonial expansion across North India. Vishwanath Singh (r. 1835-54) and his son Raghuraj Singh (r. 1854-75) were witnesses to the rapidly changing circumstances of the nineteenth century and experienced, first hand, a diminution of their power. My paper seeks to uncover Vishwanath Singh and Raghuraj Singhs engagement with their new political conditions in key works of literature they produced or commissioned. As this literature emerged in the context of Rewas patronage of Vaishnava communities, it has been viewed as sectarian or religious, and has not been studied for its broader engagement with nineteenth century history. In this paper I bring into conversation three texts from Rewa: 1) Vishwanath Singhs nand Raghunandan (n.d.), 2) Raghuraj Singhs Rām rasikāvalī (1857), and 3) the Baghela vaṃś vaṛṇan (1864). My paper will examine how Vishwanath Singh and Raghuraj Singh understood and represented their new political circumstances in these works by deploying theological and literary frameworks to represent power and more importantly, the loss of it.