Sanskrit in Persianate India

Sanskrit and Persian—both as languages and cultural systems—overlapped in time and space for several centuries on the precolonial subcontinent. But only more recently have scholars investigated points of intersection and exchange between these two linguistic and intellectual traditions. Scholars of Indo-Persian have recently devoted substantial attention to various sorts of Sanskrit-Persian encounters, such as the translation of Sanskrit works into Persian and multilingual patronage ties. In this conference, we aim to highlight and spur thinking about similar cross-cultural interactions between members of the Sanskrit and Persian traditions from the vantage point of Sanskrit literary culture.

The last few decades have witnessed a surge in scholarly attention to Sanskrit during the medieval and early modern periods. Within this wider area of interest, many scholars have begun to ask questions about how Sanskrit thinkers conceptualized Persian, the only viable rival to Sanskrit as a transregional idiom, and exchanges between the two traditions. Sanskrit-focused scholarship sheds light on intellectual, social and literary aspects of medieval and early modern India and is thus crucial for understanding these complex periods. Sanskrit texts also provide tools for analyzing the larger categories that we use for precolonial Indian literature, including the popular but problematic idea of “Indo-Persian” as a distinct literary and cultural realm. Yet such scholarship is still in its infancy and struggles for attention among a wider audience. This conference will highlight fresh, dynamic research and consider future avenues, both individually and collectively, for emphasizing Sanskrit materials in the exciting, but currently Persian-dominated, study of medieval and early modern India. We aim to give coherence and visibility to an emerging, vibrant subfield of South Asian studies, especially the crucial place of Sanskrit materials and Sanskritists within that subfield.

For more information see Papers and Abstracts.


Panel 1, Realities and Memories of Sanskrit during the Sultanate Period

  • Sanskrit and the Sultans: Inscriptional and Numismatic Sources on the Delhi Sultanate (Luther Obrock, University of Pennsylvania)
  • Remembering the Tughluq Sultans in Early Modern Svetambara Jain Literature (Steven M. Vose, Florida International University)
  • A Pakistani Hero in Sanskrit Sources: ‘Ali Hamadani and Body Politics (Dean Accardi, Connecticut College)

Panel 2, Encountering and Accommodating an Other

  • Rudra Kavi and the Mughal Elite (Pranav Prakash, University of Iowa)
  • “Islam” in Sanskrit Doxography: A Reconsideration (Shankar Nair, University of Virginia)

Panel 3, Stretching the Limits of Sanskrit Literary Discourse

  • Verses at the Court of the King: Shifts in the Historical Imagination of the Sanskrit Literary Tradition during the Second Millennium (Daud Ali, University of Pennsylvania)
  • Sanskrit Histories of Indo-Islamic Dynasties (Audrey Truschke, Stanford University)
  • Iran between Xwanirah and Jambudvipa: Locating Zoroastrianism in the Sanskrit Cosmopolis (Daniel Sheffield, Princeton University)