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South Asian History and Culture 2011 - Vol. 2,2

South Asian History and Culture
South Asian History and Culture / Editorial Board: David Washbrook [u.a.]. - Vol. 2: Special Issue: Religious Cultures in Early Modern India: New Perspectives / edited by Rosalind O'Hanlon and David Washbrook. - London [u.a.] : Routledge, 2011
ISSN 1947-2501 (electronic), 1947-2498 (paper)
URL: Taylor and Francis: South Asian History and Culture

Inhalt: Vol. 2,2 (April 2011)
Rosalind O'Hanlon; David Washbrook:
Religious cultures in an imperial landscape, 133-137
DOI: 10.1080/19472498.2011.553489
Muzaffar Alam:
The debate within: a Sufi critique of religious law, tasawwuf and politics in Mughal India, 138-159
DOI: 10.1080/19472498.2011.553490

Abstract: This essay is an effort to understand the position taken by the celebrated seventeenth-century Chishtī Sufi 'Abd al-Rahmān Chishtī in his Mirā't al-Asrār, a hagiographical dictionary (tazkira) of past Sufi holy men. I have read this tazkira together with 'Abd al-Rahmān's other writings but focused in particular on his long preface to this work in which he elaborates his definition of tasawwuf and asks what the real religion of the Sufi should be. 'Abd al-Rahmān also undertakes a far-reaching reassessment of key elements in the wider traditions of Indian Islam. Drawing on a range of Indian and Middle Eastern influences, he rejects the narrow law-centred formulation of the Naqshbandīs and offers a distinctive vision of Chishtī spiritual support at the heart of the Mughal political order. His work opens up for us the wider landscape of religious debate and contestation that characterized Indian Islam during the Mughal era, which later generations of historians have overlooked in their preoccupation with more 'conservative' strains of Muslim thought.

John Stratton Hawley:
The four sampradāys: ordering the religious past in Mughal North India, 160-183
DOI: 10.1080/19472498.2011.553491

Abstract: Monika Horstmann has written eloquently about appeals to the notion of the 'four sampradāys' as a way to discipline religion at the court of the Kachvāhā king Jaisingh II in the early decades of the eighteenth century. Here was orthodoxy in Vaishnava garb. We have normally thought of Nābhādās the Rāmnandī as being the first major figure to put forward this idea, sometime around the turn of the seventeenth century. Indeed, Nābhādās wrote from within the Kachvāhā orbit, and his Bhaktamālā ('Garland of Bhaktas') quite literally made history - if not under Jaisingh, then later.
   Yet Nābhādās's text deserves to be juxtaposed with another that is far less well known - the Sampradāyapradīpa ('Lamp of Sects'), purportedly written by Dvivedī Gadākhya in Brindavan in VS 1610 (1553 CE). This text provides insight into how someone closely associated with the followers of Vallabhācārya might massage the four-samprady idea with quite different aims than Nbhds had in mind. The Sampradāyapradīpa also raises a host of questions about relations between Vallabhites and other religious communities, and their common relation to political authority. Lurking beneath these questions is another: When was the text actually composed?

Monika Horstmann:
Theology and statecraft, 184-204
DOI: 10.1080/19472498.2011.553492

Abstract: In Indian regional kingdoms of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the process of state building was accompanied by ambitious projects of religious legitimation. Statecraft was pronounced to rest on the pillars of dharma and bhakti. In the eighteenth century, the kingdom of the Kachvāhās of Āmer and Jaipur under Savāī Jaisingh excelled in a project of this kind. The brāhmaṇ intellectuals, who executed the project, were both Vaiṣṇava Smārtas and theologians representing the orthodox factions of Vaiṣṇava sects who recently migrated from Braj to the Rajput kingdoms, thereby themselves striving for legitimation. Pursuing a project bearing on the ideology of governance and their common interests to vindicate orthodoxy against its detractors accounts for shifts in style of a sectarian discourse conducted in a new arena. Although their basically similar discourses had, prior to this, been conducted overtly more or less within the boundaries of each of their own sect, sectarian scholars now entered into a dialogue, also to project their group identity. The focus is here on the way this dialogue, the addressee of which was ultimately the king, was conducted between scholars of the Puṣṭimārg and the Gauḍīya sampradāya, who represented the two most influential Vaiṣṇava sects at Jaisingh's court.

Christopher Minkowski:
Advaita Vedānta in early modern history, 205-231
DOI: 10.1080/19472498.2011.553493

Abstract: This essay considers the possibility of a social history of Advaita Vedānta in early modern India by doing five things: surveying the principal literary works, authors, and trends in Advaita in the fifteenth through early eighteenth centuries; mapping the networks connecting the authors of those works through pedagogical and familial ties; locating Advaita in the human geography of early modern India; tracing the linkages of Advaitins with the social institutions that supported them and their rivals; and considering what sort of theory of social history might be useful in studying the history of a long-lived school of thought.

Christian Lee Novetzke:
The Brahmin double: the Brahminical construction of anti-Brahminism and anti-caste sentiment in the religious cultures of precolonial Maharashtra, 232-252
DOI: 10.1080/19472498.2011.553494

Abstract: Critiques of caste and 'Brahminism' featured prominently in the social, political and intellectual life of colonial India. It is often assumed that Brahmins took the lead in developing such critiques as a consequence of the ideological influences of liberalism and nationalism. But how do we account for such critiques, articulated by Brahmins themselves, in India's precolonial centuries? My essay will explore 'religious' materials from the thirteenth to the eighteenth centuries in which Brahmins appear to be agents in the creation of anti-caste and in particular anti-Brahmin sentiment. I situate this Brahminical anti-caste and anti-Brahmin discourse within a largely performative public sphere, where Brahmins balanced their role as 'knowledge specialists' in heterogeneous social, religious and cultural contexts where they were a significant minority. Here, Brahmin advocates of anti-Brahmin and anti-caste sentiment offered a 'double', a discursively constructed 'Brahmin', thus deflecting or diffusing criticism, and enabling the Brahmin performer or composer to maintain a position of importance as a Brahmin in the world of bhakti and the larger premodern public sphere.

Rosalind O'Hanlon:
Speaking from Siva's temple: Banaras scholar households and the Brahman 'ecumene' of Mughal India, 253-277
DOI: 10.1080/19472498.2011.553496

Abstract: By the early sixteenth century, a substantial community of Maratha Brahman scholar families had emerged in Mughal Banaras. These scholar households mobilized substantial cultural and practical resources to address the challenges that 'early modernity' posed to Brahman communities such as themselves. They provided the locale within which reputations were built up and skills passed on. Locating their assemblies in the city's Visvesvara temple, Maratha scholar-intellectuals were able to advertise an arena where disputes could be resolved and Brahman unity restored. Drawing on older universalizing geographies of Brahman identity, they addressed their letters of judgement to Brahman communities across the 'gauḍa' and 'drāviḍa' regions of northern and southern India and appealed explicitly to a 'we' of the pious and discerning, the 'good people' of the Brahman śiṣṭa. This remarkable position of social and intellectual leadership emerged very much within the context of the Mughal imperial framework. The latter's gradual disintegration also spelled the waning of this remarkable social formation within the city, as many of its functions passed to new regional states.

Heidi Pauwels:
A tale of two temples: Mathurā's Keśavadeva and Orcchā's Caturbhujadeva, 278-299
DOI: 10.1080/19472498.2011.553497

Abstract: This essay focuses on the last grand temple on the site now known as Krishna Janmabhūmi in Mathurā, which was built by the Orcchā ruler Vīr Singh Dev in the early seventeenth century and destroyed by Aurangzeb about half a century later. I study the motives behind the construction of this temple in conjunction with those behind the Caturbhuja temple, completed by Vīr Singh in his hometown, Orcchā, and destroyed by Shāh Jahān only three decades after its building. As does other recent research, this essay confirms that the common-place interpretation of such events of temple building and destruction as expressions of Hindu or Muslim religious sentiment needs to be problematized. This investigation of the factors that led to the building reveals a multiplicy of discourses. By using not only Persian but also Hindi and Sanskrit sources, the essay shows the complexity of motives beyond the religious rhetorics of some historiographers. It offers complementary explanations of such temple construction as a statement of dharmic kingship justifying irregularities of succession and of upward social mobility within the Mughal imperial formation.

Tony K. Stewart:
Replicating Vaiṣṇava worlds: organizing devotional space through the architectonics of the maṇḍala, 300-336
DOI: 10.1080/19472498.2011.553500

Abstract: The community in Bengal, Orissa and Braj that coalesced around Kṛṣṇa Caitanya (1486-1533) identified themselves as part of his maṇḍalī, as these Vaiṣṇava communities today are called. Devotees saw Caitanya as Kṛṣṇa, svayaṃ bhagavān, who appeared replete with his dhāma, his entire entourage and environment. Consequently, every historical devotee was identified with one of Kṛṣṇa's entourage in the mythical ancient time of Kṛṣṇa's life. To organize these relations, individuals were mapped onto a maṇḍala, which provided the meditative yogapīṭha. All five of the original lineages were marked, so that even today any devotee can trace his or her place in the structure. The architectonics of the maṇḍala is very frequently deployed within the tradition, although never formally addressed. These architectonics structured spiritual lineages, established social hierarchies, organized ritual cycles and pilgrimages and even structured historical narratives. Nostalgia for the mythic time of Kṛṣṇa himself, and subsequently for its later manifestation in the time of Caitanya, drove an organization of collective memory to replicate those structures to the point that history itself was only understood to be valid if it followed them. India's Vaiṣṇava kings were seen to rule the maṇḍala of earth as Nārāyaṇa did the celestial realms. But after their eclipse under the Mughals, Caitanya became the 'mobile' Jagannātha, whose entourage and environment accompanied him everywhere. This mobility transformed the Vaiṣṇava world into heaven-on-earth wherever Vaiṣṇavas congregated. Each lineage, each community propagates itself in precisely the same fashion so that the whole is always present, giving the community a decentred coherence, that has continued over the last five centuries.