Elaine Fisher- Coconut in the Honey: Multilingual Cosmopolitanism in Early Modern South India

Monday, January 28, 2019

12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
10383 Bunche Hall


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Whether due to courtly politics or popular devotion, the Vernacular Millennium in South Asia is generally characterized by a unilateral shift in textual practices from the cosmopolitan (whether Sanskrit, Persian or Prakrit) to the vernacular. As a product the Vernacular Millennium, south Indian Vīraśaiva communities have likewise been represented as quintessential religions of the vernacular, founded on a devotional sensibility that can be expressed, we are told, only in a single language of place—namely, Kannada. And yet, a careful perusal of the archive reveals that early modern Vīraśaivas were not only insistently multilingual but engaged in systematic projects of translation, bilingual commentary, and other textual strategies, often against the current of the cosmopolitan-vernacular binary. This paper surveys the motivations underlying translation enterprises among south Indian Vīraśaiva communities across regions, with particular attention to Sanskrit-language translations of early vernacular Vīraśaiva classics, the Basavapurāṇa of Kāñcī Śaṅkarārādhya (ca. 1500) and the Paṇḍitārādhyacaritra of Gururāja Kavi (ca. 1430).

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