2012—2013 Forum on Peripheries
SAS Postdoctoral Fellow
South Asia Studies
Translating Hinduism: Dara Shikoh and Persion Textual Cultures in Early Modern South Asia
In seventeenth-century India, a Muslim prince, Muhammad Dārā Shikoh (1615-59), translated into Persian roughly fifty of the Sanskrit sacred texts known as the Upaniṣads, affirming that they contain the key to interpreting the allegorical secrets of the Qur'an. By exploring the writings that Dara produced and commissioned, as well as their later circulation and reception, my project investigates an important chapter in the interactions between Indic and Islamic intellectual traditions in early modern South Asia. I locate Dārā's interventions of interpreting and codifying Indic knowledge within the context of Mughal practices of royal self-fashioning, which also served as an instrument of political authority. I also inquire how Dārā's project speaks to a set of multilingual conversations on spiritual technologies of liberation, traversing the arena of the court and beyond. Finally, I examine the role of Dara Shikoh's legacy and memory in later articulations of a monotheistic Hinduism, examining how the textualization of Indic knowledge through the medium of Persian helped shape the ways in which certain Hindus came to systematize their traditions from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries.