Religious Identity and the Vernacularization of Literary Cultures of the Pañjāb, 1500-1700

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Religious Identity and the Vernacularization of Literary Cultures of the Pañjāb, 1500-1700

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Title: Religious Identity and the Vernacularization of Literary Cultures of the Pañjāb, 1500-1700
Author: Singh, Harpreet
Citation: Singh, Harpreet. 2012. Religious Identity and the Vernacularization of Literary Cultures of the Pañjāb, 1500-1700. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: Sometime in the first half of the second millennium, the Pañjāb witnessed a literary transformation. This historical process enabled the people of the region to self-consciously augment and even supplant forms of knowledge that emerged out of Sanskritic and Persianate cultural practices with regional ones, a complex phenomenon that varied tremendously, based largely on the religious identity of the writers. The elite of Sikh, Islamic, and Hindu communities drove this innovation: all literary activity in the Pañjāb was supported almost exclusively by the centers of religion, rather than the royal court. This work stands in sharp contrast to the view that religion played no significant role in South Asia’s so-called “vernacularization.” The confluence of three major religious communities—and the distinct literary cultures that they produced—makes the Pañjāb an ideal ground to examine the complex nature of this literary transformation. While this work engages with premodern literary cultures broadly to understand the larger trends in literary production, the arguments presented are ultimately based on a careful reading of the literary worlds represented in four near-contemporaneous texts that are specific to each religious community—the shabads of the Sikh Gurū Nānak (1469-1539); the kāfīs attributed to the Muslim Ṣūfī Shāh Ḥusain (1538-99); the Hanumān Nāṭak (1623) of the Hirdai Rām Bhallā and the vāṇī of Bābā Lāl Dayāl (17th c.), both Hindū Vaiṣṇavas. The work highlights similarities and dramatic differences in literary production and circulation of discourses within material cultures that were shaped by self-conscious religious communities.
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:10364612
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