South Asia

Organized Panel Session

1 - Retelling Old Tales: The Mythical Origins of Mumbai

Saturday, July 7
2:40 PM - 4:10 PM
Location: Casuarina, Lower Ground Floor

There exist several traditions in which relatively stable narrative structures and tropes are used to record new histories and stories. In the Persian world of South Asia, we know of Amir Khusro Dehlavi’s use of Nizami Ganjavi’s Khamsah as a model to create his own homonymous work. In Sanskritic literary culture, the re-use and re-working of popular narrative structures to include new and recent historic and popular memories is also common. Larger Puranic tales have often been broken into several smaller topoi which could be used in different combinations to tell the story of new dynasties and parvenu rulers. Establishing literary connections with familiar narratives conferred greater legitimacy upon new political players, habilitating them into the cultural and social landscape. Just as the identification of established sculptural typologies with new deities was an architectural strategy, the re-telling of established story-types was a literary strategy, to ensure the domicile of new political players in the cultural terrain of South Asia. It is in this context that a text which we will call the Mumbai Mahatmya harmonizes a number of tropes, English, Persian, and Sanskrit, to synthesize a proto-history of Mumbai city.

Pushkar Sohoni

Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune, India

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