South Asia

Organized Panel Session

3 - Thinking Politically, Thinking Strategically: The Case of Political Writings in Vernacular and Sanskrit at Banaras in the 18th Century

Saturday, July 7
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Kadamba, Lower Ground Floor

Many scholars (Pollock et.al) have suggested that the technical writings on Rājnīti Śāstrawere discontinued in Sanskrit after 1700 AD. What explains the sudden loss of interests in Rājnīti among Sanskrit scholars? In this paper, I will argue that the production of Rājnīti in Sanskrit did not stop completely, rather, in a new political context, a new genre of political writings takes centre stage in the early 18th century in vernacular. Newly emerging kingdoms of local Rajas of different regions, at the disintegration of the Mughal imperial formation, saw opportunities for re-imagination of political authority, and hence used existing Sanskritic discourse on political authority at their own advantage.


Rajas of Banaras, particularly Balwant Singh and his successors in the mid 18th century used the services of both Sanskrit Pandits and vernacular poets to re-imagine their political authority. A series of texts both in Sanskrit and vernaculars were produced at Banaras, through the use of the texts such as hagiography, Vamśāvalis, commentary on classical Sanskrit texts on politics, moral and ethical order, the paper will re-construct the political imagination as conceived by the court poets and Pandit for the kings on the eve of colonialism in this region.  

Rabi Prakash

Jawaharlal Nehru University, India

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