The President's Address, delivered by Anne Feldhaus, will immediately follow the Awards Ceremony.
Geography is central to the 13th-century Marathi biography entitled Lilacharitra. In 1000 lively episodes, this text records detailed recollections of the deeds and words of Chakradhar, a wandering holy man whose followers see him as an incarnation of the one and only supreme God. The text identifies precisely the places where Chakradhar sat, ate, slept, and stayed. Crucial to the framing of each chapter, geography is also basic to the structure and chronology of the text as a whole, as most of the Lilacaritra’s episodes are grouped according to where Cakradhar was when they happened.
One key to understanding all of this is Chakradhar’s mobility. The text traces his travels: what routes he took, where he stopped, and how long he stayed in each place. It also chronicles the comings and goings of other people who interacted with him: wandering ascetics, itinerant cloth merchants, horse traders, married women, soldiers, government officials, and Chakradhar’s close disciples, as well as some people who were powerfully attracted, but less firmly committed, to him. The Lilacharitra thus portrays Chakradhar’s world as one of nearly constant motion, with people, objects, and messages traveling back and forth and around and around in a complex network.
My talk will demonstrate the Lilacharitra’s geographical structure and analyze the network of travel and communication it portrays. I will also attempt to explain why geography and mobility are so prominent in Chakradhar’s disciples’ memories of him, and I will ask what this tells us about other life stories, including our own.