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Contested History: Brahmanical Memories of Relations with the Mughals

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Brahman Sanskrit intellectuals enjoyed a century of relations with the Mughal elite. Nonetheless, such cross-cultural connections feature only sporadically in Persian chronicles, and Brahmans rarely elaborated on their imperial links in Sanskrit texts. In this essay I analyze a major exception to the Brahmanical silence on their Mughal connections, the Kavīndracandrodaya (“Moonrise of Kavīndra”). More than seventy Brahmans penned the poetry and prose of this Sanskrit work that celebrates Kavīndrācārya’s successful attempt to persuade Emperor Shah Jahan to rescind taxes on Hindu pilgrims to Benares and Prayag (Allahabad). I argue that the Kavīndracandrodaya constituted an act of selective remembrance in the Sanskrit tradition of cross-cultural encounters in Mughal India. This enshrined memory was, however, hardly a uniform vision. The work’s many authors demonstrate the limits and points of contestation among early moderns regarding how to formulate social and historical commentaries in Sanskrit on imperial relations.

Affiliations: 1: Stanford University and Rutgers


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