Encounter with Islam and Christianity and The Articulation of Hindu Self-Consciousness

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  1. Raja Rammohun Roy : Abidullah Al Ghazi :
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Raja Rammohun Roy : Abidullah Al Ghazi :

Jalali Na'ini, 2; cf. Dara Shukuh's interest was in a particularkind of mystical and esoteric knowledge that was shared, in his view, by a small elite within both communities; this he had observed in conversations with Sufis and with accomplished Indian mystics such as Baba Lacl Das. The Hindu and Muslim masses, however, were utterly ignorant of this gnosis.

Dara Shukuh implicitly accepted the politicized terminology that equated the Hindu with unbelief or infidelity kufr , even as he questioned, from a Sufi perspective, the opposition between infidelity and Islam! Anglo-Persian Texts The last majorcategory of Persiantranslationsfrom Sanskritand other Indianlanguages consists of an extensive series of works commissioned by British colonial officials in India, but it may also be expanded to include other Persian translations utilized by Europeans for the study of Hindu law, religion and cosmology.


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This phase may be known for convenience as Anglo-Persianliterature. Here at last we have a series of texts that deal tentatively with "Hindu"or as it was then known "Gentoo"religion, from the perspective of religion as understood in Christian Europe. In its original context, it is an illustrationof the Sufi concept of mystical infidelity as non-duality see my Wordsof Ecstasy in Sufism [Albany, ], In Dara Shukuh's version, however, the verse reads, "Infidelityand islam," giving it a political characterimplying Hindu and Islamic communities or doctrines.

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In this he followed the same wording and implications as Abu al-Fazl, who is said to have engravedthis verse on a temple used by Indian "monotheists" muwahhidun in Kashmir Abu'l-Fazl A'Tn, 1: Ironically, this verse as quoted here by Dara Shukuh was seized upon by Awrangzib as evidence of his brother'sapostasy from Islam, despite its classical origins in the Sufi tradition see Anees JahanSyed, Aurangzebin Muntakhab-allubab [Bombay, ], Rosanne Rocher, Orientalism, Poetry, and the Millennium: Since this curious Persian verse by Jones in the meter of the Shahnamah may not have been noticed by his biographers,it may be worth translating,as follows: He was well versed in Hindoo learning,and his knowledge of the Persianand Arabic, added to Sanscritand Bengalee, gave advantageover most of the Pandeets.

Some Persiantranslationswere producedfor Jona- than Duncan by Anandaghana"Khwush,"who renderedseveral puranictexts on sacred Hindu places of pilgrimage. Eth6, Catalogue of Persian Mansucripts,no. Rieu, Catalogue of Persian Manuscripts, 2: Eth, Catalogue of Persian Manuscripts,nos. EthW,Catalogue of Persian Manuscripts,nos. Pertsch, Die Handschriften-Verzeichnisse, Jataka , law , cosmo- logy , medicine.

John Skinner in from Sanskrit sources that he had translatedto Persian. This curious manuscript, entitled Tashrilhal-aqwiim or The Description of Peoples, contained over one hundred illustrationsby native artists. Among such works in the India Office Library,there are quite a few bearing the comments of Richard Johnson, who acquired several of these copies in , and there are even a couple of manuscripts annotated by Sir Charles Wilkins d.

Halhed's collection of a dozen annotated Persian translationsof Sanskrit texts, some accompanied by his own English summaries and translations, forms the core of the British Library'scollection of this branchof literature. This body of translations commissioned by the British is sufficiently large to be indicative of a separatetrend and approachto the study of Indian religion, for the spe- cial purpose of familiarizing British colonial administratorswith the religion of their Hindu subjects.

This had a practical purpose beyond the concerns of pure historical scholarship.

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Not only the Persian translationsfrom the Sanskritcommissioned by the British, but also previous Mughal-eratranslations whether belonging to the political or meta- physical categories described above , were all subsumed into a single vision of the religion of the Hindus, from the perspectiveof the British administratorswho used Per- sian as the language of governance in India. It is often forgotten that Persian, the lan- guage of administrationand governmentrevenue records in the Mughal empire, contin- ued to be the medium of governmentin the British East India Companyuntil the s, and in some regions as late as the s.

It should not be surprising,then, that figures such as Hastings regardedPersian translationsas a perfectly adequate basis for estab- lishing their knowledge of Hindu religion; they evidently considered it to be a medium Rieu, Catalogue of Persian Manuscripts, 1: Titley, Minia- turesfrom Persian Manuscripts: Nonetheless, the interest of the British adminis- tratorsin discovering the textual basis for personal law for Hindus eventually led them to take extraordinarysteps to set up a dyadic oppositionbetween Hinduismand Islam.

The Upanishads were initially introduced to Europeans through several versions of Dara Shukuh's Persian translation: Wilson, were usually still familiar with Persianbecause of their admin- istrative involvement. Increasingly, however, Sanskrit became a subject unto itself, achieving a high level of academic prestige, particularlyin the Germanuniversities.

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As scholars began to have full and independentaccess to Sanskritliterature,they soon cast aside the earlier interpretationsgained via the medium of Persian. I would suggest that the mode of scholarship that came to dominate the Europeanstudy of Sanskrit,espe- cially outside of British circles, self-consciously tried to stand apart from the naive practicalityof Halhed and Hastings. Following the model of the Greek and Latin clas- sics, Sanskritbecame a classical study; applying the methods of textual criticism devel- oped by Renaissance scholars, Sanskritistsbegan to look for the original textual arche- types, the Ur-text uncorruptedby medieval intrusions.

The Persian translationswere seen as inaccurate,biased, and faulty guides, an embarrassmentto the serious study of true Hinduism. They are now mentioned only as curiosities, or passed over in silence. They are no longer relevantto the modem study of classical Hinduism,which has been Breckenridge,and Peter van der Veer, ed.

Perspectives on SouthAsia Philadelphia, , Schweighaeuser, "Sur les sects philosophiques de l'Inde," Archives literaires de l'Europe 16 , Le Trone enchante62 vols. David Price, The last days of Krishnaand the sons of Pandufrom the concludingsection of the Mahdbhizratatranslatedfrom the Persian version made by Naqib Khan, in the time of the EmperorAkbar,published togetherwith miscellaneous translation London, We can see this attitude at work already in Sir William Jones: There are a numberof other literaryphenomenabesides the translationsfrom San- skrit that challenge the standard notion of fixed boundaries between Hinduism and Islam.

Little work has been done, for instance, to study the direct patronageof Sanskrit literatureby Muslim rulers. As an example, a short Sanskrit text called the Alla [Allaih] Upanishad was apparentlycomposed by one of Akbar's courtiers, in order to identify the Muslim deity with the gods of the Vedas, assisted by a combination of the Muslim call to prayerand tantricseed syllables.

As late as the nineteenthcentury,many pandits considered this text a reliable, if obscure, formulationof Vedanta the curious political context of this work is indicated by its substitution of "MuhammadAkbar," i. Indian scholars trained in the classical style of Orientalistscholarshipapparentlysucceeded in eliminating this work from the canon of Hindu scripture. Mitra in trenchantlydismissed this work as Sir William Jones, Works London, , 1: Europe's Rediscovery of India and the East, , trans.

Gene Patterson-Blackand Victor Reinking New York, , does not address the significance of the Persian translationsat all, but stresses in a classicist mannerthe importanceof access to original Sanskrittexts. Hyderabad, , 2: Another importantarea for contact between Hindu and Muslim cul- ture is the participationof Muslim authorsin indigenous Indian literarygenres in mod- em Indian languages. This often resulted in the use of Hindu themes and structuresin surprisingways, as in Padmavati, an EasternHindi Awadhi adaptationof Rajputepic as mystical yogic allegory, written by a Sufi author,MuhammadJa'isi; here the unex- pected shift is that the Turks are the villains of the piece.

A sociological study of the effects of Persianateculture on the Kayasths and other groups who served Mughal and other Indo-Muslim bureaucracies would be of considerable interest. Another important topic crying out for treatment is the description of Indian religions by Zoroastrian authors in the Dasatiri literature, especially the important seventeenth- centurysurvey of religions called Dabistan-i mazahib. The eighteenth century seems to have been a particularlyrich time for the pro- duction of these Hindu Persian works.

Shantanu Phukan, "Through a Persian Prism: Hindi and Padmavat in the Mughal Imagination,"Ph. Currentresearch, , Cambridge, , See most recently M.

There is considerable informationon this topic in CAbdAllah, Adabiyyait-ifarsi. See also Ahmad Munzavi, Fihrist-i mushtarak-i nuskha-hia-yikha. Rieu, Catalogue of Persian Manuscripts,1: The fact that they were written in Persian at such a late date may be explained by the continued administrative use of Persian in the Punjab through the s. Even the least self-conscious of these productions necessarily engaged in a complex cross-culturalhermeneutic,by the very choice of the Persian words used to render technical terms from the vocabulary of Hindu religious texts.

This neglected field of literature would seem to be especially promising for the study of the concrete relationships that individual Hindu authors worked out to position themselves in relation to the dominant Indo-Muslim court culture. Finally, it should not be forgotten that the traditionof Persian Sanskritic learning established by Akbar and Dara Shukuh still continues today among a small circle of Iranian scholars.

CAbdAllah, Adabiydt-i forsr, , no. This seems unlikely, since that work is primarilyan account of Indian arts and culture that is not in any way critical; see Mirza Khan ibn Fakhral-Din Muhammad,Tuhfatal- Hind, ed. Perhaps what is meant is the similarly entitled Hujjatal-Hind of cAli Mihrabi,which consists of a polemical dialogue between two birds on the merits of Hindu mythology and Islam.

The dating of the text by the Indian Vikrama or Samvat era, ratherthan the Islamic calendar, is a telling index of the polemical characterof this work. CAbdAllah, Adabcyit-ifarsr, , no.

An Islam Christian Debate: Part 1

DaryushShayagan,Adyan wa maktab-ha-yifalsafi-yiHind, 2 vols. In addition to writing his own study of yoga which he practices , he has also reprinteda treatise on yoga and divination called MuhUt-imacrifat The Ocean of Gnosis of Satidasa son of Ram Bha'i "'Arif," written in and published in Lucknow in This work, containing sixteen chapterson metaphysics,yoga, and divination, is based on the Hindi Bhak'ha work Svarodaya of CharanaDasa, pupil of Sukhadevaji,and the translation contains a considerable amount of sophisticatedPersian verse. Besides the previously mentioned editions of Dara Shukuh's Majmac al-bahrayn and the Mahdbhdrata,see Dara Shukuh,trans.