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Translation and History: The Development of a Kashmiri Textual Tradition from ca. 1000-1500

  • Author(s): Obrock, Luther James
  • Advisor(s): Goldman, Robert P
  • et al.

This dissertation investigates the Sanskrit works of four authors—Somadeva (fl. ca. 1080), Kalhaṇa (fl. ca. 1150), Jonarāja (ca. 1389-1459), and Śrīvara (fl. 1459-1505)—in the Valley of Kashmir. These authors produced a corpus of unique yet interconnected texts, writing in one of two particularly Kashmiri genres—either Kashmiri translational story literature, ślokakathā, or a regional poetic history, [rāja]taraṅgiṇī. The deployment and development of these two genres from the end of the eleventh to the early sixteenth centuries shows the development of a regionalized literature embedded in and adapting to changing social worlds. The first two works set the stage for this discussion. Somadeva’s eleventh-century Kathāsaritsāgara, a same-language translation of the Bṛhatkathā, is exemplary of the ślokakathā genre. It crystalizes a specific set of source critical techniques and attitudes that are necessary for the production of a Kashmiri Sanskrit historiography. Using Somadeva’s insights, Kalhaṇa fashions a new way of writing history in his twelfth century Rājataraṅgiṇī. Three centuries later in the much changed political and cultural landscape of the Kashmiri Sultanate, Jonarāja and Śrīvara continued Kalhaṇa’s historical project in their own (rāja)taraṅgiṇī-s. Finally Śrīvara translated Jāmī’s Persian romance the Yūsuf wa Zulaykhā into a ślokakathā, the Kathākautuka in 1505.

To understand this development and the texts’ places in their moments of composition, this dissertation undertakes a series of contextualizations not to look for a homogenous or homogenizing “literary culture” of Sanskrit in Kashmir but rather to trace Somadeva, Kalhaṇa, Jonarāja, and Śrīvara’s creative engagement with Sanskrit texts and genres. This dissertation shifts discussion away from the dominant scholarly idiom of cosmopolitanism to see Sanskrit literary production as deeply imbricated in the changing historical context of second millennium Kashmir. In this way I speak not of Sanskrit as a totalizing literary culture but rather of regionally and historically situated authors shaping new modes of Sanskrit discourse in the world. Sanskrit then, in such an understanding, is not a static form or mode to which authors appeal but a vital voice taking part in the shifting elite spheres from the Lohara Dynasty to the Shāh Mīrī Sultans in Kashmir.

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