Monday March 15, 2021 5:30-7:00 PM


3/15/21 Nair lecture poster

The World in One Word: A Confluence of Global Scholarly Networks in a Mughal Translation from Sanskrit

Professor Shankar Nair
Professor, Religious Studies, University of Virginia

Venue: Online (Advance registration required)


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Co-sponsored by the Yale South Asian Studies Council, Council on Southeast Asia Studies, and the Program in Iranian Studies

In the year 1597 CE, the South Asian Mughal court commissioned a team of Muslim and Hindu scholars to translate a popular (Hindu) Sanskrit treatise — known as the Laghu-Yoga-Vāsiṣṭha — into the Persian language. This talk seeks to reconstruct the intellectual processes that underlie this collaborative translation, examining the translators’ decisions regarding the Persian rendition of a single Sanskrit word: saṃkalpa, a term with denotations as varied as “imagination,” “mental construction,” “desire,” “will,” and “intention.” In teasing out the multiple Hindu, Muslim, and even Buddhist philosophical currents that informed the translators’ choices, I will map out the relevant historical intellectual networks at play, spanning a geographical range from Spain to the Middle East and Iran to Central and South Asia — and arguably beyond.

Speaker bio:
Shankar Nair is assistant professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia. His research centers on Hindu and Muslim philosophical traditions, with a particular focus on Muslim-Hindu interactions and the encounter between Arabic, Sanskrit, and Persian intellectual cultures in Mughal South Asia. His book Translating Wisdom: Hindu-Muslim Intellectual Interactions in Early Modern South Asia (UC Press, 2020) examines Mughal-era Sanskrit-to-Persian translations as an important site of Hindu-Muslim philosophical exchange and dialogue.


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