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TAPSA: Vishnuite “garlands of devotees” and Persian as a language of bhakti

November 2, 2023-5pm

Foster 103

Jean Arzoumanov

Rocher Fellow, The University of Chicago

Between 1770 and 1850, a number of Vishnuite hagiographies were written in Persian and Urdu, often under the name of Bhagat māl (“Garland of devotees”). Although it has been largely unnoticed, the Persian bhakti corpus shows that Persian was a prime locus for the expression of Vishnuite and Krishnaite devotion by non-Muslim literati. We will have a preliminary look at several of these hagiographic texts, more particularly at a Bhagatmālā composed in Persian by the Hindu poet Amānat Rāy (first half of the 18th century) and inspired by the famous Masnavī-yi maʿnavī by Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī. Amānat Rāy, himself a disciple of the prominent poet Bedil Dihlavī, is a prime example of a Hindu scholar trained within the Persianate cultural world interweaving Vishnuite devotional motifs with the repertoire of Persian poetics.