Facebook event page
Brunei Gallery, School of Oriental and African Studies
10, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, WC1H 0XG London, United Kingdom
Drama, the Court, and the Public in Maratha Thanjavur: The Multilingual Yakshaganas of Shahji II
This talk illuminates the Thanjavur Maratha ruler Shahji II’s (r. 1684 –1712) innovative deployment of the yakshagana dance drama genre as a key instrument for the court’s self-presentation as well as representations of its relationship with wider publics in the Tamil cultural region. Shahji, the second ruler in the south Indian Maratha line, patronized yakshaganas in Tamil, Telugu and Marathi, and several polyglot novelties as well, treating local temple legends and folk and gendered themes such as the co-wives’ quarrel and Kuravanji fortune-tellers. The plots and performative circumstances of dramas such as Gan...ga-kaveri-samvad (The quarrel between Ganga and Kaveri) and Panchabhashavilasa (The Play of Five Languages) signal the formation of a new courtly subjectivity generated through dialogues with multiple local constituencies and linguistic and interpretive communities–– temples, brahman settlements, monastic institutions, and popular literary forms. They provide a map for what Stephen Greenblatt has called “the circulation of social energy”. A fascinating window into the agency of a minority community in the development of a regional cultural sensibility, Shahji’s dance dramas illuminate the need for historiographies that attend to archives beyond the printed word. They also challenge purist constructions of early modern south Indian history.
Dr. Indira Viswanathan Peterson is Professor of Asian Studies Emerita, and Research Professor, Mount Holyoke College, U.S.A. She held the David B. Truman Professorship at Mount Holyoke and has been Professor of Sanskrit at Columbia University. Dr. Peterson specializes in Indian literature in Sanskrit, Tamil and Marathi, Hinduism, South Indian culture, history and religion, classical dance and Karnatak music, translation, and European-Asian culture contact. She has published widely on all of these subjects. She has held a number of research fellowships, including fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, The American Institute for Indian Studies and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Major publications include: Poems to Shiva: The Hymns of the Tamil Saints (1989); Design and Rhetoric in a Sanskrit Court Epic: The Kiratarjuniya of Bharavi (2003); Arjuna and the Hunter (2016); and, with George Michell, The Great Temple at Thanjavur: A Thousand Years. 1010 – 2010 (2010). Dr. Peterson was the editor for Indian literature in The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces (1995) and The Norton Anthology of World Literature (2001). Two co-edited books are: with Martha A. Selby, Tamil Geographies: Cultural Constructions of space and place in South India (2007); and with Davesh Soneji, Performing Pasts: Reinventing the Arts in modern South India (2008).
Indira Peterson has recently completed Serfoji of Tanjore: Enlightenment and Princely Modernity in Colonial India, a biography of the royal polymath and innovator Serfoji II. In progress are Drama, the Court, and the Public in Early Modern India, a monograph on the multilingual dance dramas of the Thanjavur Maratha court, and An Enlightenment Library in Early Nineteenth-century India: The Personal Collection of King Serfoji II of Tanjore (1798-1832).
Venue: Room B202, Brunei Building, SOAS University of London.
Time: 6 pm to 7:30 pm.
Date: 16 May 2018.