ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Indo-Persian expression of Advaita-Vedānta in the Persian Bhagavad-Gītā


De Leon-Jones Diani Raffaello - Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris, France


31 – The Forms, Genres and Languages of Early Modern Indian Philosophy


 The Mughal prince Dārā Šikoh (d. 1659), something of a precursor of comparative theology, patronised the translation of important religious and philosophical texts from Sanskrit to Persian. The production of these translations is inseparable from a reflexion on the hidden vernacular that served as a fluid transition from Sanskrit to Persian, given that these translations were mediated by an oral exchange between two sets of translators. This exchange further incorporated in the translated text commentaries and glosses which reflect an Advaita Vedānta interpretation that is, however, largely expressed within an Islamic framework. The aim of this paper therefore is to examine, with the help of philology, a corpus of translations – namely the Persian Bhagavad-Gita, the Sirr-e Akbar, the Majma’ al-Baḥrain and the Sanskrit Samudra-Saṅgama – in order to track down the influence of the vernacular on the language and doctrines contained in these literary productions. Our argument is that, though using a courtly and cosmopolitan language, the Persian translation of Sanskrit philosophical texts acts as a form of vernacularisation in the sense that not only does it rely on an oral, vernacular translation of the Sanskrit but also that it produces a localised idiom that corresponds to neither the Sanskrit nor the Persian cosmopolitan standards. In other words, is it possible to consider Dārā Šikoh’s Persian translations of these texts as expressing a specific Indo-Persian philosophical id