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SHIVADHARMA - Translocal Identities. The Śivadharma and the Making of Regional Religious Traditions in Premodern South Asia

11 - Sustainable cities and communities; Research Projects; 2018; 2019; 2020; 2021; 2022; 2023

This project aims at examining the impact of the spread of the Śaiva religion on the formation of regional religious identities in South Asia from the Middle Ages to premodern times. In order to tackle this issue, the Principal Investigator and her team will examine the historical evidence connected with a still little studied but highly influential tradition of Sanskrit texts collectively called “Śivadharma” (= “Śaiva Religion”), which have been transmitted in some of the most representative regions of South Asia to exhibit the continuing influence of Śavisim. The impact of this literature can be traced in multiple literary, epigraphical and iconographic sources, making it particularly suitable for a multidisciplinary study in which the analysis and edition of texts goes hand in hand with that of the inscriptions and archaeological context. The regions that will be considered for this project are: Nepal, the Deccan area (with connections to the Andhra coast), the northeastern area of the Bay of Bengal (present-day West Bengal and Odisha), Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The Śivadharma texts, composed around the 6th to 7th century, are mostly related to the institutional and cultural facets of lay religion, thus offering access to information on the material and practical aspects of Śaivism at a time corresponding to its rise to monarchical patronage in South and Southeast Asia. The main focus of the team’s research will be on the process of how these texts were adapted to the different regional contexts in which they are transmitted, as well as the assessment of the impact that their knowledge had on the formation of local Śaivism. We will thus study the manuscript transmission of the texts, along with the texts themselves in their regional variants; translations and commentaries on the texts in Sanskrit and Dravidian languages; and the inscriptions and icons of religious centers that are linked to the texts and the religious current sponsoring them.

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