Contemporary scholarship on the Mughal empire has generally ignored the role Sanskrit played in imperial political and literary projects. However, in Culture of Encounters: Sanskrit at the Mughal Court (Columbia University Press, 2016), Audrey Truschke, Assistant Professor of South Asian History at Rutgers University--Newark, demonstrates that Sanskrit was central to the process of royal self-definition. She documents how Brahman and Jain intellectuals were working closely with Persian-speaking Islamic elite around the cultural framework of the central royal court. These projects often revolved around cross-cultural textual production and translation, putting Sanskrit and Persian works in conversation. The production of Mughal-backed texts, and the literary reflection or silence about Brahman and Jain participation reveals unexplored horizons for understanding South Asia imperial history. In our conversation we discussed the dynamics of the Mughal court, the influential leaders Akbar, Jahangir, and Shah Jahan, Persian translation of Sanskrit epics, the integration of Sanskrit materials into imperial knowledge, the end of Sanskrit at the Mughal court, and the tricky reception of contested histories in contemporary India.
Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Nebraska Omaha. His research and teaching interests include Theory and Methodology in the Study of Religion, Islamic Studies, Chinese Religions, Human Rights, and Media Studies. You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.