Theses Doctoral

Poetry and Prayer: Stotras in the Religious and Literary History of Kashmir

Stainton, Hamsa Michael

This dissertation investigates the close connection between poetry and prayer in South Asia by studying the history of Sanskrit hymns of praise (stotras) in Kashmir. It offers a broad introduction to the history and general features of the stotra genre, and it charts the course of these literary hymns in Kashmir from the ninth century to the present. Historically, Kashmir was one of the most dynamic and influential centers of Sanskrit learning and literary production in South Asia. This dissertation focuses on a number of innovative texts from this region, such as Ksemaraja's eleventh-century commentaries and Sahib Kaul's seventeenth-century hymns, which have received little scholarly attention. In particular, it offers the first study in any European language of the Stutikusumanjali, a major work of religious literature dedicated to the god Siva and one of the only extant witnesses to the trajectory of Sanskrit literary culture in fourteenth-century Kashmir. This dissertation also contributes to the study of Saivism by examining the ways that Saiva poets have integrated the traditions of Sanskrit literature (kavya) and poetics (alankarasastra), theology (especially non-dualism), and Saiva worship and devotion. It argues for the diverse configurations of Saiva bhakti expressed and explored in these literary hymns and the challenges they present for standard interpretations of Hindu bhakti. More broadly, this study of stotras from Kashmir offers new perspectives on the history and vitality of prayer in South Asia and its complex relationships to poetry and poetics.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Hawley, John Stratton
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 30, 2013