Theses Doctoral

Abodes of Śiva: Monuments and Memory in Medieval and Early Modern South Indian Purāṇas

Ramesh, Jay

In this dissertation, I investigate a popular type of narrative literature called in Tamil talapurāṇam (literally “place-lore”), which describes the legends associated with Hindu shrines as well as the manner in which rituals at the temple must be conducted. Though such texts were popular throughout South Asia as written in Sanskrit, it was in the hands of early modern poets writing in Tamil that they became a genre of elite literature. These poets transformed prosaic Sanskrit texts into elaborate works of court poetry. Through an analysis of the poetics of these texts, the stories that they narrate, and the historical circumstances surrounding their popularity, I argue that the Tamil talapurāṇams mark a conscious and sustained effort to unite a community of devotees around a set of shrines that existed in South India by appealing to and simultaneously producing the collective memory of a distant past. Drawing upon the work of Maurice Halbwachs and Jan Assmann, among others, I further argue that such a notion of collective memory is essential to our understanding of the manner in which sacred space is experienced more broadly.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Hawley, John Stratton
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 7, 2020