Tuesday 26 May | Religion & Philosophy Network Seminar

Religious History and Its Sources: A National History of India

The rise of Hindu nationalism over the last few decades has led to several attempts at rewriting the history of India from a Hindu nationalist point of view. Most ambitious is a recently launched 10-year mega project that should lead to an encyclopedia of Indian history on the basis of the Puranas (Puranantargat Itihaas). This seminar will address the issues at stake by investigating the genre of literature that forms the basis of the project (the Puranas, often classified as Hindu mythology), the role of the Puranas in the Hinduization of India through the ages, the interaction between local and nationwide traditions of history and mythology, and the current political climate in which Hindu nationalist history is propagated.

Time and Venue

Time: Tuesday 26 May, 14.15-17.00
Venue: Matthias de Vrieshof 2 room 002

Coördinators: Peter Bisschop and Pralay Kanungo

The programme

The programme of the seminar includes four presentations followed by discussion: 

  • Peter Bisschop (Leiden University), Introduction: Purāṇas, Tales of the Past or Tales of the Present?

  • Knut Jacobsen (University of Bergen), Sage Kapila and the Inventing of History of Mythological Figures: Purāṇas and pilgrimage traditions
  • Daniela Berti (CNRS, Paris), Political Ideology and Divine Biographies: The impact of Hindu nationalism on a local pantheon in Himachal Pradesh
  • Pralay Kanungo (IIAS Leiden), Hindu Nationalism and the Politics of Writing History

On the speakers

Peter Bisschop is Professor in Sanskrit and Ancient Cultures of South Asia at Leiden University. He specializes in the historical development of early Hinduism, in particular Śaivism, and is one of the co-editors of the Skandapurāṇa critical edition.

Knut Jacobsen is Professor in the History of Religions at the University of Bergen. He is the author of many articles and books on Hinduism and is the editor in chief of Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism

Daniela Berti is Researcher at the Centre for Himalay Studies of the CNRS in Paris. She is an anthropologist by training and has published extensively on Hindu ritual and legal practices and the cultural entrenchment of Hindutva.

Pralay Kanungo is the ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations) Professor for the Study of Contemporary India at Leiden University and the IIAS. He specializes in Indian Politics  and is the author of RSS’s Tryst with Politics: From Hedgewar to Sudarshan and has co-edited several books on Hindu nationalism. 

Last Modified: 06-05-2015