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30-31 May 2012 - Conference - Event
Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3

The 1st Perso-Indica Conference: Translating and Writing Indic Learning in Persian

Download Program and Abstracts

The conference aims to offer a new perspective on the role played by movements of translation from non Muslim cultures in the intellectual history of Muslim societies. The prevalent view being rooted on the assumption that such exchanges were limited to the earlier period of the Muslim civilisation (9th-10th centuries) and that they were dominated by the influence of Greek sources, whose Arabic adaptations became well-known in Medieval Europe through Latin versions. Among these early translations there were also some Sanskrit texts but it was after the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate (early 13th century) and then in early-modern India that Persian rose as a relevant means of expression for Indic knowledge.

The conference addresses several main questions, exploring them from different disciplinary perspectives. Which was the impact of royal patronage on the exchanges between Indic and Persianate cultures? Were these Persian texts mainly the outcome of the cultural-religious policy of some Muslim monarchs seeking to legitimize their rule on India? If not, which were the other reasons, needs and intellectual trends supporting these studies? Who copied these texts, which of them were illustrated with miniatures and who commissioned these copies? Another important question is to what extent were these Persian translations faithful to their Sanskrit sources, or rather adaptations to the forma mentis of the Muslim scholars. Were translations prevalent in certain fields, such as for the classics of Indian mythology, whereas original treatises in Persian prevailed in other fields, such as medicine? Which were the methods of translation and the means of adaptation? Was knowledge of Sanskrit a prerequisite of the background of the translators and the authors of those texts, or did they gain access to Indic learning also through local vernaculars? Did oral teaching and personal exchanges between scholars of different creeds also play a role?

Moreover, to what extent could elements of Indian origin be incorporated in the knowledge transmitted by Muslim scholars, such as in the case of the yogic practices included in certain Sufi texts or the properties of the Indian materia medica explained in the treatises of Indo-Muslim physicians? Did these studies share some common features - or rather main differences - with the translation movement of the Abbasid period? Were some of these Persian sources on India translated in their turn into other languages and for which reasons and readers? How were these Persian texts used and interpreted by the first generations of Orientalists during the early colonial Period?

Other important questions relate to the meaning that these studies had for the Indian learned class. Which was the impact of these texts on the circulation of Indic knowledge and how were they perceived by Hindu scholars? Were these texts written mainly for Muslim readers or were they also widely read by Persian-speaking Hindu scholars, whose number seems to have increased considerably during the early-modern period? Did some groups of Hindu (or Muslim) scholars oppose such studies, how, on which basis, and to what extent? Which were on the other hand the Indic scholars and milieus more responsive to these contacts and which were the reasons encouraging such attitudes? Did these studies stimulate a revival and/or a renewal of Indic knowledge in early-modern times? Which were the role and features of these Persian studies compared to other translation movements from Sanskrit towards other Asian languages such as Chinese and Tibetan?

On the other end of the spectrum were the Sanskrit works produced in the same period and inspired by Persian language and literature, such as manuals for learning Persian, translations or adaptations of scientific works, etc. The conference also aims to investigate the nature and extent of such Sanskrit writings and the scholars connected with their production.

Location and info

Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3
Las Vergnas Hall
Centre Censier
13 rue de Santeuil