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Dhār, Bhoja and Sarasvatī: from Indology to Political Mythology and Back*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 March 2012

Extract

The Bhojśālā or ‘Hall of Bhoja’ is a term used to describe the centre for Sanskrit studies associated with King Bhoja, the most celebrated ruler of the Paramāra dynasty. The Bhojśālā is also linked to Sarasvatī – the goddess of learning – whose shrine is said to have stood in the hall's precinct. Since the early years of the twentieth century, the mosque adjacent to the tomb of Kamāl al-Dīn Chishtī in the town of Dhār has been identified as the Bhojśālā. This has turned the building into a focal point of religious, social and political tension. Access to the site, currently under the protection of the Archaeological Survey of India, has been marked by communal friction and disputes in the press and in the courts. My aim in this paper is not to chart this sorry tale of events; I only need note that the legal and political wrangles, not to mention a steady flow of inflammatory assertions, have formed a toxic backdrop to the scholarly publications cited in the pages that follow. A second issue beyond the scope of this paper is how the medieval history of Dhār has played its part in the wider ‘invention of tradition’ and formation of modern Hindu identity. Stepping back from these concerns, my ambition here is rather modest: I seek only to explore how the mosque at Dhār has come to be described as the Bhojśālā and, on this basis, to undertake an assessment of that identification. Along the way, I will touch on a number of problems concerning the history, architecture and literary culture of central India.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Royal Asiatic Society 2012

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Footnotes

*

This article was prepared over a long period and I am grateful to many colleagues who helped in various ways. Hans T. Bakker, Paul Dundas, Whitney Cox and Dominik Wujastyk all took time to comment on the British Museum image inscription published below. I am especially grateful to Daniél Balogh for procuring a digital copy of S. K. Dikshit's edition of the Pārijātamañjarī (cited below) without which it would have been impossible to complete this article. Thanks are also due to Dr O. P. Mishra who accompanied me on my first trip to Dhār in 2007 and offered many valuable insights as discoveries were being made. In London, I am grateful to Andrew Huxley and T. Phelps for comments on my text and for bibliographic information.

References

Barnes, Ernest, “Art. XI. - Dhar and Mandu.” JRAS Bombay Branch 21, 1903. pp. 339390.Google Scholar
Cousens, Henry, “The Iron Pillar at Dhār” Archaeological Survey of India, Annual Report, 1902–03. (Calcutta, 1904), pp. 205212.Google Scholar
Dikshit, S. K., (ed.) Pārijātamañjarī alias Vijayaśrī by Rāja-Guru Madana alias Bāla-Sarasvatī. (Bhopal, 1968).Google Scholar
Granoff, Phyllis, “Sarasvatī's Sons: Biographies of Poets in Medieval India.” Asiatische Studien / Études Asiatiques 49.2, 1995. pp. 351376.Google Scholar
Kincaid, William, (ed.) History of Mandu, The Capital of Malwa. By a Bombay Subaltern, 2nd ed. (Bombay, 1879).Google Scholar
Lele, C. B., Parmar Inscriptions in Dhar State (Dhar, 1944).Google Scholar
Luard, C. E., Western States (Mālwā). Gazetteer, 2 parts. The Central India State Gazetteer Series, vol. 5. (Bombay, 1908).Google Scholar
Mankodi, Kirit, “A Paramāra Sculpture in the British Museum: Vāgdevī or Yakshī Ambikā?Sambodhi 9, 1980–81. pp. 96103.Google Scholar
Trivedi, H. V., Inscriptions of the Paramāras, Chandellas and Kachchapapaghātas and two Minor Dynasties. Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum, volume 7, 3 parts. (New Delhi, 1979–91).Google Scholar

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