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43 | Vernacular Mahābhāratas in Text and Performance

This panel will explore the multitude of Mahābhārata retellings in vernacular languages in all genres, from “classic” texts, to performances, to popular media, including versions from Muslim, Jain and other communities, and ritual performances from diverse regions of the Subcontinent and beyond.


· Eva De Clercq Ghent University (Gent, Belgium)
· Heike Oberlin Dept. Of Indology and Comparative Religion, Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, Germany (Tübingen, Germany)
· Heidi Pauwels : Asian Languages and Literature, University of Washington, Seattle, USA (Seattle, United States of America)


· 07/27 | 15:30-17:00 UTC+2/CEST
· 07/28 | 15:30-17:00 UTC+2/CEST
· 07/28 | 17:30-19:00 UTC+2/CEST

Long Abstract

Scholarly attention to the Indian epics has largely focused on the Sanskrit versions. However, just as is the case with the Rāmāyaṇa, as A.K. Ramanujan explains in his influential article “Three hundred Ramayanas” (1991), there are innumerable vernacular Mahābhāratas. Compared to the vernacular Rāmāyaṇas, very little work has been done on the these. In the past decades, there have been at least two conferences in India that included contributions on vernacular and performative Mahābhāratas (Singh 1993 and Trikha 2006), and in the US, a panel on “Many Mahābhāratas” was organized at the yearly South Asia Conference in Madison in 2017, the outcome of which will be published in an edited volume (Pillai & Hawley 2019). On this base we aim to push international research and studies on the multiple vernacular versions of the Mahābhāratas, with special attention to performative aspects, audiences and political circumstances. To complement the panel organizers’ own diverse research on Keralese performance versions (Oberlin), Old Hindi versions (Pauwels) and the Jain versions (De Clercq), we invite presentations on vernacular Mahābhāratas, from classic texts in vernacular languages, right up to popular media, its multiple retellings spanning from traditional elite performances and genres such as dance, drama and poetry, to contemporary popular poster art, folk and puppet theatre, novels, comics, cartoons, cinema and television. This includes vernacular Mahābhāratas from non-Hindu communities, such as Muslims, Jains, Buddhists and others.