privacy policy

The Country and the City: The Cultural Ecology of the Kāñcippurāṇam


· Jonas Buchholz Heidelberg University (Heidelberg, Germany)


07/29 | 11:20-11:40 UTC+2/CEST


My proposed paper will look into the first two chapters of the Kāñcippurāṇam, an 18th-century Tamil Sthalapurāṇa of Kāñcipuram. These chapters, labeled Tirunāṭṭuppaṭalam, “Chapter on the Sacred Country,” and Tirunakarappaṭalam, “Chapter on the Sacred City,” respectively, contain a florid description of the region around Kāñcipuram and of the city of Kāñcipuram itself. While the Kāñcippurāṇam is based on a Sanskrit source, the Kāñcīmāhātmya, these chapters do not correspond to the Sanskrit text, but follow a distincly Tamil literary model. Thus, the text makes use of Tamil literary conventions, such as the concept of the five “landscapes” (tiṇai), each of which is evoked in the portrayal of the region around Kāñcipuram. Such descriptions of the country and the city are typical for Tamil Sthalapurāṇas. Similar sections are found in almost all texts of the genre, but also in earlier Tamil texts, such as the Kamparāmāyaṇam, on which the description in the Kāñcippurāṇam seems to be modeled.

In my presentation, I will locate the Tirunāṭṭuppaṭalam and the Tirunakarappaṭalam of the Kāñcippurāṇam in the framework of the literary tradition of which they form part, but also look at them through from a perspective of cultural ecology. How does the text transform real-world landscapes into literary fiction? To what extent are the descriptions of the country and the city purely conventional, and to what extent do they reflect realities on the ground? By reading the Kāñcippurāṇam against the background of its specific genre conventions, I hope to contribute to a better understanding of the relations between nature and culture in Tamil Sthalapurāṇas.