Ambivalent Representations of Muslims in Medieval Indian Theatre

Abstract : From the eleventh century AD onwards, some Indian dramatists began to derive the plot of their plays from contemporary events, such as the military achievements of their patron, despite the prohibition of this kind of subjects by theoreti-cians. As the neighbouring Afghan and Turkish rulers of Ghazna and Ghūr were threatening India then, Muslim characters made their appearance in some of these historical plays, like Somadeva's Lalitavigraharāja (c. AD 1153) and Jayasiṃhasūri's Hammīramadamardana (c. AD 1227–30). Consequently, these texts constitute a counterpoint to the Persian chronicles and give us the unique opportunity of ascertaining how Muslim invaders were perceived by Indian people during the political upheavals of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries AD. The article first analyzes how Muslim characters are reviled and even demonized by means of specific dramatic languages as well as other literary devices, and then demonstrates that Muslim people were far from being the only target of this process of demonization: according to the circumstances, it was also used by devotees of Viṣṇu against Jains, Jains against followers of Śiva and even between rival sects of one and a same religion. Furthermore the plays betray a genuine acquaintance of their authors with the realities of the Islamic world. Though portraying Muslim characters in a more virulent way than Somadeva, Jayasiṃhasūri transposed foreign names into Sanskrit rather carefully and gave a faithful account of the political, military and cultural particularities of Muslim people. Article Studies in History 27(2) 155–195
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Basile Leclere. Ambivalent Representations of Muslims in Medieval Indian Theatre. Studies in History, SAGE Publications (UK and US), 2013, 27 (2), pp.155 - 195. ⟨10.1177/0257643012459415⟩. ⟨hal-01785929⟩

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