Session Abstract: Festivals, celebrations, and commemorations constitute breaks in the normal run of daily life, practically by definition. Even so, from the perspective of conventional historiography, they often fade into the background, part of the quotidian fabric of life against which exceptional events and developments stand out. Taking this contradiction as a starting point, this panel seeks to reclaim the exceptional and the carnivalesque in the everyday by training a critical lens on the representation of festivities and rituals in literature and the visual arts in the north and east of the Indian Subcontinent from the sixteenth century onward. Two of the papers focus on the interplay of Persianate and Indic traditions in the Mughal period. One presents a re-reading of the pictorial conventions around festival scenes in Mughal court painting. The other traces the historical context of the emergence of the Hindu spring festival of Holī as a literary and artistic motif across multiple religious and linguistic communities. The remaining papers shift base eastwards to Bengal, exploring interconnected ritual practices and corresponding literary genres generated by and for them: the veneration of local goddesses in relation to the early modern mangalkābyas, and the female domestic practice of wish-fulfillment vows or bratas and the nineteenth century brata-kathās that document them.
Paper Presenter: Nicolas J. Roth – Harvard University
Paper Presenter: Mou Banerjee – University of Wisconsin-Madison
Paper Presenter: Bronwen Gulkis – Harvard University
Paper Presenter: Swati Moitra – Gurudas College, University of Calcutta