Event — IIAS Lunch Lecture

Mini Indology symposium by two Gonda fellows at IIAS

The speakers of this extended lunch lecture (or 'mini-symposium') are Giuseppe Cappello and Mekhola Gomes, who are both working on their individual projects at IIAS with a fellowship provided by the J. Gonda Foundation of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW).

Giuseppe Cappello will talk about the interaction between Hindu monistic ideas and Islamic mysticism in the late-17th century Mughal intellectual milieu. Next, MekohIa Gomes will show how the interests of the political elites in the world of the Indian Ocean were linked through donation and documentary practices.

Lunch is provided; registration is required.


12.30-12.35: Introductory words by Willem Vogelsang, IIAS Deputy Director
12.35 – 13.05: Giuseppe Cappello: The Gulzār-i ḥāl by Banwālīdās: transmission and reception of an Indo-Persian text.
13:05 – 13.25: Q&A Giuseppe Cappello

13.25 – 13.35: Coffee break
13.35 – 14.05: Mekhola Gomes: Inscribing Rule: Copper-plate Inscriptions in Early Java
14.05 – 14.25: Q&A Mekhola Gomes


Giuseppe Cappello: The Gulzār-i ḥāl by Banwālīdās: transmission and reception of an Indo-Persian text.

Banwālīdās was an intellectual and a disciple of the famous Qādirī spiritual master Mullā Šāh Badaḫšī. Nevertheless, his philosophic ideas were equally influenced by the monistic School of Śaṅkarācārya. The analysis of the Gulzār-i ḥāl by Banwālīdās outlines ways Hindu monistic ideas and Islamic mysticism could interact in late-17th century Mughal intellectual milieu.

The centuries-old cultural interest of Muslim intellectuals for the Indic civilization led to the translation of many Sanskrit texts into Arabic and Persian. The literary corpus resulted from such translation movement is remarkable for the quantity of texts produced and the variety of topics covered. Focusing on late-16th-17th century Mughal India, we find many nobles and intellectuals actively promoting translations of Indian texts into Persian. Among these works emerges the Gulzār-i ḥāl by Banwālīdās “Walī Rām” (1662-63), that is the Persian adaptation of a famous Sanskrit drama, the Prabodhacandrodaya by Kṛṣṇamiśra (after 1060). Another hypothesis is that Banwālīdās used as intermediate with the original Sanskrit a Braj Bhāṣā version by the poet Nanddās, entitled Prabodhacandrodaya Nāṭaka (1570).

This lecture aims at introducing the reasons why Banwālīdās composed the Gulzār-i ḥāl and how he textualized Hindu philosophical aspects of the matrix-text within an Islamic cultural frame inspired by Ibn ‘Arabī’s ideas. The notable number of copies available in European and South Asian libraries indicates the Gulzār-i ḥāl was well known among Indian intellectuals of later times. A part of the lecture will be dedicated to the Gulzār-i ḥāl’s manuscript tradition. Here, by focusing on the circulation of the text, will be introduced some cultural trends of the copyists. The results presented during the lecture constitute a preliminary study I aim at developing by writing a critical edition of the Gulzār-i ḥāl and a descriptive catalogue of all the manuscripts. They will give prominence to the intellectual figure of Banwālīdās, that was well-known among the Indian erudite circles, but

Dr Giuseppe Cappello is a PhD in Asian, African and Mediterranean Studies at the University of Naples "L’Orientale", Italy. He received the BA and MA at the University of Naples "L’Orientale", where he studied both Hindi and Persian literature. This kind of educational path afforded him to win a PhD scholarship at the same institution by presenting a project focused on the Gulzār-i ḥāl by Banwālīdās. This is the Persian adaptation of a famous Sanskrit allegory, the Prabodhacandrodaya by Kṛṣṇamiśra. Now, he is preparing a critical edition of the Gulzār-i ḥāl and a descriptive catalogue of the manuscripts available in European, Indian and Pakistani libraries.


Giuseppe Cappello, Stefania Cavaliere, (forthcoming) “Translating the Truth of Truths. Crossed analysis of two versions of the Prabodhacandrodaya drama”, in Early Modern Literary Cultures in North India – Current Research, ed. by Danuta Stasik, Published by the University of Warsaw.

Mekhola Gomes: Inscribing Rule: Copper-plate inscriptions in Early Java

In my talk, I show how the interests of political elites across the Indian Ocean world in places like the Deccan plateau in India and central Java in Indonesia were connected through donative and documentary practices. An important shared practice was the setting down of royal orders involving land donations and tax exemptions as copper-plate inscriptions. I suggest that rather than as a prefigured epigraphic genre, the form of the copper-plate inscription in early South and Southeast Asia should be located within specific historical and spatial contexts.

Copper-plate inscriptions have long been an important source for studying the histories of the Indian Ocean World, particularly early Southeast and South Asia. However, surprisingly little attention has been paid to forms of copper-plate records, contexts of production, as well as circuits of circulation and reception.

In my talk, I show how Indic discourses and practices of power, specifically that of inscribing royal donative orders on copper-plates, was transformed as they travelled across the Indian Ocean. Through a focus on inscriptions between the fourth and ninth centuries CE from places like the Deccan plateau in India and central Java in Indonesia, I suggest that elite discourses and practices acquired new forms and meanings that were articulated precisely through particularities of place.

Mekhola Gomes is currently Gonda fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies at Leiden University and postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for South Asian Civilizations and the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM). As a scholar of the Indian Ocean World focusing upon premodern South and Southeast Asia, I specialize in social history, gender, epigraphy, and religion.


Registration (required)

Please use the web-form on the right-hand side of this page to register (by Wednesday 4 March 2020, 12:00 hrs. if you would like us to cater for your lunch).