The project is inspired by a 17th century Indo-Persian source, the Gulzār-i ḥāl (GH) by Banwālīdās “Walī Rām” (1662-63). The author was a disciple of the famous Qādirī master Mullā Šāh Badaḫšī and an intellectual close to the Mughal heir apparent Dārā Šukūh (d. 1659). The GH is the Persian adaptation of the Prabodhacandrodaya by Kṛṣṇamiśra (after 1060), a Sanskrit drama composed to emphasise the Advaita School of Śaṅkarācārya. Another interesting hypothesis is that Banwālīdās used as intermediate with the original Sanskrit a Braj Bhāṣā version by the poet Nanddās, entitled Prabodhacandrodaya Nāṭaka (1570). From the partial critical edition of the GH presented in my doctoral dissertation emerged that Banwālīdās contextualized the Advaita character of the (uncertain) matrix-text within an Islamic mystical frame inspired by the ideas of the philosopher Muḥyī al-Dīn ibn al-ʿArabī(d. 1240).
The research takes into consideration the roles played by Banwālīdās as receiver (and knower) of a Hindu philosophical tradition and as sender of a reformulated soteriological message. Starting from this point, the investigation focuses on the transmission and reception of the GH by a transdisciplinary approach based on textual criticism, philology, and cultural analysis of the sources. On the one hand, the study of the introductions to the GH will bring to light information concerning the ambiguity of the matrix-text (PC) and the problematic authorship of the received-text (GH). The philological analysis of these paratexts will even contribute to a better understanding of the author’s cultural milieu and the transmission of the matrix-text(s). On the other, the research will focus on the ways Hindu-Muslim philosophical elements interacted within the work of Banwālīdās. For this reason, the study will focus on the strategies employed by the author to textualize Hindu monistic elements in an Islamic mystical frame.
Indeed, such textual interactions occurred even by the influence of Ibn ‘Arabī’s doctrine (later called Waḥdat al-Wujūd). The research will analyse selected mystical writings composed by Mullā Šāh Badaḫšī to identify what of Ibn ‘Arabī’s ideas (or those of his later commentators) were received and transmitted by his disciple, Banwālīdās “Walī Rām”. This aspect of the research aims at developing the studies concerning the dissemination of Ibn ‘Arabī’s doctrine in 17th century Mughal India.
The remarkable number of manuscripts of the GH witnesses the notoriety the work acquired among the Indo-Persian readership. The copyists who transcribed the text constitute part of such composite readership. Sometimes, by adopting a symbolic language typical of Persian mystical literature, the scribes added to the colophons their insights into the GH. The analysis of selected colophons and other paratexts composed in 18th-19th century aims at investigating how Banvālīdās’ Sufi-Vedantic ideas were received in later periods.
The present project is strictly linked to research focused on the GH and its manuscripts tradition, whose main goals concern the publication of a new critical edition of the text, and of a descriptive catalogue of the manuscripts.