The Śākadvīpīya Brāhmaṇas are a less-known Brahmanical group who mainly settled in Rājasthān and Bihār. They are identified as Hindu sun worshippers, but claim to have come from Iranian lands in antiquity. In the Sāmba- and Bhaviṣya-purāṇa, the story of their legendary migration is told, and many Iranian elements are present both in the content and in the language of these passages: Iranian loanwords, Zoroastrian ritual objects and customs. At the same time, in the same passages, we also find some Buddhist and Jaina elements. Additional evidence confirms the Śākadvīpīya presence and power in North India over the centuries; their venues and the contemporary priests, still versed in astrology and sun cult, represent a living testimony to the content of the ancient texts.
In 1966, H. von Stietencron published the foundational monograph Indische Sonnenpriester. Despite the importance and relevance of this work, it does neither discuss numerous historical aspects nor the relationship with other cultural environments. Moreover, it does not engage with the conditions of the Śākadvīpīyas over the centuries and their constant presence on Indian soil until the present day.|
The current project proposes to fill this gap by surveying all the materials, providing a translation into English of the Sanskrit texts, and discussing the various religious, cultural and linguistic aspects of the Śākadvīpīya Brāhmaṇas. Starting from the materials already collected and studied by the candidate over the last several years, the finalisation of an all-encompassing study on the Śākadvīpīya Brāhmaṇas will be the result of this research. It will include: the translation and analysis of the Sanskrit texts, an historical analysis, a comparison with the Parsis, who like the Śākadvīpīya Brāhmaṇas cultivate the memory of a migration from Iranian lands to India, probably through similar routes, and the testimonies of the contemporary Śākadvīpīya communities. The outcome will be a complete monograph, which collects all the extant materials on the Śākadvīpīyas and proposes a new updated reading of all available primary sources.
Martina Palladino is an IIAS Research Fellow with a fellowship from the J. Gond Foundation of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW).