Focus on the 34th Deutscher Orientalistentag

The 34th Deutscher Orientalistentag was held on 12 to 17 September 2022 in Berlin, loosely coinciding with the hundredth anniversary of the first such event, which was convened by the Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft in Leipzig in 1921. As already notified on this blog, the conference included a panel titled The History of Śaivism through Textual and Material Evidence and convened by Florinda De Simini, as well as a panel called Self-Representation and Presentation of Others in Epigraphical Writing convened by Annette Schmiedchen, the head of DHARMA’s Task Force B in Berlin. This latter panel focussed on the self-representation of the issuers and the presentation of others — for example of religious figures, subordinates, overlords and adversaries — as depicted in official documents of specific kinds, namely public inscriptions on stone and donative charters on copper plates.

Suchandra Ghosh (University of Hyderabad) explored the representation of a particular class of “others,” namely that of forest people, in inscriptions of the third century BCE to the twelfth century CE. She pointed out indications of the transformation of forest spaces into kingdoms (rājya), as a consequence of which persons of tribal extraction may appear in positions of power and status.

Dev Kumar Jhanjh (Jadavpur University) discussed royal self-representation in Central Himalayan copper plate grants of the sixth to tenth centuries. His presentation traced the representation strategies employed by the newly emerging ruling houses of the Pauravas and the later Kārttikeyapura kingdom.

Natasja Bosma evaluated the copper plates of the Pāṇḍava dynasty of Dakṣiṇa Kosala in the sixth and seventh centuries, pointing out radical differences in the lengths of passages dedicated to royal self-representation by various rulers. In particular, she asked why Tīvaradeva, not mentioned by his successors, went to great lengths to establish his image.

Amandine Wattelier-Bricout studied the coronation names — normally alternating Mahābhāvagupta and Mahāśivagupta — used by the Somavaṁśins of Odisha, with particular attention to cases where a ruler’s records do not employ a coronation name. Using the inscriptions of successors and contemporary rulers of other dynasties, she sought to identify the circumstances explaining this absence.

Ryosuke Furui revisited the struggle over Kanauj at the end of the eighth century, contrasting the different accounts left to us by the dynasties involved. He showed that the Pālas, the Gurjara-Pratihāras and the Rāṣṭrakūṭas highlighted respectively a single moment of triumph, the sentiment of victory through valour, and the establishment of superiority over other kings.

Jae Eun Shin (University of Tokyo) investigated the representation of self and others by sub-regional powers, namely by the Pālas of Kāmarūpa and the Candras of Vaṅga in the tenth and eleventh centuries. She pointed out how the imperial Pālas remained a benchmark in the self-representation of these lesser dynasties, but with a starkly differing perspective depending on current power relations.

Dániel Balogh analysed the descriptions of issuing kings and underlings in Eastern Cālukya copper plate grants. Deriving representational profiles from a content analysis of these descriptions, he demonstrated that underlings (subordinates and court officials) tend to be depicted more in terms of individual qualities than the rather stereotypically characterised rulers.

Samana Kaivar Gururaja juxtaposed the genealogies of the Hoysalas in their own records with those presented in the inscriptions of their subordinates in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. She observed that while some subordinate houses emphasised their loyalty to the Hoysalas spanning generations of both families, others recalled ancestors serving other dynasties before the Hoysalas.

Annette Schmiedchen scrutinised the epigraphic self-representation of the Yādava dynasty and its presentation in the literary work of Hemādri, a minister at the Yādava court in the thirteenth century. She indicated that the latter provides a fuller rollcall of the male members of the dynasty, albeit cursory in detail, while the royal accounts foreground only the key political figures, but record more about them and their matrimonial alliances.

Luther James Obrock (University of Toronto) explored the continuation of epigraphic Sanskrit into the Sultanate period. Using the late sixteenth-century Arabic and Sanskrit bilingual inscription of the Burhanpur mosque as an illustration, he pointed out how Sanskritic topoi were adapted to an Islamic context and examined the division of work between the Sanskrit and Arabic parts of the inscription.

Tillo Detige (CERES, Ruhr-Universität Bochum) presented early modern Digambara Jain stone and icon inscriptions from Western and Central India, attesting to the status of bhaṭṭārakas in the ascetic hierarchy and to the relations of the Jain community to local rulers.

Wayan Jarrah Sastrawan introduced Indonesian inscriptions spanning from 500 to 1500 CE, with special attention to the historiographic norms applied in these texts to represent a wide variety of historical agents.

On the same day, though outside the panel on representation, Jens Christian Thomas provided us with an overview of Telugu inscriptions from the first millennium CE, discussing the style and content of these sources and some aspects of their terminology.


Text: Dániel Balogh
Photos: Amandine Wattelier-Bricout

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