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Revisiting the Persian-Tajik Cosmopolis

 

By Richard Eaton

For several centuries now, the writing of South Asian history has been plagued by a tendency to see the past through the lens of religion – especially Hinduism and Islam, which are commonly understood as essentialized, timeless, and locked in binary opposition, if not mutual hostility.

 

Suggesting a radically different way of theorizing cultural space, however, Sheldon Pollock recently coined the term "Sanskrit cosmopolis", referring to the enormous geographic sweep of Indic culture that stretched from Afghanistan through Vietnam from the fourth to the 14th century.

 

For Pollock, what characterized this cosmopolis was not religion, but the ideas elaborated in the entire corpus of Sanskrit texts which, for more than a millennium, circulated above and across the vernacular world of regional tongues.

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Nawroz in the Islamic Era

Professor Shapur Shahbazi

Introduction

The Islamic conquest altered many Iranian traditions specifically associated with national ideology, imperial institutions, and Zoroastrian rituals. Although Nowruz was an established symbol of these three aspects, it did survive while less significant festivals were eclipsed by their Islamic rivals and gradually became abandoned by indifferent Mongol and Turkish rulers or hostile clerical authorities during Safavid and Qajar periods. Nowruz survived because it was so profoundly engrained in Iranian traditions, history, and cultural memory that Iranian identity and Nowruz mutually buttressed each other, and the emergence of a distinctly Persian Muslim society—and later the emergence of a nation state with the advent of the Safavids—legitimized the ancient national festival and allowed it to flourish with slight modifications or elaborations.

 
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