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Third-party-funded project

Title:
Edition and critical study as well as contextualisation of hagiographical texts of the Sankara tradition; Sankara

Project management at the University of Würzburg:

Abstract:
This project comprises, to begin with, the critical edition, study and contextualisation of two selected so-called
hagiographies about the Hindu philosopher and alleged religious reformer Sankara, which have been available
only as manuscripts so far. Altogether there are about 30 such texts, some of which have been published.
Critical editions as well as critical or comparative studies about these texts are almost completely lacking,
although certain hagiographies are quoted frequently in connection with the alleged biography of the historical
Sankara, unfortunately almost exclusively asking the inappropriate question of their historical authenticity. The
hagiographies and related oral traditions are of great importance for the religious and cultural history of
Hinduism and up to the present day play a major role in the historical legitimation of the monastic tradition
allegedly founded by Sankara, also within the vehement rivalry and contestation among the most important of
these monasteries. The texts concerned in this project are related to the establishment of the South Indian
Sankara tradition in the North of the subcontinent, and with the Jyotirmatha monastery. Hence the project will
focus also on the question of the historical legitimation vs. the ?factual? history of the Jyotirmatha and the
contested chair of the northern Sankaracarya, which is presently claimed by three candidates. Hence the project
includes field studies as well: the search for written source material (printed, inscriptional or handwritten) as
well as regional and local oral traditions. We hope to show in which way traditional representations of historical
knowledge are utilised for the historical legitimation, for the construction of local history and identity of a
recently revived monastic tradition. We investigate the intellectual roots as well as the social and political
background of these representations of history, as well as their methods and strategies of argumentation, the
form of the representation, the addressees and the self-image of the representatives. The result hopefully will be
a contribution the intercultural comparison of historical thinking and the representation of history.
Hagiographic sources have met with an increasing interest in various, mainly historically working disciplines
and are investigated under varying questions. Thus the project offers a good scope of interdisciplinary
cooperation whence it is embedded into a working group for hagiographical questions comprising scholars from
various fields, e.g. comparative religions, medieval history, or theology.

Projekt period: since 04.2005