Subversive Sanskrit Studies with Bihani Sarkar (#166)

About the Guest

Bihani Sarkar is a Calcutta-born, Oxford-educated, scholar of classical Sanskrit literature and pre-modern Indian history and religious traditions. Bihani is a historian of early Indian politics, religions, and literature (poetry and drama) between the 2nd and the 15th centuries CE. She is lecturer in Comparative Non-Western Thought at Lancaster University and formerly a departmental lecturer in Sanskrit at Oriental Institute, University of Oxford. Bihani has researched and taught in universities in the UK and in Europe. Her teaching goal is to enable everyone access to early Indian Sanskrit texts and traditions in the original language, regardless of ability or prior knowledge, and to think about them in critical, modern, and exciting ways.

Bihani’s publications span the history of the Śākta (goddess-centric) traditions, their metaphysics, their relationship to power, their role in the growth of the state and kingship and, most recently, on Śākta epigraphy as well as on histories of classical Indian literary genres, aesthetics, and emotions. Her most recent book is Classical Sanskrit Tragedy: The Concept of Suffering and Pathos in Medieval India.

In this episode, we discuss:

  1. Marginalized voices in the study of Sanskrit.
  2. Wild women and goddesses in ancient Sanskrit poetry in mythology.
  3. Shaktism as a stand-alone tradition.
  4. Shakta as a homegrown feminist tradition inspiring and emancipating Indian women.
  5. Does one need to be from a culture to understand a culture?
  6. The importance of valuing the place where something comes from.
  7. Being an accidental academic.

Quotes from the Episode

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