The present blog deals with our three-year interdisciplinary research project on a 19-century Sanskrit adaptation of the 16th-century Persian compendium of ethics Aḫlāq-e Moḥsenī. The project is funded by the German research Foundation (DFG) and started in April 2016.

The Aḫlāq-e Moḥsenī was written in Herat by the polymath Kamāl ad-Dīn Ḥosain Vāʿeẓ Kāšefī during the Timurid era at the beginning of the 16th century. It consists of forty chapters, each of which is dedicated to one capacity of the ideal ruler or a quality of statesmanship. It has been known and appreciated in various parts of the Islamicate world and in South Asia. Countless lithographs and English translations show, that the Aḫlāq-i Muḥsinī has been popular up to the colonial era.

During the regency of Ranbir Singh during the second half of the 19th century, this compendium was translated into Sanskrit under the name of Vīraratnaśekharaśikhā by the Kashmirian scholar Sāhib Rām. The Vīraratnaśekharaśikhā represents a special case in several respects: Translations from Persian into Sanskrit are rare and have hardly been researched. Situating it within the historical context of Ranbir Singh’s translation office, the present project tries to ask questions regarding the Vīraratnaśekharaśikhā, such as:

  • Why precisely Aḫlāq-e Moḥsenī?
  • How to describe Sāhib Rām’s approach?
  • Which understanding of translation is associated with the text?
  • What does this translation, or, adaptation tell us about Sanskrit in 19th century Kashmir and the targeted audience of the Vīraratnaśekharaśikhā?