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Poetry and History: Bengali Maṅgal-kābya and Social Change in Precolonial Bengal
  • David Curley, Western Washington University
Poetry and History: Bengali Maṅgal-kābya and Social Change in Precolonial Bengal analyzes Bengali maṅgal-kābya, a genre of narrative literature. The first essay argues that the didactic purposes of maṅgal-kābya and the performative pleasures based upon satire make them rich sources for historians of precolonial Bengal.

Three essays focus on Caṇḍimaṅgal texts, especially the version by Mukunda Cakrabartῑ, probably written before 1600 AD. They argue that Mukunda uses a ‘scale of transactions’ to describe normative roles for merchants in trade, for women in several status grades, and for warriors and kings who would seek to establish more pacific polities.

Three later essays employ more usual sources for writing social history in order to relate maṅgal-kābya texts to their historical contexts. A study of the gesture of ‘taking up’ pān suggest changing meanings, give the more centralized and bureaucratic claims to authority of the Mughal state. A study of the artistic patronage of Rājā Kṛṣṇacandra of Nadῑyā discovers a novel claim to kingship in Bhārat’candra’s Annadāmaṅgal, and in contemporary temples and temple inscriptions sponsored by the rājā. The final essay suggests that during the initial period of British rule, Lāla Jaẏínārāyaṇ Sen used new stories and new kinds of stories in composing maṅgal-kābya, in order to explore the kinds of agency required by the chaos of distinctly ‘modern’ times.
  • Bengali maṅgal-kābya,
  • Caṇḍimaṅgal texts,
  • Mukunda Cakrabartῑ,
  • Bhārat’candra’s Annadāmaṅgal
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Citation Information
David Curley. Poetry and History: Bengali Maṅgal-kābya and Social Change in Precolonial Bengal. (2008)
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