Representations of the Buddha in Persian Literary Culture

When and Where

Friday, October 29, 2021 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm
Online via Zoom


Pegah Shahbaz


Representations of the Buddha in Persian Literary Culture
Pathbreakers: New Postdoctoral Research on South Asia at U of T


Speaker: Dr. Pegah Shahbaz, Postdoctoral Fellow, Centre for South Asian Studies at the Asian Institute
Discussant & Moderator: Professor Christoph Emmrich, Department for the Study of Religion and Director of the Centre for South Asian Studies, Asian Institute

This presentation seeks to shed light on the presence and influence of Buddhism in the Persianate world until the 14th century. In order to better understand the religious exchange among diverse cultures along the Silk Road and to appreciate their diversified and cosmopolite aspects, I will first discuss the interactions among Buddhist and monotheist religions that were present in the region such as Islam, Judaism and Christianity from historical point of view. Secondly, given that our access to Buddhist archeological material in the Iranian Plateau is limited, and the study of the remaining textual material seems pertinent, I will introduce the translations and adaptations of hagiographies of the Buddha in Persian language. The life of Gautama Siddhartha or the Buddha is one of the most renowned narratives of human history that has found its way into many literatures including Middle Persian (Pahlavi) and New Persian (Dari), among which the Belawhar wa Buddhasfparticularly received considerable attention and served as a model for didactic literature. I will explain how the life story of the Buddha was perceived either as history or fiction, and how it was reinterpreted according to Persian cultural and/or religious norms.

Pegah Shahbaz is a specialist of Persian classic literature of Iran, Central and South Asia. She is currently a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Toronto, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy – the Asian Institute, an Associate Member of the Centre d’Études et de Recherches sur l’Inde, l’Asie du Sud et sa Diaspora (CERIAS) at The Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) and the Section Editor of the Fables and Tales Chapter of Perso-Indica Project. She works on questions of narratology, translation and systems of knowledge transmission in the Persianate World, in particular the reception and domestication of Indian religious and cultural heritage in Persianate literary culture of Iran, Central and South Asia.

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