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Organizer and Chair: Peter L. Schmitthenner, Virginia Polytechnic Institute
Discussant: Eugene F. Irschick, University of California, Berkeley
Charles Philip Brown (17981884) was the preeminent pioneer Western scholar of the Telugu language and a prodigious scholar of south Indian history and culture. His most visible legacies are the continually reprinted editions of his monumental Telugu dictionaries and his voluminous manuscript collections. These remain indispensable sources for the study of south Indian literature, history, and culture. This interdisciplinary panel reassesses aspects of Browns scholarship in the broader context of south Indian studies, past and present.
In his paper, Daniel DAttilio suggests that Browns study of Telugu Virashaiva traditionswhich highlighted the religions folk underpinnings and the role of Aradhya Brahmins in developing an elite form of the religioncan considerably enhance understanding of Virashaivism beyond its conventional focus on northern Karnataka-based traditions. Peter Schmitthenners paper demonstrates how Browns scholarship on Telugu language and literature played an instrumental role in redefining Telugu culture, but only through crucial dialogue with the indigenous Telugu literati. Providing a contrasting disciplinary perspective to the preceding papers by historians, Gene Roghair contends that Brown had a holistic vision of Telugu, which has contributed to the continuing multidimensional growth of the language and its literature.
The panelists thus argue that C. P. Browns scholarly legacy continues to serve as an important and insightful source for studying and reconceptualizing south Indian cultures, particularly of the Andhra region. This panel should especially foster useful dialogue into better understanding the nature and legacy of Orientalist knowledge produced by scholars of south India such as Brown.
Challenging Current Virashaiva Historiography: C. P. Browns Study of the Role of Folklore and Aradhya Brahmins in the Evolution of Elite Virashaivism in Telugu
Daniel DAttilio, University of Wisconsin, Madison
The historiography of Virashaivism has focused on Karnataka, where the vast majority of Lingayats, self-confessed followers of Virashaivism, now reside. Since we can trace a significant portion of Virashaiva historiography to scholars who received their education at Karnatak University in Dharwad, todays definition of Virashaivism looks very much like Virashaivism in northern Karnataka. Indeed, the very success and leadership displayed by northern Karnataka scholars has resulted in a localized perception of Virashaivism. Since Lingayats, who form a distinct caste, have served as the primary focus of Virashaiva historiography, Virashaivisms folk roots and expansion in regions outside of northern Karnataka have been left relatively unexplored. This is tragic in light of the fact that folk Virashaivism remains virulent in Andhra Pradesh. In the late medieval period, the greatest works of Virashaiva poetry were composed by Telugu poets like Mallikarjuna Pandita and Palkuriki Somanatha. These poets embellished popular stories of folk heroes and devotees as a means of transmitting Virashaiva doctrine and practice. The first scholar to seriously study these devotee hagiographies was C. P. Brown, who used this analysis and his personal observation of Virashaiva communities to relate Virashaivism to other religious traditions. Browns studies of Virashaivism highlighted the religions folk underpinnings and revealed the central role played by Aradhya Brahmins, in the development of its elite form. Thus, it seems certain that as long as Browns studies are neglected, our understanding of Virashaiva history is likely to remain skewed.
Merging the Literati with the Subaltern: C. P. Brown and the Redefinition of Telugu Culture
Peter L. Schmitthenner, Virginia Polytechnic Institute
Many contemporary scholars tend to narrowly assess the work of Orientalists in the context of a discourse of colonial or neo-colonial domination. Challenging this view, this paper argues that Telugu culture became redefined less through such domination, but more through the interaction between indigenous and exterior forces.
How C. P. Browns scholarship fit into this dialogue is the principle focus of this paper. At the surface, Browns work on Telugu lexicography and his efforts at amassing, editing, and publishing Telugu literature could be viewed as means of enhancing colonial control over Telugu peoples. But this view neglects Browns attention to resuscitating more colloquial Telugu voices, predominantly of non-Brahmin peoples, which had been suppressed by pre-colonial indigenous forms of domination. But while doing so, Brown retained admiration for the more mainstream Brahminic classical literature and recognized the authority of the predominantly Brahmin literati. Indeed, this literati continued to control the production of Telugu literary knowledge and resisted Browns efforts to legitimize "subaltern" strands of Telugu literature.
Neither Brown nor other Orientalists could thus reshape Telugu literary culture single-handedly. This process only reached fulfillment through the efforts of the Telugu literati, some of whom began to model, only in part, Browns efforts during the closing decades of the nineteenth century. Thus, rather symbolizing colonial domination, Browns scholarship formed a key part of a dialogue between multiple voices, both indigenous and foreign, which ultimately gave birth to a new definition of Telugu culture.
The Holistic Telugu Vision of Charles Philip Brown
Gene H. Roghair, Independent Scholar
The study of any language can proceed along a number of productive paths. The paths chosen largely determine what will be discovered and to whom it will be useful. Rare individuals see language as an organic whole within which a multiplicity of living, interactive and interdependent organisms abound. An individual who contacts the power of such a system can help it flourish for the benefit of all participants and contribute to understanding on a global scale. C. P. Brown seems to have had such a holistic view of Telugu language and culture. Eschewing limited views of what constitutes valid Telugu language, he did not deviate from his vision of the language as a whole. Consequently, it is difficult to find an area of Telugu scholarship which has not been touched by his work. My own work with oral epics and a medieval text illustrates our present dependence on Browns contributions. Novelists such as R. V. Sastry suggest the continuing evolution of the language since Browns time. Language that is free from the limitation of military, political, economic or sectarian authority allows for the global dissemination of knowledge. As the tireless promoter of Telugu scholarship of many kinds, C. P. Brown was an important citizen of the Telugu country, India, and the world.