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Abstract

This dissertation provides an analysis of the original twentieth-century Sanskrit dramas and poems of V. Raghavan (1908-1979) and examines these texts as evidence for the development of ideas of religion and culture, changes in Sanskrit aesthetics, and notions of nationalist language and cultural politics in colonial and postcolonial India. The analysis asks the fundamental question of what writing in Sanskrit in the twentieth century might have meant and focuses on how Raghavan’s literary works draw on traditional Sanskrit precedents to address modern cultural and religious politics. It investigates how he attempts to fuse the aesthetic and religious in defiance of the religious-secular binary, and how he tries to revive Sanskrit culture. Significant attention is also paid to scrutinizing the author’s messages of religious tolerance as informed by Euro-American understandings of the category of religion. The dissertation considers these modern Sanskrit works as attempting to foster Sanskrit nationalism and a Hindu cultural resurgence within the contours of the postcolonial Indian political sphere. Consideration is also given to what writing in Sanskrit meant for the author as a creative exercise and as a matter of belonging, navigating between tradition and modernity. The study highlights how a modern religious author and thinker recycles the language, literature, and categories of the past to engage creatively with the political realities and intellectual movements of the present.

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