UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The religion of love (Mazhab-e 'Ishq) in the time of colonialism : contradictory articulations of vernacular literary style in eighteenth century India Lone, Mahnoor Ishtiaq


Mazhab-e ‘Ishq (The Religion/School of Love, 1803) was a prose text written at the British colonial College of Fort William—an institution which engendered lasting literary and linguistic transformation in India/Hindustan. This thesis engages with this text and the various social, political, and literary contexts informing its production to create a deeper understanding of pre-colonial Persianate literary culture as well as the ways in which literary culture was transformed in eighteenth century Hindustan. It begins by analyzing the changing attitudes of the East India Company towards Indian languages over the course of the eighteenth century that preceded the foundation of Fort William College. Chapter One argues that the Company’s shift towards patronizing and standardizing the vernacular it labelled as Hindustani, and later as Urdu, was shaped by concurrent changes in its administrative rhetoric and legal and economic policies. The following chapters engage with the text of Mazhab-e ‘Ishq and trace the various affiliations of the text and its writer Nihal Chand Lahori. Chapter Two describes the stylistic ideals of Fort William College’s project as well as the stylistic ideas which shaped the co-terminous production of vernacular poetry in Delhi—away from the colonial ambit. I argue that Lahori’s description of his text as a work in hindī rēkhtā indicates that these latter ideals also influenced the poetics, aesthetics, and intent of his work. The third chapter close-reads the story of Mazhab-e ‘Ishq and explicates upon its connections to the pre-colonial genre of the premākhyān while also exploring how the style and aesthetics used to tell this story in Mazhab-e ‘Ishq were effected by its appropriation into the European category of literature. Through this engagement I attempt to describe how the colonial alteration of stylistic ideals and side-lining of aesthetic finesse influenced the ways in which Persianate stories could be read, understood, and experienced. It argues for reading texts such as Mazhab-e ‘Ishq, which are simultaneously shaped by earlier Persianate traditions and colonial literary projects, in a critical way that allows us to know more about pre-colonial Persianate literary forms as well as their transformation through colonial institutions.

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