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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Oxford University Press (Oxford Oriental Monograph Series) (2021)

This book is the first in-depth study of the Śaiva oeuvre of the celebrated Sanskrit polymath Appaya Dīkṣita (1520-1593). During nearly three decades, Appaya served at the court of Cinnabomma, an independent Śaiva ruler at Vellore in the Tamil country. Under his patronage, Appaya wrote several polemical treatises and controversial tracts claiming the superiority of Śiva over Viṣṇu-Nārāyaṇa, the deity worshipped by Vaiṣṇavas. His career under Cinnabomma culminated in the establishment of Śivādvaita Vedānta, a prominent school of philosophical theology which not only won Appaya a formidable reputation as a scholar but also established him as a legendary advocate of Śaiva religion in South India. This study sets in its historical context the Śivādvaita work of Appaya and its reception in early modern India. It offers new insights on Appaya's main source of exegesis, Śrīkaṇṭha's Brahmamīmāṃsābhāṣya, and identifies Appaya's key intellectual influences and opponents. It also examines the various hermeneutical strategies he deployed to make his massive theological project a success, and documents how his Śaiva work was critically received and reused in 17th- and 18th-century India. On conceptual and literary-historical grounds, the book demonstrates that Appaya's Śivādvaita project was mainly directed against Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta, the dominant Vaiṣṇava school of theology in his time and place. By uncovering this history, the book presents Appaya Dīkṣita as the first Śaiva scholar to take up the challenge posed by the Śrīvaiṣṇava Vedānta tradition, and also sheds new light on the vibrant intellectual and politically charged milieu behind the emergence of the first ever Śaiva school of Vedānta. Finally, this study aims to provide a more nuanced portrait of Appaya Dīkṣita, the scholar and the religious figure. It presents him not only as a prolific and bold intellectual, but also as a social agent sensitive to the conflicts that set apart Śaivas and Vaiṣṇavas in the decaying Vijayanagara empire. In doing so, this book opens up new possibilities for our understanding of the complex relation between the world of Sanskrit literati and the wider socio-religious world in which they lived, wrote and debated in early modern India.