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Safavid and Mughal Empires in Contact: Intellectual and Religious Exchanges between Iran and India in Early Modern Period


CERES Palais, room "Ruhrpott" (4.13)

The workshop will investigate intellectual and religious contacts in and between Safavid Iran and Mughal India in the 16th and 17th centuries. In the early modern period, Iran and North India witnessed fundamental cultural changes which profoundly formed their new identity. The rulers of Iran at the time, the Safavids (1501-1722), proclaimed Shīʿī Islam as the state religion; The Mughal emperors (1526-1858) fostered an environment in India, where Islam, Hindu-religions, Christianity and Zoroastrianism came more intensively in dialogue. Not only numerous syncretistic trends arose from these entangled situation, but the contacts impacted the respective religions as well. Moderated Indian rulers invited for example the representatives of different religions to the court to dispute. They moreover supported translations of the Sanskrit religious texts into Persian which were received in Safavid Iran as well. One might mention the Persian translation of Upanishads in this period which found its way to Europe and resulted in the acquaintance of the Europeans with this philosophical work. The open religious environment of Mughal India was for Iranian intellectuals so attractive that many of them traveled or even migrated to India. It was due to these migrations that scholastic teachings of Islamic theology started in major cities of India. These interactions between Safavid Iran and Mughal India enhanced the religious and intellectual thoughts between the two lands and in-between. It is in-between of these two religious zones where some new syncretistic philosophical and religious movements as Āẓar Keywānīs should be located. Moreover, the religious activities at one of these courts seem to have been animated by the other. Scrutinizing these topics are the goals of this proposed workshop.