Symbols of substance: court and state in Nāyaka Period Tamilnadu

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The book looks at the three major Nayaka states--ruled from Senji, Tanjavur and Madurai, Tiruccirappalli--as well as at minor states located at their periphery. While these states had differing life-spans, developmental patterns, geo-ecological environments, and distinct forms of historical experience, they also shared salient structural and cultural features. At their height, in the early seventeenth century, they encompassed the greater part of the Tamil country. Early chapters set out the fundamental tensions of the period: the social flux caused by the resurgence of certain groups, which had either intruded into the area from the Telugu country, or entered the mainstream of Nayaka society from a marginal position. Related to this is the central paradox of Nayaka kingship-- the tension between inflated claims and the limited scale of kingship. Later sections set out these themes in some detail, and also delineate how such states were founded, what their resource base was, and how this base was portrayed and managed. The book's ambit extends considerably beyond the economic and political, to consider how the social flux of the epoch also found its counterpart in the central themes of Nayaka literature. Specifically, there is a focus on perceptions of the body and bodily mutilation and regeneration (here termed Nayaka anthropology), and on the parodic dialectic that underpins the rhetoric of kingship. Other chapters deal with contestation and war. The final chapter looks to the post-Nayaka transition, focusing once again on the kingdom that appears most of all to epitomize the Nayaka spirit: Tanjavur. What is distinctive about the Nayakas? How do they fit into the wider realities of their time? From what do they derive? How can we understand the emergence of new institutional patterns, of the striking artistic and especially literary creations at the Nayaka courts, of a novel historiography and culture? Supplementing standard sources by an imaginative use of Dutch, Portuguese, Tamil, Sanskrit, and Telugu sources, the authors show how the Nayakas witnessed, and partly produced, a profound shift in the conceptual and institutional bases of South Indian civilization.

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n From Vijayanagara to the Nayakas
IE The Cultural Economy of Nayaka Rule

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About the author (1992)

Velcheru Narayana Rao is Krishan Devaraya Professor of Languages and Cultures of Asia at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. David Shulman is Professor of Indian Studies and Comparative Literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Shulman is Professor of Indian Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Sanjay Subrahmanyam is Professor and Doshi Chair of Indian History at UCLA. His previous publications include The Career and Legend of Vasco da Gama (1997).

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