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	The Woodcutter’s Tale (Kaṭhiyārōnī Kahāṇī): Historicizing the Indic Narrative Prayers of the Khōjā Caste

The Woodcutter’s Tale (Kaṭhiyārōnī Kahāṇī): Historicizing the Indic Narrative Prayers of the Khōjā Caste

Iqbal AKHTAR

15 septembre 2014 | 14h - 16h30

[salle 662, 190 avenue de France 75013 Paris]

 

The Khōjā, an Indic Muslim caste dispersed throughout the Western Indian Ocean littoral in the 19th century, observed narrative prayers and rituals based on a tale of a woodcutter. The woodcutter falls on hard times and meets Ali, the nephew of Muhammad, in a forest and appeals to the master for succour. He is instructed to complete domestic rituals, including a fast, on a particular day each year and doing so becomes prosperous. One year he forgets the ritual and a great calamity befalls him and his family, which is resolved through his wife’s reestablishment of the ritual narrative. This study is based on various versions of this narrative collected from Sindh and Gujarat to Zanzibar from the 19th and 20th centuries as manuscripts and printed texts in Sindhi, Kacchī, Gujarati, and English. Philologically, the evolution of the narrative provides important historical details on the migration of the community from Sindh to Gujarat and the development of the community’s modern Islamic identity. For instance, the title of the tale from the earliest manuscript in the Khōjā script (khōjkī) is ‘The Fast of the Seventh Day’ (sata'īmājō rōjō), which can be (mis)read as ‘The Fast of the Goddess’. In the printed Gujarati script, a new title is foregrounded ‘The Miracle of the Master’ (maulājō mōjījō), which is unambiguously Islamic in reference to Ali. Details within these narratives, when read as an oral tradition, can be useful in reconstructing the geographic transmission of ideas and establishment of Near Eastern authority in the creation of a modern Asian Muslim identity.

 

Iqbal Akhtar is an assistant professor of Religious Studies and Politics & International Relations at the public Florida International University in Miami. He completed his doctoral programme at the University of Edinburgh’s New College School of Divinity. His forthcoming book is a multidisciplinary historical reconstruction of the development of Khōjā religious identity in Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam.

EHESS
CNRS

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