Sohini Sarah Pillai talks about epics, long narrative poems about heroic events – whether all such poems can be called epics, and how they continue to generate cultural and political material. The conversation covers epic poems ranging from the Iliad to Jack Mitchell’s The Odyssey of Star Wars.

Sohini Pillai is Assistant Professor of Religion at Kalamazoo College where she teaches courses on religious traditions in South Asia. She is a comparatist of South Asian religious literature and her area of specialization is the Mahabharata and Ramayana narrative traditions with a particular focus on retellings created in Hindi and Tamil. She is also the co-editor with Nell Shapiro Hawley of Many Mahabharatas (State University of New York Press, 2021).

Image by Saronik Bosu (This image is a work of fan art that adapts characters from the Star Wars franchise owned by Lucasfilm ltd.)

Music used in promotional material: ‘Yoliyoli’ by 33nano

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Abhishek Avtans talks about the apabhraṃśa, a word that refers to the middle stage of the Indo-Aryan languages, crucial links between ancient languages like Sanskrit, and modern South Asian languages such as Hindi, Bangla, Bhojpuri, Punjabi, Marathi, Nepali, and others. The first mention of apabhraṃśas is in Mahabhasya, a 2nd century BCE text by Patanjali, where the author refers to languages considered deviations from Sanskrit. However, research into apabhraṃśas, for the same reason, has become crucial in dispelling notions of linguistic purity and politics that is dependent on these notions.

Abhishek Avtans is a lecturer of Indic language/s at Leiden University in the Netherlands. He
loves to work on literature and linguistics of languages spoken in south Asia. He has contributed
in making dictionaries of Great Andamanese, Bhojpuri and Brajbhasha. He writes a column
Dialectical for the Himal SouthAsian Magazine. He tweets at @avtansa.

Image: © 2021 Saronik Bosu

(the stanza of verse in the image comes from the text of Bāhubalī rāsa by 13th Century AD Jain poet Shalibhadra Suri, it is an onomatopoeic stanza that describes the activities done by elephants, soldiers and horses.)

Music used in promotional material: “Rajasthani Folk Instrumental Music” by Rupayan Sansthan, Jodhpur, from the collection of Shri Komal Kothari

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