South Asia Work in Progress (SAWIP) Roundtable for Scholars of South Asia
'Seven days of nectar: the oral performance of the Bhāgavatapurāṇa'
A vast ocean of humanity receding as far as the eye can see—perhaps as many as 20,000 devotees shelter from the blistering Bombay sun in a cavernous marquee. For many hours each day, for seven days on end, they sit in rapt attention. At the front of the marquee a painted backdrop shows big-eyed Indian cattle and boyish cowherds disporting themselves in a stylised sylvan landscape. In the centre of the stage, on a raised dais, an immaculately groomed speaker holds this vast audience in thrall. Devotees drink in his stories about the deity Viṣṇu and that deity’s most significant avatāra, the beloved Kṛṣṇa. The speaker expertly interweaves verses from the great Sanskrit classic the Bhāgavatapurāṇa with commentary and devotional songs in Hindi. For many in the audience the experience is deeply moving; for some, it is life changing—seven days of nectar. What makes it so? What is it about these week-long ritual performances that attracts, retains and transforms those who attend? What spiritual thirsts and social needs do they satisfy, that they should seem grow each year in size and number?
South Asia Work in Progress (SAWIP) is an interdisciplinary forum for scholars of South Asia to present their ‘works in progress’ in a small-group setting. It forms part of the activities of Wolfson’s South Asia Research Cluster and is convened in partnership with the Contemporary South Asian Studies Programme.
As a forum, SAWIP offers a friendly verbal peer-review environment for the presentation and discussion of journal articles, book proposals, research projects and any other kind of research undertaking, at all stages of production from ‘sketchy’ to ‘close to press’.
It aims to unite scholars from a range of disciplinary backgrounds and provide a space to explore both the craft of research and ways of approaching scholarship on South Asia.