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Daud Ali, The Many Lives of Bhoja

This monograph will focus on Bhoja himself, and the process of ‘historical mythologization’ to which his life has been subject. The historical Bhoja was clearly a man of exceptional literary talent, who drew to his court an impressive array of savants and poets. Yet during his own lifetime Bhoja’s reputation was confined to Malwa, and it seems to have been only in subsequent centuries that his ‘larger than life’ profile was made. Through analysis of a wide range of sources from the Paramara period up to the sixteenth century (see attached synopsis), the book will discuss how, given the established propensity for ‘distant’ and legendary kings such as Vatsaraja, a recent king like Bhoja could suddenly become such an important figure in the Sanskrit literary tradition’s image of itself. The study will show how this phenomenon seems to have been connected to a new form of historicity, representing a departure from the Sanskrit literary tradition’s biographical and life-historical norms. In order to understand how and why Bhoja’s image changed over time, the discussion will attempt to disaggregate elements of the now composite myth of king Bhoja by isolating narrative strands in specific textual and contextual moments. It will thus suggest what new values the Bhoja cycle embodied in each of its ‘lives’, and what relation these in turn had to the changing literary and political landscape of medieval India.