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India and Civilizational FuturesBackwaters Collective on Metaphysics and Politics II$
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Vinay Lal

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780199499069

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199499069.001.0001

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History and Allegory

History and Allegory

Affinities between the Puranas and Kabir

(p.157) 6 History and Allegory
India and Civilizational Futures

Milind Wakankar

Oxford University Press

The first half of the chapter uses the case of Prahlada to make the point that the Puranic understanding of history implies a transition from a dark prehistory into the historicity of the Puranic present. The second part of the chapter suggests that this Puranic notion of a prehistory has affinities with the interiorized physiognomy of the soul typical of Kabir, which in turn has ties with Indo-Persian dastan literature. The key argument is that both the Puranas and Kabir speak to an ‘I’ that is yet to come, so that our standard account of Kabir’s seemingly proto-‘secular’ disregard for religious distinctions would have to be revised. Instead, one could argue that what is at stake for Kabir’s nirgun (hence its lure for subaltern communities) is an original embrace of difference as negativity, and only secondarily an understanding of what is ‘non-in-different’ in faith.

Keywords:   prehistory, nirgun, allegory, annihilation, buddhism, puranas, Kabir

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