Ayesha A. Irani – Yoga for the Bengali Darveś

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7:00 pm to 8:30 pm
SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies
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About this event

SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies is pleased to host Ayesha A. Irani, Associate Professor of Asian Studies at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, for a lecture entitled “Yoga for the Bengali Darveś: Prescriptions of the Jñāna Pradīpa, A Seventeenth-Century Sufi Practice Manual.”

This paper focuses upon the Jñāna Pradīpa (“Lamp of Knowlege”), ascribed to Saiyad Sultān (fl. 1615–1645), the author of the Nabīvaṃśa (“The Prophet’s Lineage”). This Sufi practice manual provides insight into the devotional imaginaire and esoteric practices of the Bengali darveś. Reading the text in the context of other similar Islamic Bangla works suggests that the Sufis of Bengal employed various technologies of haṭha yoga and immortality practices that they recast within an Islamic framework.


Ayesha A. Irani is a scholar of Islam in South Asia, with a particular interest in the early modern Islamic Bangla literature of Bengal and Arakan. She is an Associate Professor of Asian Studies at the University of Massachusetts-Boston and was awarded a PhD with distinction from University of Pennsylvania (2011). Irani is author of The Muhammad Avatāra: Salvation History, Translation, and the Making of Bengali Islam published by Oxford University Press (2021).


Ayesha Irani’s carefully researched study shows how a monumental Bengali epic, Saiyad Sultan’s Nabīvaṃśa, became canonical for Bengali Muslims between the mid-1600s and the late 1800s, just when that community was becoming consolidated. Exploring how the epic subtly co-opted Hindu culture while simultaneously adapting the Qur’an to the culture of Bengal’s rural masses, this book will be essential reading for students of both religious studies and South Asian history.

––– Richard M. Eaton, author of The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204–1760.