John Nemec

The River of Kings and The Ocean of Stories: Brahmins, Kshatriyas, and Tantrikas in the Rajatarangini and the Kathasaritsagra

In this talk, I explore the narrative elements of two nearly contemporaneous Kashmiri literary works, one a historical account of Kashmiri political and social life, the other a compendium of fictional stories written for a court audience. In doing so, I explore the similarly difficult relationship with tantra on display in both texts. Simultaneously, both works express their respective authors’ strong interest in reinforcing Brahminical norms, in particular, the importance of fidelity to the brahmin-kshatriya alliance. In doing so, the works deploy similar narrative strategies, despite the different genres and supposed purposes of the respective works. By reading these texts in tandem, then, one gains some insight into court attitudes regarding the roles of Brahmins, Kings, and Tantrics in Kashmir around the turn of the twelfth century.