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The Heirs of Vijayanagara: Court Politics in Early Modern South India by Lennart Bes is a comparative study investigating court politics in four kingdoms that succeeded the south Indian Vijayanagara empire during the 16th to 18th centuries: Ikkeri, Tanjavur, Madurai, and Ramnad. Building on a combination of unexplored Indian texts and Dutch archival records, this research offers a new analysis of political culture, power relations, and dynastic developments.
The monograph provides detailed facts and insights that contest existing scholarship. By highlighting their competitive, fluid, and dynamic nature, it undermines the historiography viewing these courts as harmonic, hierarchic, and static. Far from being remote, ritualised figures, we find kings and Brahmins contesting with other courtiers for power. At the same time, by stressing continuities with the past, this study questions recent scholarship that perceives a fundamentally new form of Nayaka kingship. Thus, this research has important repercussions for the way we perceive both these kingdoms and their ‘medieval’ precursors.
In this session Anirudh Kanisetti will be in conversation with the author Lennart Bes. The conversation will be followed by a Q&A session with the audience.
Lennart Bes is an historian and Indologist studying political culture in south India. He published The Heirs of Vijayanagara: Court Politics in Early Modern South India (Leiden University Press, 2022) and several articles in scholarly journals. He has been teaching Asian history, Dutch overseas history, and archival studies at Leiden University and the University of Tokyo. In the past he was employed at the Netherlands National Archives, where he worked with the records of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and co-authored three archival guides in the series Dutch Sources on South Asia c. 1600-1825 (Manohar Publishers, 2001-15).
Anirudh Kanisetti is the author of Lords of the Deccan, a new history of medieval South India. He is currently Editor at the Museum of Art and Photography. He has received grants from the Princeton Center for Digital Humanities and the India Foundation for the Arts, and his writings and work have been featured in The Hindu, The New Indian Express, and LiveMint, among others. He writes the fortnightly Thinking Medieval column for ThePrint, and the History, Southside column for The Hindustan Times. He hosts two critically acclaimed podcasts – Echoes of India and Yuddha.