Representations of the Buddha in Persian Literary Culture

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Friday, October 29th, 2021

Friday, October 29, 20215:00PM - 6:00PMOnline Event, Online Event
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Pathbreakers: New Postdoctoral Research on South Asia at U of T


This presentation seeks to shed light on the presence and influence of Buddhism in the Persianate world until the 14th century. In order to better understand the religious exchange among diverse cultures along the Silk Road and to appreciate their diversified and cosmopolite aspects, I will first discuss the interactions among Buddhist and monotheist religions that were present in the region such as Islam, Judaism and Christianity from historical point of view. Secondly, given that our access to Buddhist archeological material in the Iranian Plateau is limited, and the study of the remaining textual material seems pertinent, I will introduce the translations and adaptations of hagiographies of the Buddha in Persian language. The life of Gautama Siddhartha or the Buddha is one of the most renowned narratives of human history that has found its way into many literatures including Middle Persian (Pahlavi) and New Persian (Dari), among which the Belawhar wa Buddhasf particularly received considerable attention and served as a model for didactic literature. I will explain how the life story of the Buddha was perceived either as history or fiction, and how it was reinterpreted according to Persian cultural and/or religious norms.


Pegah Shahbaz is a specialist of Persian classic literature of Iran, Central and South Asia. She is currently a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Toronto, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy – the Asian Institute, an Associate Member of the Centre d’Études et de Recherches sur l’Inde, l’Asie du Sud et sa Diaspora (CERIAS) at The Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) and the Section Editor of the Fables and Tales Chapter of Perso-Indica Project. She works on questions of narratology, translation and systems of knowledge transmission in the Persianate World, in particular the reception and domestication of Indian religious and cultural heritage in Persianate literary culture of Iran, Central and South Asia.

She was previously Visiting Associate Professor at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Japan (2020), Robert H. N. HO Family Foundation for Buddhist Studies Research Fellow at the American Council for Learned Societies (ACLS- 2019-2020), Visiting Scholar at Leiden University (2017) and McGill University (2017-2019), a Grant Researcher at the University of British Columbia (2018-2019) and a Postdoctoral Fellow at Sorbonne Nouvelle Université – Paris 3 (2014-18), where she worked on the “Perso-Indica” project. She completed her Ph.D. in Persianate Studies at the University of Strasbourg with a specialization in Persian prose narratives in India.

Pegah Shahbaz’s current research project is the study of the fourteenth century historiographies and hagiographies of the Buddha in the Persian language.


Pegah Shahbaz
Postdoctoral Fellow, Centre for South Asian Studies at the Asian Institute

Christoph Emmrich
Associate Professor, Department for the Study of Religion; Director of the Centre for South Asian Studies, Asian Institute

Main Sponsor

Asian Institute


Centre for South Asian Studies

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