Culture of Encounters: Sanskrit at the Mughal Court.

Columbia University Press, 2016 and Allen Lane (Penguin India), 2016

*Winner of the 2017 AHA John F. Richards Prize for South Asian History

Culture of Encounters documents the fascinating exchange between the Persian-speaking Islamic elite of the Mughal Empire and traditional Sanskrit scholars, which engendered a dynamic idea of Mughal rule essential to the empire's survival. This history begins with the invitation of Brahman and Jain intellectuals to King Akbar's court in the 1560s, then details the numerous Mughal-backed texts they and their Mughal interlocutors produced under emperors Akbar, Jahangir (1605–1627), and Shah Jahan (1628–1658). Many works, including Sanskrit epics and historical texts, were translated into Persian, elevating the political position of Brahmans and Jains and cultivating a voracious appetite for Indian writings throughout the Mughal world.

The first book to read these Sanskrit and Persian works in tandem, Culture of Encounters recasts the Mughal Empire as a polyglot polity that collaborated with its Indian subjects to envision its sovereignty. The work also reframes the development of Brahman and Jain communities under Mughal rule, which coalesced around carefully selected, politically salient memories of imperial interaction. Along with its groundbreaking findings, Culture of Encounters certifies the critical role of the sociology of empire in building the Mughal polity, which came to irrevocably shape the literary and ruling cultures of early modern India.

In Culture of Encounters, Audrey Truschke makes a compelling argument for the importance of Sanskrit and Sanskrit intellectuals in the Mughal court. Although certain aspects of these 'encounters' have been researched before, Truschke's work is more comprehensive, and her precise textual analyses go further than any others so far. This is an important and impressive work that should change the field of Mughal studies. -Francesca Orsini, SOAS, University of London

A remarkable achievement. Exploiting a substantial archive of Sanskrit materials, Truschke reveals a vibrantly multicultural Mughal court, one more thoroughly Indian than is commonly thought, owing to its close engagement with the land's oldest literary culture. -Richard M. Eaton, University of Arizona

Cultures of Encounter is a breakthrough in modern scholarship on the history and culture of South Asia. This absorbing account of the interaction of Persian and Sanskrit offers a powerful corrective to conventional one-sided narratives. -Carl W. Ernst, University of North Carolina

Buy Culture of Encounters from CUP and AmazonIndian edition


Stanford University Press, 2017; Penguin India, 2017; Oxford University Press-Karachi, 2017.

The Mughal emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir is one of the most hated men in Indian history. Widely reviled as a religious fanatic who sought to violently oppress Hindus, he is even blamed by some for setting into motion conflicts that would result in the creation of a separate Muslim state in South Asia. In her lively overview of his life and influence, Audrey Truschke offers a clear-eyed perspective on the public debate over Aurangzeb and makes the case for why his often-maligned legacy deserves to be reassessed.

Aurangzeb was arguably the most powerful and wealthiest ruler of his day. His nearly 50-year reign (1658–1707) had a profound influence on the political landscape of early modern India, and his legacy—real and imagined—continues to loom large in India and Pakistan today. Truschke evaluates Aurangzeb not by modern standards but according to the traditions and values of his own time, painting a picture of Aurangzeb as a complex figure whose relationship to Islam was dynamic, strategic, and sometimes contradictory. This book invites students of South Asian history and religion into the world of the Mughal Empire, framing the contemporary debate on Aurangzeb's impact and legacy in accessible and engaging terms.

Basing her judgments on a careful reading of contemporary Persian chronicles and European traveler accounts, Audrey Truschke presents a fresh, balanced, and much-needed survey of one of the most controversial figures in Indian history. Crucially, the author insists on evaluating the man in terms of the norms and traditions of his own day, and not those of later, more polarized times. —Richard M. Eaton, University of Arizona

Following British historians of the colonial era, Indian nationalists used the last and most controversial of the great Mughals in ways that simultaneously distorted Mughal history and served as a goad to Hindu cultural renewal. Audrey Truschke's project of looking at Emperor Aurangzeb afresh is thus a welcome and timely one and will interest readers in academia and beyond. —Barbara D. Metcalf, University of California, Davis

Truschke argues with wit and enthusiasm. —Maxwell Carter, Wall Street Journal

A learned intervention by a fine scholar. —Harbans Mukhia, JNU, Delhi

Overall, Aurangzeb is a fascinating biography of an emperor who continues to dominate the contemporary discourse on the Hindu-Muslim relationship and beyond. Strongly recommended for everyone, scholars, students and general readers, Aurangzeb is an example of how historical biographies of complex characters can be written. —Akshaya Mukul, The Hindu

A remarkably lucid book that takes Hindutva history head on… Between her book and her social media presence, Truschke’s model of engagement is something that other academics and, especially, historians would do well to emulate.  —Shoaib Daniyal, Scroll.in

     Read excerpts from the OUP-Pakistan edition of Aurangzeb, the Shivaji chapter, here.

     Read about the politics and controversy surrounding Aurangzeb, here.

Buy Aurangzeb from Amazon.com (USA), Amazon.in (India) and OUP-Pakistan (Pakistan).

Scholarly Articles

(also see her academia.edu profile; for her popular articles, please see the public scholar page)

“The Power of the Islamic Sword in Narrating the Death of Indian Buddhism.” History of Religions 57.4 (2018): 406-435. here.

“Deceptive Familiarity: European Perceptions of Access at the Mughal Court.” In The Key to Power? The Culture of Access in Princely Courts, 1400-1700, edited by Dries Raeymaekers and Sebastiaan Derks, 65-99. Leiden: Brill, 2016. here.

“Contested History: Brahmanical Memories of Relations with the Mughals.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 58.4 (2015): 419-452. here.

“Dangerous Debates: Jain Responses to Theological Challenges at the Mughal Court.” Modern Asian Studies 49.5 (2015): 1311-1344. here.

“Regional Perceptions: Writing to the Mughal Court in Sanskrit.” In Cosmopolitismes en Asie du Sud. Sources, itinéraires, langues (XVIe-XVIIIe siècle), edited by Corinne Lefèvre, Ines Županov, and Jorge Flores, 251-274. Paris: Editions de l’EHESS, 2015. here.

“Reimagining the ‘Idol Temple of Hindustan’: Textual and Visual Translation of Sanskrit Texts in Mughal India,” co-authored with Qamar Adamjee. In Pearls on a String: Artists, Patrons, and Poets at the Great Islamic Courts, edited by Amy Landau, 141-165. Baltimore: Walters Art Museum; Seattle: University of Washington Press: 2015. here.

“Defining the Other: An Intellectual History of Sanskrit Lexicons and Grammars of Persian.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 40.6 (2012): 635-668. here.

“Setting the Record Wrong: A Sanskrit Vision of Mughal Conquests.” South Asian History and Culture 3.3 (2012): 373-396. here.

“The Mughal Book of War: A Persian Translation of the Sanskrit Mahabharata.” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 31.2 (2011): 506-520. here.

Short Articles

“Jains and Muslims,” Brill's Encyclopedia of Jainism (published online in 2019; print in 2020). here.

“Mughal Lite.” Open Magazine (November 2018). here.

“Translating the Solar Cosmology of Sacred Kingship.” Medieval History Journal 19.1 (2016): 136-141. here.

“Indo-Persian Translations: A Disruptive Past.” Seminar 671 (July 2015). here.

“Jainism and Islam” articles, Jainpedia.org (2012). Four articles on: Jainism and Islam, Jains and the Delhi Sultanate, Jains and the Mughals, Jains and Muslim Iconoclasm. here.


“A Mughal Debate about Jain Asceticism.” In The Empires of the Near East and India: Sources Studies of the Safavid, Ottoman, and Mughal Literate Communities, edited by Hani Khafipour, 107-123. New York: Columbia University Press, 2019. here.

“Mughal Sanskrit Literature: The Book of WarTreasury of Compassion and the .” In The Empires of the Near East and India: Sources Studies of the Safavid, Ottoman, and Mughal Literate Communities, edited by Hani Khafipour, 450-477. New York: Columbia University Press, 2019. here.