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Hinduism Bhakti
by
Tracy Coleman

Introduction

The Sanskrit term “bhakti” is generally translated as “devotion” and refers to a variety of Hindu traditions in which devotees experience a direct relationship with the divine. Such divinity may be conceptualized as an incarnate personal deity or as the formless metaphysical essence of the cosmos, and modes or moods of devotion thus vary accordingly, ranging from contemplative forms of yoga to outbursts of passionate love. Expressed as loyalty to God incarnate in human form, bhakti in the Sanskrit epics is typically consistent with the demands of Brahmanical dharma, but devotion that defies social and religious norms is widely celebrated in later texts and traditions, with women and low-caste men among the most famous devotees, their poetic verse an enduring inspiration to others seeking salvation without the benefit of orthodox privileges and rituals. Flourishing in diverse linguistic and regional expressions, bhakti traditions reflect a wide variety of religious movements, some conceiving bhakti as intensely personal devotion, others finding in bhakti the power of social and political reform.

General Overviews

Overviews of bhakti generally privilege certain texts, regions, or traditions, but all are useful in offering a unique perspective on the broad topic. Lorenzen 2004 covers the foundations of bhakti in Sanskrit texts and various figures in later South and North Indian movements but is less helpful on Shaktism and Shaivism, while Geaves 2008 includes discussion of Shaivas, Shaktas, and Sufis but little on textual foundations. In an introductory textbook on Hinduism, Flood 1996 includes four chapters on bhakti that together address Vaishnavism, Shaivism, and Shaktism, with attention to tantric practices. Fuller 1992 likewise includes two chapters on bhakti traditions in an introductory text specifically focused on popular Hinduism within an anthropological framework. Lutgendorf 2003 provides a detailed and very useful bibliographic essay on bhakti literature (including both translations and scholarly studies), indexed according to regions and figures. Carman 2005 offers a brief encyclopedia article with a theological viewpoint.

  • Carman, John B. “Bhakti.” In Encyclopedia of Religion Vol. 2. 2d ed. Edited by Lindsay Jones, 856–860. Detroit, MI: Macmillan Reference, 2005.

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    A brief but useful overview that defines bhakti as love and intimate participation between humans and the divine in a range of sometimes intense emotions. Compares and contrasts bhakti and yoga and discusses various figures and movements.

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  • Flood, Gavin. An Introduction to Hinduism. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

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    Two chapters on Vaishnavism with detailed discussion of its narrative foundations as well as later vernacular traditions and sectarian developments. One chapter on Shaivism that addresses several schools and related tantric traditions. One chapter on Shaktism with some attention to sacrifice, tantric practice, and village goddesses.

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  • Fuller, C. J. The Camphor Flame: Popular Hinduism and Society in India. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992.

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    Includes two chapters on bhakti viewed from a popular and anthropological perspective, with attention to Rādhā and bhajanas (devotional singing), the Rāmānandī and the Swāmīnārāyan orders, gurus, and goddesses and women with a focus on South India, the goddess Mīṉākṣī, and related traditions.

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  • Geaves, Ron. “Bhakti Movement.” In Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Edited by Denise Cush, Catherine Robinson, and Michael York, 89–97. London and New York: Routledge, 2008.

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    Covers Rāmānuja and Śrī Vaishnavism, Vallabha and the Puṣṭi Mārga, Caitanya and Gauḍīya Vaishnavism, Shaivism and Shaktism, nirguṇa (aniconic) bhakti, Sants, Sikhs, and Sufis.

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  • Lorenzen, David N. “Bhakti.” In The Hindu World. Edited by Sushil Mittal and Gene Thursby, 185–209. New York: Routledge, 2004.

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    Covers the textual foundations of Hindu bhakti (the Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad, the Bhagavad Gita, the Devī Māhātmya, and the Bhāgavata Purāṇa); the Alvars and Vīraśaivas; the Vārkarīs; North Indian varṇadharmī bhakti (of bhaktas such as Tulsīdās and Sūrdās who accept Brahmanical dharma, including caste); and North Indian avarṇadharmī bhakti (of bhaktas such as Kabīr, Raidās, and Mīrābāī, who at least in part reject Brahmanical standards of dharma related to caste and gender).

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  • Lutgendorf, Philip. “Medieval Devotional Traditions: An Annotated Survey of Recent Scholarship.” In The Study of Hinduism. Edited by Arvind Sharma, 200–260. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2003.

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    An excellent bibliographic essay, including sections on Vaishnavism and Shaivism in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka; Telugu and Maharashtrian traditions; tantra, yoga, and Shaivism in Kashmir; various Krishna and Rama traditions in northern India; Sikhs; goddess traditions; and a section on anthologies.

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Defining the Term

Given that bhakti takes many forms and appears in diverse ritual, philosophical, and historical milieus, straightforward definitions are only limitedly useful yet provide a foundation for comparison and contextualization. The citations in this section thus explore particular meanings while demonstrating the complexity of the term. Carman 1983 considers diverse expressions of bhakti within the broad cross-cultural and comparative context of “theistic mysticism.” Ramanujan 1981 explores bhakti as a “localization” of religious experience enabling various relationships characterized by divine-human intimacy. The essays in Hawley 2007 question the notion of bhakti as “movement” in the sense of a unified social and religious force in Indian history, a “movement” that invites participation among people of all castes and classes and offers a universal path to salvation. Analyzing Shaiva and Vaishnava poetry in Tamil, Cutler 1987 formulates a theory of bhakti poetry as religious experience, simultaneously personal and communal, and Sharma 2002 offers a sustained and detailed reflection on academic definitions of bhakti and the bhakti movement, arguing that early Western Indologists defined bhakti according to their monotheistic Christian biases and that such misrepresentations of bhakti in South Asian traditions still inform more recent scholarly discourse.

  • Carman, John B. “Conceiving Hindu ‘Bhakti’ as Theistic Mysticism.” In Mysticism and Religious Traditions. Edited by Steven T. Katz, 191–225. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983.

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    Considers the applicability of the category of “mysticism” to Indian bhakti traditions. Reviews previous comparative approaches from both Christian and Hindu perspectives, such as Rudolph Otto and Surendranath Dasgupta. Reflects on monistic versus dualistic conceptions of the “mystical” experience and on various modes (or moods) of relationship between the human and the divine in Hindu traditions.

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  • Cutler, Norman. Songs of Experience: The Poetics of Tamil Devotion. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987.

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    Offers a theory of Tamil bhakti poetry, based on a close study of both Shaiva and Vaishnava hymns, that explores the poets’ communication with both God and, later, audience in ritual performance; thus emphasizes bhakti poetry as religious experience, simultaneously personal and communal.

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  • Hawley, John Stratton, ed. Special Issue: The Bhakti Movement—Says Who? International Journal of Hindu Studies 11.3 (December 2007).

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    Essays on the theme of bhakti as “movement” explore devotional traditions in specific linguistic regions (Tamil, Marathi, Gujarati, and Hindi), historical periods, performance traditions, and sectarian developments, showing that bhakti is in fact dynamic but not a unified movement that defies all social and religious boundaries.

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  • Ramanujan, A. K., trans. Hymns for the Drowning: Poems for Viṣṇu. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981.

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    Translation from Tiruvāymoḻi and Tiruviruttam by Nammāḻvār. The Afterword discusses bhakti broadly as a “localization” of religion, expressed in vernacular languages and manifested in particular landscapes, temples, icons, and communities, wherein grace is experienced intimately as possession and love.

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  • Sharma, Krishna. Bhakti and the Bhakti Movement: A New Perspective; A Study in the History of Ideas. 2d ed. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 2002.

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    Contends that Western scholars have defined bhakti primarily in Vaishnava terms, in contrast to Śaṅkara’s Advaita Vedanta, and have privileged saguṇa over nirguṇa (iconic over aniconic) traditions, thus defining bhakti as “devotion to a personal God,” in opposition to jnana (knowledge). Aims to expose the diversity of Indian devotional traditions and the fallacy of unitary approaches. First published in 1987.

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Historical Studies

Although theological definitions of bhakti (love, devotion, participation in the divine, and so forth) are helpful in certain contexts, such essentialist readings often belie the ideological functions of bhakti in specific historical circumstances. The articles listed in this section, by contrast, explore bhakti in particular times and places, demonstrating how bhakti defines socioreligious identity and legitimates or resists ideologies of power and privilege. Examining evidence of bhakti in ancient and medieval Jainism, for example, Cort 2002 proposes that the history of bhakti in South Asia involves Jains and Buddhists in interaction with Vaishnavas, Shaivas, and others and that the various devotional practices defining their respective traditions were also mutually influential. Monius 2004 elaborates on such interactions in a study of Shaivas and Jains in medieval South India, showing how Shaiva bhakti is construed in the Periya Purāṇam as impassioned, heroic, and communal, in deliberate contrast to Jain ideals of asceticism and nonviolence. Champakalakshmi 2004 likewise discusses Āḻvār and Nāyaṉār competition with Jains and Buddhists as central to the historical development of bhakti in South India and argues that, beyond pious devotion to Shiva or Vishnu, bhakti became an ideology in the service of kings and empires. Considering various “discourses of power in early medieval India” (p. 157), Ali 2000 argues further that Vaishnavas and Shaivas deployed bhakti as a courtly ideology in order to legitimate new models of sovereignty that linked God and king as masculine Lord and simultaneously feminized bhaktas in their willing social and religious servitude. With respect to bhakti and resistance to foreign domination, Pauwels 2009 explores the military history of the mid-16th-century religious renaissance of Vraja and shows how bhakti was employed by Madhukar Shāh to legitimate local power and independence in relation to the Mughal empire. With respect to North India more generally, Lorenzen 1995 finds distinct forms of bhakti to be linked not simply to theological abstractions but also to social ideologies that define identity and community either in support of hegemonic power structures or against them. Pinch 2003 examines devotionalist sentiments during British imperialism and argues that values shared between Christians and Hindus supported the imperialist project, as both rulers and ruled understood their service to the empire in common religious terms. Lorenzen 1999 refutes the claim that Hinduism was invented in the 19th century and contends rather that a distinct Hindu identity already reflected in ancient texts was further emphasized as a result of Hindu-Muslim rivalry, especially between 1200 and 1500 CE.

  • Ali, Daud. “From Nāyikā to Bhakta: A Genealogy of Female Subjectivity in Early Medieval India.” In Invented Identities: The Interplay of Gender, Religion, and Politics in India. Edited by Julia Leslie and Mary McGee, 157–180. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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    Finds that the prominent female voice in medieval bhakti represents not a subversion of patriarchy but rather a transformation of patriarchal power in which the once “independent woman” (nāyikā) becomes a subservient bhakta in diverse religio-political discourses that celebrate masculine sovereignty in both kingdom and household.

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  • Champakalakshmi, R. “From Devotion and Dissent to Dominance: The Bhakti of the Tamil Āḻvārs and Nāyaṉārs.” In Religious Movements in South Asia, 600–1800. Edited by David N. Lorenzen, 47–80. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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    Argues that the rise of Tamil bhakti as a protest against Jains and Buddhists must be seen in a context of competition for royal patronage and that bhakti’s promise of universal salvation pacified the lower castes even as bhakti in various forms became a royal ideology of domination and expansion.

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  • Cort, John E. “Bhakti in the Early Jain Tradition: Understanding Devotional Religion in South Asia.” History of Religions 42.1 (August 2002): 59–86.

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    Finds evidence of bhakti in early Jain ritual and doctrine. Argues that such practices were not borrowed from Hindus, that guru bhakti in ancient Buddhism and Jainism must therefore be considered sources of devotional practices, and that definitions of bhakti must be broadened to include various expressions, from “sober veneration to frenzied possession” (p. 85).

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  • Lorenzen, David N. “Introduction: The Historical Vicissitudes of Bhakti Religion.” In Bhakti Religion in North India: Community Identity and Political Action. Edited by David N. Lorenzen, 1–32. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995.

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    Argues that saguṇī and nirguṇī schools of bhakti differ not only in their conceptions of ultimate reality (respectively worshipping a divine being “with” or “without” qualities) but also that the former support social, religious, and economic inequalities while the latter represent a force of resistance to such hegemonic discourse and practice. Reprint, New Delhi: Manohar, 1996.

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  • Lorenzen, David N. “Who Invented Hinduism?” Comparative Studies in Society and History 41.4 (October 1999): 630–659.

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    Argues that Hinduism is not a colonial construct but rather a tradition shaped over many centuries, as core Hindu values from ancient history necessarily changed in relation to various challenges and agendas, both foreign and domestic, particularly the late-medieval encounter with Muslims.

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  • Monius, Anne E. “Love, Violence, and the Aesthetics of Disgust: Śaivas and Jains in Medieval South India.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 32 (2004): 113–172.

    DOI: 10.1023/B:INDI.0000020898.04782.7aSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that the heroic and expressly violent Shaiva bhakti in the Periya Purāṇam represents a polemical devotional aesthetic in response to the Jain narrative Cīvakacintāmaṇi and that Shaivas are thereby reclaiming love and heroism as literary and religious values fit for kings and warriors, including the royal patrons they sought to attract.

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  • Pauwels, Heidi. “The Saint, the Warlord, and the Emperor: Discourses of Braj Bhakti and Bundelā Loyalty.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 52 (2009): 187–228.

    DOI: 10.1163/156852009X434337Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Studies the 16th-century development of Vraja as a religious center in relation to its political and military history and shows how discourses of bhakti informed political negotiations between the Mughal empire and local rulers, especially the Bundelā Madhukar Shāh.

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  • Pinch, Vijay. “Bhakti and the British Empire.” Past and Present 179 (May 2003): 159–196.

    DOI: 10.1093/past/179.1.159Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the lives and work of George Abraham Grierson and Sītārāmsharan Bhagavān Prasād and argues that the period of British imperialism was not simply about unidirectional British domination and Indian subordination or resistance but that devotional ethics among the people were similar in India and Victorian Britain and that these “interpenetrating devotions” produced religious values that sustained the empire.

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Poetry Anthologies

Across the subcontinent, poetry remains a celebrated medium of bhakti, with the songs of great bhaktas not simply read in silence but publicly sung by a variety of performers, who often dramatize the lyrics for their audience. Anthologies of poetry introduce such songs and their composers, typically discussing poetic and performative aspects of devotion. Two collections in this section present Shaiva poets and poetry. Peterson 1989 provides selections from Nāyaṉārs, devotees of Shiva who composed songs in Tamil from the 6th to the 8th century, while Ramanujan 1973 offers an anthology of 10th- to 12th-century Vīraśaiva songs translated from Kannada. Two collections, one from South India and one from Bengal, portray Vaishnava poets and poetry: Jackson 1998 translates a selection of songs from three 16th-century devotees of Vishnu whose lyrics are composed in Kannada and Telugu; and Dimock and Levertov 1981 offers a collection of 15th- to 17th-century songs in praise of Krishna translated from Bengali. One collection introduces a variety of poets from both nirguṇa and saguṇa traditions (aniconic and iconic, respectively). Hawley and Juergensmeyer 1988 provides translations of North Indian Hindi songs dated roughly to the 15th and 16th centuries. One collection presents Shakta (Śākta) poets and poetry. McDermott 2001 is an anthology of Bengali songs to Kālī and Umā from the 18th to the late 20th centuries.

  • Dimock, Edward C., Jr., and Denise Levertov, trans. In Praise of Krishna: Songs from the Bengali. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.

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    A selection of poems written roughly between the 15th and the 17th centuries, primarily in Bengali, by poets including Caṇḍīdāsa, Govindadāsa, and Vidyāpati. Pocket paperback, excellent for class use with both graduates and undergraduates. Originally published in 1967 by Doubleday.

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  • Hawley, John Stratton, and Mark Juergensmeyer, trans. Songs of the Saints of India. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

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    An anthology covering North Indian bhakti poetry by six well-known bhaktas: Raidās, Kabīr, Nānak, Sūrdās, Mīrābāī, and Tulsīdās. Useful in undergraduate and graduate courses, with helpful introductions to each poet and notes on the poems. Includes a glossary and a bibliography of further sources.

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  • Jackson, William J. Songs of Three Great South Indian Saints. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998.

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    Translations of 16th-century songs from three bhakti saints devoted to Vishnu who composed lyrics in Kannada and Telugu, including Annamāchārya, Puraṃdaradāsa, and the celebrated Kanakadāsa, the low-caste devotee fondly associated with the Krishna temple in Udupi.

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  • McDermott, Rachel Fell. Singing to the Goddess: Poems to Kālī and Umā from Bengal. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

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    An impressive collection of Bengali Shakta poetry in English translation, with selections from thirty-seven poets dating from the 18th to the late 20th centuries. Songs by the famous Rāmprasād Sen and a variety of lesser known poets, including four women. Excellent for use in courses on Hindu goddesses.

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  • Peterson, Indira Viswanathan. Poems to Śiva: The Hymns of the Tamil Saints. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989.

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    A generously annotated anthology of South Indian Shaiva poetry by the 6th- to 8th-century bhaktas Campantar, Appar, and Cuntarar. Poets and their poems introduced in a detailed historical and literary study of the Tēvāram and its functions in Tamil culture, with attention to ritual performance. Reissued in 1991 (New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass).

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  • Ramanujan, A. K., trans. Speaking of Śiva. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1973.

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    An anthology of Vīraśaiva poetry in moving English translation that includes selections from Basavaṇṇa, Dēvara Dasimayya, Mahādēviyakka, and Allama Prabhu. With helpful introduction; useful as a course text for both undergraduate and graduate students.

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Edited Volumes

Numerous edited volumes on bhakti traditions have appeared in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, many more than can be included here, and each offers a unique perspective on diverse traditions. King and Brockington 2005 emphasizes bhakti as a living force in a variety of South Asian religious traditions, thus exploring the modern significance of even ancient literature. Werner 1993 considers monistic and dualistic schools of bhakti, including Kashmir Shaivism and Shaktism. The essays in Lele 1981 reflect especially on the late-20th-century significance of bhakti and the role of bhakti in modernization and liberation. Given the importance of both canonical text and charismatic teachers in bhakti traditions, the diverse essays in Dalmia, et al. 2001 make a significant contribution to the study of legitimating authority and sectarian identity in Indian religions. Lorenzen 2004 aims to stimulate debate, specifically by offering differing perspectives on bhakti movements in medieval and early modern South Asia, with several essays addressing the encounter of Hindus and Muslims. Lorenzen 1995 addresses socioreligious identity formation in Hindu and Sikh communities and the politicization of religion by 20th-century nationalist movements grounded in specific schools of saguṇa (iconic) bhakti. McGregor 1992 is one of several volumes of conference proceedings featuring late-20th-century research on bhakti in vernacular languages with highly specialized papers on a number of topics. Schomer and McLeod 1987 addresses nirguṇa (aniconic) traditions of bhakti in Hinduism and Sikhism with some attention to Islam. Rosen 1996 offers a volume on women and Vaishnava traditions.

  • Dalmia, Vasudha, Angelika Malinar, and Martin Christof, eds. Charisma and Canon: Essays on the Religious History of the Indian Subcontinent. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2001.

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    Methodologically diverse essays consider forms of authority in the foundation and preservation of religious communities, from medieval to contemporary periods, with papers on sociopolitical movements and Hindu nationalism. Numerous essays treat charismatic figures in bhakti traditions.

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  • King, Anna S., and John Brockington, eds. The Intimate Other: Love Divine in Indic Religions. New Delhi: Orient Longman, 2005.

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    A broad-ranging interdisciplinary volume focused on bhakti as a living tradition. Introduction provides an overview of bhakti and addresses the meanings of the term. Essays on the epics and their contemporary significance; on Buddhism, Jainism, Islam, and Sikhism; and on music, regional figures, and the river goddess Gaṅgā.

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  • Lele, Jayant, ed. Tradition and Modernity in Bhakti Movements. International Studies in Sociology and Social Anthropology 31. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1981.

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    Volume explores the liberating potential of bhakti in various manifestations, including several essays on Vaishnava and Vārkarī traditions, with attention to Dalits, and one each on Buddhism and Vīraśaivism.

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  • Lorenzen, David N., ed. Bhakti Religion in North India: Community Identity and Political Action. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995.

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    Essays discuss issues of communal identity, difference, and conflict among Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims in North India, with attention to both nirguṇa and saguṇa (aniconic and iconic) bhakti as well as nationalist manifestations of the latter. Reprinted in 1996 (New Delhi: Manohar).

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  • Lorenzen, David N., ed. Religious Movements in South Asia, 600–1800. Debates in Indian History and Society. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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    Essays offer contrasting interpretations in each of five sections: Nāyaṉārs and Āḻvārs, conversion to Islam, Rama and the Muslims, Kabīr and the Sants, and historical overviews of bhakti and Hinduism as a religious tradition.

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  • McGregor, R. S., ed. Devotional Literature in South Asia: Current Research, 1985–1988; Papers of the Fourth Conference on Devotional Literature in New Indo-Aryan Languages, Held at Wolfson College, Cambridge, 1–4 September 1988. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

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    Papers on bhakti covering a broad range of topics, languages, traditions, and regions. One of several volumes of published conference proceedings, all representing relevant research on bhakti.

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  • Rosen, Steven J., ed. Vaiṣṇavī: Women and the Worship of Krishna. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1996.

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    Essays on the famous Āṇṭāḷ, Mīrābāī, and Bahiṇābāī, on less familiar women in Gauḍīya Vaishnavism, and on late-20th-century women in the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) offer reflections on feminism and liberation in Krishna bhakti within diverse social and religious contexts.

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  • Schomer, Karine, and W. H. McLeod, eds. The Sants: Studies in a Devotional Tradition of India. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1987.

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    Volume addresses the nirguṇa (aniconic) traditions of bhakti in Hinduism and Sikhism with essays on Eknāth, Kabīr, Dādū, and Sūrdās and attention to literature, movements of social protest, and Islamic traditions.

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  • Werner, Karel, ed. Love Divine: Studies in Bhakti and Devotional Mysticism. Durham Indological Series 3. Richmond, UK: Curzon, 1993.

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    Reflections on bhakti in a variety of contexts, both monistic and dualistic, from the Rig-Veda and Buddhism to Śaṅkara, the Daśanāmīs, and Kashmir Shaivism as well as the Bhāgavata Purāṇa and goddess traditions.

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Dictionaries

North Indian bhakti compositions involve a complex grammar and vocabulary with regional and historical variations and a literature drawing on Sanskrit, Persian, and various vernaculars that traveling singers freely employed. To facilitate and encourage scholarly study of such diverse and difficult works, many hitherto unedited, Callewaert and Sharma 2009 is a useful dictionary based on text editions and numerous manuscripts.

  • Callewaert, Winand M., with Swapna Sharma. Dictionary of Bhakti: North-Indian Bhakti Texts into Khaṛī Bolī Hindī and English. 3 vols. New Delhi: Printworld, 2009.

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    Contains roughly forty thousand words with Khaṛī Bolī Hindi and English meanings and references to Hindi, Sanskrit, and Persian. Illustrated with quotations from select North Indian texts, both saguṇa and nirguṇa, dating from 1600 CE, including the Ādi-Grantha, Kabīr’s Bījak, Tulsīdāsa’s Rāmacaritamānas, and Anantadāsa’s Parcaīs.

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Upanishads and Epics

Various expressions of theism and devotion that characterize later bhakti traditions are found in the Sanskrit epics and the Upanishads, with the Bhagavad Gita being the most well-known articulation of ancient bhakti. Brockington 2005 discusses bhakti in both Sanskrit epics and then traces their significance in the later bhakti traditions focused on Rama and Krishna throughout India. Brockington 1998 is a comprehensive guide to both Sanskrit epics that treats various aspects of epic religiosity, including the historical development of Krishna’s and Rama’s divinity. In contrast to John Brockington, who sees bhakti as a later historical development in both epics, Madeleine Biardeau and Alf Hiltebeitel argue that Krishna’s divinity and a theology of bhakti are central to the core narrative of the Mahābhārata. Biardeau 2002 says the Mahābhārata marks a transition from a Vedic worldview to a worldview informed by bhakti, and Biardeau 1994 explores the universalization of salvation in relation to the concepts of avatāra and bhakti. Hiltebeitel 2004 contends that the Mahābhārata’s sociopolitical agenda is fundamentally grounded in the politics of bhakti. Sutton 2000 offers a general study of religious doctrines in the Mahābhārata with significant attention to bhakti. Malinar 2007 examines the Bhagavad Gita in its epic context, with a chapter-by-chapter analysis of key doctrines and attention to the history of scholarly research.

  • Biardeau, Madeleine. Études de mythologie hindoue. Vol. 2, Bhakti et avatāra. Paris: École Française d’Extrême-Orient, 1994.

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    Suggests that although the epic avatar descends in a militant form in order to enable good to triumph over evil, the avatar’s being fundamentally a divine Yogi allows for a universalization of salvation through bhakti even as hierarchies related to dharma remain foundational to the social structure. Originally published in Bulletin de l’École Française d’Extrême-Orient 65 (1978): 89–93.

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  • Biardeau, Madeleine. Le Mahābhārata: Un récit fondateur du brahmanisme et son interprétation. 2 vols. Paris: Seuil, 2002.

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    Sees the epic, like the later puranas, as documents elaborating a theology of bhakti that informs classical and popular expressions of Hinduism. Interprets the Mahābhārata through the lens of Krishna and thus sees the epic as swerving (écart) from Vedic tradition via bhakti.

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  • Brockington, John. The Sanskrit Epics. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1998.

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    Interprets Krishna and Rama as deified heroes, according to historical layers in epic and puranic narrative; devotion to them as avatars of Vishnu is thus a later development in epic redaction. Includes a chapter on the Harivaṃśa. Incomparable in scope and detail but more suitable for scholars and graduate students than for undergraduates.

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  • Brockington, John. “The Epics in the Bhakti Tradition.” In The Intimate Other: Love Divine in Indic Religions. Edited by Anna S. King and John Brockington, 31–53. Hyderabad, India: Orient Longman, 2005.

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    Argues that neither Sanskrit epic originally formulated a theology of bhakti and that the supreme divinity of Rama and Krishna was not part of the core narratives. Traces epic figures and devotional themes through later vernacular adaptations, showing how emotional bhakti becomes increasingly important in epic traditions.

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  • Hiltebeitel, Alf. “More Rethinking the Mahābhārata: Toward a Politics of Bhakti.” Indo-Iranian Journal 47 (2004): 203–227.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10783-005-1679-zSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that bhakti is central to the epic’s political theology that legitimates royal power, Brahmanical privilege, and social hierarchy. Finds the politics of bhakti articulated in the friendship between Krishna and Arjuna and in relation to enemies such as Karṇa.

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  • Malinar, Angelika. The Bhagavadgītā: Doctrines and Contexts. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

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    Discusses bhakti as both a demanding discipline that transforms self-interest into sacrificial activity dedicated to God and a mutual relationship between the devotee and God that subordinates and empowers the devotee.

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  • Sutton, Nicholas. Religious Doctrines in the Mahābhārata. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2000.

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    A broad examination of the epic’s religious and philosophical teachings that explores bhakti in relation to pravṛtti and nivṛtti values (roughly, worldly dharma and its renunciation) with some attention to gender.

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Translations and Abridgments

Olivelle 1996 translates the major Upanishads into English. Ganguli 1972–1976 offers a full English translation of the Mahābhārata, first published in the 19th century, while Narasimhan 1998 and Narayan 2000 provide modern English abridgments in paperback editions that make the epic available to general readers and thus provide context for studies of the Bhagavad Gita in introductory courses. Partial scholarly translations of the Mahābhārata are available in Clay Sanskrit Library 2005–2010 and in Buitenen 1973–1978. Miller 1986 offers a pocket translation of the Bhagavad Gita suitable for the general reader and for use in undergraduate classes. Goldman et al. 1984– is a full translation (still in progress in the early 21st century) of the Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa, and Narayan 1977 an engaging abridgment based on the Tamil narrative.

  • Clay Sanskrit Library. Mahābhārata. New York University Press and the JJC Foundation, 2005–2010.

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    A multivolume translation by numerous translators. Hardcover, pocket-sized texts include the transliterated Sanskrit facing the English translation. Copublished by New York University Press and the JJC Foundation.

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    • Ganguli, Kisari Mohan, trans. The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa. 12 vols. 3d ed. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1972–1976.

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      An old but readable English translation based primarily on the Bengal and Bombay editions. Translator attempted to offer “as literal a rendering as possible” (p. vii), with some reliance on the commentator Nīlakaṇṭha (p. ix). Originally published in 1883–1896 by P.C. Roy.

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    • Goldman, Robert P., Sally J. Sutherland Goldman, Rosalind Lefeber, Sheldon I. Pollock, and Barend A. van Nooten, trans. The Rāmāyaṇa of Vālmīki: An Epic of Ancient India. 7 vols. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984–.

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      A verse-by-verse English translation of the critical edition with extensive annotation. Detailed introductions to each volume consider the epic’s historical context and discuss the text of the critical edition. Includes glossary, bibliography, and index.

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    • Miller, Barbara Stoler, trans. The Bhagavad-Gita: Krishna’s Counsel in Time of War. New York: Bantam, 1986.

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      Pocket edition that includes an introduction suitable for general readers, a consistent translation, and a useful glossary of key terms. Works well in undergraduate courses.

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    • Narasimhan, Chakravarthi V. The Mahābhārata: An English Version Based on Selected Verses. Rev. ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.

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      An abridged version of the main narrative based on a liberal translation of select verses taken primarily from the critical edition. Useful in introductory courses, though somewhat more challenging for beginning students than Narayan 2000. Includes an index of verses; originally published in 1965.

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    • Narayan, R. K. The Ramayana: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic; Suggested by the Tamil Version of Kamban. New York: Penguin, 1977.

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      An English abridgment based on Kamban’s 12th-century Irāmāvatāram in Tamil. Accessible and engaging, useful in introductory courses. Originally published in 1972 by Viking Penguin.

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    • Narayan, R. K. The Mahabharata: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

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      A highly engaging and accessible abridgment focused on the main narrative. Useful in introductory courses, especially when time is limited. Originally published in 1978 by Viking.

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    • Olivelle, Patrick, trans. Upaniṣads. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

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      An English translation of the major Upanishads, including those that express theistic and devotional sentiments, such as the Īśā, Kaṭha, and Śvetāśvatara. Includes a detailed historical introduction; useful as a course text.

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    • van Buitenen, J. A. B., ed. and trans. The Mahābhārata. 3 vols. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973–1978.

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      An excellent annotated translation of the first five books of the epic with a helpful introduction; includes a glossary of names and a concordance of the critical and Bombay editions.

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    Bhāgavata Purāṇa

    The medieval Bhāgavata Purāṇa, with its elaborate stories of Krishna and his fervent devotees, had a significant impact on subsequent developments in the bhakti movement, influencing theology and ritual in various sampradāyas (sects), especially in North India. Tagare 1976–1978 offers a verse-by-verse English translation of the entire Bhāgavata Purāṇa, while Bryant 2003 translates only Book 10 and parts of Book 11, focusing on the famous Krishna stories. Gail 1969 and Matchett 1993 provide studies of bhakti that consider the purana as a whole, while Coleman 2010, Hardy 1983, Schweig 2005, and Huberman 1998 focus specifically on the gopīs. Coleman 2010 offers a close reading of the gopī narrative in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa and the Harivaṃśa, focusing on the relationship between the women’s bhakti and their dharma. Hardy 1983 argues for the Bhāgavata Purāṇa’s southern provenance and thus situates the gopīs’ impassioned viraha-bhakti (devotion in separation) for Krishna within a post-Āḻvār milieu. Schweig 2005 focuses on Gauḍīya interpretations of the gopī narrative, and Huberman 1998 explains how the gopīs’ kama is supposedly transformed into prema (selfless love) by means of viraha, separation.

    • Bryant, Edwin F., trans. Krishna: The Beautiful Legend of God; Śrīmad Bhāgavata Purāṇa, Book X. London: Penguin, 2003.

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      Lengthy introduction with a discussion of caste and gender in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa’s version of bhakti. Highly readable (although not always accurate) translation of Book 10 in its entirety along with chapters 1, 6, and 29–31 of Book 11. No index. Works well in undergraduate courses.

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    • Coleman, Tracy. “Viraha-Bhakti and Strīdharma: Re-Reading the Story of Kṛṣṇa and the Gopīs in the Harivaṃśa and the Bhāgavata Purāṇa.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 130.3 (July-September 2010): 385-412.

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      Argues that the gopīs’ passionate viraha-bhakti supports a conservative social order that glorifies and enforces a normative strīdharma.

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    • Gail, Adalbert J. Bhakti im Bhāgavatapurāṇa: Religionsgeschichtliche Studie zur Idee der Gottesliebe in Kult und Mystik des Viṣṇuismus. Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz, 1969.

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      (Bhakti in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa: A study in the history of religions on the concept of devotion in the cult and mysticism of Vaishnavism.) A thorough study of bhakti and the Bhāgavata Purāṇa’s construction of divinity with some attention to women and emotional bhakti and to the relation between bhakti and kama. Includes glossary and indices.

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    • Hardy, Friedhelm. Viraha-Bhakti: The Early History of Kṛṣṇa Devotion in South India. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1983.

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      Formulates a debatable theory of “emotional” bhakti and specifically viraha-bhakti (devotion in separation) on the basis of the popular gopī narrative, studied in various versions and in relation to South Indian materials. A highly influential study of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa.

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    • Huberman, Eric. “The Parā-Bhakti of the Gopīs in the Rāsa-Līlā Pañcādhyāyī.” Journal of Vaiṣṇava Studies 6.1 (Winter 1998): 153–182.

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      Elaborates the “longstanding traditional reading” (p. 156) of the gopīs’ passion, namely, the claim first found in Śrīdhara’s commentary that by means of the pain of separation the gopīs’ kama, erotic desire, is transformed into prema, a divine and selfless love seeking only to satisfy Krishna. This is the highest (parā-) bhakti, a love distinct from ordinary experience.

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    • Matchett, Freda. “The Pervasiveness of Bhakti in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa.” In Love Divine: Studies in Bhakti and Devotional Mysticism. Durham Indological Series, no. 3. Edited by Karel Werner, 95–115. Richmond, UK: Curzon, 1993.

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      Argues that bhakti is central to the entire Bhāgavata Purāṇa, not only Book 10, and that the purana attempts to legitimate bhakti “as an ancient and venerable tradition” (p. 96) that culminates in Krishna bhakti specifically.

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    • Schweig, Graham M. Dance of Divine Love: The Rāsa Līlā of Krishna from the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, India’s Classic Sacred Love Story. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005.

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      A reading of the gopī narrative drawing on numerous Gauḍīya commentators. Includes a translation of Bhāgavata Purāṇa 10.21, 10.29–33, and select verses from 10.47 along with the Devanagari and transliteration. Removes the gopī narrative from its original context and treats the rāsa līlā as an independent poem likened to the biblical Song of Songs.

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    • Tagare, Ganesh Vasudeo, trans. The Bhāgavata-Purāṇa. Edited by J. L. Shastri. Ancient Indian Tradition and Mythology Series 7–11. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1976–1978.

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      Helpful, annotated verse-by-verse translation, heavily dependent on Śrīdhara’s commentary with reference to other commentators as well. Translation is not always graceful but does convey the spirit of bhakti. Introduction discusses the Bhāgavata Purāṇa’s genre as purana; its date, authorship, and theology; and briefly the commentarial traditions. Includes an index.

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    South India

    Sanskrit texts represent only the distant foundations of bhakti, for devotional traditions later flourished throughout the Indian subcontinent in numerous vernacular languages, allowing people of all castes and classes direct access to devotional songs, stories, and a variety of performance traditions. Beginning in South India in the mid-1st millennium CE with poets composing lyrics in Tamil, the bhakti movement spread through northern, eastern, and western India, influencing all subsequent expressions of religious literature and practice. The three texts in this section represent different approaches to early Tamil bhakti, both Shaiva and Vaishnava. Dehejia 1988 offers a study of the Āḻvārs and the Nāyaṉārs and their significance in Tamil culture, with attention to their hymns, hagiographies, and iconographies. Champakalakshmi 2004 provides a historical perspective on the evolution of bhakti from a voice of personal devotion and protest against heterodoxy to a royal ideology of expansion and domination. Cutler 1987 develops a theory of Tamil bhakti poetry based on a close reading of Saiva and Vaishnava lyrics.

    • Champakalakshmi, R. “From Devotion and Dissent to Dominance: The Bhakti of the Tamil Āḻvārs and Nāyaṉārs.” In Religious Movements in South Asia, 600–1800. Edited by David N. Lorenzen, 47–80. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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      Traces the evolution of bhakti from the early hymns through the Cōḻa period and argues that the spirit of protest against Vedic orthodoxy and heterodoxy must be seen within the context of competition for dominance and patronage and that Cōḻa rulers deployed bhakti as an ideology of domination via art, temple, and pilgrimage.

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    • Cutler, Norman. Songs of Experience: The Poetics of Tamil Devotion. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987.

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      Offers a theory of Tamil bhakti poetry based on a close study of both Shaiva and Vaishnava hymns and provides translations from various poets, including early Āḻvārs and Māṇikkavācakar; elucidates devotees’ collective experience of bhakti poetry in performance.

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    • Dehejia, Vidya. Slaves of the Lord: The Path of the Tamil Saints. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1988.

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      A study of the “cult of saints” in South India, both Āḻvārs and Nāyaṉārs, with significant attention to poetry and iconography and numerous monochrome plates showing representations of the saints in bronze, stone, and painting. Includes a chapter on the women Āṇṭāḷ and Kāraikkāl Ammaiyār.

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    Āḻvārs and Śrī Vaishnavism

    Śrī Vaishnavas in South India predominantly venerate Vishnu along with his consort Śrī, but various avatars (avatāras), including Krishna, and arcāvatāras, Vishnu’s temple icons, are also popular and praised in devotional song. Among the Tamil works of the Āḻvārs, dating roughly from the 6th to the 9th centuries CE, Dehejia 1990 translates the poetry of Āṇṭāḷ, a famous 9th-century woman enamored of Krishna, and Ramanujan 1981 provides translations from a slightly later collection of poetry by the śūdra saint Nammāḻvār, who adores Vishnu in many forms. With respect to Śrī Vaishnava commentarial traditions, Hudson 1980 insightfully elaborates the meaning of Āṇṭāḷ’s songs and their significance according to the 13th-century commentary of Periyavāccāṉ Piḷḷai, and Carman and Narayanan 1989 offers a close study of Piḷḷāṉ’s 12th-century commentary on Nammāḻvār’s Tiruvāymoḻi specifically. Combining fieldwork and textual analysis, Narayanan 1994 explores Nammāḻvār’s songs in the living tradition of bhakti in late-20th-century Tamil Nadu, in both domestic and temple settings. Hopkins 2002 studies the devotional works of the influential 14th-century philosopher Vedāntadeśika, including his songs in praise of Vishnu’s iconic bodies housed in temples, and Hopkins 2007 provides an anthology of Vedāntadeśika’s poems in English translation. Hardy 1983 examines Āḻvār poetry in relation to Sanskrit literature, especially puranic texts depicting Krishna’s lovers, and argues for a South Indian origin of viraha-bhakti, devotion in separation, characterized by pain and longing.

    • Carman, John, and Vasudha Narayanan. The Tamil Veda: Piḷḷāṉ’s Interpretation of the Tiruvāymoḻi. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989.

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      A study of the earliest Sanskrit commentary on Nammāḻvār’s Tiruvāymoḻi, the so-called Tamil Veda, that supports Śrī Vaishnava claims regarding ubhayavedānta (dual scriptures) while also noting how Piḷḷāṉ’s theological reading marks a significant change from the spirit of Āḻvār poetry. Includes translations of selections from Nammāḻvār with the commentary.

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    • Dehejia, Vidya, trans. Āṇṭāḷ and Her Path of Love: Poems of a Woman Saint from South India. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990.

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      Translations of Āṇṭāḷ’s two well-known songs, Tiruppāvai and Nācciyār Tirumoḻi, with detailed introduction and helpful notes that situate Āṇṭāḷ and her works among the other Āḻvārs. Useful as a course text but most successful with beginning students when used with supplementary materials, such as Hudson 1980. (For more on Āṇṭāḷ, see also Women Bhaktas.)

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    • Hardy, Friedhelm. Viraha-Bhakti: The Early History of Kṛṣṇa Devotion in South India. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1983.

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      An influential study of viraha-bhakti (devotion in separation) in Sanskrit and Tamil literature that convinced many of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa’s South Indian provenance and post-Āḻvār periodization. Focuses primarily on Krishna bhakti as experienced by the gopīs and by Krishna’s Āḻvār lovers.

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    • Hopkins, Steven Paul. Singing the Body of God: The Hymns of Vedāntadeśika in Their South Indian Tradition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

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      A study of Vedāntadeśika that revisits claims regarding the philosopher’s Vaṭakalai or “northern” orientation in Śrī Vaishnavism’s two schools and that presents contextualized translations of Deśika’s lush poems (composed in Sanskrit, Tamil, and Maharashtri Prakrit) in praise of Vishnu’s iconic body, including his Raṅganātha form at Śrīraṅgam.

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    • Hopkins, Steven P., trans. An Ornament for Jewels: Love Poems for the Lord of Gods. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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      Beautiful, sensuous English translations of five of Vedāntadeśika’s long poems (in Sanskrit, Tamil, and Prakrit), each with commentary and detailed annotation. Includes a helpful introduction and a glossary. Makes Vedāntadeśika’s songs accessible to a broad audience; useful in courses on bhakti.

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    • Hudson, Dennis. “Bathing in Krishna: A Study in Vaiṣṇava Hindu Theology.” Harvard Theological Review 73 (1980): 539–566.

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      A reading of Āṇṭāḷ’s Tiruppāvai within the context of Śrī Vaishnava theology and the commentary of Periyavāccāṉ Piḷḷai. Elucidates the sense and broader significance of the poem.

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    • Narayanan, Vasudha. The Vernacular Veda: Revelation, Recitation, and Ritual. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1994.

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      Explores bhakti in late-20th-century Tamil Nadu with attention to diverse ritual uses of Nammāḻvār’s songs (in traditional temple recitation and modern media recordings, for example) and comparison of the Tamil Tiruvāymoḻi with the Sanskrit Sāma Veda. Includes a chapter on a scheduled-caste community in Bangalore devoted to Nammāḻvār, himself a śūdra saint.

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    • Ramanujan, A. K. Hymns for the Drowning: Poems for Viṣṇu by Nammālvār. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981.

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      Exquisite translations from Nammāḻvār’s collection of songs, including a lengthy afterword on the history and poetry of bhakti and the community of devotees. Not entirely accessible to beginning students unfamiliar with Vaishnava mythology but very useful in more advanced courses.

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    Nāyaṉārs, Temple Shaivism, and Naṭarāja

    Early devotees of Shiva in South India are called Nāyaṉārs (or nāyaṉmār), and the Tamil poetry they composed remains central to modern Shaivism. Peterson 1989 translates selections of Nāyaṉār poetry from the 6th to 8th century in a larger study of the Tēvāram in Tamil Shaivism, while Shulman 1990 translates and analyzes only the hymns of Cuntarar, the last and perhaps most radical of the Nāyaṉārs. Hart 1980 translates the story of Ciṟuttoṇṭar from the Periya Purāṇam, the 12th-century hagiography of the Nāyaṉārs, and Hudson 1989 considers such violent love for Shiva more broadly in a brief study of the same text. Monius 2004 elaborates in a substantive piece on Shaiva violence as a response to Jain asceticism—two forms of heroic aesthetics within the context of a literary debate on the soteriology of emotion. Prentiss 1999 traces Nāyaṉār poetry through developments in temple culture and the later philosophy in Umāpati’s Shaiva Siddhānta with an emphasis on devotees’ active participation in bhakti. Davis 1991 explores the philosophy and ritual of Shaiva Siddhānta with a focus on both text and temple. Younger 1995 describes the famous Shiva Naṭarāja temple in Cidambaram, and Kaimal 1999 offers an art historical reading of Naṭarāja (the popular icon of Shiva dancing in a ring of flames) that interprets the changing image according to its historical functions, culminating in the Cōḻa Empire.

    • Davis, Richard H. Ritual in an Oscillating Universe: Worshiping Śiva in Medieval India. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991.

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      A study of Shaiva Siddhānta philosophy and ritual with significant attention to temple worship and the goals of devotees (both enjoyment and liberation) in relation to Shiva.

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    • Hart, George L., III. “The Little Devotee: Cēkkiḻār’s Story of Ciṟuttoṇṭar.” In Sanskrit and Indian Studies: Essays in Honour of Daniel H. H. Ingalls. Edited by M. Nagatomi, B. K. Matilal, J. M. Masson, and E. C. Dimock Jr., 217–236. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: D. Reidel, 1980.

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      An English translation of the popular South Indian tale of Ciṟuttoṇṭar, who must sacrifice and serve his only son as a meal in a demonstration of total devotion to Shiva.

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    • Hudson, D. Dennis. “Violent and Fanatical Devotion among the Nāyaṉārs: A Study in the Periya Purāṇam of Cēkkilār.” In Criminal Gods and Demon Devotees: Essays on the Guardians of Popular Hinduism. Edited by Alf Hiltebeitel, 373–404. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989.

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      A lively study of love (aṉpu) for Shiva embodied in violent devotion among the Tamil Nāyaṉārs as depicted in a classic hagiography. Argues that true bhakti entails such a radical commitment and connection to Shiva that devotees sometimes behave like lunatics, intoxicated by their absolute love for their divine beloved.

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    • Kaimal, Padma. “Shiva Nataraja: Shifting Meanings of an Icon.” Art Bulletin 81.3 (September 1999): 390–419.

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      Challenges Ananda Coomaraswamy’s classic reading of the famous bronze dancer by tracing its iconographic evolution and suggesting corresponding semiotic shifts that reflect the icon’s original association with death and destruction and its later political significance as a symbol of Cōḻa power, with Naṭarāja in Cidambaram as the sacred (pilgrimage) center of an expanding empire.

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    • Monius, Anne E. “Love, Violence, and the Aesthetics of Disgust: Śaivas and Jains in Medieval South India.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 32 (2004): 113–172.

      DOI: 10.1023/B:INDI.0000020898.04782.7aSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Argues that, in contrast to Jain asceticism and nonviolence, Shaiva bhakti as expressed in the Periya Purāṇam is impassioned and outwardly heroic, as Shiva’s devotees act in a community and embody their love in the world, thus representing a polemical devotional aesthetic.

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    • Peterson, Indira Viswanathan. Poems to Śiva: The Hymns of the Tamil Saints. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989.

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      A detailed historical and literary study of the Tēvāram and its functions in Tamil culture, including a lengthy and generously annotated anthology of English translations from the songs of the 6th- to 8th-century poets Campantar, Appar, and Cuntarar; with attention to ritual performance. Reissued in 1991 by Motilal Banarsidass.

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    • Prentiss, Karen Pechilis. The Embodiment of Bhakti. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

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      A study of Tamil Shaiva bhakti that traces the work of the Nāyaṉārs through the temple culture of the Pallava and Cōḻa periods and then to the Shaiva Siddhānta theologians of the early 2nd millennium. Includes translations of Umāpati’s works.

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    • Shulman, David Dean, trans. Songs of the Harsh Devotee: The Tēvāram of Cuntaramūrttināyaṉār. Philadelphia: Department of South Asia Regional Studies, University of Pennsylvania, 1990.

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      Beautiful, richly annotated English translations of Cuntarar’s provocative hymns to Shiva from the Tamil Tēvāram, contextualized in a lengthy study that treats history in relation to hagiography and that illuminates the alluring world of Tamil bhakti.

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    • Younger, Paul. The Home of Dancing Śivaṉ: The Traditions of the Hindu Temple in Citamparam. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

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      A historical exploration of the Naṭarāja temple in Cidambaram with attention to daily rituals and priestly culture, history and political intrigue, and the genuine devotion of famous and ordinary devotees who adore Shiva in a particular place and form. Chapter 6 includes selections of Nāyaṉār poetry.

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    Vīraśaivas and Iconoclasm

    Vīraśaivas (literally, heroic Shaivas) or Lingayatas (Liṅgāyatas, those wearing the Shiva lingam [Śiva liṅga]) represent a significant presence in early-21st-century Karnataka, the origins of their community dating roughly to the 12th century, when an iconoclastic and anti-Brahmanical movement arose in Kalyāṇa. Its founders and later members composed vacanas, “spontaneous” speech in the form of free verse, that proclaim their intense devotion to Shiva. Ramanujan 1973 provides the most useful anthology of Vīraśaiva vacanas in English translation, but Zvelebil 1984 offers a larger selection of only Basavaṇṇa’s work in English. Narayana Rao and Roghair 1990 translates into English a 13th-century Telugu work presenting legends of the Vīraśaiva saints, including Basavaṇṇa. Michael 1992 discusses the 15th-century Śūnyasaṃpādane, an edited collection of vacanas that introduces the founders’ sometimes conflicting ideas on Vīraśaiva theory and practice. Nandimath 1979 offers an introduction to Vīraśaiva philosophy and ritual by a member of the community. Chekki 1997 provides a sociological perspective on the late-20th-century Vīraśaiva community. Ramaswamy 1996 is a study of women in the history of the Vīraśaiva movement, and Michael 1983 is a study of Vīraśaiva women as depicted in the 15th-century Śūnyasaṃpadane. (For Mahādēviyakka, see also Women Bhaktas.)

    • Chekki, Dan A. Religion and Social System of the Vīraśaiva Community. Contributions to the Study of Anthropology 8. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1997.

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      Offers an insider’s unique sociological perspective on 20th-century issues, including monastic organization and community and family, with some attention to North America and to the status of women. Chapters 16 and 17 are useful bibliographic essays.

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    • Michael, R. Blake. “Women of the Śūnyasaṃpādane: Housewives and Saints in Vīraśaivism.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 103.2 (April–June 1983): 361–368.

      DOI: 10.2307/601458Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Argues on the basis of the 15th-century Śūnyasaṃpādane that Vīraśaivism encourages women to pursue “spiritual perfection” but only within the context of conventional social roles; social egalitarianism is therefore not a goal.

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    • Michael, R. Blake. The Origins of Vīraśaiva Sects: A Typological Analysis of Ritual and Associational Patterns in the Śūnyasaṃpādane. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1992.

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      Sets the Śūnyasaṃpādane in historical context and explains how the text presents the founders of Vīraśavism in dialogue and disagreement on the organization and practices of the movement, especially regarding soteriology and the role of ritual and the hierarchy (or lack thereof) of its membership.

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    • Nandimath, S. C. A Handbook of Vīraśaivism. 2d rev. ed. Edited by R. N. Nandi. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1979.

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      A classic introduction to Vīraśaiva history, ritual, and philosophy by a member of the community, with a good introduction by R. N. Nandi that critically assesses Nandimath’s work, evaluates other histories of the sect, and discusses the earliest sources. Originally published in 1942 by Dharwar.

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    • Narayana Rao, Velcheru, with Gene H. Roghair, trans. Śiva’s Warriors: The Basava Purāṇa of Pālkuriki Somanātha. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990.

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      Translated from Telugu, an anthology of legends about the Vīraśaiva saints and a hagiography of Basavaṇṇa (p. 3). Includes a summary of the purana and an introduction with discussion of the c. 13th-century author Somanātha and the history of his text.

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    • Ramanujan, A. K., trans. Speaking of Śiva. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1973.

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      Beautiful English translations of Vīraśaiva poetry, including selections from Basavaṇṇa, Dēvara Dasimayya, Mahādēviyakka, and Allama Prabhu. Pocket edition with a helpful introduction on the Vīraśaiva movement; very useful as a course text for both undergraduate and graduate students.

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    • Ramaswamy, Vijaya. Divinity and Deviance: Women in Virasaivism. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1996.

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      Considers the spiritual egalitarianism reflected in Vīraśaiva metaphysics and women’s poetry but finds that the movement did not entirely reject patriarchy and later institutionalized caste and gender hierarchies in order to survive in a stratified society. Overall study is useful but lacks historical precision.

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    • Zvelebil, K. V., trans. The Lord of the Meeting Rivers: Devotional Poems of Basavaṇṇa. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1984.

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      English translations of Basavaṇṇa’s songs with a brief discussion of his life and the early Vīraśaiva movement, and of Vīraśaiva philosophy and doctrine.

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    Vārkarīs

    The Vārkarī tradition associated with the modern state of Maharashtra in west central India includes numerous Marathi-speaking saints dating to at least the 13th century, when the founder Jñāndev (or Jñāneśvara) lived and composed his important commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, titled Jñāneśvarī, translated in Kripananda 1989. The group’s distinctive ritual is a pilgrimage to Pandharpur for the darshan (darśana) of Viṭhobā, a local form of Krishna, and its community of saints includes men and women from various castes. Zelliot 1996 includes translations of songs by the untouchable Cokhāmeḷā and the Brahmana Eknāth in an article that reflects on their relevance for contemporary social change. Chitre 1991 translates some of the passionate songs of the prolific 17th-century saint Tukārām, and Abbott and Godbole 1982 provides an English translation of Mahīpati’s 18th-century hagiography of Vārkarī saints that emphasizes the life and legacy of the well-known 14th-century Nāmdev, an important figure in northern nirguṇa (aniconic) bhakti traditions beyond Maharashtra and in Sikhism as well. Novetzke 2008 studies Nāmdev and his enduring significance in Maharashtra specifically, and Callewaert and Lath 1989 critically edits and translates Nāmdev’s songs in Hindi, early expressions of nirguṇa bhakti. Prill 2009 reviews representations of Nāmdev in popular art in the northwestern state of Punjab, comparing Sikh and Hindu portrayals. (For Bahiṇābāī and other Vārkarī women, see Women Bhaktas.)

    • Abbott, Justin E., and Narhar R. Godbole, trans. Stories of Indian Saints: Translation of Mahipati’s Marathi Bhaktivijaya. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1982.

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      An English translation of Mahīpati’s 18th-century hagiography of Vārkarī sants (saints), including Jñāndev (or Jñāneśvara), Janābāī, Cokhāmeḷā, Nāmdev, and others, with an emphasis on Nāmdev’s life and his interactions with both Vārkarīs and northern sants, such as Kabīr. Originally published in two volumes in 1933 in Pune.

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    • Callewaert, Winand M., and Mukund Lath. The Hindi Padāvalī of Nāmdev: A Critical Edition of Nāmdev’s Hindi Songs with Translation and Annotation. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1989.

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      A study of Nāmdev’s Hindi works as represented in the earliest manuscripts, which reveal a fundamentally oral tradition and musical transmission, thus problematizing the study of “poetry.” Includes a lengthy introduction, the songs in English and Hindi, and detailed descriptions of the manuscript traditions. Intended for scholars, not undergraduates.

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    • Chitre, Dilip, trans. Says Tuka: Selected Poetry of Tukaram. New Delhi: Penguin, 1991.

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      English translations of Tukārām’s often provocative Marathi songs with a helpful introduction to his life and his position within the Vārkarī tradition.

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    • Kripananda, Swami, trans. Jnāneshwar’s Gitā: A Rendering of the Jnāneśhwarī. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989.

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      An English translation of Jñāndev’s well-known commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, titled Jñāneśvarī, composed in Marathi in the late 13th century. Includes each verse of the Gītā in Devanagari and transliteration, followed by Jñāndev’s reading.

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    • Novetzke, Christian Lee. Religion and Public Memory: A Cultural History of Saint Namdev in India. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008.

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      Examines the ways the 14th-century Nāmdev has been remembered for seven centuries in Maharashtra. Argues that bhakti in this context is “best understood” as “an ongoing effort to construct publics of belief, maintained through intricate systems of memory” (p. xi). Considers various media, including traditional hagiography, performance, and film.

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    • Prill, Susan. “Representing Sainthood in India: Sikh and Hindu Visions of Namdev.” Material Religion 5.2 (July 2009): 156–179.

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      Compares popular poster art representing Nāmdev at two Punjabi shrines, one Sikh and one Hindu, noting how particular portrayals reflect community identity and regional distinction as well as disagreement with respect to Nāmdev’s hagiography. Includes several illustrations.

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    • Zelliot, Eleanor. “Chokhamela and Eknath: Two Bhakti Modes of Legitimacy for Modern Change.” In From Untouchable to Dalit: Essays on the Ambedkar Movement. By Eleanor Zelliot, 3–32. New Delhi: Manohar, 1996.

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      Reflects on the 13th- to 14th-century untouchable saint Cokhāmeḷā and the 16th-century Brahmana Eknāth as potential inspirations for modern social change. Includes translated songs by each figure. First published in 1992.

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    North India

    Although the boundaries of “North” India are difficult to establish precisely, as Daniel Gold (Gold 1987) notes in his study of the northern traditions of sants (saints), a number of figures and movements emerge as significant in the history of northern bhakti, among them Sikhs and Muslims interacting with Hindus. Callewaert and Sharma 2000 provides a study of a late-16th-century hagiographical anthology composed by Anantadās, whose parcaī, or praise poems, celebrate great bhaktas such as Nāmdev and Kabīr and glorify bhakti as the highest path to the divine, identified as Hari or Rām. Lorenzen 1991 is a lengthy study and English translation of Anantadās’s Kabīr-parcaī. Hawley and Juergensmeyer 1988 is an anthology of North Indian poets and their songs, including selections by Raidās, Kabīr, and Nānak, and Hawley 2005 examines the life and works of Kabīr, Sūrdās, and Mīrābāī more closely in numerous scholarly essays. Gold 1987 explores the sants as a category of “holy men” within the history of South Asian religions, comparing them to Hindu deities and revelatory figures in Buddhism and Islam. Schomer and McLeod 1987 is a collection of essays focused on the nirguṇa (aniconic) traditions of bhakti in Hinduism and Sikhism with some attention to Islam. Lorenzen 1995 explores socioreligious identity formation in Hindu and Sikh communities as well as the politicization of religion by nationalist movements grounded in specific schools of saguṇa (iconic) bhakti. (For Mīrābāī, see Women Bhaktas.)

    • Callewaert, Winand M., with Swapna Sharma, eds. and trans. The Hagiographies of Anantadās: The Bhakti Poets of North India. Richmond, UK: Curzon, 2000.

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      A late-16th-century collection of praise poems, parcaī, recounting the lives and legends of great bhaktas, including Nāmdev, Kabīr, Raidās, Dhanā, Angad, Trilocan, and Pīpā. Includes edited Hindi texts, based on manuscripts, and English translations for all except the parcaī of Kabīr.

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    • Gold, Daniel. The Lord as Guru: Hindi Sants in North Indian Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

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      A study of sants within their sociohistorical contexts, exploring their distinctive roles as “holy men” as well as the institutionalization and routinization of their teachings; some attention to the Radhasoami tradition. Situates the sants within a long history of revelatory figures in South Asian religions, including Buddhism and Islam.

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    • Hawley, John Stratton. Three Bhakti Voices: Mirabai, Surdas, and Kabir in Their Times and Ours. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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      Numerous essays examine Mīrābāī, Sūrdās, and Kabīr in history, hagiography, and contemporary practice, with discussion of the manuscript traditions.

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    • Hawley, John Stratton, and Mark Juergensmeyer, trans. Songs of the Saints of India. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

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      An anthology covering Raidās, Kabīr, Nānak, Sūrdās, Mīrābāī, and Tulsīdās, with brief introductions to and a selection of translated songs by each figure. Includes a glossary and a bibliography of further sources; useful in undergraduate courses.

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    • Lorenzen, David N. Kabir Legends and Ananta-das’sKabir Parachai”. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991.

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      A study of Kabīr legends and the Kabīr-parcaī, including an annotated edition and a manuscript (both in Devanagari); with bibliography and index. Includes a translation of the Kabir Parachai prepared in collaboration with Jagdish Kumar and Uma Thukral and an edition of the Niranjani Panthi recension of this work.

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    • Lorenzen, David N., ed. Bhakti Religion in North India: Community Identity and Political Action. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995.

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      Essays treating movements from the 15th century onward discuss issues of communal identity, difference, and conflict among Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims in North India, with attention to both nirguṇa and saguṇa (aniconic and iconic) bhakti as well as nationalist manifestations of the latter. Republished in 1996 by Manohar.

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    • Schomer, Karine, and W. H. McLeod, eds. The Sants: Studies in a Devotional Tradition of India. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1987.

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      Volume addresses the nirguṇa (aniconic) traditions of bhakti in Hinduism and Sikhism with essays on Eknāth, Kabīr, Dādū, and Sūrdās and attention to literature, movements of social protest, and Islamic traditions. Includes a glossary and a bibliography of primary and secondary sources.

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    Raidās and Kabīr

    Among the North Indian saints or "holy men" known as sants, two prominent figures from roughly the 15th century CE continue to influence social and religious values both by the example of their own lives and by their provocative songs of freedom: the untouchable Raidās (or Ravidās) and the low-caste weaver Kabīr. Callewaert and Friedlander 1992 is a scholarly study of Raidās’s life and lyrics, with English translations and a critical edition. Ram 2008 examines how Raidās’s life and work inform modern Dalit movements in Punjab, enabling Dalits to negotiate a distinct identity while avoiding both assimilation and radical separatism. Lorenzen 1996 introduces and translates a variety of texts within the nirguṇa tradition, including “The Kabīr-Raidās Debate.” Vaudeville 1993 offers a rich and detailed historical study of Kabīr followed by numerous translations. Dharwadker 2003 translates a hundred diverse poems from the major Kabīr collections, while Hess and Singh 1983 translates only Kabīr’s Bījak, the primary text of the Kabīr Panth. Lorenzen 1987 examines Kabīr’s message within the sociohistorical context of the late-20th-century Kabīr panth and finds that protest is not the primary goal, despite Kabīr’s own critical rhetoric. Hess 2009 is a study of Kabīr performance traditions, including texts and an audio recording of selected songs performed by Kumar Gandharva.

    • Callewaert, Winand M., and Peter G. Friedlander. The Life and Works of Raidās. New Delhi: Manohar, 1992.

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      A scholarly study of Raidās’s life and compositions according to various sources with a focus on early manuscripts and a summary of his teachings based on the songs. Includes an English translation of 111 lyrics, a critical edition, word indexes, and bibliographies with English and Indic sources.

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    • Dharwadker, Vinay, trans. Kabir: The Weaver’s Songs. New Delhi: Penguin, 2003.

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      Fine translations of Kabīr’s poems from the three major manuscript traditions with a long, detailed introduction. Includes a general note on each poem, a thorough glossary, and a bibliography. Useful in courses on bhakti.

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    • Hess, Linda. Singing Emptiness: Kumar Gandharva Performs the Poetry of Kabir. London: Seagull, 2009.

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      Includes bilingual texts of thirty songs by Kabīr and an audio recording of selected songs performed by Kumar Gandharva, a contemporary Hindustani classical vocalist, with a detailed introduction and other essays.

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    • Hess, Linda, and Shukdev Singh, trans. The Bījak of Kabir. San Francisco: North Point Press, 1983.

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      A moving translation of the Bījak with a good introduction to Kabīr’s life and work and appendices on his language. Useful in courses on bhakti. Reissued in 2002 by Oxford University Press.

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    • Lorenzen, David N. “The Kabir-Panth and Social Protest.” In The Sants: Studies in a Devotional Tradition of India. Edited by Karine Schomer and W. H. McLeod, 281–303. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1987.

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      Argues that, despite Kabīr’s rejection of social and religious hierarchies, modern members of the Kabīr panth generally find increased social status in the community, which enables assimilation within the hegemonic order that marginalizes them. A sense of spiritual worth therefore does not necessarily lead to social protest.

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    • Lorenzen, David N. Praises to a Formless God: Nirguṇī Texts from North India. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996.

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      Translates a variety of texts within the nirguṇa (aniconic) tradition, including Sain’s “The Kabīr-Raidās Debate,” addressing the merits of saguṇa (iconic) and nirguṇa paths and in which Kabīr prevails as an exponent of the latter and Raidās becomes his devotee. Includes a critical edition of the debate and a copy of a manuscript.

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    • Ram, Ronki. “Ravidass Deras and Social Protest: Making Sense of Dalit Consciousness in Punjab (India).” Journal of Asian Studies 67.4 (November 2008): 1341–1364.

      DOI: 10.1017/S0021911808001800Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Discusses the significance of Raidās for modern Dalit movements in Punjab, especially in relation to Ravidass Deras, centers that serve both spiritual and social purposes in uniting Dalits and enabling an empowering consciousness of separate identity.

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    • Vaudeville, Charlotte. A Weaver Named Kabir: Selected Verses with a Detailed Biographical and Historical Introduction. French Studies in South Asian Culture and Society, Vol. 6. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1993.

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      An in-depth historical study followed by translations of Kabīr’s works from various sources, including the Bījak and the Gurū Granth, with selections as well from Kabīr’s forerunners (Rāmānand, Nāmdev, Trilochan, Sadhnā) and contemporaries (Raidās, Pīpā, Dhannā, Bhīkhan, Paramānand). Includes a bibliography, concordances, and an index.

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    Sūrdās, Vallabha, and the Puṣṭi Mārga

    Sūrdās was a 16th-century devotee who often sang in the voice of women enamored of Krishna. His songs remain popular in the region of Vraja and in North India more generally, but the details of his historical life are difficult to distinguish from sectarian accounts, the most significant found in Vallabhite hagiography. Hawley 2005 includes six essays on Sūrdās specifically, as well as comparative pieces, in a volume devoted to Mīrābāī, Sūrdās, and Kabīr; Hawley 2009 translates numerous poems from the Sūrsāgar, Sūr’s “ocean” of devotional poetry. Barz 1992 offers a thorough study of Vallabha’s life and teachings, including the sampradāya’s (sect) account of Sūrdās in the Caurāsī Vaiṣṇavan kī Vārtā. Peabody 2003 is a historical study of patronage, power, and religion in the Puṣṭi Mārga cult of Srinathji during the 18th and early 19th centuries.

    • Barz, Richard. The Bhakti Sect of Vallabhācārya. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1992.

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      A detailed study of Vallabha’s life, philosophy, and teachings on the puṣṭimārga, or the “path of grace,” allowing devotees to surrender completely to Krishna; includes translations of four vārtā, edifying stories recounting episodes in the lives of exemplary bhaktas, including Sūrdās. Originally published in 1976.

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    • Hawley, John Stratton. Three Bhakti Voices: Mirabai, Surdas, and Kabir in Their Times and Ours. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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      Features six essays on Sūrdās that discuss the earliest manuscripts and Sūr’s status in relation to saints within both saguṇa and nirguṇa (iconic and aniconic) traditions. Examines and rejects the traditional Vallabhite version of Sūr’s life and his alleged relationship with Vallabhācārya. Includes numerous poems in Hindi and English translation.

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    • Hawley, John Stratton, trans. The Memory of Love: Sūrdās Sings to Krishna. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

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      Beautiful translations of songs known in the 16th century, with copious notes and a lengthy, detailed introduction historically situating Sūrdās within a school of North Indian poets and explaining Sūr’s sources, his poetry, and his legacy. Some treatment of Sūr’s traditional association with the Vallabha sampradāya (sect).

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    • Peabody, Norbert. Hindu Kingship and Polity in Precolonial India. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

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      Explores the political and economic history of the Vallabha sampradāya (sect or school) and the image of Srinathji in the Rajasthani kingdom of Kota, where “kings, sectarian hierarchs, and traders” (p. 14) both competed and cooperated in a struggle for power and prosperity; with significant attention to the symbolic power of icons and the economy of pilgrimage.

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    Rāmāyaṇa Traditions

    Since the composition of Vālmīki’s Sanskrit Rāmāyaṇa in ancient India, Rama has been a central figure in South Asian religions, but interpretations of the story and its significance vary considerably over time and place. While some devotees revere Rama’s earthly avatāra (avatar, descent or incarnation), celebrated for various exploits, including the slaying of Rāvaṇa, others conceptualize Rama as the formless absolute, the mere chanting of whose name effects salvation even for the lowest castes. Still others associate Rama with the ideal polity (rāmrājya) described in the Rāmāyaṇa and therefore deploy the symbol of Rama as a Hindu nationalist icon. A number of studies afford insights into such varied traditions, with Narayan 1977 providing perhaps the most accessible English abridgment of the Rāmāyaṇa, his narrative based on Kamban’s 12th-century telling in Tamil. Lutgendorf 1991 is a detailed ethnographic study of Tulsidās’s Rāmcaritmānas in North Indian performance traditions, and Lutgendorf 1990 considers the television serial Ramayan, produced by Ramanand Sagar, that aired on the Indian government network Doordarshan in the late 1980s. Van der Veer 1988 studies the business of pilgrimage in Ayodhya, looking closely at Rāmānandī monks and paṇḍās (Brahman priests), both religious specialists offering services to pilgrims. Lamb 2002 examines the Rāmnāmī Samāj, a sect of Dalit (untouchable) devotees from Madhya Pradesh. Richman 1991 is a multidisciplinary volume on the diversity of Rāmāyaṇa traditions in South Asia, and Richman 2001 is a more focused look at the traditions that question or subvert the dominant narratives. Van der Veer 1995 explores the political dimensions of devotion to Rama in the aftermath of the destruction of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in December 1992.

    • Lamb, Ramdas. Rapt in the Name: The Ramnamis, Ramnam, and Untouchable Religion in Central India. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002.

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      A study of the modern Rāmnāmī Samāj, a sect of Dalit devotees in Madhya Pradesh. Considers the history of Rama bhakti in India, especially in relation to the Rāmcaritmānas and devotional practices of the lower castes, and that draws on the author’s years of ethnographic research among the Rāmnāmīs.

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    • Lutgendorf, Philip. “Ramayan: The Video.” TDR (1988–) 34.2 (Summer 1990): 127–176.

      DOI: 10.2307/1146030Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A study of the Doordarshan version of the Rāmāyaṇa with comparison to the Rāmcaritmānas and its performance traditions and attention to critical debates regarding late-20th-century media and religion in Indian culture.

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    • Lutgendorf, Philip. The Life of a Text: Performing the Rāmcaritmānas of Tulsidas. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.

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      A comprehensive study of the Rāmcaritmānas, its history, and its significance in North India, primarily through an ethnography of the text in performance traditions but with attention as well to its sociopolitical dimensions, including its role in late-20th-century nationalist movements.

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    • Narayan, R. K. The Ramayana: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic; Suggested by the Tamil Version of Kamban. New York: Penguin, 1977.

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      An abridged English version of the story based on Kamban’s 12th-century Irāmāvatāram in Tamil. Offers a good portrayal of Rama as the “ideal man,” and captures the power of bhakti in characters such as Hanuman. Accessible and engaging, very useful in introductory courses. Originally published in 1972 by Viking Penguin.

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    • Richman, Paula, ed. Many Rāmāyaṇas: The Diversity of a Narrative Tradition in South Asia. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.

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      A multidisciplinary anthology examining the diversity of Rāmāyaṇa traditions throughout India, with essays on South Indian readings, women’s songs, political interpretations, and rasik (aesthetic) sects in Ayodhya whose devotional practices involve visualizing the erotic union of Rama and Sītā.

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    • Richman, Paula, ed. Questioning Ramayanas: A South Asian Tradition. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.

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      A multidisciplinary anthology that explores the politics of Rāmāyaṇa composition and thus the politics of devotion to Rama (and Sītā) by examining the ways diverse versions of the Rāmāyaṇa question and subvert the dominant narratives.

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    • van der Veer, Peter. Gods on Earth: The Management of Religious Experience and Identity in a North Indian Pilgrimage Centre. London School of Economics Monographs on Social Anthropology 59. London: Athlone, 1988.

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      An anthropological examination of the monks and priests who reside in Ayodhya and act as religious specialists for pilgrims. Includes a detailed study of the Rāmānandī sadhus and situates pilgrimage in sociohistorical and political contexts, exploring the market value of the religious experience and the competition among specialists.

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    • van der Veer, Peter. “The Politics of Devotion to Rāma.” In Bhakti Religion in North India: Community Identity and Political Action. Edited by David N. Lorenzen, 288–305. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995.

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      Argues that the political dimensions of devotion to Rama are not entirely modern, that religion in actual history, practice, and doctrine is inherently political, and that devotees are sometimes violent. Briefly addresses various versions of the Rāmāyaṇa, the Rāmānandīs, and the historical significance of Ayodhya.

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    Gītagovinda

    In eastern India during the 12th century a court poet named Jayadeva composed a long song in Sanskrit called the Gītagovinda, which celebrates the love of Krishna and Rādhā, the first detailed portrayal of their amorous relationship. Drawing on aesthetic theory, Jayadeva provides intense emotional and religious context, as his sensuous kāvya (poetry) depicts the lovers’ mutual pleasure and pain in union and separation. The poem and its religious aesthetic have been highly influential on subsequent traditions, endearing Rādhā to generations of Vaishnavas across India. Miller 1977 is an English translation of Jayadeva’s lyric, and Hawley and Wulff 1982 is an interdisciplinary volume with several essays focused on Rādhā, her history, her exemplary devotion to Krishna, and her role in various texts and traditions beyond the Gītagovinda.

    • Hawley, John Stratton, and Donna Marie Wulff, eds. The Divine Consort: Rādhā and the Goddesses of India. Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Religious Studies Series, 1982.

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      Includes several articles on Rādhā in the Gītagovinda and later contexts, where Rādhā is glorified as the ideal devotee, divinized herself by her sublime passion for Krishna. Authors represent a variety of academic disciplines. Reissued in 1986 (Boston: Beacon).

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    • Miller, Barbara Stoler, ed. and trans. Love Song of the Dark Lord: Jayadeva’s Gītagovinda. New York: Columbia University Press, 1977.

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      A beautiful translation prefaced by a detailed introduction with sections on Jayadeva and his kavya, Krishna’s daśarūpa (ten-incarnate)forms, and Rādhā’s brief literary appearances preceding the Gītagovinda. Includes the text in Devanagari. Excellent primary text for graduate students and advanced undergraduates.

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    Bengal (Gauḍīya) and Caitanya Vaishavism

    As does the Gītagovinda, Vaishnava literature in Bengal prominently portrays the romance of Rādhā and Krishna, with highly expressive songs dramatizing the lovers’ sorrowful separations and passionate trysts. Dimock and Levertov 1981 provides excellent English translations of such Bengali lyrics composed by a select group of late-medieval poets, while Bhattacharya 1987 translates poems by only the devotee Vidyāpati. Subsequent to the 15th century, the development of Vaishnavism in Bengal was also heavily influenced by the figure of Caitanya (b. 1486–d. 1533), the charismatic saint considered by some to be a divine incarnation. His life is portrayed in Dimock 1999, the definitive English translation of the Caitanya Caritāmṛta, which presents the saint as an avatar (avatāra) of Krishna and Rādhā in one body. Caitanya embodied an ecstatic form of bhakti, suffering intensely his separation from Krishna, like Rādhā and the gopīs. Although he was not a theologian himself, from his devotional experience an elaborate philosophy was developed by the Gosvāmīs of Vrindavan, whose theological writings, informed by aesthetic theory, focused on the cultivation of intense love in various moods (bhāva) for Krishna. Haberman 1988 explores such religioaesthetic practices, by which devotees enter into the world of Krishna’s eternal līlā (divine play) and Gupta 2007 examines Jīva Gosvāmī’s theological synthesis of Vedanta and bhakti, central to Caitanya Vaishnavism. Dimock 1989 is a classic study of another sort of synthesis, that of tantra and bhakti, by the Vaiṣṇava-sahajiyā sect. Manring 2005 is a study of the 15th- to 16th-century scholar Advaita Ācārya in hagiography and history, and Valpey 2006 is a portrayal of bhakti as expressed in contemporary image worship at two temples in India and the United Kingdom.

    • Bhattacharya, Deben, trans. Love Songs of Vidyāpati. Edited by W. G. Archer. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1987.

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      Translations of one hundred songs with helpful notes and an informative historical introduction. Numerous black and white illustrations. Originally published in 1963 (London: Allen and Unwin).

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    • Dimock, Edward C., Jr. The Place of the Hidden Moon: Erotic Mysticism in the Vaiṣṇava-sahajiyā Cult of Bengal. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989.

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      Classic study of the doctrines and practices of the Vaiṣṇava-sahajiyās, a sect fusing tantric practices (including sexual union) and orthodox Vaishnava teachings on bhakti experienced as intense love in separation and union. Includes translation of a brief 19th-century Sahajiyā text. Originally published in 1966.

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    • Dimock, Edward C., Jr., trans. Caitanya Caritāmṛta of Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja: A Translation and Commentary. Edited by Tony K. Stewart. Harvard Oriental Series 56. Cambridge, MA: Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies, Harvard University, 1999.

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      The standard scholarly translation of this key text with comprehensive introductory and commentarial material. Includes śloka (verse) and subject indexes as well as detailed bibliographies on biographical and related literatures in Indic and European languages.

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    • Dimock, Edward C., Jr., and Denise Levertov, trans. In Praise of Krishna: Songs from the Bengali. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.

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      Brilliant translations of a short selection of poems written roughly between the 15th and 17th century, primarily in Bengali. Pocket paperback, excellent for class use with both graduates and undergraduates. Originally published in 1967 by Doubleday.

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    • Gupta, Ravi M. The Caitanya Vaiṣṇava Vedānta of Jīva Gosvāmī: When Knowledge Meets Devotion. Routledge Hindu Studies Series. London: Routledge, 2007.

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      Examines the theology of Caitanya Vaishnavism through an analysis of Jīva’s synthesis of Vedanta, ecstatic bhakti, puranic tradition, and aesthetic theory. Provides a critical edition and translation of Jīva’s Catuḥsūtrī Ṭīkā, on the meaning of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa in relation to the Brahma Sūtra.

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    • Haberman, David L. Acting as a Way of Salvation: A Study of Rāgānugā Bhakti Sādhana. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

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      Explores the religiodramatic practices, elaborated by Rūpa Gosvāmī in the Bhaktirasāmṛtasindhu, by which devotees identify with exemplary characters from Vaishnava stories and then enter into Krishna’s Vraja līlā (divine play), thereby attaining salvation.

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    • Manring, Rebecca J. Reconstructing Tradition: Advaita Ācārya and Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism at the Cusp of the Twentieth Century. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.

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      A study of the 15th- to 16th-century scholar who became a disciple of Caitanya but who represented an orthodox interpretation of Vaishnavism that was revived in the 19th century. Focuses largely on hagiographies and their various functions throughout history, including discussion of Sītā Devī, Advaita Ācārya’s wife.

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    • Valpey, Kenneth Russell. Attending Kṛṣṇa’s Image: Caitanya Vaiṣṇava Mūrti-Sevā as Devotional Truth. Routledge Hindu Studies Series. London: Routledge, 2006.

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      Discusses Krishna’s icons as embodiments of religious truth, ritually worshipped in the Rādhāramaṇa Temple in Vrindavan and in the Bhaktivedanta Manor near London, the central temple of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in the United Kingdom.

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    Vraja (Braj)

    Since the 16th century the geographic area in north central India known as Vraja has become a major Vaishnava pilgrimage center, celebrated as the land of Krishna’s birth and his youthful play in the forests. Entwistle 1987 is a comprehensive survey of the region and its complex history with attention to a variety of sacred spaces and devotional traditions. Vaudeville 1976 demonstrates that Vraja became a significant place of pilgrimage only after its “discovery” in the 16th century, and Pauwels 2009 studies this late-medieval religious renaissance in relation to military history and negotiations for political power between Mughal and local rulers. Examining the same historical period from another perspective, Pauwels 2003 explores how the hagiographies of Harirām Vyās contribute to the delineation of specifically sectarian sacred space in Vrindavan. Regarding devotion as aesthetic experience, Hawley and Goswami 1981 explains how performers and audience together experience Krishna’s playful world through popular dramatic performances called rās līlās, and Sanford 2002 explains how devotees see Krishna through a synesthetic experience in hearing Paramānand’s devotional poetry. With respect to bhakti and ritual in late-20th-century practice, Haberman 1994 provides the viewpoint of a scholar and a pilgrim simultaneously in his lively and informative account of the arduous regional pilgrimage called Ban-Yatra. Packert 2010 describes the elaborate ornamental arts at two Krishna temples in Vrindavan and one in Jaipur, and Goswami 2001 shares a resident scholar-devotee’s perspective on the region and its rituals, illustrated by numerous colorful photographs.

    • Entwistle, A. W. Braj: Centre of Krishna Pilgrimage. Groningen Oriental Studies 3. Groningen, The Netherlands: Forsten, 1987.

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      The definitive study of Vraja with attention to Krishna myths; devotional theory and practice; ancient, medieval, and modern history; texts on pilgrimage sites; varieties of sacred space (mountains, rivers, forests, and so forth); the pilgrimage itinerary; and various maps, monochrome plates, and appendixes. Extensive bibliography.

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    • Goswami, Shrivatsa. Celebrating Krishna. Photographs by Robyn Beeche. Vrindavan, India: Sri Caitanya Prema Samsthana, 2001.

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      A photo essay featuring dynamic color images of Krishna icons, temple rituals, rās līlā performances, and popular festivals. Brief but informative text provides sufficient context without detracting from the visual splendor and joyful exuberance of the devotional life in Vraja.

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    • Haberman, David L. Journey through the Twelve Forests: An Encounter with Krishna. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

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      A first-person account of the pilgrimage circuit informed by broad textual, cultural, and historical knowledge. Useful in courses as an introduction to the theory and ritual of pilgrimage and suitable for undergraduates.

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    • Hawley, John Stratton, with Shrivatsa Goswami. At Play with Krishna: Pilgrimage Dramas from Brindavan. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981.

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      A study and translation of the performance scripts of four rās līlās, dramatizations of popular episodes from Krishna’s līlā (divine play), in which Brahmana boys play the parts of Krishna and his entourage in Vraja and by which spectators enjoy the freedom of Krishna’s eternal play in an aesthetic experience of bhakti.

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    • Packert, Cynthia. The Art of Loving Krishna: Ornamentation and Devotion. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010.

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      Examines decorative art as devotional practice at the Rādhāramaṇa and the Rādhāvallabha temples in Vrindavan and the Govindadeva temple in Jaipur. Includes numerous illustrations, both mono- and polychrome.

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    • Pauwels, Heidi. “Paradise Found, Paradise Lost: Harirām Vyās’s Love for Vrindāban and What Hagiographers Made of It.” In Pilgrims, Patrons, and Place: Localizing Sanctity in Asian Religions. Edited by Phyllis Granoff and Koichi Shinohara, 124–180. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2003.

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      Reflects on the intersections of hagiography, community formation, and sacred space through a profile of the 16th-century bhakta Harirām Vyās, his views on Vrindavan, and his hagiographers’ sectarian interpretations despite Vyās’s own antisectarian bhakti.

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    • Pauwels, Heidi. “The Saint, the Warlord, and the Emperor: Discourses of Braj Bhakti and Bundelā Loyalty.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 52 (2009): 187–228.

      DOI: 10.1163/156852009X434337Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Examines the early to mid-16th-century religious renaissance of Vraja in relation to the prominent military presence in the region, showing how discourses of bhakti informed political negotiations between the Mughal Empire and local rulers, especially the Bundelā Madhukar Shāh.

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    • Sanford, A. Whitney. “Painting Words, Tasting Sound: Visions of Krishna in Paramānand’s Sixteenth-Century Devotional Poetry.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 70.1 (March 2002): 55–81.

      DOI: 10.1093/jaar/70.1.55Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Argues that the aesthetic experience of Paramānand’s lyrics allows devotees the corresponding sensual experience of seeing Krishna and enjoying his līlā (divine play); Paramānand’s devotional poems and metaphors therefore effect a “synaesthetic transformation of sound into sight.”

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    • Vaudeville, Charlotte. “Braj, Lost and Found.” Indo-Iranian Journal 18.3–4 (1976): 195–213.

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      Explores the history of Mathura and the region of Vraja and demonstrates that prior to the 16th century (when the great Vaishnava scholars arrived) the area was little developed as a pilgrimage site or a center of Krishna bhakti more generally.

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    Kashmir Shaivism

    Though Kashmir has been home to various forms of Shaivism since perhaps the mid-1st millennium CE, the most well-known school is Trika Śaivism, associated with the late-10th-century philosopher Abhinavagupta. Though fundamentally monistic, the school produced bhakti hymns expressing love for Shiva as the object of ardent devotion. Flood 1993 analyzes the monistic Shaiva context of bhakti with reference to such hymns by Utpaladeva and Bhaṭṭanārāyaṇa (c. 10th century) and the later commentary of Kṣemarāja. Bailly 1987 provides an English translation of Utpaladeva’s Śivastotrāvalī and Silburn 1964 a French translation of Bhaṭṭanārāyaṇa’s Stavacintāmaṇi. Silburn 1970 translates hymns by Abhinavagupta into French, and Braverman 2003 is a dissertation exploring bhakti in works by major Kashmir Shaiva thinkers, including Utpaladeva and Abhinavagupta. Kaul 1973 is a study of the c. 14th-century woman saint Lallā Dēd, including translations of her songs.

    • Bailly, Constantina Rhodes. Shaiva Devotional Songs of Kashmir: A Translation and Study of Utpaladeva’s Shivastotravali. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987.

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      An English translation of the Śivastotrāvalī with the Sanskrit in transliteration, a brief introduction to Kashmir Shaivism, and appendices on pratyabhijñā, the recognition of oneself as Shiva, and on variant readings in the manuscript tradition. Includes a good bibliography, with reference to various genres in Sanskrit and to works in translation and other studies.

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    • Braverman, Marcy Alison. “Possession, Immersion, and the Intoxicated Madnesses of Devotion in Hindu Traditions.” PhD diss., University of California, Santa Barbara, 2003.

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      Chapter 5 (pp. 178–225) surveys the devotional content of the writings of such major Kashmir Shaiva thinkers as Somānanda, Utpaladeva, Abhinavagupta, Kṣemarāja, and the compilers of the Kulārṇava Tantra.

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    • Flood, Gavin. “The Subject, the Object, the Path, and the Goal: Śaiva Devotion in a Monistic Setting.” In Love Divine: Studies in Bhakti and Devotional Mysticism. Durham Indological Series 3. Edited by Karel Werner, 173–192. Richmond, UK: Curzon, 1993.

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      Discusses the dualistic and monistic models of bhakti in the hymns of Utpaladeva and Bhaṭṭanārāyaṇa along with Kṣemarāja’s commentary. Shows how bhakti as a religious path holds Shiva as both object and subject of devotion in the monistic Shaiva context and how bhakti as a philosophical category promotes a monistic view.

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    • Kaul, Jayalal. Lal Ded. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 1973.

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      A study of Lallā Dēd’s life and work with annotated English translations of her songs. Includes a bibliography and concordance but no index.

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    • Silburn, Lilian, trans. La Bhakti: Le Stavacintāmaṇi de Bhaṭṭanārāyaṇa. Études sur le Śivaïsme du Kaśmīr 1. Paris: Éditions E. de Boccard, 1964.

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      A French translation of the Stavacintāmaṇi with commentary on each verse and the Sanskrit in transliteration and a substantive preliminary discussion of bhakti and Shiva in various forms (magician, lover, ascetic, dancer, and so forth).

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    • Silburn, Lilian, trans. Hymnes de Abhinavagupta. Paris: Institut de Civilisation de l’Université de Paris, 1970.

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      An annotated French translation of eight hymns by Abhinavagupta, including the Sanskrit in transliteration and a commentary on each hymn. Introduction discusses Abhinavagupta’s monism and situates the hymns within his philosophy more generally.

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    Shakta Traditions

    Devotion to the goddess, and in fact to many goddesses, is prominent in Indian religions, with Devī conceptualized as Shakti (śakti, cosmic power), and her traditions and devotees thus known as Shakta (śākta), related to or devoted to Shakti. Although perhaps most popular now in West Bengal, goddess worship is an ancient, indigenous practice and is therefore widely seen throughout the subcontinent. References to goddesses appear in the Rig-Veda, the Mahābhārata, and other ancient sources, but an early expression of praise to Devī as the supreme power appears in the c. 6th-century Devī-Māhātmya, translated in Coburn 1991. Centuries later the Devī Gītā appeared, a Shakta analogue to the Bhagavad Gita, extolling Devī as Brahman incarnate, her purpose to enlighten and save the world. Brown 2002 is a translation suitable for course use. McLean 1998 is a study of the famous Kālī devotee Rāmprasād Sen, and Nathan and Seely 1999 offers translations of Rāmprasād’s provocative songs. McDermott 2001a is a richly detailed study of Shakta devotion in Bengal from the 18th to the 20th century, and the companion volume, McDermott 2001b, is an anthology of diverse Shakta poetry from the same period. McDaniel 2004 explores popular Bengali Shaktism, and McDermott and Kripal 2003 offers essays on Kālī in a variety of traditional and contemporary contexts, including the Internet.

    • Brown, C. Mackenzie, trans. The Song of the Goddess: The Devi Gita, Spiritual Counsel of the Great Goddess. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002.

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      An English translation of a song sometimes considered the Shakta analogue of the Bhagavad Gita and originally situated within the c. 15th-century Devī-Bhāgavata Purāṇa. First published in 1998 in an edition more suitable for scholars, including detailed annotation and commentary, and the text in Devanagari.

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    • Coburn, Thomas B. Encountering the Goddess: A Translation of the Devī-Māhātmya and a Study of Its Interpretation. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991.

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      An English translation and historical study of the c. 6th-century hymn found in the Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa. With chapters describing the hymn’s ritual uses, its later commentaries, and its late-20th-century interpretations and functions. First four chapters are most useful in advanced undergraduate courses.

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    • McDaniel, June. Offering Flowers, Feeding Skulls: Popular Goddess Worship in West Bengal. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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      An ethnographic study of Shaktism in its folk/tribal, tantric, and devotional expressions with attention to their interactions and to the appropriations of Hindu goddesses in the modern West. Emphasis is on popular Bengal Shaktism as a lived religious experience, the analysis informed by a variety of sources.

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    • McDermott, Rachel Fell. Mother of My Heart, Daughter of My Dreams: Kālī and Umā in the Devotional Poetry of Bengal. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001a.

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      A sophisticated study of Shaktism in Bengal from the 18th through the 20th centuries that demonstrates how Kālī is “sweetened” over time, as the fierce tantric goddess becomes more popularized through bhakti. Published with a companion volume of poetry in translation, McDermott 2001b.

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    • McDermott, Rachel Fell. Singing to the Goddess: Poems to Kālī and Umā from Bengal. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001b.

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      A beautiful collection of Bengali Shakta poetry in English translation, with selections from the famous Rāmprasād Sen and lesser-known poets from the 20th century, including the sociopolitically minded Muslim poet Najrul Islām and four women. Excellent for use in courses on Hindu goddesses.

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    • McDermott, Rachel Fell, and Jeffrey J. Kripal, eds. Encountering Kālī: In the Margins, at the Center, in the West. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.

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      Essays on Kālī in various South Asian contexts, including the Sanskrit puranas and contemporary politics, and in various Western settings and discourses, including colonial, postcolonial, and New Age.

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    • McLean, Malcolm. Devoted to the Goddess: The Life and Work of Ramprasad. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998.

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      A study of the famous 18th-century Bengali poet that situates Rāmprasād’s bhakti within the tantric context of Shakti sādhana, in contrast to Vaishnava devotional traditions also prominent in Bengal. Also addresses the problem of historicity in relation to both Sen’s life and his works.

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    • Nathan, Leonard, and Clinton Seely, trans. Grace and Mercy in Her Wild Hair: Selected Poems to the Mother Goddess. By Rāmprasād Sen. Prescott, AZ: Hohm, 1999.

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      A pocketbook collection of Rāmprasād’s poems in English translation, excellent for use in undergraduate courses. Introduction situates the poet and his works within the contexts of Shakta bhakti and tantra. Originally published in 1982 (Boulder, CO: Great Eastern).

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    Women Bhaktas

    Women are prominent in the history of bhakti, some rejecting marriage and social conventions out of single-minded devotion to their deity of choice, but scholars remain divided on the religious and social significance of extraordinary bhaktas in the lives of ordinary women who are wives and mothers. Ramanujan 1986 provides a brief survey of women “saints” in order to demonstrate that the pativratā ideal (the woman devoted to her husband, as embodied in Sītā, for example,) is not the only social model available to women in India. Kinsley 1981 makes a similar argument, namely that some women bhaktas reject dharma in favor of bhakti and thus embody an alternative to the social norm of marriage and family. Gupta 1991, by contrast, finds that only Shaiva women subvert conventional social codes and enjoy a respected autonomy as religious women. Ramaswamy 1997 explores the “spiritual history” of women within patriarchal societies in South India from the Caṅkam period through the medieval Vārkarī movements, noting how spiritual freedom and even spiritual radicalism do not necessarily entail social transformation. Chakravarti 1999 briefly reviews the lives of famous women bhaktas and contends that men are more easily able to reconcile bhakti and householder life, whereas women prefer to offer their bodies only to God. Ali 2000 argues against traditional interpretations of bhakti as a liberating force for women and instead contends that patriarchal power is simply transformed in various medieval discourses in which the “female voice” endorses masculine sovereignty. The special issue on “Women Bhakta Poets” (Kishwar 1989) in the Indian journal Manushi is a triple issue, and Rosen 1996 focuses on Vaishnava women specifically.

    • Ali, Daud. “From Nāyikā to Bhakta: A Genealogy of Female Subjectivity in Early Medieval India.” In Invented Identities: The Interplay of Gender, Religion, and Politics in India. Edited by Julia Leslie and Mary McGee, 157–180. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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      Argues that the prominent female voice in medieval bhakti does not represent a subversion of patriarchy but rather a transformation of patriarchal power in which the once “independent woman” (nāyikā) becomes a subservient bhakta in diverse religiopolitical discourses that celebrate masculine sovereignty in both kingdom and household.

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    • Chakravarti, Uma. “The World of the Bhaktin in South Indian Traditions: The Body and Beyond.” In Women in Early Indian Societies. Edited by Kumkum Roy, 299–321. New Delhi: Manohar, 1999.

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      Explores conflicts between marriage and devotion and argues that, while men were often householders and bhaktas simultaneously, notable women rejected marriage and offered their bodies to God; yet unlike men, women have little support as renouncers in society.

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    • Gupta, Sanjukta. “Women in the Śaiva/Śākta Ethos.” In Roles and Rituals for Hindu Women. Edited by Julia Leslie, 193–209. Rutherford, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1991.

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      Briefly considers three Shaiva and three Vaishnava saints and argues that Vaishnava theology precludes the possibility of women becoming independent renouncers and gurus while Shaiva traditions “influenced by the śakti theology of the tantras” (p. 195) accepted the autonomy of religious women.

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    • Kinsley, David. “Devotion as an Alternative to Marriage in the Lives of Some Hindu Women Devotees.” In Tradition and Modernity in Bhakti Movements. Edited by Jayant Lele, 83–93. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1981.

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      Short article that discusses Mahādēviyakka, Lallā Dēd, Mīrābāī, and Rādhā and argues that such figures who privilege love of God over social duties represent aspects of medieval bhakti in opposition to the dharmic bhakti of the Bhagavad Gita. Later bhakti thus offers women an alternative to conventional domestic life.

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    • Kishwar, Madhu, ed. Manushi 50–52 (January–June 1989). Special Issue: Women Bhakta Poets.

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      A triple-volume issue of the journal with attention to North and South Indian women, including Āṇṭāḷ, Mahādēviyakka, Bahiṇābāī and other Vārkarīs, and Mīrābāī and her contemporary devotees; with poetry and illustration.

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    • Ramanujan, A. K. “On Women Saints.” In The Divine Consort: Rādhā and the Goddesses of India. Edited by John Stratton Hawley and Donna Marie Wulff, 316–324. Boston: Beacon, 1986.

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      Argues that the lives of historical women bhaktas subvert the pativratā (devoted-wife) paradigm of Sītā and Sāvitrī and thus offer a different model for Indian women in defiance of social norms. Volume originally published in 1982 by the Graduate Theological Union.

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    • Ramaswamy, Vijaya. Walking Naked: Women, Society, Spirituality in South India. Shimla: Indian Institute of Advanced Study, 1997.

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      A study of female “spirituality” within the context of patriarchal societies in South India broadly, from the Caṅkam period through the medieval Vārkarī movements. Assumes “spirituality” as a transcendent experience and explores the “spiritual history” of women among the Āḻvārs, Nāyaṉārs, Vīraśaivas, and others.

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    • Rosen, Steven J., ed. Vaiṣṇavī: Women and the Worship of Krishna. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1996.

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      Essays originally published in the Journal of Vaiṣṇava Studies on figures such as Āṇṭāḷ, Mīrābāī, and Bahiṇābāī; on less familiar women in Gauḍīya Vaishnavism; and on late 20th-century women in the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) offer reflections on feminism and liberation in Krishna bhakti within diverse social and religious contexts.

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    Kāraikkāl Ammaiyār

    One of only three women Nāyaṉārs, the 6th-century Kāraikkāl Ammaiyār is well known in Tamil Nadu but less studied by Western scholars than other Shaiva bhaktas. Craddock 2010 is a monograph exploring Ammaiyār’s life, poetry, and her modern-day following in Tamil Nadu. Pechilis 2006 is a translation of Ammaiyār’s story as told in the 12th-century Periya Purāṇam. Sasivalli 1984 is a thematic study of Kāraikkāl Ammaiyār’s Tamil songs, and Pechilis 2008 is a feminist reflection on her story.

    • Craddock, Elaine. 2010. Śiva’s Demon Devotee: Kāraikkāl Ammaiyār. Albany: State University of New York Press.

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      Discusses the South Indian and specifically Tamil context of Ammaiyār’s poetry and her place among the Nāyaṉārs; her hagiographies beginning in the 12th century, and including film and contemporary narratives; and the towns, temples, and festivals associated with Ammaiyār’s birth and liberation. Includes translations of Ammaiyār’s poetry.

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    • Pechilis, Karen. “The Story of the Classical Tamil Woman Saint, Kāraikkāl Ammaiyār: A Translation of Her Story from Cēkkiḻār’s Periya Purāṇam.” International Journal of Hindu Studies 10.2 (August 2006): 173–186.

      DOI: 10.1007/s11407-006-9021-5Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A translation of Kāraikkāl Ammaiyār’s life story from Cēkkiḻār’s Periya Purāṇam with an introductory discussion focused on her bodily transformations from a young devoted girl to a pēy (ghoul), and finally to a saint in Shiva’s presence, with attention to differences between Cēkkiḻār’s telling and Kāraikkāl’s own poetry.

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    • Pechilis, Karen. “Chosen Moments: Mediation and Direct Experience in the Life of the Classical Tamil Saint, Kāraikkāl Ammaiyār.” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 24.1 (2008): 11–31.

      DOI: 10.2979/FSR.2008.24.1.11Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Suggests that Kāraikkāl’s well-known story as mediated by the 12th-century hagiographer Cēkkiḻār reflects a “feminist consciousness” insofar as Kāraikkāl is represented as an authoritative Shaiva exemplar and social constructions of gender are questioned.

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    • Sasivalli, S. Karaikkal Ammaiyar. Madras: International Institute of Tamil Studies, 1984.

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      A sketch of Kāraikkāl Ammaiyār’s life based on the Periya Purāṇam followed by a thematic study of her works and her relationship with Shiva. Includes numerous translations as well as Kāraikkāl Ammaiyār’s songs in Tamil.

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    Āṇṭāḷ

    The only woman Āḻvār, Āṇṭāḷ and her passionate songs to Krishna are celebrated to this day in South India. Dehejia 1990 and Venkatesan 2010 translate Āṇṭāḷ’s 9th-century Tamil songs and contextualize them in studies of her life and hagiography, as well as later sectarian commentaries. Hudson 1980 elaborates the significance of Āṇṭāḷ’s Tiruppāvai in Śrī Vaishnava commentary. Hudson 2000 reflects on the tantric content of Āṇṭāḷ’s poems, and Hudson 1996 explores Āṇṭāḷ’s desire for Krishna within the historical and ritual context of her initiation into Pāñcarātra liturgical tradition. Narayanan 1995 shows how later Śrī Vaishnava interpretations of Āṇṭāḷ’s marriage to Vishnu make Āṇṭāḷ a theological model for all devotees but not a social model for women as renouncers.

    • Dehejia, Vidya, trans. Āṇṭāḷ and Her Path of Love: Poems of a Woman Saint from South India. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990.

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      A study and English translation of Āṇṭāḷ’s two well-known songs, Tiruppāvai and Nācciyār Tirumoḻi, with a detailed introduction that addresses Āṇṭāḷ’s historical context. Useful as a course text, especially when used with supplementary materials, such as Hudson 1980.

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    • Hudson, Dennis. “Bathing in Krishna: A Study in Vaiṣṇava Hindu Theology.” Harvard Theological Review 73 (1980): 539–566.

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      A reading of Āṇṭāḷ’s Tiruppāvai within the context of Śrī Vaishnava theology and the commentary of Periyavāccāṉ Piḷḷai. Elucidates the sense and broader significance of the poem. Indispensable as supplementary material in courses on Hindu bhakti that consider Āṇṭāḷ’s poem.

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    • Hudson, Dennis. “Āṇṭāḷ’s Desire.” In Vaiṣṇavī: Women and the Worship of Krishna. Edited by Steven J. Rosen, 171–209. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1996.

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      Reflects on Āṇṭāḷ’s poetic desire in relation to Pāñcarātra liturgy and suggests that Āṇṭāḷ’s poetry arises from the visions she experienced in her sadhana and from her realization that Krishna’s presence within her stimulates her own desire.

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    • Hudson, Dennis. “Tantric Rites in Āṇṭāḷ’s Poetry.” In Tantra in Practice. Edited by David Gordon White, 206–227. Princeton Readings in Religions. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000.

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      Suggests that Āṇṭāḷ describes in her poetry tantric rites of the Bhāgavata tradition that she practiced in her life. Discusses such rites and translates illustrative selections from Āṇṭāḷ’s Tiruppāvai and Nācciyār Tirumoḻi.

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    • Narayanan, Vasudha. “Renunciation and Gender Issues in the Śrī Vaiṣṇava Community.” In Asceticism. Edited by Vincent L. Wimbush and Richard Valantasis, 443–458. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

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      Notes how later biographers emphasize not ascetic but rather bridal aspects of Āṇṭāḷ’s passion for Vishnu and how the tradition has made her not a social role model for women who might likewise renounce conventional marriage but rather a spiritual model for all people who might selectively emulate her devotion.

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    • Venkatesan, Archana, trans. The Secret Garland: Āṇṭāḷs Tiruppāvai and Nācciyār Tirumoḻi. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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      Provides an English translation of Āṇṭāḷ’s Tiruppāvai and Nācciyār Tirumoḻi. Includes a lengthy introduction and commentaries on each song, with reference to ritual and performative traditions. Bibliography includes a brief list of electronic resources. Useful as a course text.

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    Mahādēviyakka

    A famous 12th-century woman who rejected strīdharma (women’s dharma, duty) and allegedly wandered naked singing her love for none but Shiva, Mahādēviyakka embodied a bold and fearless form of bhakti seldom seen among women. Ramanujan 1973 introduces the Vīraśaiva movement and its poets in an anthology that includes translations of select poems by Mahādēviyakka. Ramaswamy 1996 considers the place of women in the early history of the Vīraśaiva movement in relation to its later patriarchal routinization. Michael 1983 is a study of the 15th-century Śūnyasaṃpādane that shows how Vīraśaivism is socially conservative despite a spiritual egalitarianism that acknowledges women’s potential for perfection. Dabbe and Zydenbos 1989 also includes translations in a brief study that highlights Mahādēviyakka’s deep love for Shiva as the spiritual force that inspired her to transgress social norms.

    • Dabbe, Vijaya, and Robert Zydenbos. “Akka Mahadevi.” Manushi 50–52 (January–June 1989): 39–44.

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      A brief study of Mahādēviyakka and her poetry, including numerous translations from her songs, that emphasizes Mahādēviyakka’s specifically religious quest for union with Shiva, in contrast to modern protest movements focused on social issues, though her poetry continues to inspire contemporary women.

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    • Michael, R. Blake. “Women of the Śūnyasaṃpādane: Housewives and Saints in Vīraśaivism.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 103.2 (April–June 1983): 361–368.

      DOI: 10.2307/601458Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Argues that Vīraśaivism as represented in the 15th-century Śūnyasaṃpādane encourages women to pursue “spiritual perfection” but only within the context of conventional social roles. Instead of advocating social egalitarianism, then, this text supports the status quo.

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    • Ramanujan, A. K., trans. Speaking of Śiva. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1973.

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      An anthology of Vīraśaiva poetry in moving English translation that includes numerous selections from Mahādēviyakka. Useful as a course text.

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    • Ramaswamy, Vijaya. Divinity and Deviance: Women in Virasaivism. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1996.

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      Contends that later Vīraśaivas institutionalized caste and gender hierarchies in order to survive in a stratified society despite the spiritual egalitarianism expressed in Vīraśaiva metaphysics and women’s poetry. Includes translations of poems by numerous women. Generally useful study but lacks historical precision.

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    Mīrābāī

    Mīrābāī was allegedly a 16th-century princess who forsook her royal life and wandered with itinerant devotees singing her love for Krishna, but her history is vague, and her legends differ considerably. Nevertheless, she continues to inspire devotion and resistance among diverse classes of people in North India. Hawley 2005 includes four chapters on Mīrā, variously portrayed, in his larger study of North Indian bhaktas and their enduring significance. Martin-Kershaw 2000 examines a 19th-century version of Mīrā’s story, linked to Rajput identity, and Harlan 1995 reports on interviews conducted with Rajput women in Mewar regarding Mīrābāī as their “illustrious ancestor,” despite her unacceptable behavior as a woman who transgressed various social boundaries. Martin 1996 reflects on interviews with women who emulate Mīrā’s behavior and live unconventional lives in devotion to Krishna. Sangari 1990 reads Mīrā’s bhakti as yet another form of patriarchal domination, to which Mīrābāī willingly submits though she boldly rejects the social strictures of conventional marriage, while Bhatnagar, et al. 2004, in sharp contrast, finds encoded in Mīrā’s songs a call for social revolution that moves people to this day. Mukta 1994 is a social history of Mīrā and the lower-caste community in western India associated with her name that finds in Mīrā’s legend and her bhajanas (devotional songs) a voice of resistance to oppression. Shukla-Bhatt 2007 focuses on performative translations of Mīrā’s legend and songs in Gujarat to show how the movement of bhakti across various cultural and linguistic boundaries connects communities of bhaktas.

    • Bhatnagar, Rashmi, Reena Dube, and Renu Dube. “Meera’s Medieval Lyric Poetry in Postcolonial India: The Rhetorics of Women’s Writing in Dialect as a Secular Practice of Subaltern Coauthorship and Dissent.” Boundary 2 31.3 (Fall 2004): 1–46.

      DOI: 10.1215/01903659-31-3-1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A postcolonial reading of Mīrā’s and her “coauthors’” religio-folk songs as a voice of subaltern protest; interprets the songs as encoding a critique of various forms of domination and disempowerment, patriarchal oppression in particular.

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    • Harlan, Lindsey. “Abandoning Shame: Mīrā and the Margins of Marriage.” In From the Margins of Hindu Marriage: Essays on Gender, Religion, and Culture. Edited by Lindsey Harlan and Paul B. Courtright, 204–227. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

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      Discusses the perception of Mīrābāī among late-20th-century Rajput women, who view Mīrā as a good bhakta but a bad wife, abandoning as she did her duties as a pativratā and transgressing various social codes. Mīrā is thus an extraordinary woman but not a social model for others.

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    • Hawley, John Stratton. Three Bhakti Voices: Mirabai, Surdas, and Kabir in Their Times and Ours. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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      Includes four chapters on Mīrābāī that discuss history, legend, and the manuscript traditions; gender; Mīrā’s continuing popularity; her evolving story; and her significance in contemporary Indian culture, including one chapter on Mīrā as depicted in the comic book series Amar Chitra Katha.

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    • Martin, Nancy M. “Mīrābāī: Inscribed in Text, Embodied in Life.” In Vaiṣṇavī: Women and the Worship of Krishna. Edited by Steven J. Rosen, 7–46. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1996.

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      Profiles four women living in Mathura and Vrindavan who find in Mīrā a model for their own lives devoted to Krishna as their pati, their husband and God; thus argues that Mīrā does inspire emulation and provides a model for women living religious lives beyond the confines of conventional marriage.

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    • Martin-Kershaw, Nancy. “Mīrābai in the Academy and the Politics of Identity.” In Faces of the Feminine in Ancient, Medieval, and Modern India. Edited by Mandakranta Bose, 162–182. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.s

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      Examines a version of Mīrā’s story that appears in the late 19th century and remains prominent in popular portrayals: Mīrā as a “good Rajput woman and wife” (p. 163), a narrative linked to nationalist ideologies and “revitalized Rajput identities in response to colonial domination” (p. 166).

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    • Mukta, Parita. Upholding the Common Life: The Community of Mirabai. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1994.

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      A study of the lower caste communities in Gujarat and Rajasthan for whom Mīrā’s bhajanas (devotional songs) remain a living tradition and a force of resistance against various forms of oppression. Based on fieldwork and historical studies that expose conflicting images of Mīrābāī in text and tradition.

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    • Sangari, Kumkum. “Mirabai and the Spiritual Economy of Bhakti.” Economic and Political Weekly 25 (7 July 1990): 1464–1475.

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      Argues that Mīrā rearticulates metaphorically (loving only Krishna) the patriarchy she rejects socially (abandoning her human husband) and thus still embraces subjection as the path to salvation, the willing servant of a God implicated in various regimes of domination. Continued in Economic and Political Weekly 25 (14 July 1990): 1537–1552.

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    • Shukla-Bhatt, Neelima. “Performance as Translation: Mīrā in Gujarat.” International Journal of Hindu Studies 11.3 (2007): 273–298.

      DOI: 10.1007/s11407-008-9053-0Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A reflection on bhakti as “movement”—through the example of Mīrābāī and her songs in Gujarat—that shows how bhakti as performance and in translation “moves” through histories and cultures and through the hearts of devotees but not as a unified force that transcends all social and sectarian boundaries.

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    Mīrābāī: Translations

    Although identifying songs that were indisputably composed by the historical Mīrābāī is a challenging task for scholars, numerous songs attributed to Mīrā nevertheless remain popular in North India and likewise enjoy an audience in the West. Martin 2010 provides a brief history of Mīra’s songs in English translation, especially exploring Mīra’s strong appeal in the United States since the 1980s. Hawley and Juergensmeyer 1988 introduces Mīrā and a small number of her songs in an anthology of North Indian bhaktas and their poetry. Schelling 1998 offers more poems, more freely translated, the translator a poet himself, his work intended for a general audience. Alston 1980 offers a large collection of Mīrā’s songs with a lengthy introduction.

    • Alston, A. J., trans. The Devotional Poems of Mīrābāi. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1980.

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      Close translations of two hundred poems preceded by a scholarly introduction treating Mīrā’s life, her place in the bhakti movement, and her poetry.

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    • Hawley, John Stratton, and Mark Juergensmeyer, trans. Songs of the Saints of India. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

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      Anthology that includes a section on Mīrābāī, with an introduction to her life, legend, and works; and with translations of twelve of her songs. Useful in courses of all levels.

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    • Martin, Nancy M. “Mirabai Comes to America: The Translation and Transformation of a Saint.” The Journal of Hindu Studies 3 (2010): 12-35.

      DOI: 10.1093/jhs/hiq009Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Explores Mīra’s popularity in the United States and in English translation more generally, showing how Mīra represents for many contemporary poets, novelists, therapists, feminists and others a voice of freedom, rebellion and empowerment. Reflects on the transformation of Mīra in this modern context, where she is made to speak for people who may be unfamiliar with Mīra’s Hindu and Indian roots.

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    • Schelling, Andrew, trans. For Love of the Dark One: Songs of Mirabai. Rev. ed. Prescott, AZ: Hohm, 1998.

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      Over eighty of Mīrā’s songs, translated by a poet. Based on others’ translations and studies, and intended for a popular audience, but useful in classes when accompanied by supplementary academic materials. Includes a brief but good bibliography of texts and recordings.

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    Bahiṇābāī

    A 17th-century Marathi saint who remained married despite her initial desire to renounce the world in devotion to Viṭhobā, Bahiṇābāī embodied both bhakti and strīdharma (women’s dharma, duty) and she authored poetry describing her struggles as a woman, a wife, and a bhakta. Abbott 1985 is a translation of Bahiṇābāī’s autobiographical work and other verse detailing previous lives and the duties of a wife. Feldhaus 1982 likewise includes translations in a brief study of Bahiṇābāī in relation to other famous women bhaktas who renounced marriage and family. McGee 1996 examines Bahiṇābāī’s domestic life more closely, considering the violent abuse she endured at the hands of her husband and her later claims that her husband was her god. Vanita 1989 looks at three women in the Vārkarī movement of Maharashtra—Muktābāī, Janābāī, and Bahiṇābāī—and suggests, unlike McGee 1996, that Bahiṇā found in bhakti an escape from strīdharma and abuse. Aklujkar 1999 similarly concludes that even the great women sants (saints) are still controlled by men in a study of various women associated with the Vārkarī gurus Nāmdev and Tukārām, including the gurus’ mothers and wives.

    • Abbott, Justin E., trans. Bahiṇā Bāī: A Translation of Her Autobiography and Verses. Foreword by Anne Feldhaus. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1985.

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      An English translation of Bahiṇābāī’s work; includes a glossary and the text in Marathi. Originally published Pune: Scottish Mission Industries, 1929.

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    • Aklujkar, Vidyut. “Between Pestle and Mortar: Women in the Marathi Sant Tradition.” In Studies in Early Modern Indo-Aryan Languages, Literature and Culture: Research Papers, 1992–1994, presented at the Sixth Conference on Devotional Literature in New Indo-Aryan Languages, held at Seattle, University of Washington, 7–9 July 1994. Edited by Alan W. Entwistle and Carol Salomon, 11–35. New Delhi: Manohar, 1999.

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      Argues that women, including Janābāī and Bahiṇābāī, are still subject to the control of men and that there is no easy resolution to the conflict between bhakti and strīdharma, whether the woman is the wife of a great bhakta or a great bhakta herself.

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    • Feldhaus, Anne. “Bahiṇā Bāī: Wife and Saint.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 50.4 (1982): 591–604.

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      Presents Bahiṇābāī as both wife and bhakta, in contrast to other women saints, such as Mīrābāī and Āṇṭāḷ, who renounced marriage and family in their quest for union with God. Describes the challenges involved in Bahiṇābāī’s eventual reconciliation of bhakti and dharma.

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    • McGee, Mary. “Bahiṇābāī: The Ordinary Life of an Exceptional Woman; or, The Exceptional Life of an Ordinary Woman.” In Vaiṣṇavī: Women and the Worship of Krishna. Edited by Steven J. Rosen, 133–169. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1996.

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      Examines Bahiṇābāī’s eventual decision to fulfill pativratādharma (her duty as a devoted wife) despite being the victim of domestic violence, in relation to her spiritual experiences and her knowledge that everything is Brahman. Suggests that Bahiṇā’s true wisdom allowed her to fulfill her wifely duties in freedom and in devotion to God.

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    • Vanita, Ruth. “Three Women Saints of Maharashtra: Muktabai, Janabai, Bahinabai.” Manushi 50–52 (January–June 1989): 45–61.

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      Provides a glimpse into the lives and writings of the three women saints, namely Muktābāī, the sister of Jñāndev; Janābāī, a servant in Nāmdev’s family; and Bahiṇābāī.

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    Banāsā

    A modern woman saint from Rajasthan, Banāsā (b. 1896–d. 1957) embodied a life of bhakti despite social and familial resistance, and she composed an autobiography with a view to inspiring other women in their own devotion to God. Horstmann 2003 is a translation of the work, in which Banāsā describes how she negotiated her religious freedom in relation to the demands of strīdharma (her duties as a wife).

    • Horstmann, Monika, trans. Banasa: A Spiritual Autobiography. Khoj, a Series of Modern South Asian Studies 7. Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz, 2003.

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      An English translation of the autobiography composed in modern Marvārī with a helpful introduction detailing Banāsā’s position as a woman bhakta in the tradition of Mīrābāī, to whom Banāsā frequently refers.

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    Comparative Studies: Christianity

    Scholars and others have long been engaged in comparative studies of Hinduism and Christianity, finding especially in the theistic traditions of Hinduism fruitful ground for interreligious dialogue on various issues, including divinity and devotion. Parrinder 1963 is a classic comparative study of Hindu and Christian scriptures focusing on early Sanskrit works in Hinduism. Brockington 1992 offers a thematic comparison of various beliefs and practices, recognizing a diversity of traditions in each religion. Klostermaier 1971 is an account of the Christian author’s two-year residence in Vrindavan, where he discovered Christ in Hinduism. Sheridan 2007 presents a Christian commentary on the Nārada Bhakti Sūtra that includes a translation of each sutra, a discussion of the Hindu context, and a “Catholic reflection,” drawing on numerous Christian sources from the Bible to contemporary theologians. Clooney 2008 is a comparative theological study of devotion conceived as loving surrender to God, and Clooney 2005 offers a comparison of devotion to Hindu goddesses and the Virgin Mary through a close reading of Shakta and Marian hymns. The Journal of Hindu-Christian Studies is a useful resource in general, and Volume 20 includes several articles on the theme “love of God.”

    • Brockington, John. Hinduism and Christianity. New York: St. Martin’s, 1992.

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      A thematic comparison of Hinduism and Christianity that addresses diversity and historical variation in each tradition, identifying common themes without overgeneralizing. Includes one chapter entitled “Devotionalism and Personal Piety,” but the author treats bhakti, broadly conceived, throughout the study.

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    • Clooney, Francis X. Divine Mother, Blessed Mother: Hindu Goddesses and the Virgin Mary. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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      A theological study of Hindu goddesses and the Virgin Mary through a close reading of Shakta hymns to Śrī, Devī, and Apirāmi alongside hymns to the Virgin Mary, with one in Tamil from the 19th century. Includes translations of all the hymns, followed by a comparative study that reflects on devotion to and intimacy with the divine mother.

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    • Clooney, Francis X. Beyond Compare: St. Francis de Sales and Śrī Vedānta Deśika on Loving Surrender to God. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2008.

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      A reading of Francis de Sales’s Treatise on the Love of God and Vedāntadeśika’s Essence of the Three Auspicious Mysteries that reflects on the act of comparative reading as a potentially transformative religious experience.

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    • Journal of Hindu-Christian Studies 20: 2007.

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      The annual publication of the Society for Hindu-Christian Studies. This volume addresses the theme “love of God” and includes, among others, essays by Martin Ganeri on Rāmānuja and Aquinas, Archana Venkatesan on female longing in Āḻvār poetry, and John Carman on loving God as a servant.

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    • Klostermaier, Klaus K. In the Paradise of Krishna: Hindu and Christian Seekers. Translated by Antonia Fonseca. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1971.

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      English translation of Christ und Hindu in Vrindaban, the Christian author’s account of his two-year sojourn in Vrindavan, where he discovered Christ in Hinduism. Reflects an essentialist view of “spirituality” but also provides an interesting window onto Hindus in dialogue with Christianity and onto Krishna bhakti.

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    • Parrinder, Edward Geoffrey. Upanishads, Gītā, and Bible: A Comparative Study of Hindu and Christian Scriptures. New York: Association Press, 1963.

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      A classic comparison of theistic scriptures and doctrines by a well-known Christian apologist, who discusses the theme of bhakti in relation to various Christian concepts, such as love, devotion, mysticism, and grace; compares bhakti-yoga and Christian asceticism; claims that Christianity is essentially a path of devotion, bhakti-marga (p. 91).

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    • Sheridan, Daniel P. Loving God: Kṛṣṇa and Christ; A Christian Commentary on the Nārada Sūtras. Christian Commentaries on Non-Christian Sacred Texts. Louvain, Belgium: Peeters, 2007.

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      A Christian commentary on a classic Hindu text, the Nārada Bhakti Sūtra, intended to “serve as an effective catalyst for Catholic readers both to reexamine their own tradition of Catholic reflection on the love for God and to renew their own love for God” (p. 2).

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    LAST MODIFIED: 07/27/2011

    DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195399318-0011

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