Bhakti means many things to many people. It is private and public, personal and political, silently contemplative and loudly musical. Often it speaks in the marginalized voices of women and the oppressed, yet it has also played a role in perpetuating injustice. What, then, is the power of bhakti? And how does it interact with forms of power other than its own?
Bhakti and Power provides an accessible entry into these issues, presenting voices and vignettes from the sixth century to the present. It asks a range of questions. Is bhakti lower-class, middle-class, or ruler-class? Is its power intrinsically tied to music and the arts? Does it address the earth and ecology, or broker the divides between Hindus, Muslims, and Jains? Does bhakti have gender, and if so, how?
Each chapter is short and pointed, generating a world of its own, but each becomes a piece in a bigger puzzle. Readers will come away with new resources for thinking about bhakti and power in specific and varied situations—and also in broad and general terms. Historians, sociologists, religionists, and students of literature, politics, and the arts will all be enriched by this discussion.
Introduction: The Power of Bhakti
Affect and Identity in Early Bhakti: Karaikkal Ammaiyar as Poet, Servant, and Pey
Religious Equality, Social Conservatism: The Shiva-Bhakti Community as Imagined in Early Kannada Hagiographies
Caste and Women in Early Modern India: Krishna Bhakti in Sixteenth-Century Vrindavan
Heidi R. M. Pauwels
“Are You All Coming to the Esplanade?”: Devotional Music and Contingent Politics in West Bengal
All the Valmikis Are One: Bhakti as Majoritarian Project
The Political Theology of Bhakti, or When Devotionalism Meets Vernacularization
Christian Lee Novetzke
Bhakti as Elite Cultural Practice: Digambar Jain Bhakti in Early Modern North India
John E. Cort
Lover and Yogi in Punjabi Sufi Poetry: The Story of Hir and Ranjha
Illuminating the Formless: God, King, and Devotion in an Assamese Illustrated Manuscript
Bhakti as Relationship: Drawing Form and Personality from the Formless
David L. Haberman
Bhakti the Mediator
John Stratton Hawley
Singing in Protest: Early Modern Hindu-Muslim Encounters in Bengali Hagiographies of Chaitanya
Bhakti and Power from the Inside: A Devotee’s Reading of What Chaitanya Achieved
Fall from Grace?: Caste, Bhakti, and Politics in Late Eighteenth-Century Marwar
The Ties That Bind: Individual, Family, and Community in Northwestern Bhakti
Waterscape and Memory: The Aina-i Tirhut of Bihari Lal “Fitrat” and the Politics of a Bhakti Past
Aditi Natasha Kini and William R. Pinch
Bhakti in the Classroom: What Do American Students Hear?
Richard H. Davis
List of Contributors
John Stratton Hawley is Claire Tow Professor of Religion at Barnard College, Columbia University.
Christian Lee Novetzke is professor of South Asian studies and comparative religion at the Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington.
Swapna Sharma is senior lecturer in Hindi at Yale University