Bhakti and Embodiment

Fashioning Divine Bodies and Devotional Bodies in Krsna Bhakti

By Barbara A. Holdrege

© 2015 – Routledge

432 pages | 2 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9780415670708
pub: 2015-09-04
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About the Book

The historical shift from Vedic traditions to post-Vedic bhakti (devotional) traditions is accompanied by a shift from abstract, translocal notions of divinity to particularized, localized notions of divinity and a corresponding shift from aniconic to iconic traditions and from temporary sacrificial arenas to established temple sites. In Bhakti and Embodiment Barbara Holdrege argues that the various transformations that characterize this historical shift are a direct consequence of newly emerging discourses of the body in bhakti traditions in which constructions of divine embodiment proliferate, celebrating the notion that a deity, while remaining translocal, can appear in manifold corporeal forms in different times and different localities on different planes of existence. Holdrege suggests that an exploration of the connections between bhakti and embodiment is critical not only to illuminating the distinctive transformations that characterize the emergence of bhakti traditions but also to understanding the myriad forms that bhakti has historically assumed up to the present time.

This study is concerned more specifically with the multileveled models of embodiment and systems of bodily practices through which divine bodies and devotional bodies are fashioned in Krsna bhakti traditions and focuses in particular on two case studies: the Bhagavata Purana, the consummate textual monument to Vaisnava bhakti, which expresses a distinctive form of passionate and ecstatic bhakti that is distinguished by its embodied nature; and the Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition, an important bhakti traditioninspired by the Bengali leader Caitanya in the sixteenth century, which articulates a robust discourse of embodiment pertaining to the divine bodies of Krsna and the devotional bodies of Krsna bhaktas that is grounded in the canonical authority of the Bhagavata Purana.

Table of Contents

Preface. Introduction 1. Bhakti and Divine Embodiment: Fashioning Divine Bodies 2. The Embodied Aesthetics of Bhakti: Fashioning Devotional Bodies 3. Bhagavata Purana as Text-Avatara: From Purana-Veda to Krishna-Veda to Embodiment of Bhagavan 4. Naman as Sound-Avatara: From Transcendent Vibration to Reverberating Name 5. Vraja-Dhaman as Place-Avatara: From Mythic Space to Pilgrimage Place to Transcendent Space 6: Meditation as Devotional Practice: Experiencing Krishna in His Transcendent Dhaman. Conclusion.

About the Author

Barbara A. Holdrege is Professor of Religious Studies and Chair of the South Asian Studies Committee at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her publications include Refiguring the Body: Embodiment in South Asian Religions; Veda and Torah: Transcending the Textuality of Scripture; and Ritual and Power.

About the Series

Routledge Hindu Studies Series

This series, in association with the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, intends primarily  the publication of constructive Hindu theological, philosophical and ethical projects aimed at bringing Hindu traditions into dialogue with contemporary trends in scholarship and contemporary society. The series invites original, high quality, research level work on religion, culture and society of Hindus living in India and abroad. Proposals for annotated translations of important primary sources and studies in the history of the Hindu religious traditions will also be considered.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
REL000000
RELIGION / General
REL032000
RELIGION / Hinduism / General
REL032010
RELIGION / Hinduism / History
REL032020
RELIGION / Hinduism / Rituals & Practice
SOC008000
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General