Approaching the Divine: The Integration of Āḻvār Bhakti in Śrīvaiṣṇavism
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Associate Professor, Department of History, Miranda House, University of Delhi
This book is situated in the context of the ongoing scholarly debate regarding the historical evolution of Tamil Śrīvaiṣṇavism. It spans the period from the second half of the first millennium, i.e. the bhakti period, to the period of consolidation of the scriptural and sectarian tradition in the first half of the second millennium. Traditionally, lives of the bhakti saints have been used to understand their hymns. However, examination of these hagiographies through the lenses of theology, caste, sectarian conflict and popular legends suggests that these life stories might themselves be constructs of the latter period, and are governed by socio-economic and political impulses as much as by spiritual ones. Thus, this work attempts to trace the process whereby a Sanskritic brahmanical tradition and a devotional Tamil folk tradition were knit together, arguing that the ways in which the saint poets’ hymns were interpreted and integrated contained elements of both continuity and change.
‘Based on a detailed and meticulous study of the source materials comprising the hagiographies, hymns and inscriptions, the book admirably demonstrates the ways in which the Srivaisnava ideologues…reoriented and integrated a pre-existing Tamil religious tradition…’
Ranjeeta Dutta, The Book Review