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Krishna’s Mandala: Bhagavata Religion and Beyond
Krishna’s Mandala: Bhagavata Religion and Beyond
Description
From the Jacket

This posthumous volume brings together seminal essays by one of the foremost American scholars on the religions of India. Exploring the ancient Indian milieu with an innate sense of mandala, ‘the surround’, D. Dennis Hudson’s writings constantly engaged with the core of Bhagavata dharma-Krishna as preceptor and lover in the real world. Hudson was driven by a desire to understand how this ancient vision of Vishnu’s forceful, subtle activity managed to stay alive in south India as rulers, poets, and ordinary people changed.

This collection is divided into three parts. The first part, ‘Tales to Two Cities’, deals with the physical conceptual, ritual, and moral layouts of two ancient Tamil capitals-Madurai and Kanchipuram. The second, ‘Reading Bhagavata Texts-Temples and Tomes’, proposes radical interpretations of two familiar texts, the Bhagavad-Gita and the Bhagavata Purana, and shows how they connect to temple architecture. The final section, ‘Andal and the Sri Vaishnava World’, explores the connections between Bhagavata religion and ender, underlining the example of Andal, the only woman Alvar saint.

In the introduction, John Stratton Hawley highlights the crosscurrents in Dennis Hudson’s writings and situates this collection in the larger context of Hudson’s academic and personal world. The foreword by Romila Thapar depicts a vigorous, passionate scholar ‘not driven by scholarship alone.’ A fitting tribute to a great scholar, this book will be of immense value to researchers and students of ancient and medieval Indian history, religious studies, and philosophy, particularly those interested in Hinduism, Bhagavatism, and the bhakti movement

D. Dennis Hudson (1938-2006) was Emeritus Professor World Religions at Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, USA.

John Stratton Hawley is Professor of Religion, Barnard College, Columbia University, New York, USA.

Foreword

I met Dennis Hudson when I was on a brief visit to Mount Holyoke College where I was giving some lectures. One of the lectures was on the narrative of Shakuntala and how it has been refashioned and commented upon in its long journey through Indian history. This led to a lengthy conversation with Dennis about biographies of texts and the conversation continued when I later spent a term at Smith College.

When were not always in agreement. We argued about his dating of the Bhagavata Purana, which is anyway controversial. We argued about his exploration of the symbolic aspect in ritual and belief, which I found attractively provocative, drawing on is considerable knowledge, but wondered if the believers saw it in the same way. Royal rituals, for instance, invariable mix political aspirations with concerns of belief and the interface gives power to both. But even disagreements opened up new insights because disagreeing with Dennis generated new ideas.

When his specialization I religion and my forays into early Indian history had a common ground, was in reading the text in its context. This brought in the question of the updating of texts when the context changed, involving the legitimacy and intention of such an exercise. Adding opening and closing sections to a text or inserting narratives or what may in origin have been commentarial remarks gradually being integrated into the text, were known procedures. The frequency of such additions and emendations was related to the importance of the text as it came to be read and referred to, over the centuries. Inevitably texts such as the Bhagavata Purana and the Bhagavad-Gita would not have escaped undergoing some changes.

My discussions with Dennis tended of focus on what conditioned these changes. Where I would tend to argue for extraneous influences from the historical context, which he did not deny, his priority lay in explaining change as more closely tied to mutations within the tradition. His unusual and striking extension of the meaning of the text is demonstrated in his juxtaposition of the Bhagavata Purana with the sculptures at the Vaikuntha Perumal temple in Kanchipuram. Some earlier and occasional readings of the sculpture had been suggested, but for Dennis there had to be a sustained and definitive reading involving the minutiae of both text and sculpture. This was an attempt to read one form of articulation by reference to another. The coming together of the two was his epiphany.

Such readings echo other places and times when Vaishnava Bhagavatism was articulated in conjunction with royal authority. The temple built for this conjunction became a statement of power apart from being a place for religious worship. Whether this was the foundational legitimacy for royal authority or was an additional, although significant, support for such authority, is often debated.

Dennis questioned what many accepted as the parampara in the scholarship on ancient India. This was evident in the themes he selected, how he read them from the texts and his eagerness to explore them beyond the given explanation. He was not necessarily searching for agreement. He saw himself as exploring ideas that could provide insights helpful in furthering the understanding of religion and of its articulation in various ways. Thus, apart from his lifetime research on Vaishnava Bhagavatism, he also wrote on a set of encounters between Christianity and the Indian religions.

I have been deeply impressed, and continue to be so on re-reading his papers, by his selection of relevant themes and his thoughtful and sensitive readings of these, even where my views may not necessarily concur with his. The scholar in Dennis was not driven by scholarship alone. His explorations was an attempt to understand what he saw as human aspiration.

Back of the Book

‘I have been deeply impressed, and continue to be so on re-reading these essays, by Dennis Hudson’s selection of relevant themes and his thoughtful and sensitive readings of these, even where my views may not necessarily concur with his. The scholar in Dennis was not driven by scholarship alone. His explorations were an attempt to understand what he saw as human aspiration.’

-Romila Thapar (from the foreword)

‘Dennis Hudson has left a rich legacy for religious history through his inspiring writings on Bhagavatism. Most important among these are his articles on the Bhagavata Purana, its antecedents and its dating, on which has many new ideas and a fresh approach. Equally significant are his attempts to relate the Tamil bhakti hymns of Tirumangai Alvar to the iconography of the late 8th century temple of Vaikuntha Perumal (Paramesvara Vinnagaram), at Kanchipuram. Putting his articles together in a single volume [is a] most fitting tribute to his scholarship.’

-R. Champakalakshmi

Contents

List of Figuresvii
Foreword by Romila Thapar ix
Acknowledgments xi
Introduction by John Stratton Hawley xiii
Note on Consistency and Transliteration xxxvii
I. TALES OF TWO CITIES
1 Madurai: The City as Goddess 3
2 Siva, Minaksi, Visnu: A Popular Myth in Madurai 33
3 Kanchipuram 48
4 Vraja among the Tamils: Bhagavatas in Early South India 63
II. READIGN BHAGAVATA TEXTS-TEMPLES AND TOMES
5 The Initiation of the Emperor93
6 The Discovery 113
7 Dating the Srimad Bhagavata Purana 125
8 The ‘Barley-Corn’ Pattern of Bhagavad-Gita 12-16 141
9 Arjuna’s Sin: The Bhagavad-Gita in Its Epic Context 154
III. ANTAL AND THE SRI VAISHNAVA WORLD
10 Antal Alvar: A Developing Hagiography 175
11 Antal’s Desire 209
12 Bathing in Krishna: A Study in Vaisnava Theology 247
13 By Monkey or by Cat? How is One Saved? 275
Bibliography of Works by D. Dennis Hudson 285
Index290

Krishna’s Mandala: Bhagavata Religion and Beyond

Item Code:
IHE027
Cover:
Hardcover
Edition:
2010
ISBN:
0198062761
Size:
9.0" X 5.8"
Pages:
334 (18 B/W Illustrations)
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$40.00
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From the Jacket

This posthumous volume brings together seminal essays by one of the foremost American scholars on the religions of India. Exploring the ancient Indian milieu with an innate sense of mandala, ‘the surround’, D. Dennis Hudson’s writings constantly engaged with the core of Bhagavata dharma-Krishna as preceptor and lover in the real world. Hudson was driven by a desire to understand how this ancient vision of Vishnu’s forceful, subtle activity managed to stay alive in south India as rulers, poets, and ordinary people changed.

This collection is divided into three parts. The first part, ‘Tales to Two Cities’, deals with the physical conceptual, ritual, and moral layouts of two ancient Tamil capitals-Madurai and Kanchipuram. The second, ‘Reading Bhagavata Texts-Temples and Tomes’, proposes radical interpretations of two familiar texts, the Bhagavad-Gita and the Bhagavata Purana, and shows how they connect to temple architecture. The final section, ‘Andal and the Sri Vaishnava World’, explores the connections between Bhagavata religion and ender, underlining the example of Andal, the only woman Alvar saint.

In the introduction, John Stratton Hawley highlights the crosscurrents in Dennis Hudson’s writings and situates this collection in the larger context of Hudson’s academic and personal world. The foreword by Romila Thapar depicts a vigorous, passionate scholar ‘not driven by scholarship alone.’ A fitting tribute to a great scholar, this book will be of immense value to researchers and students of ancient and medieval Indian history, religious studies, and philosophy, particularly those interested in Hinduism, Bhagavatism, and the bhakti movement

D. Dennis Hudson (1938-2006) was Emeritus Professor World Religions at Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, USA.

John Stratton Hawley is Professor of Religion, Barnard College, Columbia University, New York, USA.

Foreword

I met Dennis Hudson when I was on a brief visit to Mount Holyoke College where I was giving some lectures. One of the lectures was on the narrative of Shakuntala and how it has been refashioned and commented upon in its long journey through Indian history. This led to a lengthy conversation with Dennis about biographies of texts and the conversation continued when I later spent a term at Smith College.

When were not always in agreement. We argued about his dating of the Bhagavata Purana, which is anyway controversial. We argued about his exploration of the symbolic aspect in ritual and belief, which I found attractively provocative, drawing on is considerable knowledge, but wondered if the believers saw it in the same way. Royal rituals, for instance, invariable mix political aspirations with concerns of belief and the interface gives power to both. But even disagreements opened up new insights because disagreeing with Dennis generated new ideas.

When his specialization I religion and my forays into early Indian history had a common ground, was in reading the text in its context. This brought in the question of the updating of texts when the context changed, involving the legitimacy and intention of such an exercise. Adding opening and closing sections to a text or inserting narratives or what may in origin have been commentarial remarks gradually being integrated into the text, were known procedures. The frequency of such additions and emendations was related to the importance of the text as it came to be read and referred to, over the centuries. Inevitably texts such as the Bhagavata Purana and the Bhagavad-Gita would not have escaped undergoing some changes.

My discussions with Dennis tended of focus on what conditioned these changes. Where I would tend to argue for extraneous influences from the historical context, which he did not deny, his priority lay in explaining change as more closely tied to mutations within the tradition. His unusual and striking extension of the meaning of the text is demonstrated in his juxtaposition of the Bhagavata Purana with the sculptures at the Vaikuntha Perumal temple in Kanchipuram. Some earlier and occasional readings of the sculpture had been suggested, but for Dennis there had to be a sustained and definitive reading involving the minutiae of both text and sculpture. This was an attempt to read one form of articulation by reference to another. The coming together of the two was his epiphany.

Such readings echo other places and times when Vaishnava Bhagavatism was articulated in conjunction with royal authority. The temple built for this conjunction became a statement of power apart from being a place for religious worship. Whether this was the foundational legitimacy for royal authority or was an additional, although significant, support for such authority, is often debated.

Dennis questioned what many accepted as the parampara in the scholarship on ancient India. This was evident in the themes he selected, how he read them from the texts and his eagerness to explore them beyond the given explanation. He was not necessarily searching for agreement. He saw himself as exploring ideas that could provide insights helpful in furthering the understanding of religion and of its articulation in various ways. Thus, apart from his lifetime research on Vaishnava Bhagavatism, he also wrote on a set of encounters between Christianity and the Indian religions.

I have been deeply impressed, and continue to be so on re-reading his papers, by his selection of relevant themes and his thoughtful and sensitive readings of these, even where my views may not necessarily concur with his. The scholar in Dennis was not driven by scholarship alone. His explorations was an attempt to understand what he saw as human aspiration.

Back of the Book

‘I have been deeply impressed, and continue to be so on re-reading these essays, by Dennis Hudson’s selection of relevant themes and his thoughtful and sensitive readings of these, even where my views may not necessarily concur with his. The scholar in Dennis was not driven by scholarship alone. His explorations were an attempt to understand what he saw as human aspiration.’

-Romila Thapar (from the foreword)

‘Dennis Hudson has left a rich legacy for religious history through his inspiring writings on Bhagavatism. Most important among these are his articles on the Bhagavata Purana, its antecedents and its dating, on which has many new ideas and a fresh approach. Equally significant are his attempts to relate the Tamil bhakti hymns of Tirumangai Alvar to the iconography of the late 8th century temple of Vaikuntha Perumal (Paramesvara Vinnagaram), at Kanchipuram. Putting his articles together in a single volume [is a] most fitting tribute to his scholarship.’

-R. Champakalakshmi

Contents

List of Figuresvii
Foreword by Romila Thapar ix
Acknowledgments xi
Introduction by John Stratton Hawley xiii
Note on Consistency and Transliteration xxxvii
I. TALES OF TWO CITIES
1 Madurai: The City as Goddess 3
2 Siva, Minaksi, Visnu: A Popular Myth in Madurai 33
3 Kanchipuram 48
4 Vraja among the Tamils: Bhagavatas in Early South India 63
II. READIGN BHAGAVATA TEXTS-TEMPLES AND TOMES
5 The Initiation of the Emperor93
6 The Discovery 113
7 Dating the Srimad Bhagavata Purana 125
8 The ‘Barley-Corn’ Pattern of Bhagavad-Gita 12-16 141
9 Arjuna’s Sin: The Bhagavad-Gita in Its Epic Context 154
III. ANTAL AND THE SRI VAISHNAVA WORLD
10 Antal Alvar: A Developing Hagiography 175
11 Antal’s Desire 209
12 Bathing in Krishna: A Study in Vaisnava Theology 247
13 By Monkey or by Cat? How is One Saved? 275
Bibliography of Works by D. Dennis Hudson 285
Index290
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