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The Archaeology of Bhakti I (Mathura and Maturai, Back and Forth)

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Item Code: NAK693
Author: Emmanuel Francis
Publisher: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry
Language: English
Edition: 2014
ISBN: 9788184702002
Pages: 379 (83 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 9.5 inch x 6.5 inch
Weight 840 gm
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Book Description
About the Author

Emmanuel FRANCIS was educated at the Universite catholique de Louvain (Belgium) where he obtained his PhD in languages and literatures (2009). He is currently a researcher at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and is affiliated to the Centre d'Etudes de l'Inde er de l'Asie du Sud / Centre for South Asian Studies (CEIAS, UMR 8564, EHESS-CNRS) in Paris. Specialized in Sanskrit and Tamil philology as well as in the history of South India, his publications include several articles on Indian epigraphical sources. The first volume of his study on the royal ideology of the Pallava dynasty of South India (circa 300-900 CE) substantially based on Tamil and Sanskrit inscriptions has been recently published under the title Le discours royal en Inde du Sud ancienne.


About the Book

This volume-the outcome of a workshop-cum-conference that took place from 1" to 12" August 2011 in the Pondicherry Centre of the Ecole francaise d'Extreme-Orient,- is an invitation to practise the "archaeology of Bhakti" with the help of both textual and non-textual sources.

Bhakti, broadly defined as an attitude, a strategy or a style of devotion-one that may be intellectual, emotional or rooted in acts of worship-towards God or the Divine, manifests itself through the personal voices of devotees as well as through the collective effort that constitutes the building of a temple. The "archaeology of Bhakti" aims at correlating different realms of representation, such as texts and images, in order to illuminate the elusive, pan-Indian phenomenon of Bhakti. The focus is on sources, agencies and layers. A special attention is given to inscriptions, which belong both to the realm of artefacts and to that of texts, and which help to distinguish royal demonstrations of Bhakti from local manifestations. In the realm of textual sources, "archaeology" is put to work to identify how literary conventions and concepts have formed and been incorporated, layer upon layer, into a given composition.

After an introduction by the editors about the complexities of the concept and practices of Bhakti in the Indian world, essays by nine scholars explore the phenomena of Bhakti and their chronology from different perspectives (textual, epigraphical, archaeological, iconographical). In the course of these explorations, the reader is transported from the North to the South of the subcontinent, back and forth between Mathura and Maturai.



From the 1st to 12th August 2011, a workshop-cum-conference entitled "Archaeology of Bhakti in South India" took place, thanks to the support of the EFEO (Ecole francaise d'Extreme-Orient), in its centre at Pondicherry. The conveners (Emmanuel Francis, then Universitat Hamburg and now CNRS, Centre d'etudes de l'Inde et de l'Asie du Sud, Paris), Valerie Gillet (EFEO, Pondicherry), and Charlotte Schmid (EFEO, Paris) wanted to gather together colleagues and students working on Bhakti. As the subtitle to the event ("North and South: The Cults of Krsna/Visnu and Skanda/Murukan in their Infancy") indicates, the goal was to encourage discussions among scholars specialised in both North and South Indian aspects of the phenomenon.

Padma Kaimal (Associate Professor of Art & Art History and Asian Studies, Colgate University, Hamilton, New York) and Alexander Dubyanskiy (Professor, Moscow State University) generously agreed to be our guests of honour. Researchers and students from several countries (Austria, Canada, France, India, Italy, Switzerland, and USA) as well as the research staff of the Pondicherry centre of the EFEO attended the event.

As a detailed report of this two-fold event has appeared under the title "L'enfance de la bhakti" in the Bulletin de I'Ecole francaise d'Extreme-Orient (Nos. 97-98, Year 2010-2011, pp. 393-402), we will just give an outline of the program here. Two forums were dedicated for presentations by the participants: the workshop and the conference.

These indoor sessions alternated with in situ presentations by the conveners. Two days were devoted to Kancipuram, where we spent most of our time in the two main temples erected in the 8th century by Pallava kings: the so-called Kailasanatha for Siva and Vaikunthaperumal for Visnu. A one-day trip took us to Mahabalipuram/Mamallapuram, where, thanks to the kind authorisation and collaboration of the Archaeological Survey of India (Chennai), we were able to visit the excavated site of the Subrahmanya temple at Caluvan Kuppam, three kilometres north of Mahabalipuram. We then explored the site of Mahabalipuram itself Finally, for two days, we went further south in and around Trichy. We concentrated on the upper and lower caves of the Rock-Fort at Trichy as well as on the Vaisnava temple, the monumental svastika-shaped well and the Saiva cave at Tiruvellarai.

During the two-day conference (11th and 12th August 2011), other scholars joined the group, notably R. Champakalakshmi (retired as Professor of History, Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University) who accepted to lead one session. Thirteen papers-some directly derived from presentations made during the workshop-were read and discussed by the audience. Some of these papers could not be finalised in time for publication in this volume and may be published elsewhere:

Leslie C. Orr: "The medieval Murukan: The place of a god among his Tamil worshippers."

Florence Pasche Guignard: "The invulnerable female body of MIrabai: A comparative exploration of the (in)vulnerability of the female body and strategies of defence and protection in religious contexts."

Thyagarajan Satyamurthy (Archaeological Survey of India, Chennai Circle): "The Subrahmanya temple at Caluvan Kuppam."

Marcus Schmucker (Osterreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vienna): "Bhakti in the theistic Vedanta of Ramanuja school and the development of other forms of devotion."

Veerasamy Selvakumar (Tamil University, Thanjavur): "The Pallavas, Buddhism, Saivism and Tevaram settlements in Northern Tamil Nadu."

Y. Subbarayalu (Institut francais de Pondichery, Pondicherry): "The historical and social Significance of the Ilaiyan Puttur copper-plate inscription.

Katherine Young (McGill University, Montreal): "Narayana: a neglected source for Tamil Vaisnava Bhakti."

The following six conference papers presented in 2011 constitute the core of the present volume:

Suganya Anandakichenin: "The Ramayana of Kulacekara Alvar."

Tracy Coleman (Colorado College, Colorado Springs): "Viraha and Viraha- Bhakti in Buddhacarita and Krsnacarita."

Alexander Dubyanskiy: "Antal's love-poetry."

Cedric Ferrier (AOROC, CNRS- ENS, Paris): "Importance and cult of Skanda under the Guptas."

Padma Kaimal: "Laksmi and the tigers: A goddess in the shadows."

Charlotte Schmid: "From son to father: Genealogy matters in the Kailasanatha of Kancipuram."




  Foreword IX
  Conventions XIII
  Introduction: Towards an Arhaeology of Bhakti 1
1 Dharma, Yoga , and Viraha- Bhakti in Buddhacarita and Krsnacarita 31
2 Skanda/Karttikeya and the Imperial Guptas: Coinage, Religion and Political Ideology (4th -5th century CE) 63
3 Bhakti in its Infancy: Genealogy Matters in the Kaliasanatha of Kancipuram 89
4 Laksmi and the Tigers: A Goddess in the Shadows 142
5 Woe to Them!: The Saiva Curse Inscription at Mahabalipuram (7th century CE) 176
6 A Medieval Tamil Poem on Bhakti : Tiruppavai 225
7 On the Non-Valmikian Sources of Kulacekara Alvar's 'Mini-Ramayana' 249
8 When Tradition Meets Archaeological Reality: The Site of Tiruccentur 289
9 The Infant Krsna in the Guruvayur Temple with Particular Reference to the Narayaniya of Narayanabhatta 323
  Contributors 341
  List of Figures 345
  General Index 353
  Author Index 363
Sample Pages

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