Part-I (Mathura and Maturai, Back and Forth)
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.
About the Author
Emmanuel Francis was educated at the Universite catholique de Louvain (Belgium), where he obtained his doctorate 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 I'lnde er de I'Asie du Sud / Centre for South Asian Studies (CEIAS, UMR 8564, EHESS-CNRS) in Paris. Specialized in Sanskrit and Tamil philology and 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), Le discours royal en Inde du Sud ancienne, has appeared in 2013. The second volume will appear shortly.
Charlotte Schmid is director of studies of the Ecole francaise d'Extreme-Orient (EFEO). She divides her research between two areas of field-work, the north and the ouch of the Indian subcontinent. After studying the earliest known representations of a major Hindu deity of Bhakti, those of Krsna in Mathura, she had the good fortune to spend several years in the Tamil-speaking South. Poring over inscriptions and sculptures produced during the Pallava and the Cola period (6,],-12,], century) and reading texts with the help of the Pandits at the centre of the EFEO in Pondicherry enabled her to produce her most recent books: Sur le chemin de Krsna : la flute et ses voies and La Bhakti d'une reine.
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."
Part-II (Royal Bhakti, Local Bhakti)
This volume is the fruit of the second work- shop-cum-conference on the "Archaeology of Bhakti", which took place from 31" July to 13th August 2013 in the Pondicherry Centre of the Ecole francaise d'Extreme -Orient. "Royal Bhakti, Local Bhakti" was the topic of this scholarly encounter and is the central theme of the present volume, which attempts to clarify the roles of kings, local elites and devotional communities in the development of Bhakti.
When we look at the monuments that are the material traces of Bhakti, we expect kings and their immediate relatives to have played a key role in producing them. But temples com- missioned by ruling kings are in fact relatively rare: most sacred sites resonate with the voices of many different patrons responsible for commissioning the buildings or supporting the worship conducted there. Queens, princes, palace women, courtiers, local elites, Brahmin assemblies, merchant communities, and local individuals all contributed to the dynamism of Bhakti.
Far from downplaying the importance of kings as patrons, this volume explores the interactions between these different agents. Do they represent independent and separate streams of Bhakti? Or is there a continuum from large- scale royal temples to locally designed ones? What is the royal share in the development of a Bhakti deeply rooted in a specific place? And what is the local one? How did each respond to the other? Was the patronage by members of royal courts, especially women, of the same nature as that of ruling kings?
After an introduction by the editors, fifteen scholars address such issues by examining the textual foundations of Bhakti, the use of Bhakti by royal figures, the roles of artists and performers, the mediation of queens between the royal and local spheres, and the power of sacred places. The volume concludes with an afterword by Richard H. Davis.
The first edition of "The Archaeology of Bhakti" workshop-cum- conference in August 2011 was dedicated to the infancy of Bhakti. With a special focus on the two child deities that are Krsna and Skanda, it was an attempt to grasp the Bhakti phenomenon from North to South, from Mathura to Madurai. "Royal Bhakti, Local Bhakti" was the theme of the second edition of this scholarly event, which took place in August 2013, and it is the central theme of this volume. In the presentations made during the workshop (in situ and in-door in the EFEO centre at Pondicherry) as well as in the conference papers, the effort was to define as precisely as possible the roles of kings, local elites and devotional communities in the development of Bhakti. Many of these presentations and papers have now become the chapters of the present book, or have inspired them as with the chapters by Emmanuel Francis and Valerie Gillet and the afterword by Richard Davis.
In the introduction to The Archaeology of Bhakti I: Mathura and Maturai, Back and Forth (Francis & Schmid eds. 2014), we have argued for an incorporative and multi-layered approach to Bhakti. Bhakti is the origin of archaeological material as much as of written texts. The latter, however-as Richard Davis highlights in his afterword (pp. 567-584)- have provided the main basis for the study of Bhakti. To correct this imbalance, besides the verbal dimension, equal attention should be paid to the material side of the picture. Whereas Bhakti is usually considered as inner and personal, it has however been publicly recorded in inscriptions, sculptures, monuments, and places. In those places where it has been practised, Bhakti has shaped, for instance, the ritual and cultic life through the endowments it inspired.
Bhakti can be approached from different sources: textual, epigraphical, iconographical or architectural. It can also be considered from different angles: its foundational texts; its sects, i.e. Vaisnava, Saiva; its practice outside Hinduism, with which it is usually associated; its various types of patrons, i.e. dynasties, individual kings, queens, palace women, local assemblies; its saints and performers, i.e. the Alvar and Nayanmar saint- poets, dancers, singers, etc.; its sites of devotion. Philology and history of art, to mention the two major disciplines which, along with the history of religions, are mainly represented by the participants in "The Archaeology of Bhakti," complement each other. Inscriptions, that is words engraved on stone, metal, brick, ete., are at the intersection between the categories of text and artefact. This is reflected in the present volume, which deals, from such sources and angles, with the interplay between the local and the royal.
The starting point of this introduction will thus be working definitions of three notions: Bhakti, royal Bhakti and local Bhakti. Informed by the contributions published in this volume as well as by the unpublished presentations made during the workshop, these definitions are meant as the opening perspectives of an "archaeology of Bhakti."
BHAKTI, ROYAL AND LOCAL
Bhakti is at the heart of so many studies and debates that it seems audacious to try to define it. Referring the reader to the previous volume for an attempt at a necessary preliminary investigation of the notion (Francis & Schmid 2014), we will just recall here that this Sanskrit term is commonly translated as "devotion" like in the above epigraph from the Bagh hoard, but sometimes also as "love" when it is not cautiously left untranslated. In this grant of Bhulunda-e-one of the very first inscriptions where Bhakti is associated with a king whose name evinces his tribal extraction-the word bhakti is compounded with two other words which mean "love" (sneha) and "affection" (anuraga).3 These two words might be considered as synonyms of or comments on the notion of Bhakti.
Still, at this time and in this area, they may have been necessary precisions about what a "great king" (maharaja) wanted to express with the grant he was making for the performance of the rites called bali, caru and satra.' Bhakti indeed has different shades of meaning as it is attested throughout a very long period, in various religious and geographical contexts.
In fact, although the etymology links it to the notions of "sharing" and "partaking," Bhakti came to have many more meanings and uses. It has been defined as a strategy by Karen Pechilis Prentiss in her work on the Tamil saint-poets (The Embodiment of Bhakti, 1999).
The present volume draws on this suggestion, manoeuvering it into the political arena through the analysis of a wide range of royal figures (kings and queens), performers and other individuals. John Cort, a specialist of Jainism, sees Bhakti as a style of worship (2002a: 24). And since Friedhelm Hardy wrote on the Bhakti in South India, a distinction is often drawn between an intellectual Bhakti-the most famous exposition of which is found in the Bhagavadgita--and an emotional Bhakti, at play, for instance in the Tamil poetry of the Vaisnava saint-poets (Alvars) of Tamil Nadu or in the Sanskrit Bhagavatapurana.
Whether a strategy or a style, Bhakti thus appears as a trans-sectarian approach to the divine--which can take forms as contrasting as quiet reverence and frenzied possession-s-common to various types of devotees who participate, experience, and long for a personal god or an absolute divine. The source of such an approach is debated by scholars. It has long been assumed that it originated in lay or popular trends of religiosity, which would have been responsible for a shift from the ritualistic Vedic religion to the Bhakti movements. But far from being incompatible with asceticism, devotion and reverence appear to have been a common practice for mendicants and monks of the early Jain and Buddhist tradition (see Cort 2002a, 2002b, 2005; Schopen 1997, especially, pp. 99-113 and 238-257). It has also been stressed that the distinction between emotional and intellectual Bhakti is not as clear-cut as sometimes stated. An emotional element seems indeed already at play in the Bhagavadgita or even in the Svetsvataropanisad if one turns toward the early textual testimonies of Bhakti.
As far as material traces of Bhakti-or perhaps "visible" Bhakti-are concerned, that is traces left by those who had the means to commission and pay for an enterprise such as the founding of a temple, kings and their immediate relatives are expected to be in the forefront. In contradistinction to commonly held views, however, temples commissioned by ruling kings were not the majority and several groups or individuals fostered or patronized Bhakti sites. In many sacred sites, Bhakti resonates with the voices-recorded in inscriptions-of many different patrons who commissioned the building of sacred architecture or supported the worship conducted in these shrines, whether established by themselves or not. Queens, princes, palace women and men, elite circles, local Brahmin assemblies, merchant communities, local individuals-identified by name, but also, often, by a place-name, just like deities themselves sometimes are-were rather dynamic patrons or agencies of Bhakti. Our contention is that the role of these various agents-regarding the building of temples, endowments, patronage of rituals, composition and commissioning of texts such as devotional hymns or inscriptions-has been generally understated and should now be emphasized. Most desirable is an assessment of the variety of patrons as well as of the types of relationship that tied some of these one to another (king and vassals; king and subjects; husband and wife; mother and daughter; mother and son).
Far from downplaying the importance of kings as patrons, we want to explore the connection between the different forms of Bhakti agencies. Do these represent independent and separate streams of Bhakti? Is there a con- tinuum from grand-scale royal temples to locally designed ones? What is the link between the eighth-century Pallava king who proclaims, in the foundation Sanskrit inscription from the Kailasanatha temple in Kancipuram, that he is Upendra (Krsna) in valour, that he follows the doctrine of Saiva Siddhanta and that the temple he has built is similar to his own fame and to the smile of Hara (see epigraph below, p. 13), and the tevanar makal, "daughter of the god," of Srikantapuram, "the city of the venerable Kantan"-that is a place called after an anthroponym, a rather common practice in the oldest known Tamil literature and epigraphical records-whose endowment for burning a lamp in front of the Mahadeva of 'Tirukkataimuti is recorded in a Tamil inscription (see epigraph above, p. 3)? What is the royal share in the development of a Bhakti deeply rooted in a specific place? What is the local share? How did royal Bhakti respond to local Bhakti, and vice-versa? Is the patronage by members of royal courts, especially women, equivalent to that of ruling kings? Is it personal Bhakti or dynastic Bhakti?
To address such questions, textual foundations will be considered first. Then we will reflect upon several categories of agencies of Bhakti. Starting with the figures of the kings, we will gradually turn towards some performers of Bhakti and other figures as the hinge between local and royal. This will bring us, finally, to the "Bhakti of place," to sites where the gamut of devotees and deities of many horizons meet in a localised devotional context.
Brahma Sutras (81)
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend