Siva's Saints: The Origins of Devotion in Kannada according to Harihara's Raga.lega.lu

ISBN : 9780190878849

Gil Ben-Herut
296 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Sep 2018
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Today numbering more than twelve million people, the Vīraśaivas constitute a vibrant south-Indian community renowned for its bhakti (devotional) religiosity and for its entrenched resistance to traditional Brahminical values. For eight centuries this tradition produced a vast and original body of literature, composed mostly in the Kannada language.

Śiva's Saints introduces the Ragaḷegaḷu, a foundational and previously unexplored work produced in the early thirteenth century. As the first written narrative about the traditions progenitors, this work inaugurated a new era of devotional narratives accessible to wide audiences in the Kannada-speaking region.

By closely reading the saints stories in the Ragaḷegaḷu, Gil Ben-Herut takes a more nuanced historical view than commonly-held notions about the egalitarian and iconoclastic nature of the early tradition. Instead, Ben-Herut argues that the early Śiva-devotion movement in the region was less radical and more accommodating toward traditional religious, social, and political institutions than thought today. In contrast to the narrowly sectarian and exclusionary vision that shapes later accounts, the Ragaḷegaḷu is characterized by an opposite impulse, offering an open invitation to people from all walks of life, whose stories illustrate the richness of their devotional lives. Analysis of this seminal text yields important insights into the role of literary representation of the social and political development of a religious community in a pre-modern and non-Western milieu.


Chapter 1: The Poetics of Bhakti
Chapter 2: Who is a Bhakta?
Chapter 3: The Society of Devotees
Chapter 4: A Bhakti Guide for the Perplexed Brahmin
Chapter 5: The King's Fleeting Authority and His Menacing Vai??ava Brahmins
Chapter 6: Jains as the Intimate, Wholly Other

About the author: 

Dr. Gil Ben-Herut is an Assistant Professor in the Religious Studies Department, University of South Florida. His research interests include pre-modern religious literature in the Kannada language, South-Asian bhakti (devotional) traditions, and the vernacularization of Sanskrit poetics and courtly literature.

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