Vasudha Narayanan

Vasudha Narayanan
University of Florida | UF · Department of Religion

Doctor of Philosophy

About

44
Publications
1,536
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223
Citations
Introduction
Skills and Expertise

Publications

Publications (44)
Chapter
This chapter discusses issues relating to gender in a modest fashion by using the Śrīvaiṣṇava tradition – one of the well‐known communities in south India and one which has a dominant influence in temple rituals in North America–as a thread to lead us through literature and rituals, songs and dance. Nammāvār speaks through the voices of “women” cha...
Article
India is home to more than 800 million Hindus and has a massive higher education system that is overseen by the University Grants Commission (ugc). Despite this, there are hardly any departments of religion or Hinduism in India, but the ugc, even though it has a secular mission, funds universities with explicit religious affiliations. This article...
Chapter
Hinduism in the United States can be studied in two ways: the history of ideas and practices that are derived from Hindu traditions but may not explicitly use the term “Hindu,” and the history of Hindus in this country. One can further divide these histories, which have fuzzy boundaries, into two large periods, with 1965 the watershed year when the...
Chapter
The Gender of the DevoteeThe Poet as a Woman: Nammālvār's Words for “Her” BelovedThe Gender of the Soul: Three Encounters between Exemplary Men and WomenThe Gender of VisnuReflections
Chapter
This chapter addresses the expression of Hindu women's religiosity through music and dance. It is argued that in contemporary Hinduism the performing arts, which are essentially forms of religious performance, may serve as vehicles not only for women's religious expression, but also for dynamic social commentary and reform. Examples include dancers...
Chapter
This chapter introduces the subject of Hindu tolerance, and the long tradition of amity and shared worship that has characterized relations between Hindus and Muslims living in India, focusing on the shrine (dargah) of Shahul Hamid in Nagore, Tamil Nadu. Shahul Hamid is remembered as the descendant of a noted Sufi pir, but his shrine was built with...
Chapter
This chapter shows what happened when the Ramayana moved into the medium of television. For eighteen months in 1987 and 1988, the writer-producer Ramanand Sagar succeeded in gluing the eyes of the entire nation to the screen on Sunday mornings. The chapter pays close attention to the changes that occurred when Tulsidas's sixteenth-century Hindi Ram...
Chapter
This chapter deals with medium and performance of religious possession. As this term and its correlates in Indian languages imply, there is a certain way in which people approach this important aspect of lived Hinduism backwards: by grouping it with other examples of performance. In introducing possession as in the Punjab, the chapter acknowledges...
Chapter
The lack of agreement about who should succeed to the throne when any given guru passes away has led to a number of schisms since Radhasoami was established in the mid-nineteenth century. This chapter looks at the community that has emerged from these struggles as the most populous and globally influential Radhasoami lineage: the stately dera at Be...
Chapter
This chapter fictionalizes a celebrated nineteenth-century event that vividly dramatized the costs of being a Nambudiri Brahmin woman. The Nambudiris of Kerala, at least in their own perception, occupy the very highest rungs of the ladder of caste, and, until the early twentieth century, maintained their eminence in large part through the control o...
Chapter
This chapter describes the Shri Guru Ravidas Sabha of Woodside, Queens. The guru venerated in the title is one of the most important religious voices to have emerged from the “bottom” of Indian caste society, and is a sixteenth-century bhakti poet-saint whose memory is alive across North India and beyond. The chapter describes the religious institu...
Chapter
This chapter examines Holi, the spring festival described as “the feast of love,” and celebrated when the moon is full. With Divali, the chaos is carefully ritualized. At Holi, by contrast, all hell breaks loose. The discussion describes what it feels like to reenact the dissolution of order in this way. With Holi, the clamor of fire-walking, burni...
Chapter
The line between ritual and performance is thin. This can be seen in this chapter's portrayal of the ramlilas of Banaras, where the Brahmin boys who take the leading roles are not considered actors, but “intrinsic forms,” of the divine figure they represent: Sita and Rama, and Rama's three brothers. These boys bear the aura of divinity as long as t...
Chapter
This chapter provides a portrait of Anandamayi Ma (“Joy-filled Mother”), one of the most widely revered gurus in recent Indian memory. When she was present in her earthly body, Anandamayi Ma's devotees resisted the notion that she was either a woman or a saint; she was God. The nature and force of this sense of divinity, however, is closely connect...
Chapter
This chapter, which looks at a different rubric for laying out some basic features of Hinduism, is aimed specifically at Hindus living in the diaspora and is prompted by the exigencies of his own diasporic experience. It notes that Hinduism is a monotheistic religion in which God is believed to manifest Himself or Herself in several forms, and cons...
Chapter
A kind of targeting has also become prominent recently—in relation not to the practice of Hinduism, but to its study. This chapter, which notes that the critics tend to be Hindus living in the Western diaspora who criticize non-Hindu academics and media persons who discuss, analyze, and teach Hinduism, calls on the Hindu community to join in the ta...
Chapter
This chapter takes a closer look at the aspect of Hindu practice that has always been most difficult for Muslims, Christians, and Jews to fathom: the meaning of worshiping an image—indeed, many images—and also examines what people think of worshipping an image or worshipping through an image. The vivid variety of Hindu deities is visible everywhere...
Chapter
This chapter begins with the act of worship itself—the sort of action that constitutes the core of Hindu ritual life, introducing the general vocabulary of Hindu worship by following an observant Brahmin out the door as he begins his day as a computer repairman somewhere in Tamil Nadu. The discussion uses the occasion to speak about vows (vrata), a...
Chapter
In regard to the question of militancy versus tolerance, this chapter reports on a trip the author made to Ayodhya in early 1993, a month after Hindu militants destroyed the mosque that had been built there by a lieutenant of the Mughal emperor Babar in 1528. A symbol of Muslim hegemony in India's past, the Babri Mosque had emerged in the 1980s as...
Chapter
This chapter focuses on a process of “interlogues”—the constructive engagement of people who are and are not Hindu as they attempt to understand what Hinduism is and has been—and picks up on what Mahatma Gandhi called satyagraha: an open-ended struggle to grasp the truth—. Satyagraha soon reveals that the categories “Hindu” and “non-Hindu” are far...
Chapter
This chapter focuses on the marriage of women in India. Puberty rites for girls tend to be transmitted orally from women to women, not written in any book. To show how such traditions work, the chapter examines a village in Chattisgarh, a state in Central India, looking at an upper-caste Thakur girl called Munni. It follows Munni from menstruation...
Chapter
Death can be induced—a death to self that makes a man a renouncer, a sannyasi. This chapter chronicles this sort of death ritual, describing the radical reconstruction of personhood that made it possible to become a sannyasi: ritual death on a full-moon midnight in Banaras's main cremation ground. Brahminical texts position this act of renunciation...
Chapter
This chapter reports a special ritual event, an act of worship that was transformed by the sudden and evidently active presence of one of the beings whom worshippers were just then addressing. This remarkable visitor was a bee—a bee who figures in stories of Krishna as one of his most important messengers. To many observers his appearance at this r...
Book
The Life of Hinduism brings together a series of essaysmany recognized as classics in the fieldthat present Hinduism as a vibrant, truly "lived" religion. Celebrating the diversity for which Hinduism is known, this volume begins its journey in the "new India" of Bangalore, Indias Silicon Valley, where global connections and local traditions rub sho...
Chapter
Women carrying flower garlands swarmed around me. Men and women carried little baskets of offerings. Some were putting cash and little silver representations of human organs into a large hundi, where one traditionally dropped "offerings." People washed themselves in the tank with holy water or drew water from the sacred well and bathed themselves....
Article
Full-text available
In writing about Judaism, Norman Solomon has observed that the English language, which evolved in a very Christian atmosphere, is not value-neutral. Most scholars would agree that words are embedded in worldviews. To use a colloquial expression, they carry the "baggage" of social prejudices and articulate the perceptions on gender, race, religion,...
Chapter
This chapter discusses the lives and messages of two popular female gurus, Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati and Karunamayi Ma, who is also known as Sri Sri Sri Vijayes Wari Devi. They are both portrayed as deriving their teaching from Hindu sources but being ecletic in their teaching. Kali is predominant in Ma Jaya's worship but she also worships other Hindu...
Article
Epistemic pluralism is not only limited to gender, class, and race but also to different ways of apprehension, different ways of knowing. Dances, temples, cities, medical therapies, and so on are embodied ways in which knowledge was transmitted in precolonial cultures and still continues to be transmitted in many diasporic realms. The privileging o...
Article
Full-text available
At the beginning of every religious ritual conducted in Hindu brahmanical modes, the officiating priest and those doing the ritual formally declare the co-ordinates of the land and the time in which the rite takes place. These words are part of the sankalpa or the declaration of intention to do the ritual. Such co-ordinates are in cosmic frameworks...
Article
In this multifaceted work, John Carman and Vasudha Narayanan clarify historical developments in South Asian religion and make important contributions to the methodology of textual interpretation and the comparative study of world religions.
Article
Drawing from topics of religion in India such as bhakti, puja rituals, and spirit posessions, these essays offer a close study of the physical representations of god as the central feature of Hinduism. A valuable tool for students of anthroplogy and the philosophy and history of religion.

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