Viraha Bhakti - The Early History of Krsna Devotion

Viraha Bhakti - The Early History of Krsna Devotion

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The Lord Krsna abandoned his earthly mistresses who then spent their days of separation pining for his return. This powerful theme found expression not only in myth, but also in the devotion and poetry of a religious culture which evolved in South India. From the fifth century A.D. the Tamils absorbed many elements from the classical traditions of the North, such as yoga, temple worship and Krsna myths, and the results were unique blends of the two civilizations. Viraha-bhakti, as the author styles this type of Krsna religion, imbued the theme of separation with erotic and ecstatic features and evolved as one of the highlights of Indian religion and culture. The present work is a detailed study of the multifarious origins of Viraha-bhakti in South India and its developments up to the point at which it entered the pan-Indian scene.


The study suggests a revision of the monolithic image of Indian religion implied in much scholarly literature. It differentiates a great variety of interacting traditions and milieux, and demonstrates the dynamism of Indian culture. By identifying a specific type of religion and reflecting on its significance, the author attempts, at the same time, to go beyond purely textual and historical considerations. Thus the book will be of interest to any student of Indian religion and culture.


About The Author


Friedhelm Hardy (1943-2004), was Professor of Indian Religions, teaching of King College, London. He was a linguist familiar with both classical and modern Indian languages. He was also the author of a prominent work The Religious Culture of India: Power, Love and Wisdom.


Foreword


The role of bhakti in India religion is well-known, and has been important from an early date onward. Bhakti manifests itself prominently in the Bhagavadgita, and scholars have debated whether it is already noticeable in even earlier texts. However, few readers had realized that there are different kinds of bhakti, that bhakti of the Bhagavadgita is not the same as the bhakti that finds expression in numerous more recent texts. This changed witht eh publication of Friedhelm Hardy’s Viraha-bhakti in 1983. Viraha-bhakti means “bhakti in sepration”, and this emotional form of bhakti is to be distinguished from the more intellectual bhakti that characterizes the Bhagavadgita. Hardy shows in this book how this emotional form of bhakti originated with the South Indian alvars, and only subsequently came to be adopted in the Sanskrit Bhagavata Purana and spread to North India.


Hardy’s Viraha-bhakti was landmark publication that has lost but little of its importance in the thirty years that have elapsed since its first publication. It is matter of pride and satisfaction that it is now included in the Hindu Tradition Series.

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The Lord Krsna abandoned his earthly mistresses who then spent their days of separation pining for his return. This powerful theme found expression not only in myth, but also in the devotion and poetry of a religious culture which evolved in South India. From the fifth century A.D. the Tamils absorbed many elements from the classical traditions of the North, such as yoga, temple worship and Krsna myths, and the results were unique blends of the two civilizations. Viraha-bhakti, as the author styles this type of Krsna religion, imbued the theme of separation with erotic and ecstatic features and evolved as one of the highlights of Indian religion and culture. The present work is a detailed study of the multifarious origins of Viraha-bhakti in South India and its developments up to the point at which it entered the pan-Indian scene.


The study suggests a revision of the monolithic image of Indian religion implied in much scholarly literature. It differentiates a great variety of interacting traditions and milieux, and demonstrates the dynamism of Indian culture. By identifying a specific type of religion and reflecting on its significance, the author attempts, at the same time, to go beyond purely textual and historical considerations. Thus the book will be of interest to any student of Indian religion and culture.


About The Author


Friedhelm Hardy (1943-2004), was Professor of Indian Religions, teaching of King College, London. He was a linguist familiar with both classical and modern Indian languages. He was also the author of a prominent work The Religious Culture of India: Power, Love and Wisdom.


Foreword


The role of bhakti in India religion is well-known, and has been important from an early date onward. Bhakti manifests itself prominently in the Bhagavadgita, and scholars have debated whether it is already noticeable in even earlier texts. However, few readers had realized that there are different kinds of bhakti, that bhakti of the Bhagavadgita is not the same as the bhakti that finds expression in numerous more recent texts. This changed witht eh publication of Friedhelm Hardy’s Viraha-bhakti in 1983. Viraha-bhakti means “bhakti in sepration”, and this emotional form of bhakti is to be distinguished from the more intellectual bhakti that characterizes the Bhagavadgita. Hardy shows in this book how this emotional form of bhakti originated with the South Indian alvars, and only subsequently came to be adopted in the Sanskrit Bhagavata Purana and spread to North India.


Hardy’s Viraha-bhakti was landmark publication that has lost but little of its importance in the thirty years that have elapsed since its first publication. It is matter of pride and satisfaction that it is now included in the Hindu Tradition Series.

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