Archive for March, 2013

R C Dhere’s Shri Vittal: a great convergence

March 30, 2013

For the past one week, I have been reading and thoroughly enjoying Annd Feldbaus’ translation of R C Dhere’s Shri VIttal: Ek Mahasamanvay called The rise of a folk god: Vittal of Pandharpur.

The book has set me thinking about the deity called “Betaraya” (The hunter king) who is worshiped as Veknateshwara in parts of Krishnagiri district and the similarity of this deity and his stories to that of Vittal. There are also several references to  pastoralist siddhas which reminded me of the stories of Thirumular and Idaikkadar.

Having known about the haridasa view of Vittala, knowing about the Varkari version as well as knowing about the other influences (Veera Saiva, Buddhist and Jain) was truly wonderful. I especially liked the section about the violent reaction against claims of Vittal as a Jain god and but acceptance of Vittal as Buddha and I found that the reasons that Prof. Dhere gives for the reaction are quite convincing. A similar explanation was given by Sri Chandrasekhara Saraswati of Kanchi regarding Amarasimha’s impartiality in his Amarakohsa when it came to describing the names of Hindu deities and his appropriating the names of Jeena to Buddha.

Finally, all these days, I was wondering as to why Haridasa’s blurred the distinction between Buddha and Jeena by describing Buddha as standing naked. After reading the book, I can see why.

On the whole, a nice book for anybody interested in  religious studies. Strongly recommended.

Sanjay Subrahmanyam’s Vasco Da Gama

March 21, 2013

A must-read and strongly recommended: Sanjay Subrahmanyam does a fabulous job of summarising what the book is all about in the last two paragraphs:

… In adding one more to the many contested portraits of Vasco Da Gama, this books has intended to make an implicit plea for a rather more nuanced, indeed ironical, look at the history of `European expansion’, … No dramatic shifts of paradigm have been proposed, merely the careful sifting of mass of tangled materials, to which the continuing  research of other historians will doubtless add over the years. For the task admits of no easy solutions, with perhaps the greatest of our burdens being the historian’s classic sin: anachronism.

In a recent essay, a well-known Portuguese historian (…) begins by quoting Spinoza: `Concerning human actions, I have tried not to laugh, not to weep, not to detest them, but to understand them.’ To the reader of this volume, I hope the message that I have conveyed has been somewhat different, and rather less `Christian’: concerning past human actions, to laugh when they are ridiculous, to weep when they are tragic, to detest them as they were often detested by those who were their victims, for how else would we ever come close to understanding them?

Have fun!