R C Dhere’s Shri Vittal: a great convergence

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.

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