Non-Fiction Books:

Caitanya Vaisnavism in Bengal

Social Impact and Historical Implications

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Caitanya Vaisnavism in Bengal by Joseph T. O'Connell
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Within the broad Hindu religious tradition, there have been for millennia many subtraditions generically called Vaisnava, who insist that the most appropriate mode of religious faith and experience is bhakti, or devotion, to the supreme personal deity, Visnu. Caitanya Vaisnavas are a community of Vaisnava devotees who coalesced around Krsna Caitanya (1486-1533), who taught devotion to the name and form of Krsna, especially in conjunction with his divine consort Radha and who also came to be looked upon by many as Krsna himself who had graciously chosen to be born in Bengal to exemplify the ideal mode of loving devotion (prema-bhakti). This book focusses on the relationship between the `transcendent' intentionality of religious faith of human beings and their `mundane' socio-cultural ways of living, through a detailed study of the social implications of the Caitanya Vaisnava devotional Hindu tradition in pre-colonial and colonial Bengal. Structured in two parts, the first analyzes the articulation of Krsna-bhakti within the broad Hindu sector of Bengali society. The second section examines Hindu-Muslim relationships in Bengal from the particular vantage point of the Caitanya Vaisnava tradition, and in which the subtle influence of Krsna-bhakti, it is argued, may be detected. In both sections, the bulk of attention is given to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when Bengal was under independent Sultanate or emergent Mughal rule and thus free of the impact of British and European colonial influence. Arguing that the Caitanya Vaisnava devotion contributed to the softening of the potentially alienating socio-cultural divisions of class, caste, sect and religio-political community in Bengal, this book will be of interest to academics in the field of Asian Religion and Hinduism, in particular devotional Hinduism, both premodern and modern, as well as to scholars and students of South Asian social history, Hindu-Muslim relations, and Bengali religious culture.

Author Biography

Joseph T. O'Connell was Professor Emeritus in the Study of Religion in the Department and Centre for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto, Canada. This book represents the culmination of his lifetime of scholarship.
Release date Australia
November 15th, 2018
Edited by Rembert Lutjeharms
Country of Publication
United Kingdom
4 Tables, black and white
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