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Hinduism II: Yoga, Bhakti, and Tantra: Part 2

Professor Gavin Flood
24 Jan 2008

Related: General

Surrender to God in Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism-Discussion

Surrender to God in Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism
Dr Yahya Michot
24 Jan 2008

Related: Comparative Theology

Surrender to God in Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism-Discussion

Surrender to God in Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism
Professor Keith Ward
24 Jan 2008

This afternoon conference examines the idea of surrender to God in three religions and provides the opportunity to address comparative theological concerns. In all three theistic traditions there is the idea of human surrender to God. The conference will explore what this means in the different traditions and look towards a theological dialogue between them.

Related: Comparative Theology

Surrender to God in Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism-Discussion

Surrender to God in Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism
Professor Julius Lipner
24 Jan 2008

This afternoon conference examines the idea of surrender to God in three religions and provides the opportunity to address comparative theological concerns. In all three theistic traditions there is the idea of human surrender to God. The conference will explore what this means in the different traditions and look towards a theological dialogue between them.

Related: Comparative Theology

Surrender to God in Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism-Dr Michot Talk

Surrender to God in Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism
Dr Yahya Michot
24 Jan 2008

This afternoon conference examines the idea of surrender to God in three religions and provides the opportunity to address comparative theological concerns. In all three theistic traditions there is the idea of human surrender to God. The conference will explore what this means in the different traditions and look towards a theological dialogue between them.

Related: Comparative Theology, Islam

Surrender to God in Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism-Professor Lipner Talk

Surrender to God in Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism
Professor Julius Lipner
24 Jan 2008

This afternoon conference examines the idea of surrender to God in three religions and provides the opportunity to address comparative theological concerns. In all three theistic traditions there is the idea of human surrender to God. The conference will explore what this means in the different traditions and look towards a theological dialogue between them.

Related: Comparative Theology, Hindu Theology

Surrender to God in Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism-Professor Ward Talk

Surrender to God in Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism
Professor Keith Ward
24 Jan 2008

This afternoon conference examines the idea of surrender to God in three religions and provides the opportunity to address comparative theological concerns. In all three theistic traditions there is the idea of human surrender to God. The conference will explore what this means in the different traditions and look towards a theological dialogue between them.

Related: Christianity, Comparative Theology

Hinduism II: Yoga, Bhakti, and Tantra: Part 1

Professor Gavin Flood
17 Jan 2008

Related: General

Key thinkers in the study of religion Part 8

Dr Jessica Frazier
30 Nov 2007

Related: Religious Studies

Hinduism One, Part 7

Professor Gavin Flood
29 Nov 2007

Related: General

Key thinkers in the study of religion Part 7

Dr Jessica Frazier
23 Nov 2007

Related: Religious Studies

Hinduism One, Part 6

Professor Gavin Flood
15 Nov 2007

Related: General

Key thinkers in the study of religion Part 5

Dr Jessica Frazier
9 Nov 2007

Related: Religious Studies

Hinduism One, Part 5

Professor Gavin Flood
8 Nov 2007

Related: General

Pancartha and Pasupata: Notes on the historical development of the Pasupatas

Majewski Lecture
Dr Peter Bisschop
6 Nov 2007

Related: Saiva

Key thinkers in the study of religion Part 4

Dr Jessica Frazier
2 Nov 2007

Related: Religious Studies

Key thinkers in the study of religion Part 3

Dr Jessica Frazier
26 Oct 2007

Related: Religious Studies

Hinduism One, Part 3

Professor Gavin Flood
25 Oct 2007

Related: General

The Dance Performed by the Temple: the Dynamics of Hindu Temple Architecture

Shivdasani Conference 2007
Dr Adam Hardy
21 Oct 2007

Session 17 of the 2007 Shivdasani Conference.

In the forms of shrine, which developed between the 7th and 13th centuries, Hindu temples, conceived as divine bodies, embodied structured patterns of movement in their architectural compositions. Shrines are invested with a sense of centrifugal dynamism that appears to originate at the tip of the finial, or a point just above it, progressing downwards from this point and outwards from the vertical axis. Compositional elements are made to appear to multiply, to emerge and expand out from the body of the shrine, and out from one another, as interpenetrating elements differentiate themselves and come apart. As well as a spatial structure, a temple has a temporal one, of which a given spatial arrangement is a momentary glimpse, or rather, a succession of such glimpses.  A series of elements, or of configurations of elements, can be sensed not so much as a chain of separate entities, but as the same thing seen several times, at different stages, evolving and proliferating. This pattern of growth is conveyed through clearly identifiable architectural means.

 
The same pattern of emergence, expansion, and proliferation expressed in a single temple is reflected in the development of architectural forms during the course of various traditions. This unfolding takes place both in the details and at the level of the whole composition. The effect observed in a single, developed temple, of one form putting forth another, which in turn emits another and so on, is brought about by a cumulative extrapolation and successive incorporation of temple designs: a new design springing from an old one, while preserving the old one within the new.
 
Analogies, or homologies, are striking when dynamic temple compositions are compared with certain recurrent religious and philosophical concepts. Patterns of emergence and growth, as if from an all-containing point, underlie a vision of creation, which is found repeatedly in many different guises. The manifestation or coming into being of the divine or of the universe is repeatedly understood as taking place through the sequential emergence, or successive bursting forth, of one form or principle from another.
 
This is not to say that such ideas gave rise to the architectural forms, or that the temple builders deliberately set out to embody these concepts: rather, it would seem, the forms and the ideas both spring from the same way of thinking, the same view of the world.

Related: Dance, Temple and Text

Temple Texts and Cultural Performances in South Asia

Shivdasani Conference 2007
Dr Avanthi Meduri
21 Oct 2007

Session 18 of the 2007 Shivdasani Conference

 
This paper will discuss the centrality of the temple text in the classical arts of South Asia, and focus specifically on the aesthetic vision of the late Dr. Rukmini Devi Arundale, the celebrated revivalist of twentieth- century Bharatanatyam.  For her debut recital of Bharatanatyam in 1935, Rukmini Devi allegorized the Hindu temple where the dance had been performed, prior to the articulation of the Anti-Nautch Social Reform movement of the 1890s, transformed it into a theatrical backdrop, and used it as  a stage prop to present her Bharatanatyam recital. In her subsequent performances, Rukmini Devi staged the icon of Nataraja on one side of her temple stage, and seated her guru on the other.  In this way, Devi created a three-pronged, god, guru and temple stage setting for twentieth-century Bharatnatyam, worked within this symbolic stage setting for over fifty years, and constituted a modern temple, and guru-based history, aesthetics and epistemology for classical Bharatanatyam. 
 
Although Rukmini Devi celebrated the temple history of the dance, she was aware that Bharatanatyam was reconstituted as a concert form in the nineteenth century cosmopolitan courts of King Serfoji 11 (1798-1832). Yet this court-based renaissance of the arts was perceived as being compromised by virtue of King Serfoji’s subordinate status as an English educated vassal king of the Empire, and also his desire to hybridize Indian culture by combining the best of Western learning with the best of Indian traditions. Native devadasis, besides, were also sexualized and demonized as temple-dancers and temple-prostitutes in the courts of King Serfoji.  
 
Rukmini Devi manoeuvred the twentieth century dance revival by selectively decontextualizing the court dance and idealizing it not as a feudal dance, but rather as a temple dance. Taking her cue from V. Raghavan, the eminent Sanskrit scholar of Indian performing arts, Rukmini Devi suggested that Bharatanatyam could be traced back to the textual tenets of the ancient Natyasastra, and thus proposed an alternative Sanskrit based history, and  identity for Bharatanatyam. Like Raghavan, she celebrated the hereditary guru as symbol of Indian Tradition and plotted an anthropological, regional history for the dance. She then argued that both the marga (Sanskritic) and desi (regional) streams combined in the repertoire of Bharatanatyam, and were preserved in the temple traditions of the dance. Eminent performing arts scholars including A.K Commaraswamy, V. Raghavan and Kapila Vatsyayan endorsed Devi’s desi/margi conceptualization, and affirmed the centrality of the temple in the historical imaginary of Indian classical arts. Scholars and dancers thus crafted a selective, marga/desi temple-based history, aesthetics and ontology for Bharatanatyam, and this double aesthetic prevailed in the practice of Bharatanatyam until the demise of Rukmini Devi in the 1980s.
 
Recent critiques, however, have questioned the Orientalist assumptions inhering in Rukmini Devi’s Bharatanatyam revival. But few have gone beyond this critique to grasp the interconnections between social dramas of British colonialism and socio-cultural performances such as Bharatanatyam that emerged from these dramas. Drawing on Victor Turner and Milton Singer’s theories of Social Dramas and Cultural performances, I will track the overlapping connections between British Social dramas and Indian cultural performances. My aim is to explore the redemptive dimensions of the temple-stage, and to show how it helped rescue from historical oblivion the ritual based traditions of Bharatanatyam, while also enabling the articulation of an alternative theory of expressivity based on bakthi for Bharatanatyam.

Related: Dance, Temple and Text

Performing Konarak, Performing Hirapur

Shivdasani Conference 2007
Dr Alessandra Lopez y Royo
21 Oct 2007

Session 19 of the 2007 Shivdasani Conference.

 
My paper will consider the relationship of dance, in this case, Odissi, and archaeology, here represented by the two archaeological temple sites of Konarak and Hirapur, in Orissa, where the dance performance I will be discussing was filmed. What is foregrounded here is the use we make of archaeological sites and of dance performance in our project of re-imagining history and re-imagining the past.
 
Odissi is one of the recognised classical dances of contemporary India, said to have originated from the ritualistic and age old dance and singing practices of the maharis (temple dancers), attached to the temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri until as late as the early 1960s. The history of Odissi is however complex. It really evolved from the 1940s theatre performances of Cuttack, in Orissa, and it incorporated different performance streams. Turning Odissi into a classical dance form was not a unique phenomenon, it was part of a broader process of classicization and concomitant modernization of Indian dance, of which Odissi was only a chapter. There are different forms of Odissi, some of which are regarded as ‘transgressive’ – by which I mean transgressive of its reconstituted canon - and to a great extent are seen as antagonistic to the very principles of classicism invoked for Odissi as a form, such as the softness and femininity of the dance.
 
One of such transgressive forms is the Odissi reimagined by Guru Surendranath Jena. I was intrigued by the way he had reimagined Odissi out of his engagement with two temple sites which seem to have sustained the whole of his choreographic output: the Sun Temple at Konarak, a temple complex which is now an archaeological park, and the sixty-four yogini temple at Hirapur. The relationship with Konarak helps to situate Guru Jena’s dance making within the contemporary Indian classical dance discourse but the Hirapur connection has a peculiarity of its own and it is the performance filmed at Hirapur that I interpret as being of major significance. I asked Guru Jena’s eldest daughter, Pratibha, to perform there the dance piece inspired by the site, the ‘Sakti Rupa Yogini’. To witness that performance was an extraordinary experience, which opens up a new understanding of the relationship between dance in India and Indian temples, going beyond stereotypical notions of sculpturesque poses. What we see in the film shows how through the choreography the site is animated, breathing life into the imagery of the powerful yoginis, reactivating the defunct practices of worship of their ancient cults. The dance performance, which took place at Hirapur was not an established ritual nor a locally recognized performative tradition; informed by the synchretic vision of the choreographer, Guru Surendranath Jena it resonated with the local villagers. What comes out of this film is the idea that choreographed movement seems to be vital to imagine the mobile forces that were at work at archaeological sites such as Hirapur, rendered still and turned into an artefact in the present – such sites, it should be noted, are not officially in worship. Taking dance to Hirapur has showed that opening sites up to performers might be yet a further way to contextualise humanity: far from suggesting re-enactments, I am envisaging the use of choreography and performance as an interpretive tool, conducive to an intellectual, aesthetic and emotional engagement with the archaeological site. The project of re-imagining from the perspective of today enriches our lives by suggesting alternative ways of conceptualizing the place of art and life activity in society and the relationship between them, avoiding the projection of the past as an immobile moment.

Related: Temple and Text

Seeing the Bhakti Movement

Shivdasani Conference 2007
Professor John Stratton Hawley
21 Oct 2007

Session 14 of the 2007 Shivdasani Conference. 

 
In this paper, I would propose to ask what we can make of the “bhakti movement” picture, when we look at it more closely.  Prioritizing Vaishnavism—the sometimes unspoken point of reference for much “bhakti movement” thinking—I will begin by considering the text usually held to have exerted the greatest force on Hindu bhakti generally, the Bhagavata Purana.  Where, if at all, can it be seen in stone?  This is the question Dennis Hudson asked of the 8th-century Vaikuntha Perumal temple in Kancipuram, and one that I would also ask about narrative depictions of the life of Krishna as seen on temples throughout India up to ca. 1500.  I will also consider the mention of specific temples on the part of the Alvars and other Sri Vaisnava Tamil poets.
 
That would serve as background to my central concern:  the striking absence—or at least paucity—of such references in the Vaishnava bhakti poetry that emerged in Hindi beginning in the 15th century.  Why and how is this so?  What about the depiction of certain poets as having taken their inspiration from particular images of Krishna?  What about the visual record that was created as Brindavan and Braj came to be constructed in the 16th century?  Is this “built bhakti”?  How does it relate to the official hostility to temple-building that is enshrined in the theology of the Vallabha Sampraday?  And how does it relate to a broader spectrum of “vulgate Vaishnavism” in roughly the same period that would take account of poets such as Kabir?  Certainly Kabir is firmly ensconced in every influential “bhakti movement” narrative, but can he be associated in any way with a built canon?

Related: Bhakti, Temple and Text

Hindu Samnyasins in the Temple Context

Shivdasani Conference 2007
Professor T.S. Rukmani
21 Oct 2007

Session 13 of the 2007 Shivdasani Conference

The Hindu temple is a religious site and signifies some ritual activity. The general perception of a samnyasin, on the other hand, is one not associated with ritual activity as that is seen as perpetuating worldly existence or samsara. However since this polarization is not evidenced in real life this is indeed a contested issue and this paper examines how far this relationship of a renouncer with the temples as seen in the world can be justified based on the prescriptions given in ascetic (samnyasa) manuals like the Samnyasa Upanishads, the Yatidharmasamuccaya and Jivanmuktiviveka.

Related: Asceticism, Temple and Text

Colonial Modernity, Memory and the Devadasi Dance Tradition of the Viralmalai Murukan Temple

Shivdasani Conference 2007
Dr Davesh Soneji
21 Oct 2007

Session 20 of the 2007 Shivdasani Conference

Related: Dance, Temple and Text

Sastra and Prayoga: Building Bridges Between Text and Performance in the Sanskritic Tradition

Shivdasani Conference 2007
Professor Mandakranta Bose
21 Oct 2007

Session 21 of the 2007 Shivdasani Conference. 

While the general interest of this symposium lies in the relationships between temples, architecture, texts and performance, my presentation focuses on the relation between the formal description and analysis of dance and its practice. My discussion draws exclusively upon the primary source material for our knowledge of the performing arts of India, that is, the extensive body of Sanskrit texts on dance, drama and music.

 
I must also clarify here that I understand the term “dance” as a hybrid performance genre that consists of non-mimetic action, natta, as well as mimetic representation, natya, and narrative action, natya. But let me first try to bring this discussion closer than it might appear to the theme of the temple in the Indian imaginary.

Related: Dance, Temple and Text

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