Empowering the Sacred: The function of the Sanskrit text in a contemporary exposition of the Bhagavatapurana

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    The Bha¯gavatapura¯na is one of the master-texts of the Sanskritic archive and is the foundational source of narratives relating to the deity Krsna. Since it reached its current form about a millennium ago, public oral 'performances' of the text have been sponsored as a means of accumulating religious and social capital. These week-long events are a significant form of contemporary religious practice in the Hindu cultural world, but have received little or no scholarly attention. In this paper I describe one such event that was held in Uttarakhand, North India, in November 2009. What is the role of the Sanskrit text in the oral performance? I identity four functions: first, the text provided a focus of ritual action; second, it was the source of the overall structure and content of the event; third, it was the object of the exponents daily silent reading or pa¯ra¯yana; finally, it was the source of many of the Sanskrit verses around which the exponent constructed his vernacular comment. In concluding, I argue that a spectrum of social and cultural practices-ritual, oral, textual and performative-all contribute towards the validation and empowerment of discourses relating to Krnsa.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationOrality, Literacy and Performance in the Ancient World
    Editors Elizabeth Minchin
    Place of PublicationLeiden, The Netherlands
    PublisherKoninklijke Brill
    ISBN (Print)9789004217744
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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