Theses Doctoral

The Caitanya Lineage in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Deccan

Shukla, Rohini

This dissertation explores the interrelated processes of religious community formation, changing state regulation, and literary production in early modern India by focusing on two figures of the Caitanya lineage: Mahipati Taharabadkar (1715-1790) and his predecessor Uddhav Cidghan (d. 1690). While the community of Vitthal devotees (Varkaris) came to hold a prominent and strategic place in devotional histories of the Deccan, I demonstrate that several 17th-century facets of ascetic practice and sectarian identification that Mahipati inherited were obscured in his celebrated 18th-century hagiographies, especially the Bhaktavijaya (1762, Victory of Devotees).

First, I highlight the lineage’s Mahanubhav connections through a study of Marathi and Persian documentary archives. The Mahanubhavs had a crucial and fraught social presence till they were deemed criminal in 1782-83 (Chapter I). I then focus on Uddhav’s Bhaktamālikā (A Garland of Devotees) to explore the lineage’s Dasanami milieu (Chapter II-III). Uddhav tethers the lineage to a trans-regional, multi-linguistic, and supra-sectarian community that Mahipati later expands on and transvalues. Diffused forms of state support that Mahipati’s family benefited from, and his access to scribal, courtly, performative, and Ramdasi networks, I demonstrate, enabled him to achieve a large-scale reconfiguration of the lineage’s social history (Chapter IV). In doing so, he excludes the Mahanubhavs and introduces a paradigm that becomes definitive for the Varkaris: the devotee and his or her family are presented as the loci for experiencing devotion.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Hawley, John Stratton
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 12, 2024