UChicago Center in Delhi
Bhakti or ‘devotion’—as a religious concept and practice, as a literary and aesthetic program, and as a social and political ‘movement’—vastly changed the cultural landscape of India in the medieval and early modern periods and continues to shape the way that many people in India (and other South Asian countries) understand the world and their place in it. Through their poetry and their life stories the poet-saints Mirabai, Kabir, and Surdas have become so closely associated with bhakti that their fame has spread among devotees all over the subcontinent, including those far from northern India where these saints are believed to have lived. At the same time they have also become important figures in the more general historical and cultural consciousness of the independent Indian nation as they provide ways to think through questions of morality, duty, individual, and community.
The recent publication of Bhakti Ke Tīn Svar (Rajkamal, 2019), the Hindi translation of John S. Hawley’s Three Bhakti Voices: Mirabai, Surdas, and Kabir in Their Times and Ours (Oxford, 2005) provides us with an occasion for reflecting on the enduring power of these figures and their poetry—in Hindi and in English, in their times and in ours. Accordingly, this iteration of the “Connections” series, a joint venture by the American Institute of Indian Studies, United States Educational Foundation in India, and University of Chicago, presents a conversation between Hawley and another well-known scholar of bhakti literature, Purushottam Agrawal, in Hindi and English. The bilingual conversation will bring together history, literature, religion, and—we hope—readers who enjoy the poetry of these saints in different languages so that they may share their questions and thoughts with one another. The session will be hosted by yet another scholar of bhakti literature, Tyler Williams from the University of Chicago.
This event is held in collaboratinon with American Center, American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS), United States-India Educational Foundation (USIEF), New Delhi, and University of Chicago Center in Delhi.
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