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Venue

Jnanapravaha
Queens Mansion, 3rd Floor, G. Talwatkar Marg, Fort, Mumbai - 400001. India.
E-mail: to.jnanapravaha@gmail.com, info@jp-india.org
Tel      : +91-22-2207 2974 / 2207 2975
Landmark: We are next to Cathedral Middle School, in the lane opposite J.B.Petit School.

 

 
 

An Introduction to Tamil Vaiṣṇavism

6 - 8 Sep '17 6.00 - 8.30 pm
 
 

This three-part seminar is an introduction to the Tamil Vaiṣṇava bhakti tradition. Our foundation will be the poetry of the 12 āḻvār poets, who composed in Tamil, and lived between the 6th and 9th centuries. We will explore their poetry in translation and the reception of their poetry through commentarial and temple festival traditions. Some of the topics to be explored are the female voice in āḻvār poetry, the Annual Festival of Recitation, and the divine image in Tamil Vaiṣṇavism.

Day 1: The First Buds of Bhakti: An Introduction to the Tamil Vaiṣṇava Poets

This session will explore the twelve-āḻvār poets through their poetry and their hagiographies. We will begin with an introduction to classical Tamil poetics, and explore their influence on the poetry of the āḻvār poets. Through close reading of English language translation of the Tamil texts, we will focus on three major poets within the tradition: Śaṭakōpaṉ-Nammāḻvār, Kōtai-Āṇṭāḷ and Tirumaṅkai. In examining āḻvār poetry, we will discuss the following themes: how devotion is conceived (what it demands, the community it imagines, the relationship with god it describes); the body of god and the devotee’s body; temples, pilgrimage and sacred spaces. We will also briefly touch on the commentarial traditions associated with the āḻvār poems and the process of canonization. This session lays the foundation for further exploration of the Śrīvaiṣṇava tradition, which regards the works of the āḻvār poets as revealed and equal to the Veda.

Day 2: How to Love God Like a Woman: Women’s Voices in Tamil Vaiṣṇava Poetry

This session focuses on the poetry of the āḻvār to explore ideas about loving god within the Śrīvaiṣṇava tradition. Specifically, we will compare the female personae of several male poets who adopt a range of female voices: the lovelorn heroine, the mother, the friend and the fortune-teller. Our focus will be on the works of two major male poet, Śaṭakōpaṉ-Nammāḻvār and Tirumaṅkai, but will also include excerpts from the poetry of Kulaśekhara and Viṣṇucittaṉ-Periyāḻvār, two poets who composed extensively in the maternal mode. For contrast, we will also touch on the poetry of the only woman among the twelve āḻvār, Kōtai-Āṇṭāḷ. We will discuss how these poets reshape the classical Tamil tradition, and the possibilities that the female voice offers these poets as a means of describing ecstatic devotion.

Day 3: The Festival of Kings: Annual Festivals and the Making of a Tamil Vaiṣṇava Community

This session examines the afterlives of the poetry of the āḻvār by focusing on the Annual Festival of Recitation or the Adhyayanotsavam. The Adhyayanotsavam is the most important, visible and aural assertion of the revelatory character of āḻvār poetry. We will explore the history of the festival, purported to have been established at the temple of Srirangam by Tirumaṅkai, the festival’s structure and its components, and the ways in which it envisions space (terrestrial and heavenly) and the devotional and divine community that is nurtured within that space. In this final session, we will explore the many facets of this important and widely celebrated annual festival, and will conclude with a discussion of the festival at the Nava Tirupati, a network of nine temples in Tirunelveli

 
 
 

Archana Venkatesan

Archana Venkatesan is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and Chair of Religious Studies at the University of California, Davis. Her research interests are in the intersection of text and performance in South India, as well as in the translation of early and medieval Tamil poetry into English. She is the author of The Secret Garland: Āṇṭāḷ’s Tiruppāvai and Nācciyār Tirumoḻi (Oxford University Press, 2010) and A Hundred Measures of Time (Penguin Classics, 2014), and co-author with Crispin Branfoot of In Andal's Garden: Art, Ornament and Devotion in Srivilliputtur (Marg 2016). She is also collaborating with Francis Clooney of Harvard University on an English translation of Nammāḻvār’s Tiruvāymoḻi.

 
 
 

Registration Fees: Rs. 3000/-

 
 
 
 
 

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Jnanapravaha
Queens Mansion, 3rd Floor, G. Talwatkar Marg,
Fort, Mumbai - 400001. India.
Tel: +91-22-2207 2974 / 2207 2975.
Fax: +91-22-2207 2976.
Email: to.jnanapravaha@gmail.com,
info@jp-india.org

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