New Login   

The Cult of Vitthal: A Confluence and a Synthesis

Rohini Mokashi Punekar

By Ramchandra Chintaman Dhere . Translated from the Marathi by Anne Feldhaus
Permanent Black, New Delhi, 2011, pp. 350, Rs. 795.00


RC. Dhere's Srivitthal: Ek Mahasamanvay first published in 1984 is a seminal study in Marathi of the history of the cult of Vitthal in the Deccan region of India. Compre-hensive in its scope and in-depth in the manner in which it envisions the significance of Vitthal for his worshipers and for the lived life within traditional and cultural mores, this study is an invaluable source book. Anne Feldhaus's masterly translation of this work into English titled The Rise of a Folk God attempts more than just translation; it is in a sense a redaction of the Marathi original. Dhere collated in this volume a large number of his essays published in Marathi journals and magazines over a number of years, pruning in the process the repetitions which accrued once these essays were composed as chapters in a book. Feldhaus has made further excisions and rearranged parts of some chapters by eliminating or shortening certain passages which are peculiarly relevant to the Maharashtrian intellectual discourse. She has also added words and phrases in several places to aid the non-Marathi reader. This English version contains notes that explain basic ideas which Dhere does not need to explain to his Marathi readers, but which are necessary for readers of the translated text. The result is an analysis of religion in English translation made from a perspective which is culturally rooted in the Deccan region and which is methodologic-ally and intellectually non-western. The translator's preface captures in a succinct manner the features peculiar to the field of religious studies in India and the sig-nificance of Dhere's work within it. The fraught nature of religious and social conflict in recent Indian history, and the need for secular polity and inclusiveness are the reasons for there being no institutionalized department of religious "Some of the most intriguing aspects of the book lie in the way Dhere is able to position Vitthal within the history of devotional traditions in the Deccan region and the way he relates these to the larger political world of the several kingly dynasties..." studies in modern Indian universities. In this regard then this book is pathbreaking. Feldhaus also points out that though Dhere's work is historically and culturally grounded securely, he yet feels the need to cite classical western theorists such as Mircea Eliade, Carl Jung or Erich Neumann, perhaps to provide a modern intellectual reference to his own study. Dhere structures his ...

Table of Contents >>
Please or to Read Entire Article

Free Access Online 12 Back Issues
with 1 year's subscription
Archive (1976-2011)
under construction.