Bhakti and the Narrative Traditions


I.  Bhakti: Hindu Devotionalism


1.      The Medieval Period (600 C.E. – 1800 C.E.): Three Major Developments

a.       (1) Systematization of Hindu philosophy into six schools (darsanas)

b.      (2) Rise of Tantrism (dissent against convention)

                                                  i.      Techniques that lead directly to liberation, bypassing tradition

c.        (3) Rise of devotional movements

                                                  i.      Rise of temples as religious centers

                                                ii.      Puranas (“stories of old”): 18 major

2.      Rise of great theistic traditions associated particularly with Visnu but also with Siva and Devi the Goddess. 


II.  Three Narrative Traditions

1.      The growth of Hindu theism and devotionalism reflected in narrative traditions of:

a.       Itihasa: Mainly the Epics.  Sanskrit

b.      Puranas: Mythological and ritual treatises. Sanskrit.  18 major.

c.       Devotional poetry.  Vernacular languages (particularly Tamil).

2.      Itihasa

a.       Sacred History

b.      Even so, no clear distinction between history and mythology.  Itihasa embraces the categories of myth and history.

c.        The two great Epics: Mahabharata and Ramayana.

1.      Primarily Vaisnava

3.      Puranas “stories of the ancient past”:

a.       Vast body of complex narratives containing genealogies of deities and kings, cosmologies, law coded, descriptions of ritual and pilgrimage.

b.      18 major Puranas – bulk of the material established  c. 320-500 CE.  Some are more sectarian than others (focused on a particular deity)