The Puranas and the Way of Devotion (bhaktimarga)

1.      Bhakti: Hindu Devotionalism

a.       General Characteristics: Populist, Vernacular Poor, dispossessed and oppresses linked in their religious attitudes with orthodox, upper class devotees.  Early dev in 4th cent Tamil, flourished from 12-18th century in all regions and languages

b.      Emotion

c.       Service, surrender to God

d.      Many outward manifestations: pilgrimage, puja, festivals, temples, etc.

e.       The Puranas

2.      Hindu Worship: Darsan, Murti, and Puja


3.      The Nature of Hindu Images

a.       Iconic: representational.  Recognizable likeness to its mythical subject (cf. images of Christ, Mary)

b.      Aniconic: refer to deity but don’t attempt representational likeness (cf. cross, fish).  E.g.:

                                                   i.      Vermillion-smeared stones – presence of local deities.  Consecrated

                                                 ii.      Natural forms – svarupa. Salagrama stone = natural form of Visnu found in Gandaki river in Nepal. Bana linga in Narmada river in Central India = natural from of Shiva

                                                iii.      Linga: union of opposites – male/female, active passive


4.      Ritual Use of Images

a.       Divine descent: avatara = incarnation of a god, usually Vishnu.  Lit. “descent form,” descends to earth to save the world from adharma or chaos.

b.      Embodiment of deity: God dwells in image for sake of devotees, entrusts himself to human caretaking, dependent

c.       Entire range of intimate and ordinary acts in expressions of devotion, stimulates all the senses.

5.      Darsan

a.       The prominent role of the eyes in apprehending the sacred

b.      Giving and taking darsan

6.      Puja: Rites of worship and honor

a.       Divine-human reciprocity

b.      Prasad

7.      Three Major Devotional Movements

a.       Vaisnava – having to do with Lord Visnu

b.      Saiva – having to do with Lord Siva

c.       Shakta – having to do with the Goddess in all her forms



1.      murti

2.      bhakti

3.      prasad

4.      purana

5.      avatara

6.      puja

7.      aniconic / iconic

8.      darsan

9.      bhaktimarga