Neelima Shukla-Bhatt offers an illuminating study of Narsinha Mehta, one of the most renowned saint-poets of medieval India and the most celebrated bhakti (devotion) poet from Gujarat, whose songs and sacred biography formed a vital source of moral inspiration for Gandhi. Exploring manuscripts, medieval texts, Gandhi's more obscure writings, and performances in multiple religious and non-religious contexts, including modern popular media, Shukla-Bhatt shows that the
songs and sacred narratives associated with the saint-poet have been sculpted by performers and audiences into a popular source of moral inspiration.
Drawing on the Indian concept of bhakti-rasa (devotion as nectar), Narasinha Mehta of Gujarat reveals that the sustained popularity of the songs and narratives over five centuries, often across religious boundaries and now beyond devotional contexts in modern media, is the result of their combination of inclusive religious messages and aesthetic appeal in performance. Taking as an example Gandhi's perception of the songs and stories as vital cultural resources for social
reconstruction, the book suggests that when religion acquires the form of popular culture, it becomes a widely accessible platform for communication among diverse groups. Shukla-Bhatt expands upon the scholarship on the embodied and public dimension of bhakti through detailed analysis of multiple public venues of
performance and commentary, including YouTube videos.
This study provides a vivid picture of the Narasinha tradition, and will be a crucial resource for anyone seeking to understand the power of religious performative traditions in popular media.
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Number of pages: 352
Weight: 628 g
Dimensions: 238 x 162 x 24 mm
Neelima Shukla-Bhatt has written a beautiful book on Narasinha Mehta, a poet-saint beloved in Gujarat since the fifteenth century. His poetry has circulated in diverse ways across centuries and regions, through melodic everyday songs, the social justice of Mahatma Gandhi, and the global reach of YouTube, which demands the comprehensive and accessible elucidation that Shukla-Bhatt is the first to provide in English on this iconic figure. Importantly, Shukla-Bhatt
considers Narasinha's poetry as a resource for healing a region with a recent troubled past, and for imagining a harmoniously pluralistic future. In the course of providing social history, Shukla-Bhatt brings the aesthetic possibilities of Narasinha's compositions to the fore: Read his poetry through her
graceful prose, and be truly enchanted. * Karen Pechilis, author of Interpreting Devotion: The Poetry and Legacy of a Hindu Female Saint of India *
This wonderful book explores the life, legend, and after-life of a great poet-saint who profoundly influenced Mahatma Gandhi. A work both of cultural history and aesthetic appreciation, it demonstrates how words and music can play a pivotal role in shaping moral codes as well as social behavior. Analytically sharp and elegantly written, this book will be of great interest to literary historians and scholars of South Asia. * Ramachandra Guha, author of Gandhi Before India *