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Sacred Text and Living Tradition

Edited by: Ravi M. Gupta and Kenneth R. Valpey

A vibrant example of living literature, the Bhagavata Purana is a versatile Hindu sacred text written in Sanskrit verse. Finding its present form by the tenth century C.E., the work inspired several major north Indian devotional (bhakti) traditions as well as schools of dance and drama, and continues to permeate popular Hindu art and ritual in both India and the diaspora.

Introducing the Bhagavata Purana's key themes while also examining its extensive influence on Hindu thought and practice, this collection conducts the first multidimensional reading of the entire text. Each essay focuses on a key theme of the Bhagavata Purana and its subsequent presence in Hindu theology, performing arts, ritual recitation, and commentary. The authors consider the relationship between the sacred text and the divine image, the text's metaphysical and cosmological underpinnings, its shaping of Indian culture, and its ongoing relevance to contemporary Indian concerns.

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Selected Readings

Edited by: Ravi M. Gupta and Kenneth R. Valpey

Formalized by the tenth century, the expansive Bhagavata Purana resists easy categorization. While the narrative holds together as a coherent literary work, its language and expression compete with the best of Sanskrit poetry. The text's theological message focuses on devotion to Krishna or Vishnu, and its philosophical outlook is grounded in the classical traditions of Vedanta and Samkhya. No other Purana has inspired so much commentary, imitation, and derivation. The work has grown in vibrancy through centuries of performance, interpretation, worship, and debate and has guided the actions and meditations of elite intellectuals and everyday worshippers alike.

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Other Publications​

Hanumant Adavi

  • Thesis at Pune University for Ph.D, on "A critical study of Bhagavata Saroddhara of Vishnutirtha"

  • Thesis at Pune University for Ph.D, on "A study of the Harinamamrita Vyakarana with reference to the Bhagavata Saroddhara of Vishnutirtha"


S Bhuvaneshwari

  • The authorship of the Paramahaṃsapriyā commentary on the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, Journal of Hindu Studies, Oxford, Issue section: New Directions in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa Studies II. Volume 11, Issue 2, August 2018. pp.168-182.

Vrushali Potlis Dalme

  • "Rāsakrīḍāvarṇana—A Study of Bahirā Jātaveda’s Bhairavī Ṭīkā," The Journal of Hindu Studies, Volume 11, Issue 2, August 2018, Pages 151–167. 

Jonathan Edelmann

  • Edelmann, Jonathan. 2012. Hindu Theology and Biology: The Bhāgavata Purāṇa and Contemporary Theory. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

  • Edelmann, Jonathan. 2018. “Bhāgavatapurāṇa.” Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Edited by Knut A. Jacobsen, Helene Basu, Angelika Malinar, and Vasudha Narayanan. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill.

  • Edelmann, Jonathan. 2018. “Śrīdharasvāmin.”  Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Edited by Knut A. Jacobsen, Helene Basu, Angelika Malinar, and Vasudha Narayanan. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill.

  • Edelmann, Jonathan. 2015. “The Cause of Devotion in Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava Theology: Devotion (bhakti) as the Result of Spontaneously (yadṛcchayā) Meeting a Devotee (sādhu-saṅga)." Journal of the American Oriental Society. Volume 135, Issue Number 1, Pages 49-69.

  • 2014“Agency in the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava Tradition.” Co-authored with Satyanārāyaṇa Dāsa. Free Will, Agency, and Selfhood in Indian Philosophy. Edited by Edwin Bryant and Matthew Dasti. New York, New York. Oxford University Press. Chapter 12. Pages 279-307.

  • Edelmann, Jonathan. 2013. “Dialogues on Natural Theology: The Bhāgavata Purāṇa’s Cosmology as Religious Practice.” The Bhāgavata Purāṇa: Sacred Text and Living Tradition. Edited by Ravi M. Gupta and Kenneth R. Valpey. New York, New York: Columbia University Press. Chapter 3. Pages 48-62.

  • Edelmann, Jonathan. 2012. “When Stones Float and Mud Speaks: Scriptural Authority and Personal Experience in Jīvagosvāmin’s Sarvasaṃvādinī.” Co-authored with Satyanārāyaṇa Dāsa.  ournal of Hindu Studies, Volume 7, Issue Number 1, Pages 70-97.

  • Edelmann, Jonathan. 2009. “Argument and Persuasion: A Brief Study of Kīrtana in the Bhāgavata Purāna.” Journal of Vaishnava Studies, Volume17, Issue 2, Spring, Pages 37-56.​

  • Edelmann, Jonathan. 2005. Modernity’s Warfare in Life & Religion: A Meeting with Charles Darwin and the Bhāgavata Purāṇa.” Journal of Vaishnava Studies, Volume 13, Issue 2, Pages 113-126.

Shakuntala Gawde

  • ‘Pūtanā episode from Bhāgavata Purāṇa– Various Interpretations’, World Sanskrit Conference 2015 organized by Silpakorn Unviersity Bangkok, 28th June 2014-2nd July 2015

  • ‘Kāliyamardana episode in Bhāgavata Purāṇa-various interpretations’, A symposium on ‘Big History Green History’ organized by the Heras Institute of Indian History and Culture, 21st and 22nd November 2017

  • ‘Govardhana- Assimilation and Acculturation’, National seminar on Vraj to Braj organized by Braj Sanskriti Shodh Sansthan’ on 6th to 8th December 2019

  • “Govardhanamāhātmya in Texts and Tradition” - sociological and philosophical analysis proposed under the auspices of Minor Research Project Grant of University of Mumbai for the year 2019-20.

Ravi Gupta

  • “Restoring Sight to Blinding Love: The Bhagavata Purana’s Transformation of the Urvasi-Pururavas Narrative” in The Journal of Hindu Studies, 11.1, 2018, pp. 67-79.

  • “Translators’ Troubles: Seeking a Method that Suits the Bhagavata Purana” in International Journal of Hindu Studies, 22.1, 2018, pp. 175-189.

  •  “Churning the Ocean of Lila: Themes for Bhagavata Study” in Bhagavata Purana: Sacred Text and Living Tradition, eds. Ravi M. Gupta and Kenneth R. Valpey. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013. 

  • “The Bhagavata Purana as a Vedantic Text: An Excursion into Caitanya Vaisnava Philosophy,” in Prācyaprajñāpradīpa: Felicitation Volume for Prof. Samaresh Bandyopadhyay. Ed. Ian Mabbet, Monash University, Australia. Kolkata: NIOS, 2012, pp. 251-262.

  •  “Krishna and Culture: What Happens When the Lord of Vrindavana Moves to New York City,” (co-authored with T.K. Goswami) in Gurus in America, edited by Cynthia Humes and Thomas Forsthoefel. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005, pp. 81-95.


Nanditha Krishna

  • 'Paintings of the Varadaraja Perumal Temple, Kanchipuram' (published by CPR Publications)

  • ‘Book of Vishnu’ (published by Penguin India)

  • ‘The Book of Avatars and Divinities’ (published by Penguin India)

Kiyokazu Okita

  • 2019 "Bitextuality in Bhāgavata Purāṇa X.29." The Journal of Indian and Buddhist Studies, 66: 3, 1043-1048.

  • 2018 “Ethics and Aesthetics in Early Modern South Asia: A Controversy surrounding the Bhāgavata Purāṇa Book X”, International Journal of Hindu Studies, Special Issue, Translating the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, ed. by Anand Mishra and Monika Horstmann, 22: 1, 25-43.

  • 2017 “From Rasa to Bhaktirasa: The Development of A Devotional Aesthetic Theory in Early Modern South Asia”, The Journal of Indian and Buddhist Studies, 65: 3, 1066-1072.

  • 2014 “The Bhāgavata Purāṇa in Four Verses: Jīva Gosvāmī's Kramasandarbha” in Ravi M. Gupta (ed.) Caitanya Vaisnava Philosophy: Tradition, Reason and Devotion (Farnham: Ashgate), pp. 61-66.

  • 2013 “From Ontology to Aesthetics: A Bengal Vaiṣṇava Interpretation of an Upaniṣadic Passage So ’ham” in Imre Banga (ed.) Bhakti beyond Forest: Current Research on Early Modern Literatures in North India, 2003-2009 (Delhi: Manohar Publishers), pp. 197-214.

Neeraja Poddar

  • “Re-framing” the Bhāgavata: Preservation and Reuse in South Asian Illustrated Manuscripts,” Journal of Hindu Studies, Volume 11, Issue 2 (August, 2018), pp.116-132.

  • “Krishna goes to War: Translating the Bhāgavata’s Battle Scenes,” International Journal of Hindu Studies, Volume 22, No. 1 (April, 2018), pp.105-122.

  • “Scattered Stories: Two Rijksmuseum Bhāgavata Illustrations in Context,” Aziatische Kunst, Volume 48, No. 1 (March, 2018), pp.20-29.

  • “Incarnations of the Bhagavata” and 21 catalogue entries in Marika Sardar, ed., Epic Tales from Ancient India: Paintings from The San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego: San Diego Museum of Art, 2016.

  • Krishna’s Earthly Paradise: Two Shrine Hangings from H. Peter Stern, Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2016 (with Darielle Mason).​

  • “Matsya,” “Kurma,” “Narasimha,” “Parashurama,” “Kalki,” “Attributes,” “Garuda” and 34 catalogue entries in Joan Cummins, ed., Vishnu: Hinduism’s Blue-Skinned Savior, Ahmedabad: Mapin Publishing and Nashville: Frist Center for the Visual Arts, 2011.

Rodney Sebastian 

  • 2019. Sebastian, Rodney ‘Cultural Fusion in a Religious Dance Drama: the Sociopolitical Origins of the Manipuri Rāsalīlās.’ Journal of Vaishnava Studies, 27 (2), 75-94

  • 2019.  Cultural fusion in a religious dance drama: building the sacred body in the Manipuri Rāslīlās. Dissertation submitted at the University of Florida

Kenneth Valpey

  • “The Bhāgavata Purāṇa as a Mahābhārata Reflection.” In P. Koskikallio (Ed.), Parallels and Comparisons: Proceedings of the Fourth Dubrovnik International Conference on the Sanskrit Epics and Puranas, September 2005 (pp. 257-278). Zagreb: Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, 2009.

  • “Nature Deadly and Nature Divine: The Bhāgavata Purāṇa’s Lessons on Human Relationships to the Environment,” Journal of Vaishnava Studies. Vol. 18 no. 2, Spring 2010.

  • “Trekking Along the Path of the Bhāgavatas.” In The Bhāgavata Purāṇa: Sacred Text and Living Tradition. Edited by Ravi M. Gupta and Kenneth R. Valpey. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013.

  • “Precept, Practice, and Persuasion: Truth and heresy in the Visnupurana.” In On the Growth and Composition of the Sanskrit Epics and Purāṇas: Relationship to Kāvya, Social and Economic Context. Proceedings of the fifth Dubrovnik International Conference on the Sanskrit Epics and Puranas, August 2008. Ivan Andrijanić and Sven Sellmer, editors. Zagreb: Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, 2016.

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