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Reading: Androgyny in Worship: An Analysis of Jayānanda’s Caitanya-Maṅgal in Bengal

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Androgyny in Worship: An Analysis of Jayānanda’s Caitanya-Maṅgal in Bengal

Author:

Saumitra Chakravarty

Abstract

This article deals with Jayānanda Goswami’s sixteenth-century Bengali verse biography of Śrī Caitanya, a Vaiṣṇava saint who revolutionized the practice of religion by releasing it from its earlier upper-class, patriarchal monopoly to make it available to the masses. The resultant shift is from the Vaidhi Bhakti Sādhana of the pre-Caitanya era, the doctrinaire faith focused on scriptural reading and performance of Vedic rituals, to a form of mass participation through community singing of religious songs and ballads revolving around the life of Lord Kṛṣṇa and his divine amours with Rādhā and enactment of these myths of the Kṛṣṇa-līlā. It was popularized as the Rāgānuga Bhakti Sādhana. Caitanya and his followers in this form of supreme self-effacing devotion, became Rādhā to their Lord. There is therefore an androgynous form of worship that runs across the spectrum of this cult, the internalization of a female identity to a degree where these male bodies begin to acquire female functions. At the same time, to the female followers of this cult, the fair-skinned Caitanya is their Kṛṣṇa, and they his Rādhā and the gopīs (cowherdesses involved in Kṛṣṇa’s divine amours). Caitanya therefore assumes multiple gender identities as highlighted in Jayānanda’s text.

How to Cite: Chakravarty, S., 2013. Androgyny in Worship: An Analysis of Jayānanda’s Caitanya-Maṅgal in Bengal. Asian Literature and Translation, 1(5), pp.1–20. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18573/j.2013.10203
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Published on 05 May 2013.
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