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Corcoran, Maura (1980) Vrndavana in Vaisnava Braj literature. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00029789

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Abstract

The film of this thesis is to collect and examine references to Vrndavana in Sanskrit and Braj Hindi literature. The justification for this is that Vrndavana is one of the few concepts for which there is adequate and manageable documentation in the literature. This feature recalls the fact that Vrndavana is one of the key concepts involved in the crystallization of modem Vaisnava Hinduism, namely in the tradition both of sects that have associated themselves with the Braj geographical area and of sects that have sought their roots elsewhere. It is not, therefore, surprising that the study of this largely medieval and modern conception can be seen to have significant and potentially far-reaching implications for the development of Vaisnavism in the prehistoric and classical periods. This investigation seeks to identify a notional sequence of ideas connected with Vrndavana: the description of a) a mythic, fictional place; b) a symbolic, i.e. totally unreal, place; c) the geographical town as a centre of pilgrimage. The introduction (Ch.I) discusses the chronology and sectarian affiliations of the Sanskrit and Braj Bhasa texts (largely medieval; more cursorily, ancient Sanskrit and modern Hindi) used in this study. It also considers the treatment of Vrndavana in modern secondary sources which, for the most part, concentrate on Vrndavana as a geographical place, ignoring its symbolic and mythic significance. In Ch. II, the roots of both the 'mythic' and 'symbolic' approaches are sought ill Vedic literature. An examination based on the concept of avatara seeks to define the 'mythic' approach of the Puranas, where the treatment of Vrndavana is linked with the manifest Krsna, as opposed to the unmanifest Visnu. By contrast Braj Bhasa and sectarian commentatorial literature obviates the need for incarnation as an event by ignoring (Braj texts) or rejecting (Sanskrit sources) the doctrine of avatara and the orthodox hierarchy that this entails. The concept of lila is in Ch. III made the basis of a further distinction between the Puranas and sectarian literature. The latter delimits the definition of lila to cover only Krsna's extra-terrestrial activity, so that Vrndavana is envisaged as a purely divine realm, entirely separate from the cosmos. In the Puranas, lila encompasses indeed all divine activity, both creation and incarnation, but it, and associated aspects of Vrndavana, remain wholly within the confines of the manifest world. In Ch. IV, these various approaches to the representation of Vrndavana are illustrated on the basis of the imagery used in the texts. Ch. V discusses the purely medieval preoccupation with the actual geographical Vrndavana and its total identification with the divine realm which it symbolizes. It is to be hoped that this analysis can be used as a basis for essential further study of the texts and of their relative (and absolute) chronology.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier): https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00029789
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:31
URI: https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/29789

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