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Filling the most glaring gap in Shrivaishnava scholarship, this book deals with the history of interpretation of a theological concept of self-surrender-prapatti in late twelfth and thirteenth century religious texts of the Shrivaishnava community of South India. This original study shows that medieval sectarian formation in its theological dimension is a fluid and ambivalent enterprise, where conflict and differentiation are presaged on "sharing", whether of a common canon, saint or rituals or two languages (Tamil and Sanskrit), or of a "meta-social" arena such as the temple.
Srilata Mueller, a member of the Shrivaishnava community, argues that the core ideas of prapatti in these religious texts reveal the description of a heterogeneous theological concept. Demonstrating that this concept is theologically moulded by the emergence of new literary genres, Mueller puts forward the idea that this original understanding of prapatti is a major contributory cause to the emergence of sectarian divisions among the Shrivaishnavas, which lead to the formation of two sub-sects, the Tenkalai and the Vatakalia, who stand respectively, for the "cat" and "monkey" theological positions.
Making an important contribution to contemporary Indian and Hindu thinking on religion, this text provides a new intellectual history of medieval Indian religion. It will be of particular interest to scholars of Shrivaishnava and also Hindu and Indian religious studies.
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Srilata Raman is Assistant Professor for Hindu Studies at the University of Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. Her main research areas include medieval South Indian religion, hagiography and historiography as well as the modern socio-religious reform movements in South India and the transformation of religion in colonialism. She has published several articles on medieval Shrivaishnavism, and is the co-editor of Words and Deeds: Hindu and Buddhist Rituals in South Asia (2005).
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