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Yogi Heroes and Poets

Histories and Legends of the Naths

Adrián Muñoz, David N. Lorenzen

Publication Year: 2011

An exploration of the history, religion, and folklore of the Naths, a Hindu lineage known for Hatha yoga practice. This book provides a remarkable range of information on the history, religion, and folklore of the Naµth Yogis. A Hindu lineage prominent in North India since the eleventh century, Naµths are well-known as adepts of Hatha yoga and alchemical practices said to increase longevity. Long a heterogeneous group, some Naµths are ascetics and some are householders; some are dedicated to personified forms of Shiva, others to a formless god, still others to Vishnu. The essays in the first part of the book deal with the history and historiography of the Naµths, their literature, and their relationships with other religious movements in India. Essays in the second part discuss the legends and folklore of the Naµths and provide an exploration of their religious ideas. Contributors to the volume depict a variety of local areas where this lineage is prominent and highlight how the Naµths have been a link between religious, metaphysical, and even medical traditions in India.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Yogi Heroes and Poets

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pp. vii-viii

Much scholarly work has been done in recent years on Sanskrit texts about yoga philosophy and yoga practices. Fewer discussions have appeared on the religious sect that has been the main carrier of yoga traditions in India, the sect known as the Nath Panth or Kanphata Panth. The principal aim of this collection of essays is to help redress this imbalance with discussions about the history of the...

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pp. ix-xviii

The Hindu religious path or sect of the Naths is variously known as the Nath Panth or the Nath Sampraday. Its followers are called Nath yogis, Nath Panthis, Kanphata yogis, Gorakhnathis, and Siddha yogis, among other names. Sometimes the term avadhūta is used, although this term is applied to ascetics of other Hindu groups as well. Most Nath yogis claim adherence to the teachings of the...

Part I. Yogis in History

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pp. 1

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1. The Naths in Hindi Literature

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pp. 3-17

The need for a history of Hindi literature was organically linked with the community’s need for history as such. Given India’s colonial situation, this need for history had specific epistemological and teleological dimensions. Maithilisharan Gupta, a close associate of Dvivedi and a leading poet in his own right, was to give rhetorical expression to both these dimensions through an anguished remembrance...

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2. Religious Identity in Gorakhnath and Kabir: Hindus: Muslims, Yogis, and Sants

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pp. 19-49

Religious identities are also religious boundaries. How we define our own religious identity depends on defining who we are not. If we are Hindus, then we are not Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, or Sikhs. Or so it would seem. In practice, religious boundaries are rarely so well defined. Particularly among subaltern classes, people often participate in the religious festivals and customs of neighbors...

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3. Different Drums in Gwalior: Maharashtrian Nath Heritage in a North Indian City

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pp. 51-61

Traditions of Nath yogis are found throughout the Indian subcontinent but have developed regional styles that are sometimes most distinct from one another. Throughout India, Naths were generally understood to look to salvation through hatha yoga practices that might bestow powers that could produce material results. Peasants sought Naths’ assistance for everyday problems and natural...

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4. The Influence of the Naths on Bhima Bhoi and Mahima Dharma

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pp. 63-76

The considerable overlap between the traditions of the Naths and the Nirgunis (followers of sects that worship a formless God) and between yoga and tantra has been noted by various scholars. It is also generally accepted that all these trends had a pervasive influence over new religious orders in all regions of India. This is not surprising: “traditions” in real lives and societies actually mingle and...

Part II. Theology and Folklore

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pp. 77

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5. On the Magnitude of the Yogic Body

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pp. 79-90

Awork attributed to Goraksִanātha, the twelfth- to thirteenth-century founder of the Nāth Siddhas, the Siddhasiddhāntapaddhati (SSP), the “Step by Step Guide to the Principles of the Perfected Ones,” was composed some time between the late twelfth century and the sixteenth century (Gorakhnath 1954). While we cannot be certain that this is the work of a single hand rather than a compilation...

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6. Awakening Generosity in Nath Tales from Rajasthan

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pp. 91-107

“Awakening Generosity” evokes a Rajasthani locution, alakh jagarno, common to regional Nath lore. I might literally translate this as “to awaken [to] the imperceptible” or the “Unseen.” This phrase occurs frequently in Rajasthani Nath oral traditions. It is used very specifically in cultural performances to describe what Naths, also called Jogis, do to announce their presence when they approach the...

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7. Matsyendra’s “Golden Legend”: Yogi Tales and Nāth Ideology

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pp. 109-127

Unlike the Sikhs and other religious traditions in South Asia, the Nāth yogis have made no real attempt at organizing their various texts so as to form a canonical corpus. Their prodigality apart, all of these texts respond to different needs, and the approaches and concepts in them vary greatly. This fact makes it all the more difficult to try to “unify” the Nāth traditions. Among the few...

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8. What Should Mīnanāth Do to Save His Life?

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pp. 129-141

The story of yogin Gorakhnāth’s rescue of his guru from the Kingdom of Women is one of the most widespread and popular in Indian literature. Full versions of this story or allusions to it are to be found in a vast range of oral narratives and written texts in many Indian languages. Several versions of the story differ rather substantially from each other. The only constant element they share is...

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9. The Matsyendrasamhitā: A Yoginī-centered Thirteenth-century Yoga Text of the South Indian Śāmbhava Cult

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pp. 143-162

In this article, I would like to communicate some basic facts about the Matsyendrasamִhitā (MaSamִ), a long and significant Sanskrit tantric yoga text—along with some of the results of my three-year-long work on it, which aimed at finding further evidence of the close connection between the tantric cult of Kubjikā and the early hatִha-yogic teachings of the Nāthas. This article is also an update on my...


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pp. 163-198


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pp. 199-218


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pp. 219-220


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pp. 221-228

E-ISBN-13: 9781438438924
E-ISBN-10: 1438438923
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438438917
Print-ISBN-10: 1438438915

Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 1 figure
Publication Year: 2011