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4 Seva and Haveli Sangit As the practices of temple Hinduism evolved and became standardized in the medieval period, the Bhakti movements spread throughout India, and by the fourteenth century the deity of Krishna had become the most popular object of Bhakti devotional music. While there are numerous examples of devotional music directed at other deities such as Siva, Ganesha, and the goddesses Durga and Sarasvati, the prevalence of Krishna-centered devotional music by this time is evidenced by the enormous literary output in the form of song-texts and poetry. The Bhagavata-Purana, with its account of the life of Krishna and consistent endorsement of devotional music, reached unprecedented authority. Selina Thielemann has noted the strong bond between Vaishnava devotion and music: “Since Bhakti is the main content of Vaishnavism, music has always been an important part of Vaishnava traditions, and singing became the primary mode of worship. At all times, and to the present-day, Bhakti saints wrote hymns and eulogies and sang them in praise of their deities.”1 She has also affirmed the superiority of music over other forms of worship in Vaishnava devotion with regard to its dialectic principle: “Music and singing have been of central importance in the Vaishnava Bhakti movement since its very beginnings. . . . A person endowed with devotion makes the musical offering out of love for God, and it is his devotion that enables man to partake of divine blessing in the form of music. . . . It is important to note that the dialectic principle can work only in devotional religion , because it presupposes an active and two-sided relationship between man and the divinity.”2 Most devotees of Krishna strive to invoke and recall his presence in ritual worship by hearing and singing his names and praising his activities, specifically through the medium of vernacular song-texts or hymns. While the Sanskrit Puranas and epic texts describing the life and pastimes of Krishna have proliferated throughout the elite and literary sectors of Indian society, the production of vernacular versions and descriptions of his pastimes in the form of devotional songs is now being recognized as equally significant for the study of Hinduism. Hindi scholar Heidi R. M. Pauwels has placed these vernacular compositions on a par with the Sanskrit prayers as equally important for the academic study of seva and haveli sangit • 147 Hindu traditions: “One of the favorite vehicles of the [Bhakti] movement is the genre of devotional songs in the vernacular of the Braj area, the region closely associated with Krishna. Studying these apparently simple Braj Bhasha devotional songs reveals the complicated processes underlying them. Roughly speaking, the songs are the result of a merging of the Brahmanic Puranic tradition (itself complex ), Sanskrit poetics usually associated with the court tradition, and popular devotional and even secular folk traditions. In other words, these songs are excellent materials for the study of Hinduism.”3 Sri Krishna While Vishnu worship had been firmly established among the aristocracy in the early medieval period, it was Krishna who found the widest representation in literature, music, and popular culture. Through a kind of coalition with the gods Vishnu, Narayana, and Vasudeva, Krishna gained even greater strength and attraction through the ability of his cult to absorb many indigenous and regional elements. This trend has been observed by Sarmadee in terms of cultural syncretism : “It had been a period [medieval] when new Gods developed, better suited to the rustic mentality . . . ; the most successful of these was VishnuNarayana -Krishna, who dominates the final redaction of the Mahabharata. . . . It was easy to absorb all prominent ancient or local cults as incarnations or numina of the god. This syncretism gave a cultural unity to the land.” These syncretistic tendencies of Krishna, along with the Siva, brought about drastic changes throughout India: “Besides Vasudeva-Krishna and Vishnu-Narayana-Krishna, the other prominent god is Siva, who has features reminiscent of the three-faced Indus figure surrounded by totem animals. With his Gana companions, and a family headed by the mother goddess Parvati, Siva has been the other inspiring source for the popularization of a syncretic religion in the whole of this subcontinent .”4 As we have seen, there was strong patronage of Siva and Vishnu in southern India during the middle medieval period. In the North the deity of Krishna, primarily as an incarnation of Vishnu, found favor among the Gupta Dynasty of rulers that held power for several centuries. This is attested by varieties of concrete evidence offered by scholars...


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