About the Book :
This book makes a total departure from some well-established notions about bhakti and the Bhakti movement. It questions and rejects the current academic definition of bhakti and the portrayals of the Bhakti movement in the light of that definition. Trying to recapture the generic meaning of the term bhakti, the author postulates that bhakti by itself does not suggest any ideational or doctrinaire position. According to her, a restricted and erroneous definition of bhakti has served as the substratum for all theorisations about the Bhakti movement, when taken as a whole. What is reckoned as the Bhakti movement, she states, is an amalgam of a number of devotional movements of a divergent nature. A monolithic view of these can be taken only if their common denominator bhakti is understood in its generic sense. Not otherwise. In short, the author has called into question the whole conceptual framework and the basic terms of reference used hitherto for the study of bhakti and the Bhakti movement. This is significant since they have had the sanction of more than one hundred years of scholarship, and have not been questioned till now. She has done so on the strength of her being able to trace back the origins of the errors she has underlined. The author has tried to establish the fact that the accepted academic definition of bhakti is a modern construction; and that it was artificially formulated by certain Western Indologists of the nineteenth century with the aid of criteria which had no relevance in the context of Hinduism. The process of its formulation has been examined historiographically in this critique to show how it had gradually taken shape between 1846 and 1909. The reasons for its subsequent incorporation in modern Indian scholarship have also been made clear. Adopting an interdisciplinary approach in this book, Dr. Sharma has grappled with many vital issues related to the Bhakti theme. It is hoped that this erudite work would serve as a landmark in the study of bhakti and the Bhakti movement.