The Living Tradition of Hagiography in the Vallabh Sect of Contemporary Gujarat


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Asian Studies


The seventeenth century Hindi hagiographies of the Vallabh Sampraday, known as vartas, impart sectarian history, theology, and models for right-livelihood through tales of the tradition’s founders and disciples. Followers of this Hindu sect in today’s western Indian state of Gujarat read and discuss the narratives in temples, homes, and even on the Internet. This dissertation seeks to understand the enduring significance of the vartas and determine to what extent the narratives continue to inform the socio-religious and moral lives of contemporary devotees. By showing how devotees interpret the vartas in a variety of ways, this project hypothesizes that the narratives provide a context for readers to perform devotion and to negotiate between ideals inherited from the past and life in the present.