The central concern of this book is the influence of bhakti, or the devotional attitude, in transforming perceptions of Hindu deities and their famous poet‐saints. Methodologically, this study combines textual, historical, and anthropological approaches: transformations in the presentation of the goddesses Kālī and Umā, and their poets are charted through historical reconstructions of textual history and augmented, for the modern period, by fieldwork carried out in West Bengal, India, in 1988–90, 1991, 1995, 1996, 1998, and 1999. The book has three principal aims: the first is to introduce the life stories and contexts of Śākta poet‐devotees who, though not much known outside Bengal, represent an important three‐hundred year literary and spiritual tradition centered around Hindu goddesses; the second is to provide the material necessary for the Bengali Śākta padas (short poems written according to a particular meter and rhyme) to be noticed, discussed, and recognized within the larger field of bhakti literary studies; and the third is to contribute to a “history of ideas” about Bengali goddesses.
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