SECULARIZATION AND KRSNA BHAKTI AMONG URBAN INDIANS

JAMES DANIEL WHITE, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to discover in what ways secularization and modernization may have affected the religious patterns of Krsna bhaktas in urban India. This study was conducted over a period of several years primarily among Brahmans who are swamis, academics, businessmen, scientists/technologists and students who have more than just a passing familiarity with modernity and the processes of secularization in culture. The issues of modernization and secularization as defined by Harvey Cox, Mircea Eliade and others were applied to the social, economic and religious dimensions of the informants' lives to see what relationship, if any, exists between traditional praxes and modern secular praxes in India. The study discovered that patterns of modernization are often acculturated into traditional life and that in the midst of modern lifestyles the traditional myths and rituals of Krsna bhaktas become significant definitions of who the bhakta understands himself or herself to be. As communal gatherings for worship and praise of Krsna, bhajanas have become an important social support for many modern women who still identify ritualistically with Radha's devotion to Krsna. Together these women discover not only a verbal vehicle for expressing themselves devotionally but also emotionally, sexually, artistically and in charitable community projects. Briefly, the study also examined contemporary uses of Krsna in commercial advertising as a means for selling modern products with reference to traditional mythic praxes. Many bhaktas rejected this advertising as an adulteration of the tradition and saw this adaptation of traditional praxis as only a secular attempt to exploit religious belief. It is evident from this study that Krsna bhakti does not prevent modern Indian bhaktas from developing patterns of modernity that inform vocational, social and economic aspects of their lives. At the same time, they affirm that the most significant means whereby they may understand their world and conquer the "terrors of history" implied in modernity is in their continued adherence to the traditional praxes of bhakti.

Subject Area

Religious history

Recommended Citation

WHITE, JAMES DANIEL, "SECULARIZATION AND KRSNA BHAKTI AMONG URBAN INDIANS" (1982). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI8307377.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI8307377

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