ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Arguing with Mantras: Transmitting Philosophical Ideas through Ritual Texts


Depala Kush - Heidelberg University, Cultural and Religious History of South Asia, Heidelberg, Germany


31 – The Forms, Genres and Languages of Early Modern Indian Philosophy


 Axel Michaels argues “what you believe is less important than what you do—in and through rituals.” (2016, 2), but as particular sampradāyas developed, particularly in North India, various groups began to make ritual manuals and practices that reflected and proliferated their beliefs. A sampradāy may establish itself through its philosophical śāstra and bhāṣya texts, but the proliferation of these philosophies to its following would happen through other means.This paper seeks to connect philosophical vedānta texts with corresponding ritual manuals by examining the intertextual references, tropes and vocabulary of these ritual texts. The phenomenon of philosophical authors writing ritual texts is not uncommon: be it Vedāntadeśika composing the bhagavadārādhanāvidhi alongside his philosophical treatises in the thirteenth century, or Rāmānujācārya composing the nityagrantham alongside his Sanskrit bhāṣyas in the eleventh century, there are several examples of philosophical authors writing temple worship manuals, personal daily ritual manuals. However, with the shift to the vernacular in the early-modern era, we can perhaps see phenomenon of spreading philosophy to a larger public through ritual texts and practices. In particular I shall focus upon the ritual texts of the Puṣṭimārg and the Swaminarayan Sampraday, both prolific in the early modern era in Rajasthan and Gujarat, and whose members authored ritual and philosophical texts in Sanskrit as well as North Indian vernaculars.