• Part 2: The definition of a devout Hindu

    Ananya Vajpeyi in conversation with Neelima Shukla-Bhatt

    July 24, 2019

    Neelima Shukla-Bhatt and Ananya Vajpeyi, in Part One of this three-part interview series, discussed the life and legend of Narasinha Mehta, the Adi Kavi of Gujarat, to understand the social, cultural and political context of Gujarati speakers in the medieval era. 

    Mehta's Vaishnava Jan To was adopted by Mahatma Gandhi as part of the evening prayer at Sabarmati Ashram. It was sung during all the major events in his life — the salt march, his son's wedding, his wife's funeral and the beginning and ends of all the fasts. The song not only remained a personal source of moral inspiration for him, he also took the song out of its religious ethos into public discourse and used it as a tool for social reconstruction. The bhajan, which originally set out to answer what it means to be a devout Hindu, redefined what it means to be an ethical human being. 

    In Part Two of the interview, Bhatt and Vajpeyi discuss how Mehta's bhajan, "Vaishnava Jan To" became Gandhi's musical emblem and the "secular" musical emblem of the nation.


    Read More:
    Part 1: Discussing Narasinha Mehta, the 
    Adi Kavi of Gujarat
    ‘The criticism of religion is the premise of all criticism’

    Neelima is an Associate Professor and Director of South Asia Studies (with a focus on religions and cultures) at Wellesley College. She received her Ph.D. in the Study of Religion from Harvard University in 2003. Ananya Vajpeyi is an Indian academic and writer. She is Associate Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. She is the author of the award-winning book Righteous Republic: The Political foundations of Modern India (2012).

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