chapter  2
36 Pages

Temple as context: the Rädhäramaëa Temple as embodied community

In the previous chapter I briefl y introduced a textual corpus as an important component of context for image worship in the Caitanya Vaiñëava tradition. Now we will look at these and additional kindred texts as they substantially constitute one particular temple – the Rädhäramaëa Mandir in Vrindavan – as a locus of contemporary worship sustained by one family line of priests well over four centuries without interruption. Here the patterns for worship we found in the previous chapter will gain life and substance as a particular place and community of praxis seeks to live in accordance with these texts while creating further texts tailored to the community’s needs and self-perceptions. As an “embodied community,” Rädhäramaëa temple is confi gured by its location in northern India, in a pilgrimage town important for Caitanyaites and other Vaiñëavas.1 Its organizational basis in hereditary lineage links it to the brahmanical, pan-Indian Sanskritic culture as well as to local traditions. Yet its affi liation with Caitanya’s legacy gives it a missionizing orientation. In these circumstances we will see how texts play a crucial role in self-understanding and ritual of this community, and how a specifi c sacred image of Kåñëa provides the locus of sustained actualization and instantiation of the truths of sacred texts, in ritual and artistic expression. The image of Kåñëa named Rädhäramaëa can thus be seen as the central embodiment of charisma for the Rädhäramaëa community, whereby the charisma of persons is understood to originate in the supreme Person, here appearing as the Rädhäramaëa image (von Stietencron 2001: 25-7).