chapter  3
34 Pages

Kåñëa’s new look: a worship tradition faces West

The Rädhäramaëa temple sketch of the previous chapter might give the impression of a community looking mainly to the past as its source of selfunderstanding about its worship practices. Even taking into account the samples of Vrajabhäñä poetry and a relatively recent worship manual, the main themes of temple establishment and worship style hark back to early times, represented largely by Sanskrit (especially Puräëic and småti) texts. As one might expect in such a tradition-laden community, those texts refl ect a sense of non-changing continuity with a past suspended in the present largely by those very texts. But as we saw at the end of Chapter 2 with a short textual counter-example from within the Rädhäramaëa community, in the widening horizon created by British imperial presence, renewal would not remain restricted to mere priestly creativity within the temple sphere. Since the midnineteenth century there has been much writing activity within the wider Caitanyaite community indicating that profound changes were in the air and a need to respond to the West’s challenges was felt. In this chapter I will show how, out of defensive, apologetic resistance to Western critique of caste and “idolatry” would grow the intellectual makings of a self-consciously outwardfacing mission that would selectively embrace elements of modernity while defending revelatory Kåñëa-bhakti worship tradition as the fi tting way to effect the spiritual reform of individuals.