DOI link for Divine transgression
Divine transgression book
When a text in an earlier period presents a worldview that challenges that of later commentators, the latter group is faced with an enormous exegetical burden. In the case of Bengali Vaiṣṇavism, God Kṛṣṇa’s extramarital relationship with the cowherd girls, as depicted in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, posed such a challenge. On the one hand, from the perspective of aesthetic sentiment, it was argued that the extramarital relationship facilitates a deeper and more intense experience than the marital relationship. On the other hand, from the point of view of social and moral perspectives, having an extramarital relationship was reprehensible. This chapter first discusses the views of Rūpa and Jīva, two Gosvāmīs who laid the theological foundation of Bengali Vaiṣṇavism in the sixteenth century. Then two letters are examined that reveal the magnitude of the controversy in the eighteenth century. The final section traces the impact of the controversy in the writings of Kedarnath Datta Bhaktivinod, a prominent Bengali Vaiṣṇava reformer in the nineteenth century. This historical exploration demonstrates that Kṛṣṇa’s extramarital relationship continuously posed a challenge to the Bengali Vaiṣṇavas both in the early modern and the modern periods.