The Cult of Vitthal: A Confluence and a Synthesis
Rohini Mokashi Punekar
THE RISE OF A FOLK GOD: VITTHAL OF PANDHARPUR by Ramchandra Chintaman Dhere Permanent Black, 2012, 350 pp., 795
December 2012, volume 36, No 12
  1. Dhere’s Srivitthal: Ek Mahasamanvay first published in 1984 is a seminal study in Marathi of the history of the cult of Vitthal in the Deccan region of India. Compre-hensive in its scope and in-depth in the manner in which it envisions the significance of Vitthal for his worshipers and for the lived life within traditional and cultural mores, this study is an invaluable source book. Anne Feldhaus’s masterly translation of this work into English titled The Rise of a Folk God attempts more than just translation; it is in a sense a redaction of the Marathi original. Dhere collated in this volume a large number of his essays published in Marathi journals and magazines over a number of years, pruning in the process the repetitions which accrued once these essays were composed as chapters in a book. Feldhaus has made further excisions and rearranged parts of some chapters by eliminating or shortening certain passages which are peculiarly relevant to the Maharashtrian intellectual discourse.

She has also added words and phrases in several places to aid the non-Marathi reader. This English version contains notes that explain basic ideas which Dhere does not need to explain to his Marathi readers, but which are necessary for readers of the translated text. The result is an analysis of religion in English translation made from a perspective which is culturally rooted in the Deccan region and which is methodologic-ally and intellectually non-western.

Continue reading this review