Namdev is a central figure in the cultural history of India, especially within the field of bhakti, a devotional practice that has created publics of memory around the figure of Namdev for over eight centuries. Born in the Marathi-speaking region of the Deccan in the late thirteenth century, Namdev is remembered as a simple, low-caste Hindu tailor whose innovative performances of devotional songs spread his fame widely.
In the modern period, Namdev appears throughout the public spheres of Marathi and Hindi and in India at large, where his identity fluctuates between regional associations and a quiet, pan-Indian, nationalist-secularist profile that champions the poor, oppressed, marginalized, and low caste. Christian Lee Novetzke considers the way social memory coheres around the figure of Namdev from the sixteenth century to the present, examining the practices that situate Namdev’s memory in multiple historical publics. He vividly illustrates how religious communities in India preserve their pasts and, in turn, create their own historical narratives.
“This erudite study is an important contribution to several important issues in contemporary social theory” Sumit Guha, Rutgers University
“Novetzke brings the cultural world of Namdev to life. He breaks new ground in the field of bhakti studies” Eleanor Zelliot, Carleton College
“Novetzke is a skilled and sensitive writer, and he has produced a challenging, erudite, and engaging book that will interest both historians and scholars of religion” William R. Pinch, Wesleyan University.
Read an interview with Christian Lee Novetske here
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