The devotional transformation of medieval Hinduism Know as bhakti was an extremely diverse phenomenon. This book brings together current research and offers new perspectives on the radical wing of the movement. Its central focus in the Sant tradition of North India, whose major figure is Kabir and out of which the Sikh religion evolved. It also considers the Sants of Maharashtra and a few of the other major nonconformist traditions.
A variety of problems are explored, In the first section, the Sants are places within the broader context of Indian religious history. the second section deals with Hindi and Marathi Sant literature, analyzing its poetics, thematic content and textual history. The third section examines some of the organized communities that have evolved out of the teachings and following of the Sants, particularly the Sikhs, the Kabir-panth and the modern Radhasoami movement. The fourth section contains comparative essays on the Indian Sufis, the bengali Bauls and the Siddhas of Tamilnadu. An introductory essay, a glossary of Indic terms and an annotated bibliography help make the volume accessible to non specialist readers.
Most of the papers were originally prepared for a conference held under the auspices of the Graduate Theological Union and the Center for south and Southeast Asia Studies of the University of California at Berkeley. The contributors are: Winand M. Callewaert, Edwrd C. Dimock, Daniel Gold, John Stratton Hawley, Linda Hess, Mark Juergensmeyer, K. Kaliasapathy, Bruce LaBrack, Bruce Lawrence, David Loren zen, Vijay C. Mishra, Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty, W. H. McLeod, Andrew Rawlinson, Karine Schomer, Frits Staal, Charlotte Vaudeville and Eleanor Zelliott. An appendix on the illustration used in the frontispiece was contributed by Elinor C. Gadon.