How distinct is Indian devotionalism from other strands of Indian religiosity? Is devotionalism necessarily at odds with asceticism in the Hindu world? What about the common contrasting of Hindu devotionalism as ‘religion’ with tantra as ‘black magic’? Patton E. Burchett's new book A Genealogy of Devotion: Bhakti, Tantra, Yoga, and Sufism in North India (Columbia University Press, 2019) re-examines what we assume about the rise of devotionalism in North India, tracing its flowering since India’s early medieval “Tantric Age” to present day. It illumines the complex historical factors at play in Sultanate and Mughal India implicating the influence of three pervasive strands in the tapestry of North Indian religiosity: tantra, yoga and Sufism. Burchett shows the extent to which Persian culture and popular Sufism contribute to a (now prevalent) Hindu devotionalism that is critical of tantric and yogic religiosity. Prior to this, argues Burchett, Hindu devotionalism locally flowered in fruitful cross pollination with yogic and tantric forms of Indian religiosity.
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