Mahārāsa-Manjuṣā Research Project

A Poetic Rendition of Nandadāsa’s Rāsapañcādhyayī

Nandadāsa: One of the eight devotional poets (aṣṭa-chāpa) belonging to the 16th Century Śrīnāthajī temple tradition of Vraja.

Overview and Timeline

This project proposes to produce an annotated translation of Nandadāsa’s poetic rendition of the five chapters of rāsa-līlā in the Bhāgavata, collectively known as the rāsapañcādhyayī. Designed to be completed in the six months period (December 2019-June 2020), the project is divided into two phases.
1) The first phase of two months will be used to work on the theological framework of the text and the transliteration of the original Braja-bhāṣa verses.
2) The second phase will involve the work on translation and interpretative commentary to provide the thematic structure.

Significance and Progress

1) The project aims to uncover the regional representation of Kṛṣṇa’s mahārāsa from the perspective of a devotee, which is composed within the contextual framework of a classical Vaiṣṇava commentary. 2) In the Vaiṣṇava tradition propounded by Vallabhācārya (CE 1479-1531) that is popularly known as Puṣṭimārga, Nandadāsa is considered to be one of the eight devotional poets (aṣṭa-chāpa), whose compositions are exquisitely detailed with description of both Kṛṣṇa’s cosmic form and his divine play.3) This gradually developed into a distinctive style of performing art, namely, havelī-saṅgīta, which is practised even today. The project intends to brings out the poetics, the narrative style, and the idiosyncrasies of the recitation of devotional poems from the region of Vraja in the 16th Century.

Academic Team

1) The project is supervised by Dr David Haberman (Head-Religious Studies, Indiana University Bloomington), who is the editor-in-chief.2) Shri Manoj Goswami, the Research Associate of the project, belongs to the Guru lineage of the Vallabha tradition, and is also an active practitioner of the havelī-saṅgīta style of music. 3) Prakriti Goswami, the editor of the project, is a scholar-practitioner of the tradition, and works primarily on the hermeneutics of Vallabha’s texts. She has read M.Phil. in Theology at the University of Cambridge with specialisation on the devotional traditions of India.

Progress (December 2019 – January 2020)

1) In the first month of the project, we aim to collect and study all the relevant source material to produce a comprehensive work. We have successfully completed this part of research. Although, for a more rooted inquiry, we are n aiming to arrange a meeting with the traditional singers of Nāthadvārā Havelī Sañgīta in February, which will help us understand the nuance of its rendition.2) Further, the next step involves arranging the original work of 301 verses into five sections according to the five chapters of the rāsapañcādhyayi, and categorisation of the introductory and conclusive passages. We have completed this categorisation, and translation of the first chapter – Śuka Stuti (Paeon to Śuka – the orator of the Bhāgavata)3) Lastly, we aim to complete the introductory notes of the project involving the biographical sketch and the theological framework by the end of December along with the categorisation of the text. The introductory notes will be finalised after we receive the inputs from our ground research mentioned in the point number one, while the categorisation of the text is completed. Meanwhile, we have started our work on the translation.