This paper offers a literary and ideological deconstruction of the Bhagavata Purana; it traces the Purana's formation through the convergence of the Vedantin, the Aesthetic and the Vaisnava traditions, and argues that it is the doctrine of Parinama which underlies the treatise. I first examine the Bhagavata Purana's literary components; the roots of these are traced back historically to the Vedanta and Alvar traditions, and the Bhagavata Purana's nature as an opus universale, representing an all Indian cultural 'melting pot', is highlighted. The paper then looks at the relations of Vaisnavism and dramaturgy, both historically as well as theologically, and argues that the Bhagavata Purana was traditionally read as a drama. It proceeds to decipher the aesthetic theory underlying the Bhagavata Purana, and argues that it is Bharata's dramaturgical rasa theory. Within the rasa tradition, Abhinavagupta's and Bhoja's positions are highlighted and compared through three seminal points and it becomes apparent that the Bhagavata Purana's underlying aesthetic theory is close to the Parinama doctrine of Bhoja where śrngara is considered to be the supreme rasa. As Bhoja's date is no doubt later than the Bhagavata Purana's it is assumed that the Bhagavata Purana was influenced by one of Bhoja's predecessors. The paper ends by reinforcing this analysis by highlighting a later tradition which had actually accepted this point of view and that is the Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Religious studies