Many Shades of bhakti: A Devoted Second Wife and Self-decapitated Bhairava

  • Ewa Dębicka-Borek Jagiellonian University, Kraków
Keywords: Ahōbilam, Ahobilamāhātmya, Bhairava, bhakti, double-marriage, selfdecapitation, muṇḍo bhairava, Narasiṃha, Ceñcatā, Vāsantikāpariṇayam, Vijayanagara Empire

Abstract

The aim of this paper is to discuss the usage of two bhakti-related metaphors intended to represent self-surrender: the metaphor of marriage and the metaphor of self-decapitation. The explored narratives—one about Narasiṃha marrying Ceñcatā (a Ceñcū huntress) and the other about Bhairava who cuts off his own head for the sake of Narasiṃha—are connected to the Śrīvaiṣṇava center of Narasiṃha worship in Ahōbilam. As I will try to demonstrate, even though both served to convey the message about Narasiṃha’s final acceptance of strangers who loved him unconditionally, the employment of different symbolism may point to the fact that each of these tales originated in different circles, which, although linked to Ahōbilam, at the outset were occupied with different matters and interested in different targets: Vijayanagara rulers who supported the site to extend the kingdom’s boundaries and local temple priests eager to increase the number of pilgrims.

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Published
2019-06-14