Worshipping Viṣṇu’s Twelve Manifestations: A Glimpse into Early Medieval Vaiṣṇava Lay Practice

  • Marion Rastelli Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna
Keywords: vrata, Vaiṣṇava lay practice


The paper traces the history of religious practices devoted to a particular set of the twelve manifestations of Viṣṇu. These practices are mostly monthly observances (vrata), which were widely known and implemented as evident from their description in various textual sources such as the Baudhāyana Sūtras, Varāhamihira’s Bṛhatsaṃhitā, the Ṛgvidhāna, the Viṣṇudharma, and appendix passages of the Mahābhārata. They were highly influential even beyond the sectarian borders of Vaiṣṇavism, since they served as a model for the composition of a full calendrical scheme in the Niśvāsamukha, which belongs to the earliest extant Śaiva tantra, the Niśvāsatattvasaṃhitā.


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