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Poetry as Prayer in the Sanskrit Hymns of Kashmir$
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Hamsa Stainton

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190889814

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190889814.001.0001

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Poetry as Prayer

Poetry as Prayer

(p.159) 5 Poetry as Prayer
Poetry as Prayer in the Sanskrit Hymns of Kashmir

Hamsa Stainton

Oxford University Press

This chapter develops the study of poetry as prayer. It reviews recent scholarship on prayer and evaluates the perils and potential of prayer as a category of analysis in the study of South Asian religions. Then, focusing on an important and previously unstudied text from fourteenth-century Kashmir—Jagaddhara Bhaṭṭa’s Stutikusumāñjali (Flower-Offering of Praise)—it analyzes various types of prayer sheltered under the umbrella of the stotra genre. In addition, it explores two creative ways of interpreting poetic prayer. First, it examines how Jagaddhara dramatizes Śiva’s interactions with Sarasvatī as the beautifully embodied form of poetry. Then it analyzes praise-poetry as a type of verbal prasāda, an offering received by a deity and then enjoyed by a community of devotees. Finally, the chapter argues that some of the evidence from Kashmir challenges a persistent view in the study of Hinduism that “true” prayer is a spontaneous outpouring of the heart.

Keywords:   stotra, poetry, prayer, Jagaddhara Bhaṭṭa, Stutikusumāñjali, petitionary prayer, prasāda, Sarasvatī, auspiciousness, blessing

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