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Review: Tamil Bhakti in Translation

Reviewed Works: Poems to Śiva: The Hymns of the Tamil Saints by Indira Viswanathan Peterson; The Tamil Veda: Piḷḷāṉ's Interpretation of the Tiruvāymoḻi by Piḷḷāṉ, John Carman, Vasudha Narayanan
Review by: Norman Cutler
Journal of the American Oriental Society
Vol. 111, No. 4 (Oct. - Dec., 1991), pp. 768-775
DOI: 10.2307/603406
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/603406
Page Count: 8
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Tamil Bhakti in Translation
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Abstract

In Poems to Śiva Indira Viswanathan Peterson offers a sourcebook of translations of poems from the Tēvāram, the core of the Śaiva bhakti canon; in The Tamil Veda John Carman and Vasudha Narayanan offer a critical analysis of the first theological commentary on Nammāḻvār's Tiruvāymoḻi, perhaps the greatest of Tamil Vaiṣṇava bhakti texts. Though different in focus both books highlight the fact that any attempt to recover the meaning of bhakti poetry in a manner that is sympathetic to the experience of devotees must take into account the poetry's sectarian context. Each book in its own way is concerned with a sectarian community's consensus regarding the meaning of its saints' poems, and each enables a wide audience to understand and appreciate the forces that shape that consensus. In tandem the two books also draw attention to both parallels and differences in the roles the Tamil Śaiva and Vaiṣṇava saints' poems play in their respective sectarian environments.

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