Expecting the Unexpected: The Secret of “the Gift” in the Bengali Vaishnava Tradition

How to Cite

Leena A. Taneja. (2022). Expecting the Unexpected: The Secret of “the Gift” in the Bengali Vaishnava Tradition: Journal of Vaishnava Studies. Journal of Vaishnava Studies, 18(1), 105–115. Retrieved from https://ivsjournal.com/index.php/jvs/article/view/191


My roles as a mother and a scholar rarely collide (thankfully!). But in choosing the topic for this paper, I have to give credit to my
three-year-old son, who is so fond of the Sudåmå and the Krishna gift story that no nightly ritual is complete without reading and rereading this classic Vaishnava tale. Some stories are really worth telling again and again, as my son has taught me. Countless nights of this often exhausting ritual made me wonder: What can we learn from this Vaishnava story about the nature of the gift? As a scholar who has studied Jacques Derrida’s theory of the pure gift, I was curious to see how these two different cultural accounts of the gift could be compared and analyzed. Is the Vaishnava gift any different than Derrida’s self-less pure gift that exceeds the recipient’s
expectations? And can darΩan, prasada or kripa—other Vaishnava forms of reciprocating with the divine—serve as similar illustrations of gifting in the Bengali Vaishnava tradition?

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