Dance, Trance, and Transformation: The Art of Movement in Gaudiya Temples

How to Cite

Pika Ghosh. (2022). Dance, Trance, and Transformation: The Art of Movement in Gaudiya Temples: Journal of Vaishnava Studies. Journal of Vaishnava Studies, 21(2), 87–110. Retrieved from


Dance as a mode of devotional expression has received some attention in studies of the devadasis at the Jagannath Temple in Puri, and more recently the gotipua dancers in the eastern region,1 but the role of dance as a form of community worship in the Gaudiya tradition has hardly received the scholarly inquiry it deserves. Yet, we know that dance was one of the earliest, and most powerful mechanisms deployed toward the coalescence of the nascent religious community in the sixteenth century. Chaitanya (1486-1533) led his followers in nagar samkirtan, dancing and singing songs praising Krishna, most often describing the episodes and emotions of his
relationship with his beloved, Radha.2 These sessions lasted through the night, and they were so moving that they induced visceral responses of tears, trembling, and even fainting. Throngs of worshippers overflowed into the streets of his hometown of Nabadwip, and the growing popularity of nagar samkirtan through the sixteenth-century swept Bengal in the east and Vrindavan in north India in
a frenzy of passionate song, dance, and ecstatic devotion.

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