The Dramatic Arts in GauDiya Vaishnava Devotion

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Donna M. Wulff. (2022). The Dramatic Arts in GauDiya Vaishnava Devotion: Journal of Vaishnava Studies. Journal of Vaishnava Studies, 21(2), 111–133. Retrieved from


Drama, both as a concept and as a concrete form of religious expression and participation, has been integral to Krishna devotion from the time of the Bhagavadgītā or even earlier. It is therefore no surprise that dramatic forms and conceptions are found in abundance in Gauḍīya Vaishnava thought and practice, both in Brindavan and in Bengal. In this school, drama has served as the very paradigm according to which devotion has been understood and expressed. We therefore find dramatic elements in every major genre of Gauḍīya Vaishnava literature: in the Sanskrit and Bengali biographies of Caitanya as well as in the Sanskrit treatises of the Vṛndāvana gosvāmīs, and in the lyrical Bengali and Brajabuli songs1 as well as in the more stylized Sanskrit poems and dramas. Underlying all these works is a fundamentally dramatic conception of devotion that found its most systematic and authoritative exposition in the two major theoretical works of Rūpa Gosvāmī, the Bhaktirasāmṛtasindhu2 and its detailed supplement on madhura bhaktirasa, the Ujjvalanīlamaṇi. Although we cannot give here an exhaustive analysis of these elaborate works,4 we must consider briefly certain
salient features of Rūpa’s theory of devotion, for his theory provides clues for interpreting his dramas as well as for understanding other prominent aspects of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava religious life

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