"Encounters between Shirdi Sai Baba and Brahmims in Hagiographic Text and Film"
"Encounters between Shirdi Sai Baba and Brahmims in Hagiographic Text and Film,"
Jonathan Loar, PhD Candidate of Graduate Division of Religion, Emory University
Early twentieth-century hagiographic sources tell us that when Shirdi Sai Baba (d. 1918) arrived in Shirdi as a teenaged youth, no one knew where he came from; who his parents were; or what caste and religion he belonged to. These sources also tell us that Sai Baba became notable for two main reasons: his combination of Hindu and Islamic traditions, which has made him into a modern-day symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity; and his reputation as a powerful and efficacious miracle-worker. In hagiographic texts like G.R. Dabholkar’s Sri Sai Satcarita (1929) and films like Ashok Bhushan’s Shirdi ke Sai Baba (1977), we see a number of encounters between the saint and proud, purity-minded Brahmins and find that one pattern clearly emerges. The Brahmins initially oppose Sai Baba for a variety of reasons, but eventually come to see the error of their ways, as a result of miraculous experiences engineered by the saint.
Jonathan Loar’s presentation approaches these encounters as a way to understand the inclusion of Brahmins into the Sai Baba devotional community, a context where one’s high-caste status would be more of a social liability than an advantage. In doing so, it shows that the Shirdi Sai Baba hagiographic tradition contains elements of anti-Brahminism that manifest in miracle stories that critique Brahminical excesses, while simultaneously subordinating this critique to the construction of Sai Baba as a saint through whom anyone and everyone can be morally and spiritually rehabilitated.
Date: Tuesday, November 3, 2015
Time: 4:30 – 6pm
Venue: Callaway Center S-319, Emory University, 537 Kilgo Cir, Atlanta, GA 30322