Hari in Cowherd's Garb

Ramchandra Chintaman Dhere

in Rise of a Folk God

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199777594
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919048 | DOI:

Series: South Asia Research

Hari in Cowherd's Garb

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This chapter discusses the saint-poets' belief that Viṭṭhal is the god Kṛṣṇa, who came to Pandharpur to meet the devotee Puṇḍalīk. According to a well-known story, Puṇḍalīk was busy attending to his elderly parents, so he threw Kṛṣṇa a brick to stand on, and the god has been waiting there patiently, his hands on his hips, for 28 Yugas (eons). The iconography of the Viṭṭhal image does not conform to any standard Vaiṣṇava or Kṛṣṇaite iconography, and the saint-poets repeatedly declare Viṭṭhal to be “beyond the twenty-four” incarnations of Viṣṇu. Certain elements of the cult indicate Viṭṭhal's similarity to the Vedic deity Pūṣan. For his devotees, however, Viṭṭhal is preeminently the cowherd child Kṛṣṇa, and it is this form that they see in his image in the temple at Pandharpur.

Keywords: Pandharpur; Vedic deities; cowherd child

Chapter.  5469 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Hinduism

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