Journal Article

Shifting the Center: Yakṣas on the Margins of Contemporary Practice

A. Whitney Sanford

in Journal of the American Academy of Religion

Published on behalf of American Academy of Religion

Volume 73, issue 1, pages 89-110
Published in print March 2005 | ISSN: 0002-7189
Published online March 2005 | e-ISSN: 1477-4585 | DOI:
Shifting the Center: Yakṣas on the Margins of Contemporary Practice

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Contemporary Braj practice regarding yakṣa worship invites us to reconsider notions of the interaction between the hegemonic Krishna-Gopal complex and the local traditions absorbed into this tradition. Practices comprising the nāga-yakṣa-Balarāma continuum offer a counterpoint to the pastoral Krishna tradition that became dominant in the sixteenth century. Yakṣas present an interesting test case, because, in contrast to Balarāma-Śeṣa, they were not absorbed into Vaiṣṇavism. Scholars and Vaiṣṇava Brahmins have consistently privileged the pastoral Krishna as the center of the circle. However, attention to yakṣa practices offers a re-visioning of the center-periphery image that has dominated Braj thought and necessitates a re-conceptualization of the relationships between these traditions. This article focuses our attention on contemporary yakṣa worship to re-map the landscape to reflect these multiple circles. These multiple circles will more accurately represent the dialectical and mutually interdependent relationships between the different traditions in Braj.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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