Columbia Global Centers | Mumbai, 12-13, Maker Chambers VI, First floor, Jamnalal Bajaj Road, Nariman Point, Mumbai 400 021
Columbia Global Centers | Mumbai invites you to a public lecture and book launch of Krishna’s Playground: Vrindavan in the 21st Century (Oxford 2020) by John Stratton Hawley, Claire Tow Professor of Religion at Barnard College, Columbia University.
Vrindavan, where Krishna is believed to have spent his early years, has always stood for youth writ large — a realm of love and beauty that enables one to retreat from the weight and harshness of the world. Now, though, the world is gobbling up Vrindavan. Delhi’s megalopolitan sprawl inches closer day by day — half the town is a vast real-estate development — and the waters of the Yamuna are too polluted to drink or even bathe in. Temples now style themselves as theme parks, and the world’s tallest religious building is under construction in Krishna’s pastoral paradise.
Professor Hawley’s book is based on over forty years of visiting and working in Vrindavan, especially the last decade and a half, when it became clear that the town was being dramatically, perhaps irreversibly, transformed. His talk is structured, in part, as a walk through this startling new landscape, evoking questions about the town's status as a heritage landmark.
John Stratton Hawley is Claire Tow Professor of Religion at Barnard College, Columbia University. His most recent books on India’s bhakti traditions are A Storm of Songs: India and the Idea of the Bhakti Movement (Harvard, 2015), Sur’s Ocean (with Kenneth Bryant, Harvard, 2015), a poem-by-poem commentary called Into Sur’s Ocean (Harvard Oriental Series, 2016), and Krishna’s Playground: Vrindavan in the 21st Century (Oxford, 2020). He is the co-editor of two recent volumes bearing on bhakti: Text and Tradition in Early Modern North India (Oxford, 2018) and Bhakti and Power: Debating India’s Religion of the Heart (University of Washington and Orient BlackSwan, 2019). A Storm of Songs won the A. K. Coomaraswamy Book Prize of the Association for Asian Studies in 2017, and Sur’s Ocean won the A. K. Ramanujan Book Prize for Translation of the Association for Asian Studies in 2018. Professor Hawley has received multiple awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Smithsonian, and the American Institute for Indian Studies. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow, was recently a Fulbright Fellow, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.