Toward a history of devotional Vaishnavism in the West Himalayas: Kullu and the Ramanandis, c. 1500-1800

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The unlikely emergence of the remote Himalayan valley of Kullu as a centre of devotional (bhakti) Vaishnavism c. 1650 has customarily been explained as the residual outcome of regional integration into the Mughal Empire. However, recent research on the role of ascetic movements in the history of early modern India suggests the bairagi sadhus behind this shift in religious orientation played a far greater role in the mountain kingdom's development than the mere 'conversion' of its raja that is reported in local tradition. This article traces the development of bairagi involvement in Kullu to revise the customary account of state formation in the region. It shows that Vaishnava ascetics directly contributed to Kullu's development at various historical junctures and links these processes with parallel phases of the Ramanandi sampraday's evolution in north India. In investigating a pan-Indian phenomenon in a limited area, this article highlights the importance of integrating regional histories within the broader framework of the history of the subcontinent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalIndian Economic and Social History Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2013


  • Ayodhya
  • Kullu
  • Pahari
  • Payohari
  • Pindori
  • Rajput
  • Ramanandis
  • bhakti

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Social Sciences(all)


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