Department of Asian Studies
Department of Asian Studies

Reading Kinaram: Saint, Poet, Reformer, Enigma

Mon, January 22, 2018 | Meyerson Conference Room (WCH 4.118), UT Austin Campus

4:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Reading Kinaram:  Saint, Poet, Reformer, Enigma

Jishnu Shankar

Senior Lecturer

The University of Texas at Austin

Baba Kinaram is a well known and respected saint of Banaras. He is said to have founded the Baba Kinaram Sthal in Kashi which flourishes to this day, in the Bhelupura locality of Banaras. He is respected not only as a person of great mystical achievement in the Aghor as well as Vaishnava traditions, but also as a social reformer and poet who selflessly worked for the benefit of Society. He established eight different monasteries in his life time, four that belong to the Aghor tradition, and four that adhere to the Vaishnava tradition. He is said to have travelled extensively and the language of some of his poetry displays Urdu elements and Sufi imagery. There abound numerous legends about him in the city of Banaras and the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, folk musicians sing his hymns on various occasions, people from all walks of life visit his monastery, the Kinaram Sthal every day, seeking succor from various social, physical and spiritual ills. He presents a uniquely syncretic form as a saint, yogi, reformer and poet, yet only a handful of scholars have written about him, in the 1950s, and despite his presence in the list of the saints of the ‘santamat’, he remains unknown to Hindi literature. In my paper I attempt a literary evaluation of his writings, and put them in perspective of the social and political milieu of his time.

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