Bhakti (loving devotion) centered on and directed to Jesus Christ—or what I here call "Christ-centred bhakti"—is an increasingly popular religious practice in India and elsewhere. The first half of this paper seeks to explore some of the roots of the contemporary spiritual practice of bhakti poetry which has been written and/or is being sung in India. An overview of bhakti in a broader sense provides the necessary foundation so as to then explore and contextualise the emerging practice of Christ-centered bhakti poetry—often called ‘Yeshu’ (Jesus) or ‘Khrist’ (Christ) bhajans (devotional hymns)—within the broader theological and experiential frameworks of Hindu bhakti. To structure this contextualization, I draw upon a helpful observation by Jessica Frazier: scholars generally approach bhakti as either a concept, a historical movement, or an experience. The first half of this paper interacts with each of these understandings of bhakti in order to provide the reader with some necessary context of bhakti in its broader and more commonly known expressions—most of which are in Hindu contexts. The second half of this paper focuses on Christ-centered bhakti, drawing from both ethnographic fieldwork and literary analysis, and explores how Christ-centered bhakti can be situated within bhakti’s broader historical and literary expressions. I highlight some of the expressions of Christ-centered bhakti through focusing specifically on one bhajan, ‘Man Mera,’ and reading it alongside bhajans by the 16th-century Rajasthani poet-saint Mirabai. The focus on Christ-centred bhakti documents and demonstrates some of the ways in which bhakti is being practiced with Christian idioms and in Christian contexts. And, significantly, it reveals the various ways that some Christians grapple with their faith in Jesus and embrace an existential uncertainty with regard to their sense of God.
"Christ-Centered Bhakti:A Literary and Ethnographic Study of Worship,"
Journal of Hindu-Christian Studies:
Vol. 32, Article 5.
Available at: https://doi.org/10.7825/2164-6279.1731