TAPSA: Bilvamaṅgala in Bengal: Biographical Thought, Inexpressibility, and Other Mysteries

Ishan Chakrabarti, PhD Candidate in SALC, University of Chicago

In 1510 Caitanya made a pilgrimage to South India, where he was captivated by the Kṛṣṇakarṇāmṛta (Ambrosia for Kṛṣṇa’s Ears), an anthology of Sanskrit verses about Kṛṣṇa written by the fourteenth-century poet Līlāśuka Bilvamaṅgala. Around the end of the sixteenth century, Caitanya’s followers produced two commentaries on this text. Bilvamaṅgala struggled with the ultimate inexpressibility of the divine through ordinary poetic language. He wound up putting Sanskrit poetics in crisis while coming up with ways to express what cannot be said. Caitanya’s early followers reflect on Bilvamaṅgala’s aporetic poetics and its conditions of possibility and impossibility through a turn to biographical criticism, elucidating the Kṛṣṇakarṇāmṛta through the often-mysterious implied life-experiences of the author. This paper looks at Bilvamaṅgala’s aporetic poetics and the structure of early Gauḍīya biographical thought as it reckons with Bilvamaṅgala reckoning with the aporia of talking about Kṛṣṇa.

Dates: 
Thursday, February 13, 2020 - 5:00pm
Foster 103