Thursday, March 07, 2013

Book release: Transgressing Boundaries by Kanchana Natarajan

Transgressing Boundaries: The songs of Shenkottai Avudai Akkal

Shengottai Sri Avudai Akkal, a remarkable eighteenth-century woman saint from Tamil Nadu, was a self-realised advaitin who sang passionately about the spiritual union with the Absolute.
A desolate and stigmatized Brahmin child-widow, she was initiated into Vedanta by the great Master Tiruvisainallur Shridhara Venkatesa Ayyawal. Her songs, a radical elision of the metaphysical sublime and personal devotion, are narrated through existential tropes sourced from daily life, and also offer a powerful critique of the oppressive orthodox socio-religious practices of the period.
Composed in simple, colloquial Tamil, and bringing hope and solace to women in general and widows in particular for almost three centuries, these songs by Avudai Akkal were preserved within the oral tradition by Brahmin women of Tirunellveli District of Tamil Nadu, who sang them on all occasions. The songs were documented in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and have appeared in many Tamil publications. However, they appear in English translation for the first time in this book. Each song is accompanied by annotations and themed essays.
The book, dedicated to all the anonymous widows and other women of Tirunelveli and Madurai districts who sang and still sing Akka’s songs, preserving and sharing a sublime spiritual treasure, has been handled with some excellent editing by Smriti Vorha. The book will be available on bookstores in India, by March end.

To book your copy(s), you may also write to the publishers of the book.

Author: Dr Kanchana Natarajan
Publisher: Zubaan
an imprint of Kali for Women
128 B, Shahpur Jat, 1st floor
New Delhi 110 049
Price: INR 695
About the author: Dr Kanchana Natarajan teaches Indian Philosophy at the Department of Philosophy, University of Delhi, India.

Also read:
Avidai Akkal, the 18th Century woman Vedantin saint in Tamil Nadu, short review in 2010

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