It was several years ago that I first watched author Chimananda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk on the danger of a single story. This year as I was putting together a new course titled “Bhakti & Music: Oral Tradition, Radical Change” at Ahmedabad University I found myself seeking out the video again. What particularly spoke to me was Adichie’s observation that “Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories.”
She could have easily been talking about the Bhakti mystics. Their complex and rarely linear lives are often rendered flat with devotion as a single story. Their poetry paints a multi-hued story of their lived experiences shaped by caste, community, class and gender. Their stories and our own response to it are a complex tapestry that we’ll attempt to unpack in class.
The course ‘Bhakti & Music : Oral Tradition Radical Change’ is designed for students who are interested in the history and musical impact of the Bhakti mystics of India. Students explore the roots of the Bhakti movement, the influence of historical context—political, religious and cultural in its historical development. They learn to appreciate Bhakti poetry and its propagation through multiple musical genres and examine how the mystics across India strove to create social change through the ages and their relevance in modern times.
As with every new course I teach, I learn a whole lot including how much I am yet to learn. I’m also looking forward to exploring how music and the poetry of the mystics influence one another!