Syncretic Culture and Traditions of Braj Bhumi

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Call for Papers
July 15, 2020
Subject Fields: 
Architecture and Architectural History, Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Cultural History / Studies, Philosophy, South Asian History / Studies

Call for Papers for a Webinar entitled 'Syncretic Culture and Traditions of Braj Bhumi'. Abstracts / Presentations of not more than 500 words, with a supporting Bio-note, are to be sent by 15th July 2020 to

Braj and Krishna encompass and enthrall all. The way we are experiencing Braj today, is the result of a process of acculturation, assimilation and of unique amalgam-spanning across centuries and still continuing- of the cultural traditions existent in India. We seek to broaden the reach of this quest for understanding Braj and are accommodating interventions engaging with art, performative traditions, folk and oral forms and all forms of knowledge connecting to Krishna and Braj. We welcome academicians, artists and storytellers to come together in exploring different hues of Braj and in celebrating the beauty of the heartland of Krishna.

We invite abstracts that center around, but are not limited to the following:

• Poets and Textual traditions • Architectural synthesis • Schools of Painting and depiction of Krishna and Braj • Development of Temple Music and Dance forms • Crafts and Living traditions of Braj • Performative traditions and Dramas • Folklore and Oral Narratives • Temple Food traditions (Bhog and Parsadam) and Aesthetics (Shringar Ras) • Philosophical schools and Intellectual Exchange • Trade and dissemination of Cultures

Concept Note:

Braj region’s rich manifestation in various forms of architecture, literature, language, music, paintings, folktales bear testimony to the process of acculturation and are living vehicles for the transmission of syncretism. Mathura, was a thriving city during ancient times by the virtue of its being a nodal city, located near the two ancient trade routes – Uttarapatha and Dakshinapatha. It was this strategic location which led to its growth as a cosmopolitan centre of trade. The city served as the administrative centre for Kushanas and Sakas, who brought in cultural influences from all parts of the world and got absorbed in the culture of the land. The art representations from Mathura shows various such influences like the solar deity presenting Iranian features of the presence of halo and the covering of the whole body with a long heavy coat like dress.

The Mughals patronized the Braj region and Mughal courtiers like Abdul’ Rahim Khan-iKhanan, patronized Brajbhasha and wrote extensively on the Krishna theme in Barvai metre. Surdas, a Brajbhasha poet, writing in the sixteenth century, on the other hand, draws upon political realities of the time and uses Persian tropes to represent his beloved Krishna. These bhaktas represent true voices of syncretism and transcend the boundaries of ‘the other’ and get immersed in the Bhakti traditions of the time. The folk traditions got assimilated into Krishnaism and it is this orality and folk in which we find the true essence of Braj devotion. The Naga and Yaksha cults, Shaktism and Shaivism all were subsumed into Vaishnavism giving a new dimension to Braj devotion. Braj pilgrimage begins from the temple of Gopeshwar Mahadev, Shiva being assimilated as Gopi-his lingam being adorned with a nose ring – in the Krishna legend.

F. S. Growse, British District Collector of Mathura, who undertook extensive restoration work in Braj, compared the architectural plan of the famous Govinddeva temple to that of a ‘Greek Cross’ and ‘Gothic cathedral’, many modern period temples across Vrindavan are adorned with beautiful Roman pillars. Syncreticism and interfaith dialogue sees the advent of Christian mission in the region. The twentieth century at its acme of globalisation brought in newer forces of the western world to Braj reinventing it in significant ways, be it the newer interpretations of Vaishnavism under ISKCON, the frequent visits of Bhagwat kathavachaks to international audience, or the adaptation of miniature Vrindavans across the world, these have helped blend practices and thoughts in the absorbing culture of Braj. The temple traditions of Rag, Bhog and Shringar reflected and adapted to the changing cultural traditions of various periods. It is these traditions which have left a deep impact on the formulation of the region. Can a region as encompassing as Braj, be studied in isolation? The imprint left by various traditions on Braj and Braj’s influence on various traditions which came into its contact, is too substantial to be overlooked. Why does Braj attract people from all walks of life, diverse cultures and faiths? We aim to understand Braj through this Webinar series. 

Contact Info: 

Braj Sanskriti Shodh Sansthan , 

Goda Vihar, Vrindavan, 

U.P India 

Contact Email: