Lover, Magician, and Scion of the Avatara
- ISBN: 9780190054113
- Published By: Oxford University Press
- Published: October 2019
This book provides the first full-scale English-language study of Pradyumna, the son of the Hindu god Krsna. Often represented as a young man in mid-adolescence, Pradyumna is both a handsome double of his demon-slaying father and the rebirth of Kamadeva, the God of Love. Sanskrit epic, puranic, and kavya narratives of the 300-1300 CE period celebrate Pradyumna's sexual potency, mastery of illusory subterfuges, and military prowess in supporting the work of his avatara father. These materials reflect the values of an evolving Brahminical and Vaisnava tradition that was deeply invested in the imperatives of family, patrilines, the violent but necessary defense of the social and cosmic order, and the celebration of beauty and desire as a means to the divine. Pradyumna's evolving narratives, almost completely absent from existing studies of Hindu mythology, provide a point of access to the development of Krsna bhakti and Vaisnava theism more broadly. Conversely, Jain sources cast Pradyumna as an exemplary figure through whom a pointed rejection of these values can be articulated, even while sharing certain of their elementary premises.
Pradyumna: Lover, Magician, and Scion of the Avatara assembles these narratives, presents key Sanskrit materials in translation and summary form, and articulates the social, gender, and religious values encoded in them. Most importantly, the study argues that Pradyumna's signature two-handed maneuver--the audacious appropriation of a feminine partner, enabled by the emasculating destruction of her demonic male protector--communicates a persistent fantasy of male power expressed in the language of a mutually implicating sex and violence.