Singing Krishna

Sound Becomes Sight in Paramānand's Poetry

By A. Whitney Sanford

Subjects: Comparative Literature
Paperback : 9780791473962, 218 pages, January 2009
Hardcover : 9780791473955, 218 pages, March 2008

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Table of contents

A Critical Perspective
The Research Context
The Experience of the Temple
Situated Poetry: Sound Becoming Sight
Plan for the Book: Following the Cycles
1. Paramānand’s Poetic World
About Paramānand’s Poetry
Paramānand’s Poetic Environment
Serving Krishna
Synaesthesia, Metaphor, and Transformation
2. The End of the Night: Poetry, Memory, and Culture
Śayan: While Braj Sleeps
Paramānand’s World
Theater of Memory
Mangalā—Krishna Rises
3. Krishna’s Morning Games: Creating Intimacy through Treachery
Gvāl—Boyhood Play
The Gopī’s Complaints to Yaśodā
Mixed Bhāvas
Shattered Boundaries and Spilled Milk: Metonymies of Love
4. Afternoon: Experiencing the Food of Love
Rājbhog—A Lunchtime Tryst in the Forest
Mahātmya: Separation during the Afternoon Watch
Public and Private Līlā
Utthāpan—Āvanī: Krishna’s Arrival in Braj
Exemplars of Bhāva: The Cows and the Gopīs
Bhog and Sandhyāratī—The Connoisseur of Rasa
Eats and Goes to Bed
5. Night: Playing the Game of Love
Śayan Māna—Divine Jealousy
The Sakhī’s Counsel to Rādhā about Her Sulking and Pride
Setting the Stage: A Romantic Evening and the Beauty of the Lovers
The Sakhī’s Warning
The Sakhī’s Message to Krishna
The Resolution of Māna
Krishna’s Māna
The Sakhī in Māna Poems
6. Autumn to Spring: Gopīs, Birds, and the Moon
Śarad: The Autumn Full Moon
Hemant: Vows of the Cold Winter
Vasant: Spring and Holī
7. Summer—Seeing Reality: The Synaesthetic Transformation
Grīsma: The Hot Season
Vars: The Rainy Season  
Back to the Beginning
Works Cited

Introduces Paramānand, one of India’s poet-saints, his work, and this work’s use in ritual.


Singing Krishna introduces Paramānand, one of north India's greatest medieval poet-saints, whose poetry has been sung from the sixteenth century to the present in ritual service to the Hindu deity Krishna. A. Whitney Sanford examines how hearing Paramānand's poetry in ritual context serves as a threshold for devotees between this world and Krishna's divine world. To "see Krishna" is a primary goal of the devotee, and Paramānand deftly constructs a vision through words. Sanford employs the dual strategies of interpreting Paramānand's poems—which sing the cycles of Krishna's activities—and illustrating the importance of their ritual contexts. This approach offers insight into the nature of the devotional experience that is not accessible by simply studying the poetry or rituals in isolation. Sanford shows that the significance of Paramānand's poetry lies not only in its beauty and historical importance but finally in its capacity to permit the devotee to see through the ephemeral world into Krishna's world.

A. Whitney Sanford is Assistant Professor of Religion at the University of Florida.


"Singing Krishna is a densely packed combination of beautiful translations and complex literary deconstruction, analyzing the meanings, metaphors and effects of Paramānand's poetry. Sanford has added not only to the body of translated devotional poetry of Braj, but also to the ongoing efforts of scholars of religion to clarify a particular type of religious experience." — International Journal of Hindu Studies

"…Sanford's analysis of Paramānand's work is certainly valuable and goes a long way toward unpacking the intense devotional experience of bhakti and the traditions of the Vallabha Sampradāy." — Religion

"…Sanford's contribution expands our understanding of the Astachāp genre." — Journal of Asian Studies

"The beautiful lyrics of Paramānand's poetry are a welcome addition to the growing body of Indic poetry in translation. Sanford's excellent book guides us through the poetry and takes us right to its sources." — Constantina Rhodes Bailly, author of Shaiva Devotional Songs of Kashmir: A Translation and Study of Utpaladeva's Shivastotravali