Yogi Heroes and Poets

Histories and Legends of the Nāths

Edited by David N. Lorenzen & Adrián Muñoz

Subjects: Hindu Studies, India And South Asian Studies, Asian Studies, Yoga
Paperback : 9781438438900, 246 pages, July 2012
Hardcover : 9781438438917, 246 pages, November 2011

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Table of contents

David N. Lorenzen and Adrián Muñoz
Part I: Yogis in History

1. The Naths in Hindi Literature
Purushottam Agrawal
2. Religious Identity in Gorakhnath and Kabir: Hindus, Muslims, Yogis, and Sants
David N. Lorenzen

3. Drums in Gwalior: Maharashtrian Nath Heritages in a North Indian City
Daniel Gold
4. Influence of the Naths on Bhīma Bhoi and Mahima Dharma
Ishita Banerjee-Dube

Part II: Theology and Folklore

5. On the Magnitude of the Yogic Body
David Gordon White

6. Awakening Generosity in Nath Tales from Rajasthan
Ann Grodzins Gold

7. Matsyendra’s “Golden Legend”: Yogi Tales and Nath Ideology
Adrián Muñoz
8. What Should Mīnanāth Do to Save His Life?
Lubomír Ondračka
9. The Matsyendrasamִhitā: A Yoginī-centered Thirteenth-century Text from the South Indian Śāmbhava Cult
Csaba Kiss
List of Contributors

An exploration of the history, religion, and folklore of the Nāths, a Hindu lineage known for Hatha yoga practice.


This book provides a remarkable range of information on the history, religion, and folklore of the Nāth Yogis. A Hindu lineage prominent in North India since the eleventh century, Nāths are well-known as adepts of Hatha yoga and alchemical practices said to increase longevity. Long a heterogeneous group, some Nāths are ascetics and some are householders; some are dedicated to personified forms of Shiva, others to a formless god, still others to Vishnu.

The essays in the first part of the book deal with the history and historiography of the Nāths, their literature, and their relationships with other religious movements in India. Essays in the second part discuss the legends and folklore of the Nāths and provide an exploration of their religious ideas. Contributors to the volume depict a variety of local areas where this lineage is prominent and highlight how the Nāths have been a link between religious, metaphysical, and even medical traditions in India.

David N. Lorenzen is Professor of Asian and African Studies at the College of Mexico. He is the author or editor of several books, including Praises to a Formless God: Nirguni Texts from North India, also published by SUNY Press, and Who Invented Hinduism: Essays on Religion in History. Adrián Muñoz is Associate Professor of Comparative Religion at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.


"This book has three merits: it fosters the interest in Nāths, it provides a summative evaluation of previous studies and it presents on-going research … The many approaches … used in this book may give the impression of an intimidating and somehow discordant pluralism of interpretations. This reviewer, however, found such richness fitting the multifaceted essence of Nāthism itself. " — Fabrizio M. Ferrari, Religions of South Asia

"Several of the contributions cast new and important light on specific aspects of the Nāths and will be of great interest to scholars and students of a variety of Indian religious traditions. " — Religious Studies Review

"There is no book on the market now that can compete directly with this volume. It brings out new data for a fresh understanding of the religious landscape of medieval India. " — Pashaura Singh, author of Life and Work of Guru Arjan

"Yogi Heroes and Poets expands our knowledge of historical, textual, and ethnographic issues related to the Nāth Yogis. These essays provide a strong sense of the context that helped them emerge, as well as their later evolution. " — Gurinder Singh Mann, author of The Making of Sikh Scripture