Postscripts: The Journal of Sacred Texts, Cultural Histories, and Contemporary Contexts, Vol 6, No 1-3 (2010)

A Birthday Party for a Sacred Text: The Gita Jayanti and the Embodiment of God as the Book and the Book as God

Joanne Punzo Waghorne
Issued Date: 27 Jun 2012


For over a decade, various Hindu organizations in Singapore have joined to celebrate an extraordinary series of events, called the Gita Jayanti. The term jayanti literally means "victory" or "victorious" but more usually indicates celebration of the birthday of a holy figure or a deity. Put simply, this is a birthday celebration for the Gita, a compact text that increasingly functions in the Hindu diaspora much like the Bible—a portable compendium of teachings, a deeply poetic source of individual comfort, a text to be memorized, chanted, studied. I know of no other Hindu text with such a birthday, nor had any of the people whom I interviewed about it encountered this celebration outside of Singapore. As part of the celebrations, the Gita undergoes a ritual that parallels the consecration of a deity for use in a temple. In this case the Gita takes on the body of Krishna who is understood to have spoken these holy words many centuries ago. In this sense the Bhagavad Gita, here treated as the Holy Book of contemporary Hinduism, is an iconic body of Krishna just as the bronze murti is also an iconic body—the ultimate iconicity.

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DOI: 10.1558/post.v6i1-3.225


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