Seeing, imagined, and lived
creating darshan in transnational Gaudiya Vaishnavism
Keywords:darshan, religious practices, visual and material culture, Hinduism
Scholarship on Hindu traditions and practices proposes the practice of darshan as fundamental to Hindu traditions, particularly in temple worship, observing that devotees seek out images of deities primarily to see them and “receive” their darshan. These works typically gloss the definition of darshan with a sentence or two about seeing, exchanging glances, and/or receiving blessings. In this paper, I focus on the ways in which darshan is ideally imagined in conjunction with other bodily sensory practices through sources of authority, such as texts and senior devotees, to create a specific sensory experience and expectation in the transnational Gaudiya Vaishnava community. I then look to the lived realities
of darshan in this tradition, specifically how devotees negotiate the structures created through sources of authority in their daily lives. Through this juxtaposition of idealized and lived darshan, I argue that we need a new approach towards theories of practice to take into account the complexities of darshanic moments in this and other religious practices.
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