Something I’ve been pondering recently is the idea of “prophetic vision” or “prophetic imagination”. A concept from the Christian traditions, the idea refers to the perspective with which charismatic leaders throughout Biblical history bear witness to the societies of their day and envision an alternative path from the depths of despair. They arise in the midst of pervasive suffering and oppression, and speak truth to the powers that be.

John de Gruchy writes on prophetic theologians at work in South Africa during the era of apartheid, describing South African theologians as “discerning ‘the signs of the times (kairos)’ and challenging…


Today was the most horrific episode in the spate of anti-Asian violence since the pandemic began: eight people were murdered in attacks at massage parlors in Atlanta, six of whom were Asian women.

As a Hindu of South Asian descent, this matters to me as a member of the greater Asian American community, and also because of my faith. I once wrote in an article on pluralistic theology in the Asian-American community, that the heart of God is what binds all beings, the whole world, together.

“Those who worship Govinda also worship Śaṅkara; those who faithfully worship Hari also worship…


TW: mention of death, persecution, suicide and attempted assault

Edit: added a paragraph discussing caste privilege.

As Women’s History month begins, I take the time to remember the woman who was singularly responsible in the formation of my community. While I always have her memory at the back of my mind, I thought I’d share her story in detail here on Medium. Nacharamma was Sankethi woman who lived in approximately the 11th century in the city of Sengottai located in what is now Tamil Nadu, a southern state in India.

The story of Nacharamma is well-known among older members of…


As the new year approaches, I want to reflect on importance of inner strength in times of crisis. Many have brought up the need for tending to our mental health, especially as the pandemic has highlighted vulnerabilities of many kinds in our societies. This is especially true in our religious and spiritual communities, and in the Hindu community, something we can improve upon is active community care through our teachings.

As an aspiring Hindu theologian, I am constantly engaged in thinking about the meaning of liberation, a good life and cultivation of well-being. In the traditions with which I identity…


I recently finished one of my latest metrical compositions, a stuti (a hymn of praise) expounding the glories of the goddess Aṇvī (also known as Aśōkasundari). She is the daughter of Śiva and Pārvati, and is most popular in South India in the form of Bālatripurasundari. She is rather obscure that way, and out of personal devotion, I composed this poem dedicated to her. The name aṇvī is derived from the Sanskrit word aṇu, meaning “extremely small” or “subtle”. The name then means “the subtle one”, and originally referred to fingers which extract soma from the soma plant.

Aśōkasundari as Bālatripurasundari

Though stutis…


Deepavali begins tomorrow (at least here in the US), and in the time of a pandemic presents unique challenges. Social distancing requires us to be apart from each other, including many loved ones, and during a holiday like Deepavali, that distance is deeply felt.

For Hindus, the festival of Deepavali (also known as Diwali) has various background stories. For many North Indian Hindus, the story is about Lord Rāma’s victory over Rāvaṇa and his return from fourteen years in exile. …


As we anxiously await the results of the election, I wanted to highlight something I’ve been seeing on my social media over the last few weeks. Various Asian-American groups have been discussed as being important players in certain local elections and even tipping the scales for Trump and Biden. Whether it’s Hmong-Americans in Minnesota or South-Asian Americans in Texas, there’s a been a notable uptick in the involvement and electoral impact of Asian-American voters since 2016. Chinese-Americans in particular have mobilized against Trump’s rhetoric on COVID-19. Asian-American conservatives too been pivoting away from Trump, and feel abandoned by the RNC…


It’s now mid-October, and Hindus across the world are preparing for one of the most significant festivals of the year: Navarātri. Celebrating the victory of the goddess Durgā over Mahiśāsura the buffalo demon (symbolically, good over evil), the festival centers on the worship of Devi (the general term for the Goddess), and is often celebrated through the recitation of the Devī Māhātmya, recounting the deeds of the Goddess in her various forms.

Girls dressed up for music and dance performance, Amman Navarathiri
Girls dressed up for music and dance performance, Amman Navarathiri
Sattiskumar Kesavalu / CC BY-SA

As a time which focuses so much on the divine feminine, pervading all creation with Her grace, it is an opportunity for us to reflect on the presence…


One of my favorite Instagram accounts is @voicesofbhakti, which features excerpts from a variety of devotional poetry from across South Asia and sometimes beyond. The meaning and vibrancy of these poems and their connections with various South Asian religious traditions gives me a lot to think about, especially as an aspiring Hindu theologian and poet myself.

A calligraphic rendering of a stanza from one of my poems

But what is the role of poetry in Hindu theology? Ranging from the Sanskrit stotras and sūktas to the more popular works of specific poets like Mīrabāī, Lalleśvari, Nāmdev or Nammāzhvār, there is an immense corpus of theopoetic literature by Hindus. Hindu religious poetry…


In many religious traditions, being a “servant of God” is generally seen as a positive thing, in which devotion to the divine is exemplified in the form of subordination to the deity and rendering service to them in a variety of ways.

In Hindu traditions, dāsya bhāva is prevalent concept used to describe the emotive dimension of the devotion of saints and students toward deities and teachers. …

Shashank Rao

Aspiring Hindu theologian and polyglot-in-progress.

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