Vemsani, Lavanya Books

Dr. Lavanya Vemsani is Assistant Professor of Asian History and Religions at St. Thomas University, New Brunswick. She earned a Ph.D. from the Department of History, at the University of Hyderabad, India and a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from McMaster University.

Hindu and Jain Mythology of Balarma
2006 0-7734-5723-2
This book studies the evolution of Balarma in Vaiavism through comparative analysis of Balarma stories from selected Hindu puras: the Harivama (HV), the Viu pura (Vi.pu), the Brahma pura (Br.pu), and the Bhgavata pura (Bh.pu). Through careful analysis of Balarma stories from these texts, the author argues that Balarma was a multifaceted deity of considerable importance in early Vaiavism. The modifications introduced in the earliest stories reveal a process whereby Balarma’s popularity and status declined, and he became a minor deity as Ka grew in importance. In this process, Balarma’s personality is modified from his association with food, abundance, fertility and protection to that of an ordinary warrior.

The author demonstrates that the early supremacy and personality of Balarma is reflected in the depiction of this deity in select Jain texts: the Vasudevahid (VH), the Harivamapurna (HVP), the Cauppannamahpurisacariyam (CMC) and the Trialpuruacaritra (TSP). A comparison of Hindu and Jain pura stories of Balarma also reveal that the Jain Balarma stories are derived from independent sources other than the Hindu puras.

A study of the Balarma stories also contributes to current scholarship on the textual history of the Hindu puras. The stories are analyzed, divided into a series of plots and compared across the different texts. The author shows that changes to these basic plots indicate the evolution of the story and suggests that the more different a story is from the basic story, the later it must be while the less different the story, the closer to contemporary it must be. A comparison of the stories indicates that the HV was the source of the Vi.pu, which served as the source for the Br.pu and Bh.pu. A comparison of the latter two texts reveals that the Bh.pu is the last of the texts, while the Br.pu shows a combination of early and late stories. This pattern is consistent with what scholars working on the puras have described.