RELIGION 1814: Devotional Literatures of South Asia: Qawwalis, Sufiana Kalam (Sufi Poetry) and the Ginans

Instructor: Ali Asani 

This course explores traditions of devotional poetry in South Asia through the lens of three genres: the qawwali, concerts of mystical poetry;  sufiana kalam, Sufi romantic epics and folk poems; and the ginans, songs of wisdom. In addition to playing a central role in traditions of worship, these genres, through the poetic knowledge they convey, have shaped the worldviews and the personal and communal norms of millions in South Asia and beyond.  Frequently subverting constructions of power, knowledge and authority, they have fostered communal harmony by promoting common frameworks for moral, cultural and aesthetic understandings. Since these genres share language, music, symbols and styles of worship with other Indic traditions, we will also examine their relationships with the so-called sant and bhakti traditions. Special attention will be given to the impact of contemporary ideologies of nationalism, globalization and the revolution in media technology on the form and function of these genres and their relationship with contemporary communities of faith.