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Hagiographer and the Avatar, The: The Life and Works of Narayan Kasturi (SUNY series in Religious Studies)

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This book explores the seminal roles played by a hagiographer in the making of a charismatic religious movement: the post-sectarian, cosmo- politan community of the Indian guru Sathya Sai Baba (1926–2011), the center of which is the ashram of Prasanthi Nilayam in Puttaparthi, in the Anantapur district of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. The case study’s protagonist is Narayan Kasturi (1897–1987), a distinguished litterateur and the holy man’s official biographer, who first met Sathya Sai Baba in 1948 and who lived at his hermitage more or less continuously from 1954 up until his death.

My contention is that in order to deepen our understanding of this pan-Indian hero and his movement, attention must especially be focused upon Kasturi’s background, worldview, deeds, and overall aims and expec- tations. This is all the more necessary given the almost complete lack of research on this figure. Despite the influence exercised by the four volumes of his hagiography titled Sathyam Sivam Sundaram—venerated as a sacred text by all devotees and covering Sathya Sai Baba’s life from his birth in 1926 up to 1979—little scholarly notice has been paid to this truly remarkable intellectual. My study is therefore intended as a biography of Narayan Kas- turi, sharing heretofore unknown or little-known information. There being no English-language academic studies on Kasturi and his significance in the construction of the Sathya Sai Baba organization, I hope that the wealth of data on him will be appreciated by both scholars and general readers
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