Mr. Arun Brahmbhatt
Specialization: Theology and Religion
Home institution in US: At-Large, Massachusetts
Host Institution in India: AARSH Research Institute, Gandhinagar, Gujarat  
Start date/Month in India: November 2012
Duration of grant: 9 months

Brief Bio:
Mr. Arun Brahmbhatt is a doctoral candidate in the Department for the Study of Religion and the Centre for South Asian Studies at the University of Toronto. He previously received a bachelor’s degree in Comparative Religion and English from Tufts University in 2006, and a Master of Theological Studies degree from Harvard Divinity School in 2008. At the University of Toronto, Mr. Brahmbhatt has taught undergraduate courses including “Introduction to South Asian Religions” and “Hinduism and Contemporary Media.” He is an active member of the department’s Student Association, and has served on the planning committee of four graduate student conferences, including the “Conference on South Asian Religions” hosted in September, 2011. Mr. Brahmbhatt has been the recipient of an Ontario Graduate Scholarship, the Sandhya Ray Award for Indian Philosophy and Religion, and has received several language and research grants to study in India. Fluent in Gujarati, and with a reading knowledge of Sanskrit, Mr. Brahmbhatt is interested in intellectual history, textual practices, print culture, hermeneutics, and historiography.

The purpose of Mr. Brahmbhatt’s Fulbright-Nehru project titled, “Sanskrit Textual Practices in Gujarat, 1830-1950” is to study how certain textual practices – including the production, dissemination, and reception of religious texts – were constitutive of unique religious identities in Gujarat during the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries. These themes will be explored through a case study of the Sanskrit commentaries on the corpus of Vedānta texts produced in the Swaminarayan tradition, an influential Gujarati devotional community. It will entail a detailed analysis of the hermeneutical strategies used to present theology and metaphysics in these texts alongside a careful historical contextualization of this genre within the larger body of both Swaminarayan and Gujarati religious texts. This project will contribute to an understanding of sectarian and community formation, the manner in which regional religious movements negotiate interregional publics, the development of a Sanskrit print culture, and indigenous notions of modernity.