Areas of Interest & Expertise
- Religion, Colonialism, Modernity
- Bengali Vaishnavism
- Social and Intellectual History of South Asia
- Religion and New Media in Contemporary India
- Hinduism and Global Occult
I am a historian with an abiding interest in religion. I study religion in myriad ways. My past work has been on modern interpretations of regional bhakti traditions in north and east India, with a focus on the Gaudiya Vaishnava devotional movement. I am the author of ‘Unforgetting Chaitanya: Vaishnavism and Cultures of Devotion in Colonial Bengal’.
My current research deals with tracing the intellectual histories of global occult networks and their engagement with a variety of Indian mystical traditions such as bhakti, yoga and tantra. This is a global history project that takes a comparative religious approach informed by postcolonial theories in order to understand Hindu modernity in India in the twentieth century.
I am also engaged in a long-term, collaborative research project on social media and religion, where I map the mediating and mediatising influence of new media technologies on contemporary Hindu religious practices. My most recent publication is titled ‘Shani on the Web: Virality and Vitality in Digital Popular Hinduism’, published in Religions.
I earned my PhD from Columbia University, New York and my Master’s and MPhil degrees from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Before joining Azim Premji University, I worked for several years, first at New York University and later the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. When I am not thinking about teaching and research, I enjoy gardening, listening to music, and occasionally cooking. However, my passion is to travel to historical sites and, whenever possible, I try to visit one in the archeologically rich vicinity of Bengaluru.
This is a foundational course that will teach students some of the basic learning blocks of History such as timelines and sources, Historical Methods, and Historiography.
What was pre-colonial India like?
What was pre-colonial India like?
An inquiry into the 'origin' questions of India: Geological, ecological, cultural and political
- Bhatia, V. (2017). Unforgetting Chaitanya: Vaishnavism and Cultures of Devotion in Colonial Bengal. Oxford University Press. https://global.oup.com/academic/product/unforgetting-chaitanya-9780190686246?q=Varuni%20Bhatia&lang=en&cc=in
Chapters in Edited Books
- Bhatia, V. (Forthcoming). The Fallen Woman and the Saint: The Baishnabi in Colonial Bengal. In Acharya, A. (Ed.), Changing Faces of Society and Culture in Bengal: Remembering Ramakanta Chakrabarty. Orient BlackSwan.
- Bhatia, V. (2020). The Afterlife of an Avatara in Modern Times. In Sardella, F., & Wong, L. (Eds.), The Legacy of Vaisnavism in Colonial Bengal (pp. 17 — 32). Routledge. https://www.routledge.com/The-Legacy-of-Vainavism-in-Colonial-Bengal/Sardella-Wong/p/book/9781032083650
- Bhatia, V. (2015). Six Blind Men and the Elephant: The Bhagavata Purana in Colonial Bengal. In Gupta, A., & Chakravorty, S. (Eds.), Founts of Knowledge: Book History in India, III. (pp. 110 — 139). Orient BlackSwan. https://www.academia.edu/34619785/FOUNTS_OF_KNOWLEDGE_Book_History_in_India_Other_Offices_Printed_at
- Bhatia, V. (2014). Pranayam Revolution and the Baba: The Strange Case of Baba Ramdev. In Chakravarty,P. (Ed.), Shrapnel Minima: Writings from Humanities Underground (pp. 170 – 182). Seagull. https://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/distributed/S/bo18089618.html
- Bhatia, V. (2011). Images of Nabadwip: Place, Evidence, Inspiration. In Murphy, A. (Ed.), Time, History, and the Religious Imaginary in South Asia. Routledge. https://www.routledge.com/Time-History-and-the-Religious-Imaginary-in-South-Asia/Murphy/p/book/9781138119260
- Bhatia, V. (2020). Shani on the Web: Virality and vitality in digital popular Hinduism. Religions, 11(9), 456. https://www.mdpi.com/2077 – 1444/11/9/456
- Meena, A., Bhatia, V. & Pal, J. (2020). Digital divine: Technology use by Indian spiritual sects. ICTD2020: Proceedings of International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development. 1 — 11. https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/3392561.3394650
- Bhatia, V. (2020). The Psychic Chaitanya: Global occult and Vaishnavism in fin de siècle Bengal. Journal of Hindu Studies, 13,10 — 29. https://academic.oup.com/jhs/article-abstract/13/1/10/5856812
- Bhatia, V. (2017). Sisir’s Tears: Bhakti and belonging in colonial Bengal. International Journal of Hindu Studies, 21(1), 1 – 24. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11407-017‑9205‑1
- Bhatia, V. (2014). Finding a birthplace. Journal of Vaisnava Studies (Special Issue on Bhaktivinoda Thakur), 23(1), 157 – 188. https://www.academia.edu/34619763/FINDING_A_BIRTHPLACE
For more information, please visit my academia.edu page at https://azimpremjiuniversity.academia.edu/VaruniBhatia?from_navbar=true
Also visit this website for more information on my research and teaching: https://sites.google.com/apu.edu.in/historymajor