Varuni Bhatia

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. 




Chapters in Edited Books

Journal Articles

For more information, please visit my acad​e​mia​.edu page at https://​azim​premji​u​ni​ver​si​ty​.acad​e​mia​.edu/​V​a​r​u​n​i​B​h​a​t​i​a​?​f​r​o​m​_​n​a​v​b​a​r​=true

Also visit this website for more information on my research and teaching: https://​sites​.google​.com/​a​p​u​.​e​d​u​.​i​n​/​h​i​s​t​o​r​y​major