Varuni Bhatia

Areas of Interest & Expertise

  • Religion, Colonialism, Modernity
  • Bengali Vaishnavism
  • Chaitanya
  • Social & Intellectual History of South Asia
  • Religion and New Media in Contemporary India


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 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017). 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 mediatizing influence of new media technologies on contemporary Hindu religious practices. My most recent publication is called Shani on the Web: Virality and Vitality in Digital Popular Hinduism,” published in Religions 2020, 11456.

I earned my PhD from Columbia University, New York and my Masters 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 Bangalore. 




Varuni Bhatia. (2017). Unforgetting Chaitanya: Vaishnavism and Cultures of Devotion in Colonial Bengal. Oxford University Press.

Refereed Articles

Invited Journal Articles

Varuni Bhatia. (2014). Finding a Birthplace. Journal of Vaiṣṇava Studies (Special Issue on Bhaktivinoda Thakur, 23(1), 157 – 188.


  • Varuni Bhatia. (Forthcoming). The Fallen Woman and the Saint: the Baishnabi in Colonial Bengal. In Changing Faces of Society and Culture in Bengal: Remembering Ramakanta Chakrabarty. Ed., Achintya Acharya, Orient BlackSwan.
  • Varuni Bhatia. (2020). The Afterlife of an Avatara in Modern Times. In The Legacy of Vaisnavism in Colonial Bengal. Eds., Ferdinando Sardella and Lucian Wong (pp. 17 – 32) . Routledge .
  • Varuni Bhatia. (2015). Six Blind Men and the Elephant: The Bhagavata Purana in Colonial Bengal. In Founts of Knowledge: Book History in India, volume III. Eds. Abhijit Gupta and Swapan Chakravorty (pp. 110 – 139) . Orient BlackSwan.
  • Varuni Bhatia. (2014). Pranayam Revolution and the Baba: The Strange Case of Baba Ramdev. In Shrapnel Minima: Writings from Humanities Underground. Ed. Prasanta Chakravarty (pp. 170 – 182). Seagull.
  • Varuni Bhatia. (2011). Images of Nabadwip: Place, Evidence, Inspiration. In Time, History, and the Religious Imaginary in South Asia. Ed. Anne Murphy (pp. 167 – 185). Routledge.

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