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.
Introduces students to methods and tools used by historians and also encourages them to start thinking historically.
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