Archana Venkatesan

Assistant Professor, Comparative Literature/Religious Studies Teaching Assistant Supervisor in Religious Studies

Office: 813 Sproul Hall
Phone:  530-752-6295
E-mail : avenkatesan (at) ucdavis (dot) ucd

Education and Degree(s):

  • Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 2004
  • M.A., University of California, Berkeley, 2000
  • B.A. , University of California, Berkeley, 1997
  • A.A., De-Anza College, Cupertino, California, 1995

Research Interest(s):

  • Tamil Vaishnava (Alvar) poetry, South Indian performance, Women and Goddess traditions in India

Course(s) Taught:

  • RST 68: Introduction to Hinduism
  • RST 69: Introduction to Hindu Mythology
  • RST 156: Religion and the Performing Arts in India
  • RST 157: Women and Goddesses in India
  • COM 6: Myths and Legends
  • COM 53B: Literature of South and Southeast Asia
  • COM 156: Ramayana
  • COM 210: Courtesans in Literature
  • COM 180S/COM 198: Summer Program in India

Selected Publications:

  • A Hundred Measures of Time: Nammalvar;s Tiruviruttam. Penguin Classics, April 2014

  • A Tale of Two Cēvais: Araiyar Cevai and Kaittala Cevai at the Antal Temple in Srivilliputtur. Journal of Vaishnava Studies. Spring 2013

  • A Different Kind of Antal Story: The Divyasuricaritam of Garudavahana Pandita. International Journal of Hindu Studies. August 2013.

  • Ecstatic Seeing: Adorning and Enjoying the Body of the Goddess. Introducing Hinduismin Practice. Ed. Pratap Penumala. Equinox Press, 2012.

  • “Love and Longing in the Time of Rain: A Response to Anne Monius’s Ecologies of Human Flourishing: A Case Study from Pre-Colonial South India. Ecologies of Human Flourishing. Ed. Don Swearer. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011.

  • The Secret Garland: Translations of Tiruppavai and Nacciyar Tirumoli. American Academy Texts and Translations Series, Oxford University Press, 2010.

  • How to Love God Like a Woman: Some Thoughts on Loving God in the Srivaisnava Sampradaya.” Journal of Hindu Christian Studies Vol 20, 2007

  • “Who Stole the Garland of Love: Antal Stories in the Srivaisnava Tradition.” Journal of Vaishnava Studies. March 2007 (Invited Paper)

Book Reviews and Other Publications

  • Fuller. C.J. The Revival of the Priesthood. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003. In Journal of Religion, March 2007.
  • Raj Selva and William Harman, eds. Dealing with Deities. New York: State University of New York Press, 2006. In International Journal of Hinduism, March 2007.
  • "Aesthetics," "Drama" and "Television and Radio" in Routledge Encyclopedia of Hinduism. eds Denise Cush, Catherine Robson, and Lynn Foulston. New York: Routledge Press, 2007.

Current Projects:

I have three current projects.

The first is a translation and study of the Tiruviruttam, a 100 verse poem in Tamil by the great 9th century Indian mystic and poet, Satakopan-Nammalvar. Nammalvar was a master of a poetic form known as the antati, where the last word of every verse becomes the first word of the verse that immediately follows it. Thus the first word of a poem is also its last. A study and translation of the Tiruviruttam (A Hundred Measures of Time) is scheduled for publication in April 2014 from Penguin Classics.

The second project is a collaborative translation project undertaken with Prof. Francis X.Clooney (Harvard University). We are translating Nammalvar's 1100 verse magnum opus, Tiruvaymoli. Attesting to its enormous significance, the Tiruvaymoli (lit. Sacred Speech) has been commented on almost continuously since the 12th century. Read more about this project and a sample translation here:

My third project concerns the 19th century poet-saint, Natana Gopala Nayaki Svamikal (1843-1914), who lived in the southern Indian city of Madurai. He was a musician, composer, teacher, philosopher and poet, and is a revered figure for the Tamil Saurasthra community in Madurai.

I also work on Andal, the 9th century Vaishnava female poet. I am particularly interested in her hagiographies, issues pertaining to her iconography and alankara (ornamentation) and the performative traditions surrounding her. A study of Antal's temple in Srivilliputtur is forthcoming from Marg Publications. This work is a collaboarative project (In Andal's Garden: Art, Ornamentation and Devotion at Andal's Temple in Srivilliputtur) with Prof. Crispin Branfoot, SOAS, London.

Honors and Awards:

  • Shivdasani Fellowship, Oxford Center for Hindu Studies
  • National Endowment for the Arts
  • National Endowment for the Humanties
  • American Institute of Indian Studies
  • Fulbright (Declined)
  • American Academy of Religion Grant
  • Hellman Foundation Grant
  • UC Davis New Research Initiatives Grant