JHI Circle of Fellows Spotlight—Mukti Patel

March 24, 2022 by Sonja Johnston

Mukti Patel is a 2021-22 JHI Undergraduate Fellow (Milton Harris Undergraduate Award in the Humanities). She’s completing a specialist in the Study of Religion and a minor in Writing and Rhetoric. Her project at the JHI is titled “Pleasure in (Divine) Presence”.

JHI: What are your main research interests?

MP: I'm broadly interested in religion in South Asia, with attention to literature, philosophy, and history.

JHI: What research project(s) are you working on now at the JHI and why did you choose it?

MP: I am reading analyzing religious conceptualizations of pleasure in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Gujarat, India, by reading devotional literature. By focusing on the metaphysics of pleasure as delineated in Gujarati devotional literature, I hope to bring to the fore these underrepresented vernacular texts, which I think can be studied beyond their affective and emotive contents and with attention to their philosophical depth. The time period is significant because of early colonization in the area: it is often assumed that colonial presence impacted sectarian identity formation in South Asia. This project is an attempt to shed more light on this narrative as it unravels in Gujarat. All the more: reading devotional literature is so fun, because it is packed with beautiful metaphors and sentiments! South Asian devotional literature is meant to be sung, and hearing it performed adds a new dimension to what I read.

JHI: What experiences are you hoping for while you’re at the JHI?

MP: At the JHI, I was happy to make meaningful connections with other research fellows.

JHI: Share something you read/watched/listened to recently that you enjoyed/were inspired by.

MP: I recently came across a line in a devotional poem that I loved. Meerabai, a sixteenth-century Hindu poet, implores her audience to taste the sweet nectar of satsang, or the company of good people. She sings:

Partham lāge thīkho ne kaḍvo, pachhī āmba kerī sākh re (First it seems harsh and astringent, but then it brings the pleasure of a sweet mango)

I think sometimes our research can feel this way. It can feel initally overwhelming, daunting, and intimidating, but after we take the leap, it can bring a sense of fulfillment.

JHI: What is a fun fact about you?

MP: I have volunteer illustrated a children's book about Gujarati folk tales in translation!