Starting around the sixth century of the common era, a new form of fervent religiosity seems to be discernible in the Tamil-speaking South that is often termed the ?Bhakti movement?. The eleven essays gathered in this volume all deal with South Indian primary sources related to the various phenomena that can be grouped together under the head of ?Bhakti?, which may be broadly defined as personal devotion between a devotee and his god. What characterised the early phase of this ?movement?, which in subsequent centuries swept across the whole sub-continent and transformed popular religion in every place that it reached, was the emphasis placed upon the emotional aspect of the relation between the devotee and his chosen deity: the Tamil hymns regularly underline the message that salvation can be attained just through such devotion.
The chronology of the appearance, growth and development of this transformative movement is riddled with uncertainties, whether we consider literary or archaeological evidence. Each of the contributions to this volume addresses some aspect of the history of this movement in the South, and so, drawing on a wide range of disciplines ? linguistics, philology, epigraphy, archaeology ? they together contribute, each in its own way, to the mapping of the chronology of Bhakti. This volume is dedicated to our esteemed colleague Pa__it R. Varadadesikan, a specialist of the Tamil sources of Vai__avism, who recently retired after dedicating forty-four years of his life to a career in the Pondicherry Centre of the EFEO working to further understanding of Tamil and Man_iprav_l_am literature.