Oxford University Press, USA
Ma Anandamayi is generally regarded as the most important Hindu woman saint of the twentieth century. Venerated alternately as a guru and as an incarnation of God on earth, Ma had hundreds of thousands of devotees. Through the creation of a religious movement and a vast network of ashrams-unprecedented for a woman-Ma presented herself as an authority figure in a society where female gurus were not often recognized.
Because of her widespread influence, Ma is one of the rare Hindu saints whose cult has outlived her. Today, her tomb is a place of veneration for those who knew her as well as new generations of her followers. By performing extensive fieldwork among Ma's current devotees, Orianne Aymard examines what happens to a cult after the death of its leader. Does it decline, stagnate, or grow? Or is it rather transformed into something else entirely? Aymard's work sheds new light not only on Hindu sainthood-and particularly female Hindu sainthood-but on the nature of charismatic religious leadership and devotion.