The eighteenth-century Bengali poet and religious adept Ramprasad was an important figure in the revival of the worship of the Goddess in Bengal at a time when the previously dominant Vaisnavism was beginning to sustain a decline in popularity. In this book, Malcolm McLean examines the evidence for the life of Ramprasad, and finding little in the historical record, deconstructs the important early biographics, which contain material that is largely legendary in nature. A founder figure emerges whose "life," modeled on that of the earlier saint, Caitanya, became a rallying point for his followers.
An analysis of the approximately 350 songs of this "Ramprasad" are analyzed and show how he skillfully combined three important elements of the Hindu tradition into a consistent whole: the classical Puranic Goddess tradition, especially as it is found in the Devi Mahatmya; the indigenous tradition of Bengali fold Goddesses, still enormously popular; and the previously underground esoteric Tantric tradition. This was a powerful and popular mix which allowed a very Tantric Goddess tradition to flourish for the next two hundred years. The book makes a strong case for seeing Ramprasad as basically a Tantrika, and argues that the kind of devotion advocated in the songs is a Tantric devotion of a kind quite different form the current Vaisnavite devotion.
The book also looks at how these poems/songs, many of which are translated here, might be read today. The author argues that many have a contemporary relevance which might appeal to many Western readers as they do to Bengalis even today.