Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Joanne Punzo Waghorne

Second Advisor

Ann Grodzins Gold


gurus, Hinduism, India, Saints, spirituality, women

Subject Categories

Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Religion


Anandmurti Gurumaa is a multi-lingual teacher of meditation and "spirituality" situated at the intersection of Hindu, Buddhist, Sufi and Sikh mystical traditions. This dissertation, employing inter-disciplinary methodology, provides an in-depth study of Gurumaa and her rapidly developing, disciple-driven transnational spiritual movement. I introduce Gurumaa and her circle of devotees within the cultural context of globetrotting Indian gurus and examine issues of tradition and innovation in her mission. Through ethnographic writing, I specifically turn to examples of Gurumaa's pluralism, gender activism and embrace of new media to discuss continuity and change within the tradition of guru-bhakti (devotion to the guru). Because Gurumaa embraces rhetoric of "female empowerment," and points to her own "enlightened" female body as evidence that women can and do reach the highest spiritual states, her leadership offers an ideal context in which to consider emerging gendered re-interpretations of "tradition" in the new global religious milieu.


Correction: Anandmurti Gurumaa was named Gurpreet Grover. The Sikh name "Kaur" was never part of her name. Anandmurti Gurumaa herself corrected the author. This has been corrected in all published work since the dissertation. Shakti’s Nee Voice: Guru Devotion in a Woman-Led Spiritual Movement (Lexington 2017) developed from this dissertation does not have this error.


Open Access