Sohini Pillai

Assistant Professor of Religion

Phone: 269.337.7114
Office: Humphrey House, Room 105


PhD: University of California, Berkeley
MA: Columbia University
BA: Wellesley College


Dr. Sohini Sarah Pillai is Assistant Professor of Religion and Director of Film and Media Studies at Kalamazoo College where she teaches courses on religious traditions in South Asia, religion in cinema, and epic literature. She is a comparatist of South Asian religious narratives and her area of specialization is the Mahabharata and the Ramayana epic traditions.

She is the author of Krishna’s Mahabharatas: Devotional Retellings of an Epic Narrative, which is under contract with Oxford University Press in the American Academy of Religion’s Religion in Translation series. Krishna’s Mahabharatas demonstrates how regional religious traditions in premodern South Asia transformed the Sanskrit Mahabharata, an epic about a catastrophic war, into a narrative of bhakti (devotion) focused on the popular Hindu deity Krishna. Other ongoing projects include a co-authored sourcebook on women in Hindu traditions and a monograph about cinematic adaptations of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.

She is also the co-editor of Many Mahabharatas (State University of New York Press, 2021) with Nell Shapiro Hawley, a member of the Steering Committee for the Hinduism Unit at the American Academy of Religion, a member of the editorial board for Reading Religion, and the academic advisor for Aangan: South Asian Center for Art & Thought.

Selected Publications

  • The ‘Hindu’ Epics? Telling the Ramayana and the Mahabharata in Premodern South Asia.” In The Epic World, edited by Pamela Lothspeich. New York: Routledge, forthcoming.
  • “Remembering and Removing Aurangzeb: The Manuscript History of Sabalsingh Chauhan’s Mahabharat.” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East 42, no. 2 (2022) 356-61.
  • Co-editor (with Nell Shapiro Hawley), Many Mahabharatas. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2021.
  • “The Mahabharata as Krsnacarita: Draupadi’s Prayer in Two Regional Retellings.” The Journal of Hindu Studies 14, no. 2 (2021): 259–78.
  • “Blessed Beginnings: Invoking Visnu, Krsna, and Rama in Two Regional Mahabharatas.” In Many Mahabharatas, edited by Nell Shapiro Hawley and Sohini Sarah Pillai, 257–75. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2021.
  • Co-author (with Nell Shapiro Hawley), “An Introduction to the Literature of the Mahabharata.” In Many Mahabharatas, edited by Nell Shapiro Hawley and Sohini Sarah Pillai, 1–34. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2021.
  • “From Villainess to Victim: Contemporary Representations of Surpanakha.” In Oral-Written-Performed: The Ramayana Narratives in Indian Literature and Arts, edited by Danuta Stasik, 159–76. Heidelberg: CrossAsia eBooks, 2020.
Many Mahabharatas book cover

For more information about Dr. Pillai, visit her website.

Dr. Pillai is the Director of Film and Media Studies.
Please visit the Film and Media Studies website for more information about the concentration.