The Alchemical Body excavates and centers within its Indian context the lost tradition of the medieval Siddhas. Working from previously unexplored alchemical sources, David Gordon White demonstrates for the first time that the medieval disciplines of Hindu alchemy and hatha yoga were practiced by one and the same people, and that they can be understood only when viewed together. White opens the way to a new and more comprehensive understanding of medieval Indian mysticism, within the broader context of south Asian Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Islam.
"White proves a skillful guide in disentangling historical and theoretical complexities that have thus far bedeviled the study of these influential aspects of medieval Indian culture."—Yoga World
"Anyone seriously interested in finding out more about authentic tantra, original hatha yoga, embodied liberation . . . sacred sexuality, paranormal abilities, healing, and of course alchemy will find White's extraordinary book as fascinating as any Tom Clancy thriller."—Georg Feuerstein, Yoga Journal
"This work is of importance for psychoanalysts and scholars of the psychology of religion. Kakar makes a scholarly and significant contribution to the objectification of what psychoanalysis and Hindu mystical tradition have in common."—Ana Maria Rizzuto, Tufts University
"At last, she arrives at the fatal end of the plank . . . and, with her hands crossed over her chest, falls straight downward, suspended for a moment in the air before being devoured by the burning pit that awaits her. . . ." This grisly 1829 account by Pierre Dubois demonstrates the usual European response to the Hindu custom of satis sacrificing themselves on the funeral pyres of their husbands—horror and revulsion. Yet to those of the Hindu faith, not least the satis themselves, this act signals the sati's sacredness and spiritual power.
Ashes of Immortality attempts to see the satis through Hindu eyes, providing an extensive experiential and psychoanalytic account of ritual self-sacrifice and self-mutilation in South Asia. Based on fifteen years of fieldwork in northern India, where the state-banned practice of sati reemerged in the 1970s, as well as extensive textual analysis, Weinberger-Thomas constructs a radically new interpretation of satis. She shows that their self-immolation transcends gender, caste and class, region and history, representing for the Hindus a path to immortality.
No other Sanskrit work approaches the Bhagavadgita in the influence it has exerted in the West. Philosophers such as Emerson and the other New England Transcendentalists were deeply affected by its insights, a dozen or more scholars, including Annie Besant and Mahatma Gandhi, have attempted its translation, and thousands of individuals struggling with the problems divided loyalties have found comfort and wisdom in its pages.
The Bhagavadgita ("Song of the Lord") tells of the young and virtuous Prince Arjuna who is driven to lead his forces into battle against an opposing army composed of close relatives and others whom he loves. The Lord Krsna, appearing in the poem as Arjuna's friend and charioteer, persuades him that he must do battle, and we see Arjuna changing from revulsion at the thought of killing members of his family to resignation and awareness of duty, to manly acceptance of his role as warrior and defender of his kingdom.
The Bhagavadgita is a self-contained episode in the Mahabharata, a vast collection of epics, legends, romances, theology, and metaphysical doctrine that reflects the history and culture of the whole of Hindu civilization. The present edition forms a part of J. A. B. van Buitenen's widely acclaimed translation of this great work. Here English and Sanskrit are printed on facing pages, enabling those with some knowledge of Sanskrit to appreciate van Buitenen's accurate rendering of the intimate, familial tone and directness of the original poem.
In this book, J. C. Heesterman attempts to understand the origins and nature of Vedic sacrifice—the complex compound of ritual practices that stood at the center of ancient Indian religion.
Paying close attention to anomalous elements within both the Vedic ritual texts, the brahmanas, and the ritual manuals, the srautasutras, Heesterman reconstructs the ideal sacrifice as consisting of four moments: killing, destruction, feasting, and contest. He shows that Vedic sacrifice all but exclusively stressed the offering in the fire—the element of destruction—at the expense of the other elements. Notably, the contest was radically eliminated. At the same time sacrifice was withdrawn from society to become the sole concern of the individual sacrificer. The ritual turns in on the individual as "self-sacrificer" who realizes through the internalized knowledge of the ritual the immortal Self. At this point the sacrificial cult of the fire recedes behind doctrine of the atman's transcendence and unity with the cosmic principle, the brahman.
Based on his intensive analysis Heesterman argues that Vedic sacrifice was primarily concerned with the broken world of the warrior and sacrificer. This world, already broken in itself by the violence of the sacrificial contest, was definitively broken up and replaced with the ritrualism of the single, unopposed sacrificer. However, the basic problem of sacrifice—the riddle of life and death—keeps breaking too surface in the form of incongruities, contradictions, tensions, and oppositions that have perplexed both the ancient ritual theorists and the modern scholar.
While America is focused on religious militancy and terrorism in the Middle East, democracy has been under siege from religious extremism in another critical part of the world. As Martha Nussbaum reveals in this penetrating look at India today, the forces of the Hindu right pose a disturbing threat to its democratic traditions and secular state.
Since long before the 2002 Gujarat riots--in which nearly two thousand Muslims were killed by Hindu extremists--the power of the Hindu right has been growing, threatening India's hard-won constitutional practices of democracy, tolerance, and religious pluralism. Led politically by the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Hindu right has sought the subordination of other religious groups and has directed particular vitriol against Muslims, who are cast as devils in need of purging. The Hindu right seeks to return to a "pure" India, unsullied by alien polluters of other faiths, yet the BJP's defeat in recent elections demonstrates the power that India's pluralism continues to wield. The future, however, is far from secure, and Hindu extremism and exclusivity remain a troubling obstacle to harmony in South Asia.
Nussbaum's long-standing professional relationship with India makes her an excellent guide to its recent history. Ultimately she argues that the greatest threat comes not from a clash between civilizations, as some believe, but from a clash within each of us, as we oscillate between self-protective aggression and the ability to live in the world with others. India's story is a cautionary political tale for all democratic states striving to act responsibly in an increasingly dangerous world.
Few topics in South Asian history are as contentious as that of the Turkic conquest of the Indian subcontinent that began in the twelfth century and led to a long period of Muslim rule. How is a historian supposed to write honestly about the bloody history of the conquest without falling into communitarian traps?
Conquest and Community is Shahid Amin's answer. Covering more than eight hundred years of history, the book centers on the enduringly popular saint Ghazi Miyan, a youthful soldier of Islam whose shrines are found all over India. Amin details the warrior saint’s legendary exploits, then tracks the many ways he has been commemorated in the centuries since. The intriguing stories, ballads, and proverbs that grew up around Ghazi Miyan were, Amin shows, a way of domesticating the conquest—recognizing past conflicts and differences but nevertheless bringing diverse groups together into a community of devotees. What seems at first glance to be the story of one mythical figure becomes an allegory for the history of Hindu-Muslim relations over an astonishingly long period of time, and a timely contribution to current political and historical debates.
In The Cow in the Elevator Tulasi Srinivas explores a wonderful world where deities jump fences and priests ride in helicopters to present a joyful, imaginative, yet critical reading of modern religious life. Drawing on nearly two decades of fieldwork with priests, residents, and devotees, and her own experience of living in the high-tech city of Bangalore, Srinivas finds moments where ritual enmeshes with global modernity to create wonder—a feeling of amazement at being overcome by the unexpected and sublime. Offering a nuanced account of how the ruptures of modernity can be made normal, enrapturing, and even comical in a city swept up in globalization's tumult, Srinivas brings the visceral richness of wonder—apparent in creative ritual in and around Hindu temples—into the anthropological gaze. Broaching provocative philosophical themes like desire, complicity, loss, time, money, technology, and the imagination, Srinivas pursues an interrogation of wonder and the adventure of writing true to its experience. The Cow in the Elevator rethinks the study of ritual while reshaping our appreciation of wonder's transformative potential for scholarship and for life.
This is the first volume of a projected three-volume work on the little-known South Indian folk cult of the goddess Draupadi and on the classical epic, the Mahabharata, that the cult brings to life in mythic, ritual, and dramatic forms. Draupadi, the chief heroine of the Sanskrit Mahabharata, takes on many unexpected guises in her Tamil cult, but her dimensions as a folk goddess remain rooted in a rich interpretive vision of the great epic. By examining the ways that the cult of Draupadi commingles traditions about the goddess and the epic, Alf Hiltebeitel shows the cult to be singularly representative of the inner tensions and working dynamics of popular devotional Hinduism.
This is the first volume of a projected three-volume work on the little-known South Indian folk cult of the goddess Draupadi and on the classical epic, the Mahabharata, that the cult brings to life in mythic, ritual, and dramatic forms. Draupadi, the chief heroine of the Sanskrit Mahabharata, takes on many unexpected guises in her Tamil cult, but her dimensions as a folk goddess remain rooted in a rich interpretive vision of the great epic. By examining the ways that the cult of Draupadi commingles traditions about the goddess and the epic, Alf Hiltebeitel shows the cult to be singularly representative of the inner tensions and working dynamics of popular devotional Hinduism.
Pattini—goddess, virgin, wife, and mother; folk deity of Sinhala Buddhists and Jains; and assimilated goddess of the Hindu pantheon—has been worshiped in Sri Lanka and South India for fifteen hundred years or more, as she still is today. This long-awaited book is the culmination of Gananath Obeyesekere's comprehensive study of the Pattini cult and its historical, sociological, and psychoanalytical role in the culture of South Asia. A well-known anthropologist and a native of Sri Lanka, Obeyesekere displays his impeccable scholarship and a stunning range of theoretical perspectives in this work, the most detailed analysis of a single religious complex in South Asian ethnography (and possibly in all of anthropology).
A richly illustrated tapestry of interwoven studies spanning some six thousand years of history, Dæmons Are Forever is at once a record of archaic contacts and transactions between humans and protean spirit beings—dæmons—and an account of exchanges, among human populations, of the science of spirit beings: dæmonology. Since the time of the Indo-European migrations, and especially following the opening of the Silk Road, a common dæmonological vernacular has been shared among populations ranging from East and South Asia to Northern Europe. In this virtuoso work of historical sleuthing, David Gordon White recovers the trajectories of both the “inner demons” cohabiting the bodies of their human hosts and the “outer dæmons” that those same humans recognized each time they encountered them in their enchanted haunts: sylvan pools, sites of geothermal eruptions, and dark forest groves. Along the way, he invites his readers to reconsider the potential and promise of the historical method in religious studies, suggesting that a “connected histories” approach to Eurasian dæmonology may serve as a model for restoring history to its proper place at the heart of the discipline of the history of religions.
The Destiny of a King
Georges Dumézil University of Chicago Press, 1973 Library of Congress BL2003.D8513 1973 | Dewey Decimal 294.513
The preeminent scholar of comparative studies of Indo-European society, Georges Dumézil theorized that ancient and prehistoric Indo-European culture and literature revolved around three major functions: sovereignty, force, and fertility. This work treats these functions as they are articulated through "first king" legends found in Indian, Iranian, and Celtic epics, particularly the Mahabharata. Dumézil, drawing on an extraordinarily broad range of Indo-European sources from Scandinavia to India and offering an original and provocative analytic method, set a new agenda for studies in comparative oral literature, historical linguistics, comparative mythology, and history of religions.
The Destiny of a King examines one of the "little" epics within the Mahabharata—the legend of King Yayati, a distant ancestor of the Pandavas, the heroes of the larger epic. Dumézil compares Yayati's attributes and actions with those of the legendary Celtic king Eochaid Feidlech and also finds striking similarities in the stories surrounding the daughters of these two kings, the Indian Madhavi and the Celtic Medb. When he compares these two traditions with the "first king" legends from Iran, he finds such common themes as the apportionment of the earth and the "sin of the sovereign."
Through shrewd marketing and publicity, Hindu spiritual leaders can play powerful roles in contemporary India as businessmen and government officials. Focusing on the organizations and activities of Hindu ascetics and gurus, Lise McKean explores the complex interrelations among religion, the political economy of India, and global capitalism.
In this close look at the business of religion, McKean traces the ideological and organizational antecedents to the Hindu nationalist movement. The Indian state's increasing patronage of Hindu institutions makes competition for its support greater than ever. Using materials from guru's publications, the press, and extensive field research, McKean examines how participation by upper-caste ruling class groups in the Divine Life Society and other Hindu organizations further legitimates their own authority.
With a remarkable selection of photographs and advertisements showing icons of spirituality used to sell commodities from textiles to cement to comic books, McKean illustrates the pervasive presence of Hindu imagery in India's burgeoning market economy. She shows how gurus popularize Hindu nationalism through imagery such as the goddess, Mother India, and her martyred sons and daughters.
"Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty . . . weaves a brilliant analysis of the complex role of dreams and dreaming in Indian religion, philosophy, literature, and art. . . . In her creative hands, enchanting Indian myths and stories illuminate and are illuminated by authors as different as Aeschylus, Plato, Freud, Jung, Kurl Gödel, Thomas Kuhn, Borges, Picasso, Sir Ernst Gombrich, and many others. This richly suggestive book challenges many of our fundamental assumptions about ourselves and our world."—Mark C. Taylor, New York Times Book Review
"Dazzling analysis. . . . The book is firm and convincing once you appreciate its central point, which is that in traditional Hindu thought the dream isn't an accident or byway of experience, but rather the locus of epistemology. In its willful confusion of categories, its teasing readiness to blur the line between the imagined and the real, the dream actually embodies the whole problem of knowledge. . . . [O'Flaherty] wants to make your mental flesh creep, and she succeeds."—Mark Caldwell, Village Voice
Buddhism and Hinduism have spread in the US largely through texts and are now recognizable facets of American literature and culture. But the US has defined itself through goal-oriented individualism, whereas Buddhism and Hinduism teach that individuality is a delusion and thus worldly desires are misguided. Given this apparent contradiction, what can Buddhist and Hindu influences offer American identities? Enlightened Individualism explores how post-1945 American writers, including Jack Kerouac, Alice Walker, and Maxine Hong Kingston, have tried to answer this question. Playing on enlightenment as both Anglo-American liberalism and Asian mysticism, this book argues that recent American literature seeks to reconcile seemingly incompatible liberal models of individual autonomy with Buddhist and Hindu ideals of transcending selfhood.
This “enlightened individualism” uses Buddhist and Hindu philosophy to reframe American freedom in terms of spiritual liberation, and it also reinterprets Asian teachings through Western traditions of political activism and countercultural provocation. Garton-Gundling argues that even though works by Kerouac, Walker, Kingston, and others wrestle with issues of exoticism and appropriation, their characters are also meaningfully challenged and changed by Asian faiths. These literary adaptations, then, can help Americans reenvision individualism in a more transcendent and cosmopolitan context.
We live in an era defined by a sense of separation, even in the midst of networked connectivity. As cultural climates sour and divisive political structures spread, we are left wondering about our ties to each other. Consequently, there is no better time than now to reconsider ideas of unity.
In The Ethics of Oneness, Jeremy David Engels reads the Bhagavad Gita alongside the works of American thinkers Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman. Drawing on this rich combination of traditions, Engels presents the notion that individuals are fundamentally interconnected in their shared divinity. In other words, everything is one. If the lessons of oneness are taken to heart, particularly as they were expressed and celebrated by Whitman, and the ethical challenges of oneness considered seriously, Engels thinks it is possible to counter the pervasive and problematic American ideals of hierarchy, exclusion, violence, and domination.
In the past two decades, scholars have transformed our understanding of the interactions between India and the West since the consolidation of British power on the subcontinent around 1800. While acknowledging the merits of this scholarship, Sheldon Pollock argues that knowing how colonialism changed South Asian cultures, particularly how Western modes of thought became dominant, requires knowing what was there to be changed. Yet little is known about the history of knowledge and imagination in late precolonial South Asia, about what systematic forms of thought existed, how they worked, or who produced them. This pioneering collection of essays helps to rectify this situation by addressing the ways thinkers in India and Tibet responded to a rapidly changing world in the three centuries prior to 1800. Contributors examine new forms of communication and conceptions of power that developed across the subcontinent; changing modes of literary consciousness, practices, and institutions in north India; unprecedented engagements in comparative religion, autobiography, and ethnography in the Indo-Persian sphere; and new directions in disciplinarity, medicine, and geography in Tibet. Taken together, the essays in Forms of Knowledge in Early Modern Asia inaugurate the exploration of a particularly complex intellectual terrain, while gesturing toward distinctive forms of non-Western modernity.
Contributors. Muzaffar Alam, Imre Bangha, Aditya Behl, Allison Busch, Sumit Guha, Janet Gyatso, Matthew T. Kapstein, Françoise Mallison, Sheldon Pollock, Velcheru Narayana Rao, Kurtis R. Schaeffer, Sunil Sharma, David Shulman, Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi
The Kamasutra is best known in the West for its scandalous celebration of unbridled sensuality. Yet, there is much, much more to it; embedded in the text is a vision of the city founded on art and aesthetic pleasure. In Foucault and the "Kamasutra", Sanjay K. Gautam lays out the nature and origin of this iconic Indian text and engages in the first serious reading of its relationship with Foucault.
Gautam shows how closely intertwined the history of erotics in Indian culture is with the history of theater-aesthetics grounded in the discourse of love, and Foucault provides the framework for opening up an intellectual horizon of Indian thought. To do this, Gautam looks to the history of three inglorious characters in classical India: the courtesan and her two closest male companions—her patron, the dandy consort; and her teacher and advisor, the dandy guru. Foucault’s distinction between erotic arts and the science of sexuality drives Gautam’s exploration of the courtesan as a symbol of both sexual-erotic and aesthetic pleasure. In the end, by entwining together Foucault’s works on the history of sexuality in the West and the classical Indian texts on eros, Gautam transforms our understanding of both, even as he opens up new ways of investigating erotics, aesthetics, gender relations, and subjectivity.
The Ganges has always been more than just an ordinary river. For millions of Indians, she is also a goddess. According to popular belief, bathing in “Mother Ganga” dissolves all sins, drinking her waters cures illness, and dying on her banks ensures freedom from the cycle of death and rebirth.
Yet there remains a paradox: while Ganga is worshipped devotedly, she is also exploited without remorse. Much of her water has been siphoned off for irrigation, toxic chemicals are dumped into her, and dams and barrages have been built on her course, causing immense damage. Ganga is in danger of dying—but if the river dies, will the goddess die too?
The question took journalist Julian Crandall Hollick on an extraordinary journey through northern India: from the river’s source high in the Himalayas, past great cities and poor villages, to lush Saggar Island, where the river finally meets the sea. Along the way he encounters priests and pilgrims, dacoits and dolphins, the fishermen who subsist on the river, and the villagers whose lives have been destroyed by her. He finds that popular devotion to Ganga is stronger and blinder than ever, and it is putting her—and her people—in great risk.
Combining travelogue, science, and history, Ganga is a fascinating portrait of a river and a culture. It will show you India as you have never imagined it.
Who and what are marriage and sex for? Whose practices and which ways of talking to god can count as religion? Lucinda Ramberg considers these questions based upon two years of ethnographic research on an ongoing South Indian practice of dedication in which girls, and sometimes boys, are married to a goddess. Called devadasis, or jogatis, those dedicated become female and male women who conduct the rites of the goddess outside the walls of her main temple and transact in sex outside the bounds of conjugal matrimony. Marriage to the goddess, as well as the rites that the dedication ceremony authorizes jogatis to perform, have long been seen as illegitimate and criminalized. Kinship with the goddess is productive for the families who dedicate their children, Ramberg argues, and yet it cannot conform to modern conceptions of gender, family, or religion. This nonconformity, she suggests, speaks to the limitations of modern categories, as well as to the possibilities of relations—between and among humans and deities—that exceed such categories.
In the beginning, says the ancient Hindu text the Rg Veda, was man. And from man’s sacrifice and dismemberment came the entire world, including the hierarchical ordering of human society. The Head Beneath the Altar is the first book to present a wide-ranging study of Hindu texts read through the lens of René Girard’s mimetic theory of the sacrificial origin of religion and culture. For those interested in Girard and comparative religion, the book also performs a careful reading of Girard’s work, drawing connections between his thought and the work of theorists like Georges Dumézil and Giorgio Agamben. Brian Collins examines the idea of sacrifice from the earliest recorded rituals through the flowering of classical mythology and the ancient Indian institutions of the duel, the oath, and the secret warrior society. He also uncovers implicit and explicit critiques in the tradition, confirming Girard’s intuition that Hinduism offers an alternative anti-sacrificial worldview to the one contained in the gospels.
Bringing together texts from a variety of sectarian traditions, this reader provides the broadest selection of primary source Hindu literature available to date.
The volume is divided into two major parts. The first section presents selections that explore major themes in classical Sanskrit traditions, including those in the Vedic, Upanisadic, and Dharma literatures, as well as the classical philosophical-religious schools. The second part includes selections that highlight the sectarian and devotional movements related to major deities such as Vishnu, Shiva, Krishna, Rama, Sant, Tantra, and the goddess figures.
In addition to a general introductory chapter on Indian literature, each major section is introduced by an essay that places the selections within the context of Hindu history. This comprehensive reader stands on its own as an indispensable anthology of original textual sources for courses in Hinduism, while also serving as a companion volume to the text The Many Colors of Hinduism: A Thematic-Historical Introduction.
Tantra occupies a unique position in Western understandings of Hindu spirituality. Its carnal dimension has made its name instantly recognizable, but this popular fascination with sex has obscured its philosophical depth and ritual practices, to say nothing of its overall importance to Hinduism.
This book offers a clear, well-grounded overview of Tantra that offers substantial new insights for scholars and practitioners. André Padoux opens by detailing the history of Tantra, beginning with its origins, founding texts, and major beliefs. The second part of the book delves more deeply into key concepts relating to the tantric body, mysticism, sex, mantras, sacred geography, and iconography, while the final part considers the practice of Tantra today, both in India and in the West. The result is an authoritative account of Tantra’s history and present place in the world.
For more than 1500 years, from the Indian subcontinent to the islands of the Indonesian archipelago, the temple has embodied and symbolized the Hindu worldview at its deepest level and inspired the greatest architectural and artistic achievements in Hindu Asia. In The Hindu Temple, considered the standard introduction to the subject, George Michell explains the cultural, religious, and architectural significance of the temple. He illustrates his points with a profusion of photographs, building plans, and drawings of architectural details, making the book a useful guide for travelers to Asia as well as an illuminating text for students of architecture, religion, and Asian civilizations.
Michell's discussion of the meaning and forms of the temple in Hindu society encompasses the awe-inspiring rock-cut temples at Ellora and Elephanta, the soaring superstructures and extraordinary sexual exhibitionism of the sculptures at Khajuraho, and the colossal mortuary temple of Angkor Vat, as well as the tiny iconic shrines that many Hindus wear around their necks and the simple shrines found under trees or near ponds.
Hinduism Before Reform
Brian A. Hatcher Harvard University Press, 2020 Library of Congress BL1271.2.H38 2020 | Dewey Decimal 294.5562
A bold retelling of the origins of contemporary Hinduism, and an argument against the long-established notion of religious reform.
By the early eighteenth century, the Mughal Empire was in decline, and the East India Company was making inroads into the subcontinent. A century later Christian missionaries, Hindu teachers, Muslim saints, and Sikh rebels formed the colorful religious fabric of colonial India. Focusing on two early nineteenth-century Hindu communities, the Brahmo Samaj and the Swaminarayan Sampraday, and their charismatic figureheads—the “cosmopolitan” Rammohun Roy and the “parochial” Swami Narayan—Brian Hatcher explores how urban and rural people thought about faith, ritual, and gods. Along the way he sketches a radical new view of the origins of contemporary Hinduism and overturns the idea of religious reform.
Hinduism Before Reform challenges the rigid structure of revelation-schism-reform-sect prevalent in much history of religion. Reform, in particular, plays an important role in how we think about influential Hindu movements and religious history at large. Through the lens of reform, one doctrine is inevitably backward-looking while another represents modernity. From this comparison flows a host of simplistic conclusions. Instead of presuming a clear dichotomy between backward and modern, Hatcher is interested in how religious authority is acquired and projected.
Hinduism Before Reform asks how religious history would look if we eschewed the obfuscating binary of progress and tradition. There is another way to conceptualize the origins and significance of these two Hindu movements, one that does not trap them within the teleology of a predetermined modernity.
In Hindutva as Political Monotheism, Anustup Basu offers a genealogical study of Hindutva—Hindu right-wing nationalism—to illustrate the significance of Western anthropology and political theory to the idea of India as a Hindu nation. Connecting Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt's notion of political theology to traditional theorems of Hindu sovereignty and nationhood, Basu demonstrates how Western and Indian theorists subsumed a vast array of polytheistic, pantheistic, and henotheistic cults featuring millions of gods into a singular edifice of faith. Basu exposes the purported “Hindu Nation” as itself an orientalist vision by analyzing three crucial moments: European anthropologists’ and Indian intellectuals’ invention of a unified Hinduism during the long nineteenth century; Indian ideologues’ adoption of ethnoreligious nationalism in pursuit of a single Hindu way of life in the twentieth century; and the transformations of this project in the era of finance capital, Bollywood, and new media. Arguing that Hindutva aligns with Enlightenment notions of nationalism, Basu foregrounds its significance not just to Narendra Modi's right-wing, anti-Muslim government but also to mainstream Indian nationalism and its credo of secularism and tolerance.
India's folklore and classical literature abound with stories of parents who sacrifice their children. In The Hungry God, David Shulman examines one set of such tales—Hindu texts that bear similarities to the biblical aqedah, the account of Abraham's near-sacrifice of Isaac. In all the stories that Shulman explores, the sacrifice proceeds from a divine command and has no utilitarian explanation or rationale.
Plumbing the hearts of women and men in India and exploring the relations they engage in, Sudhir Kakar gives us the first full-length study of Indian sexuality. His groundbreaking work explores India's sexual fantasies and ideals, the "unlit stage of desire where so much of our inner theater takes place."
Kakar's sources are primarily textual, celebrating the primacy of the story in Indian life. He practices a cultural psychology that distills the psyches of individuals from the literary products and social institutions of Indian culture. These include examples of lurid contemporary Hindi novels; folktales; Sanskrit, Tamil, and Hindi proverbs; hits of the Indian cinema; Gandhi's autobiography; interviews with women from the slums of Delhi; and case studies from his own psychoanalytic practice. His attentive readings of these varied narratives from a vivid portrait of sexual fantasies and realities, reflecting the universality of sexuality as well as cultural nuances specific to India.
Moving from genre to genre, Kakar offers a brilliant reading of verses from the Laws of Manu, the original source of Hindu religious laws, to uncover their psychological foundations—male terror of the female sexual appetite that shields itself by idealizing women's maternal role. Kakar also examines the psychosexual history of Gandhi at length, though his near-lifelong celibacy makes him an atypical subject. Gandhi's story is universal, Kakar says, because "we all wage war on our wants."
In India's lore and tradition, complex symbols abound—snakes that take the shape of sensual women or handsome men, celibates sleep with naked women, gods rape their daughters, and a goddess fries a king in oil. With the analyst's "third ear," Kakar listens, decodes, and translates the psychological longings that find expression in Indian sexual relations.
The nineteenth-century Bengali mystic Ramakrishna played a major role in the development of Hinduism and is regarded as a modern saint. Yet he remains an enigma to followers unable to reconcile his saintly status with his eroticized language and actions.
In this work, Jeffrey J. Kripal attempts to untangle the paradox. He demonstrates that Ramakrishna's famous mystical experiences were driven by erotic energies that he neither fully accepted nor understood; the key to understanding this extraordinary figure, Kripal argues, lies in Tantra and its ritual, symbolic, and doctrinal equation of the mystical and the erotic.
Moving through Ramakrishna's world both chronologically and conceptually, Kali's Child employs two complementary interpretive strategies, a nuanced phenomenological reinterpretation of original Bengali texts and a nonreductive psychoanalytic reading of Ramakrishna's mystical eroticism. Kripal shows how the heterosexual structure of Tantric symbolism, the abusive way its rituals were often forced upon the saint, and Ramakrishna's own homosexual desires all came together to produce in him profound feelings of shame, disgust, and fear. Kripal establishes that the homosexuality of this great, if unwilling, Tantric mystic is linked inextricably to virtually every aspect of his life and teachings.
Key Words in Hinduism
Ron Geaves Georgetown University Press, 2006 Library of Congress BL1105.G43 2006 | Dewey Decimal 294.503
Daily political events and the steady inevitability of globalism require that informed students and citizens learn something about religious traditions foreign to their own. Designed for both classroom and general use, these handy Key Words guidebooks are essential resources for those who want clear and concise explanations of common terms and unfamiliar concepts of major world religions.
Each pocket-sized volume contains definitions for over 400 terms from religious principles and significant periods to noteworthy figures.
Ashram Lit. shelter. A retreat place or hermitage used for spiritual development and often the centre of teaching for a particular guru or sect.
Gyana Spiritual knowledge. Sometimes it is understood that such knowledge can be learned by the study of scriptures but it is also used to describe knowledge that arises from direct experience of God (Brahman) or realization of the Self (atman). The relationship between these two informs different theories concerning spiritual knowledge (see Vedanta, atman, Brahman, jnana).
For those who wonder what relation actual Tantric practices bear to the "Tantric sex" currently being marketed so successfully in the West, David Gordon White has a simple answer: there is none. Sweeping away centuries of misunderstandings and misrepresentations, White returns to original texts, images, and ritual practices to reconstruct the history of South Asian Tantra from the medieval period to the present day.
Kiss of the Yogini focuses on what White identifies as the sole truly distinctive feature of South Asian Tantra: sexualized ritual practices, especially as expressed in the medieval Kaula rites. Such practices centered on the exchange of powerful, transformative sexual fluids between male practitioners and wild female bird and animal spirits known as Yoginis. It was only by "drinking" the sexual fluids of the Yoginis that men could enter the family of the supreme godhead and thereby obtain supernatural powers and transform themselves into gods. By focusing on sexual rituals, White resituates South Asian Tantra, in its precolonial form, at the center of religious, social, and political life, arguing that Tantra was the mainstream, and that in many ways it continues to influence contemporary Hinduism, even if reformist misunderstandings relegate it to a marginal position.
Kiss of the Yogini contains White's own translations from over a dozen Tantras that have never before been translated into any European language. It will prove to be the definitive work for persons seeking to understand Tantra and the crucial role it has played in South Asian history, society, culture, and religion.
Although ecstasy has been explored in several Indian contexts, surprisingly little scholarship has been devoted to its central role in Bengali devotion. In The Madness of the Saints, June McDaniel undertakes the first comprehensive study of religious ecstasy in Bengal, examining the texts that describe it, the people who experience it, and the traditions that support it.
The Mahabharata tells a story of such violence and tragedy that many people in India refuse to keep the full text in their homes, fearing that if they do, they will invite a disastrous fate upon their house. Covering everything from creation to destruction, this ancient poem remains an indelible part of Hindu culture and a landmark in ancient literature.
Centuries of listeners and readers have been drawn to The Mahabharata, which began as disparate oral ballads and grew into a sprawling epic. The modern version is famously long, and at more than 1.8 million words—seven times the combined lengths of the Iliad and Odyssey—it can be incredibly daunting.
Contemporary readers have a much more accessible entry point to this important work, thanks to R. K. Narayan’s masterful translation and abridgement of the poem. Now with a new foreword by Wendy Doniger, as well as a concise character and place guide and a family tree, The Mahabharata is ready for a new generation of readers. As Wendy Doniger explains in the foreword, “Narayan tells the stories so well because they’re all his stories.” He grew up hearing them, internalizing their mythology, which gave him an innate ability to choose the right passages and their best translations.
In this elegant translation, Narayan ably distills a tale that is both traditional and constantly changing. He draws from both scholarly analysis and creative interpretation and vividly fuses the spiritual with the secular. Through this balance he has produced a translation that is not only clear, but graceful, one that stands as its own story as much as an adaptation of a larger work.
The Mahabharata, an ancient and vast Sanskrit poem, is a remarkable collection of epics, legends, romances, theology, and ethical and metaphysical doctrine. The core of this great work is the epic struggle between five heroic brothers, the Pandavas, and their one hundred contentious cousins for rule of the land. This is the first volume in what will ultimately become a multi volume edition encompassing all eighteen books.
The Mahabharata, an ancient and vast Sanskrit poem, is a remarkable collection of epics, legends, romances, theology, and ethical and metaphysical doctrine. The core of this great work is the epic struggle between five heroic brothers, the Pandavas, and their one hundred contentious cousins for rule of the land. This is the second volume of van Buitenen's acclaimed translation of the definitive Poona edition of the text. Book two, The Book of the Assembly Hall, is an epic dramatization of the Vedic ritual of consecration that is central to the book. Book three, The Book of the Forest, traces the further episodes of the heroes during their years in exile. Also included are the famous story of Nala, dealing with the theme of love in separation, and the story of Rama, the subject of the other great Sanskrit epic, the Ramayana, as well as other colorful tales.
The Mahabharata, an ancient and vast Sanskrit poem, is a remarkable collection of epics, legends, romances, theology, and ethical and metaphysical doctrine. The core of this great work is the epic struggle between five heroic brothers, the Pandavas, and their one hundred contentious cousins for rule of the land. This is the third volume of van Buitenen's acclaimed translation of the definitive Poona edition of the text. Book 4, The Book of Virata, begins as a burlesque, but the mood soon darkens amid molestation, raids, and Arjuna's battle with the principal heroes of the enemy. Book 5, The Book of the Effort, relates the attempts of the Pandavas to negotiate the return of their patrimony. They are refused so much as a "pinprick of land," and both parties finally march to battle.
What is found in this epic may be elsewhere;
What is not in this epic is nowhere else.
—from The Mahabharata
The second longest poem in world literature, The Mahabharata is an epic tale, replete with legends, romances, theology, and metaphysical doctrine written in Sanskrit. One of the foundational elements in Hindu culture, this great work consists of nearly 75,000 stanzas in eighteen books, and this volume marks the much anticipated resumption of its first complete modern English translation. With the first three volumes, the late J. A. B. van Buitenen had taken his translation up to the threshold of the great war that is central to the epic. Now James Fitzgerald resumes this work with translations of the books that chronicle the wars aftermath: The Book of Women and part one of The Book of Peace. These books constitute volume 7 of the projected ten-volume edition. Volumes 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10 of the series will be published over the next several years.
In his introductions to these books, Fitzgerald examines the rhetoric of The Mahabharatas representations of the wars aftermath. Indeed, the theme of The Book of Women is the grief of the women left by warriors slain in battle. The book details the keening of palace ladies as they see their dead husbands and sons, and it culminates in a mass cremation where the womens tears turn into soothing libations that help wash the deaths away. Fitzgerald shows that the portrayal of the womens grief is much more than a sympathetic portrait of the sufferings of war. The scenes of mourning in The Book of Women lead into a crisis of conscience that is central to The Book of Peace and, Fitzgerald argues, the entire Mahabharata. In this book, the man who has won power in the great war is torn between his own sense of guilt and remorse and the obligation to rule which ultimately he is persuaded to embrace.
The Mahabharata is a powerful work that has inspired awe and wonder for centuries. With a penetrating glimpse into the trauma of war, this volume offers two of its most timely and unforgettable chapters.
The great pilgrimage center of southeastern Sri Lanka, Kataragama, has become in recent years the spiritual home of a new class of Hindu-Buddhist religious devotees. These ecstatic priests and priestesses invariably display long locks of matted hair, and they express their devotion to the gods through fire walking, tongue-piercing, hanging on hooks, and trance-induced prophesying.
The increasing popularity of these ecstatics poses a challenge not only to orthodox Sinhala Buddhism (the official religion of Sri Lanka) but also, as Gananath Obeyesekere shows, to the traditional anthropological and psychoanalytic theories of symbolism. Focusing initially on one symbol, matted hair, Obeyesekere demonstrates that the conventional distinction between personal and cultural symbols is inadequate and naive. His detailed case studies of ecstatics show that there is always a reciprocity between the personal-psychological dimension of the symbol and its public, culturally sanctioned role. Medusa's Hair thus makes an important theoretical contribution both to the anthropology of individual experience and to the psychoanalytic understanding of culture. In its analyses of the symbolism of guilt, the adaptational and integrative significance of belief in spirits, and a host of related issues concerning possession states and religiosity, this book marks a provocative advance in psychological anthropology.
My Family and Other Saints
Kirin Narayan University of Chicago Press, 2007 Library of Congress GN21.N37A3 2007 | Dewey Decimal 306.850954792092
In 1969, young Kirin Narayan’s older brother, Rahoul, announced that he was quitting school and leaving home to seek enlightenment with a guru. From boyhood, his restless creativity had continually surprised his family, but his departure shook up everyone— especially Kirin, who adored her high-spirited, charismatic brother.
A touching, funny, and always affectionate memoir, My Family and Other Saints traces the reverberations of Rahoul's spiritual journey through the entire family. As their beachside Bombay home becomes a crossroads for Westerners seeking Eastern enlightenment, Kirin’s sari-wearing American mother wholeheartedly embraces ashrams and gurus, adopting her son’s spiritual quest as her own. Her Indian father, however, coins the term “urug”—guru spelled backward—to mock these seekers, while young Kirin, surrounded by radiant holy men, parents drifting apart, and a motley of young, often eccentric Westerners, is left to find her own answers. Deftly recreating the turbulent emotional world of her bicultural adolescence, but overlaying it with the hard-won understanding of adulthood, Narayan presents a large, rambunctious cast of quirky characters. Throughout, she brings to life not just a family but also a time when just about everyone, it seemed, was consumed by some sort of spiritual quest.
“A lovely book about the author's youth in Bombay, India. . . . The family home becomes a magnet for truth-seekers, and Narayan is there to affectionately document all of it.”—Body + Soul
“Gods, gurus and eccentric relatives compete for primacy in Kirin Narayan's enchanting memoir of her childhood in Bombay.”—William Grimes, New York Times
There are many holy cities in India, but Mumbai is not usually considered one of them. More popular images of the city capture the world’s collective imagination—as a Bollywood fantasia or a slumland dystopia. Yet for many, if not most, people who live in the city, the neighborhood streets are indeed shared with local gods and guardian spirits. In The Neighborhood of Gods, William Elison examines the link between territory and divinity in India’s most self-consciously modern city. In this densely settled environment, space is scarce, and anxiety about housing is pervasive. Consecrating space—first with impromptu displays and then, eventually, with full-blown temples and official recognition—is one way of staking a claim. But how can a marginalized community make its gods visible, and therefore powerful, in the eyes of others?
The Neighborhood of Gods explores this question, bringing an ethnographic lens to a range of visual and spatial practices: from the shrine construction that encroaches on downtown streets, to the “tribal art” practices of an indigenous group facing displacement, to the work of image production at two Bollywood film studios. A pioneering ethnography, this book offers a creative intervention in debates on postcolonial citizenship, urban geography, and visuality in the religions of India.
In this rich ethnographic study, Kelly D. Alley sheds light on debates about water uses, wastewater management, and the meanings of waste and sacred power. On the Banks of the Ganga analyzes the human predicaments that result from the accumulation and disposal of waste by tracing how citizens of India interpret the impact of wastewater flows on a sacred river and on their own cultural practices.
Alley investigates ethno-semantic, discursive, and institutional data to flesh out the interplay between religious, scientific, and official discourses about the river Ganga. Using a new outward layering methodology, she points out that anthropological analysis must separate the historical and discursive strands of the debates concerning waste and sacred purity in order to reveal the cultural complexities that surround the Ganga. Ultimately, she addresses a deeply rooted cultural paradox: if the Ganga river is considered sacred by Hindus across India, then why do the people allow it to become polluted?
Examining areas of contemporary concern such as water usage and urban waste management in the most populated river basin in the world, this book will appeal to anthropologists and readers in religious, environmental, and Asian studies, as well as geography and law.
Kelly D. Alley is Associate Professor and Director of Anthropology at Auburn University. In addition to being a prolific writer, she has conducted research on public culture and environmental issues in northern India for over a decade. Alley is currently overseeing a project to ameliorate river pollution problems in India.
Mass-produced images have long been produced and used in India by religious and nationalist movements – the emergence of Indian-run chromolithograph presses in the late 1870s initiated a vast outpouring that have come to dominate many of India’s public and domestic spaces.
Drawing on years of archival research, interviews with artists and publishers, and the ethnographic study of their rural consumers, Christopher Pinney traces the intimate connections between the production and consumption of these images and the struggle against colonial rule. The detailed output of individual presses and artists is set against the intensification of the nationalist struggle, the constraints imposed by colonial state censorship, and fifty years of Indian independence. The reader is introduced to artists who trained within colonial art schools, others whose skills reflect their membership of traditional painting castes, and yet others who are self-taught former sign painters.
Photos of the Gods is the first comprehensive history of India’s popular visual culture. Combining anthropology, political and cultural history, and the study of aesthetic systems, and using many intriguing and unfamiliar images, the book shows that the current predicament of India cannot be understood without taking into account this complex, fascinating, and until now virtually unseen, visual history.
Pink Revolutions describes how queer politics in India occupies an uneasy position between the forces of neoliberal globalization, on the one hand, and the nationalist Hindu fundamentalism that has emerged since the 1990s, on the other. While neoliberal forces use queerness to highlight India’s democratic credentials and stature within a globalized world, nationalist voices claim that queer movements in the country pose a threat to Indian national identity. Nishant Shahani argues that this tension implicates queer politics within messy entanglements and knotted ideological triangulations, geometries of power in which local understandings of “authentic” nationalism brush up against global agendas of multinational capital.
Eschewing structures of absolute complicity or abject alterity, Pink Revolutions pays attention to the logics of triangulation in various contexts: gay tourism, university campus politics, diasporic cultural productions, and AIDS activism. The book articulates a framework through which queer politics can challenge rather than participate in neoliberal imperatives, an approach that will interest scholars engaged with queer studies and postcolonial scholarship, as well as activists and academics wrestling with global capitalism and right-wing regimes around the world.
Honorable Mention, 2009 American Sociological Association's Distinguished Book Award, from the Sociology of Religion section
Multiculturalism in the United States is commonly lauded as a positive social ideal celebrating the diversity of our nation. But, in reality, immigrants often feel pressured to create a singular formulation of their identity that does not reflect the diversity of cultures that exist in their homeland. Hindu Americans have faced this challenge over the last fifteen years, as the number of Indians that have immigrated to this country has more than doubled.
In A Place at the Multicultural Table, Prema A. Kurien shows how various Hindu American organizations--religious, cultural, and political--are attempting to answer the puzzling questions of identity outside their homeland. Drawing on the experiences of both immigrant and American-born Hindu Americans, Kurien demonstrates how religious ideas and practices are being imported, exported, and reshaped in the process. The result of this transnational movement is an American Hinduism--an organized, politicized, and standardized version of that which is found in India.
This first in-depth look at Hinduism in the United States and the Hindu Indian American community helps readers to understand the private devotions, practices, and beliefs of Hindu Indian Americans as well as their political mobilization and activism. It explains the differences between immigrant and American-born Hindu Americans, how both understand their religion and their identity, and it emphasizes the importance of the social and cultural context of the United States in influencing the development of an American Hinduism.
The Vaisnava-sahajiya cult that arose in Bengal in the sixteenth century was an intensely emotional attempt to reconcile the sensual and the ascetic. Exploring the history and doctrine of this cult, Edward C. Dimock, Jr., examines the works of numerous poets who are the source of knowledge about this sect. Dimock examines the life of the saint Caitanya, the mad Baul singers, the doctrines of Tantrism, the origins of the figure of Radha, and the worship of Krishna. His study will appeal to students of the history of religion as well as of Indian culture. This edition includes a new Foreword by Wendy Doniger.
"This is a magnificent book—painstakingly researched and gracefully written. . . . Professor Dimock's book is one of the most rewarding and stimulating studies to appear in recent years."—G. Richard Weldon, Journal of Asian Studies
Kelly opens new questions about dialogue, colonial power, and
changing conditions of political possibility by examining the
connection between politics and sexual morality in the British
colony of Fiji from 1929 to 1932.
The Indian subdistrict of Shahabad, located in the dwindling forests of the southeastern tip of Rajasthan, is an area of extreme poverty. Beset by droughts and food shortages in recent years, it is the home of the Sahariyas, former bonded laborers, officially classified as Rajasthan’s only “primitive tribe.” From afar, we might consider this the bleakest of the bleak, but in Poverty and the Quest for Life, Bhrigupati Singh asks us to reconsider just what quality of life means. He shows how the Sahariyas conceive of aspiration, advancement, and vitality in both material and spiritual terms, and how such bridging can engender new possibilities of life.
Singh organizes his study around two themes: power and ethics, through which he explores a complex terrain of material and spiritual forces. Authority remains contested, whether in divine or human forms; the state is both despised and desired; high and low castes negotiate new ways of living together, in conflict but also cooperation; new gods move across rival social groups; animals and plants leave their tracks on human subjectivity and religiosity; and the potential for vitality persists even as natural resources steadily disappear. Studying this milieu, Singh offers new ways of thinking beyond the religion-secularism and nature-culture dichotomies, juxtaposing questions about quality of life with political theologies of sovereignty, neighborliness, and ethics, in the process painting a rich portrait of perseverance and fragility in contemporary rural India.
The leading voices in science studies have argued that modern science reflects dominant social interests of Western society. Following this logic, postmodern scholars have urged postcolonial societies to develop their own “alternative sciences” as a step towards “mental decolonization”. These ideas have found a warm welcome among Hindu nationalists who came to power in India in the early 1990s. In this passionate and highly original study, Indian-born author Meera Nanda reveals how these well-meaning but ultimately misguided ideas are enabling Hindu ideologues to propagate religious myths in the guise of science and secularism.
At the heart of Hindu supremacist ideology, Nanda argues, lies a postmodernist assumption: that each society has its own norms of reasonableness, logic, rules of evidence, and conception of truth, and that there is no non-arbitrary, culture-independent way to choose among these alternatives. What is being celebrated as “difference” by postmodernists, however, has more often than not been the source of mental bondage and authoritarianism in non-Western cultures. The “Vedic sciences” currently endorsed in Indian schools, colleges, and the mass media promotes the same elements of orthodox Hinduism that have for centuries deprived the vast majority of Indian people of their full humanity.
By denouncing science and secularization, the left was unwittingly contributing to what Nanda calls “reactionary modernism.” In contrast, Nanda points to the Dalit, or untouchable, movement as a true example of an “alternative science” that has embraced reason and modern science to challenge traditional notions of hierarchy.
Throughout India and Southeast Asia, ancient classical epics—the Mahabharata and the Ramayana—continue to exert considerable cultural influence. Rethinking India's Oral and Classical Epics offers an unprecedented exploration into South Asia's regional epic traditions.
Using his own fieldwork as a starting point, Alf Hiltebeitel analyzes how the oral tradition of the south Indian cult of the goddess Draupadi and five regional martial oral epics compare with one another and tie in with the Sanskrit epics. Drawing on literary theory and cultural studies, he reveals the shared subtexts of the Draupadi cult Mahabharata and the five oral epics, and shows how the traditional plots are twisted and classical characters reshaped to reflect local history and religion. In doing so, Hiltebeitel sheds new light on the intertwining oral traditions of medieval Rajput military culture, Dalits ("former Untouchables"), and Muslims.
Breathtaking in scope, this work is indispensable for those seeking a deeper understanding of South Asia's Hindu and Muslim traditions.
This work is the third volume in Hiltebeitel's study of the Draupadi cult. Other volumes include Mythologies: From Gingee to Kuruksetra (Volume One), On Hindu Ritual and the Goddess (Volume Two), and Rethinking the Mahabharata (Volume Four).
The ancient Indian Sanskrit tradition produced no text more intriguing, or more persistently misunderstood or underappreciated, than the Mahabharata. Its intricacies have waylaid generations of scholars and ignited dozens of unresolved debates. In Rethinking the Mahabharata, Alf Hiltebeitel offers a unique model for understanding the great epic. Employing a wide range of literary and narrative theory, Hiltebeitel draws on historical and comparative research in an attempt to discern the spirit and techniques behind the epic's composition. He focuses on the education of Yudhisthira, also known as the Dharma King, and shows how the relationship of this figure to others-especially his author-grandfather Vyasa and his wife Draupadi-provides a thread through the bewildering array of frames and stories embedded within stories. Hiltebeitel also offers a revisionist theory regarding the dating and production of the original text and its relation to the Veda. No ordinary reader's guide, this volume will illuminate many mysteries of this enigmatic masterpiece.
This work is the fourth volume in Hiltebeitel's study of the Draupadi cult. Other volumes include Mythologies: From Gingee to Kuruksetra (Volume One), On Hindu Ritual and the Goddess (Volume Two), and Rethinking India's Oral and Classical Epics (Volume Three).
India’s sacred Ganga River is arguably one of the most iconic sites for worship, with a continuity of rituals for the living and the dead that span over two millennia. Along the river, from high in the Himalaya to the vast plains below, people gather daily to worship the Ganga through prayer and song. But large government-sponsored dams threaten to upend these practices.
In River Dialogues, Georgina Drew offers a detailed ethnographic engagement with the social movements contesting hydroelectric development on the Ganga. The book examines the complexity of the cultural politics that, on the one hand, succeeded in influencing an unprecedented reversal of government plans for three contested hydroelectric projects, and how, on the other hand, this decision sparked ripples of discontent after being paired with the declaration of a conservation zone where the projects were situated.
The book follows the work of women who were initially involved in efforts to stop the disputed projects. After looking to their discourses and actions, Drew argues for the use of a political ecology analysis that incorporates the everyday practice and everyday religious connections that animated the cultural politics of development. Drew offers a nuanced understanding of the struggles that communities enact to assert their ways of knowing and caring for resources that serves as an example for others critically engaging with the growing global advocacy of the “green economy” model for environmental stewardship.
René Girard Michigan State University Press, 2011 Library of Congress BL1236.76.S23G4713 2011 | Dewey Decimal 203.42
In Sacrifice, René Girard interrogates the Brahmanas of Vedic India, exploring coincidences with mimetic theory that are too numerous and striking to be accidental. Even that which appears to be dissimilar fails to contradict mimetic theory, but instead corresponds to the minimum of illusion without which sacrifice becomes impossible.
The Bible reveals collective violence, similar to that which generates sacrifice everywhere, but instead of making victims guilty, the Bible and the Gospels reveal the persecutors of a single victim. Instead of elaborating myths, they tell the truth absolutely contrary to the archaic sense. Once exposed, the single victim mechanism can no longer function as the model for would-be sacrificers.
Recognizing that the Vedic tradition also converges on a revelation that discredits sacrifice, mimetic theory locates within sacrifice itself a paradoxical power of quiet reflection that leads, in the long run, to the eclipse of this institution which is violent but nevertheless fundamental to the development of human culture. Far from unduly privileging the Western tradition and awarding it a monopoly on the knowledge and repudiation of blood sacrifice, mimetic analysis recognizes comparable, but never truly identical, traits in the Vedic tradition.
The esoteric Hindu traditions of Tantrism have profoundly influenced the development of Indian thought and civilization. Emerging from elements of yoga and wisdom traditions, shamanism, alchemy, eroticism, and folklore, Tantrism began to affect brahmanical Hinduism in the ninth century. Nevertheless, Tantrism and its key historical figures have been ignored by scholars. This accessible work introduces the concepts and practices of Hindu Sakta Tantrism to all those interested in Hinduism and the comparative study of religion.
Janet R. Jakobsen and Ann Pellegrini, eds. Duke University Press, 2008 Library of Congress BL2747.8S34 2008 | Dewey Decimal 201.7
At a time when secularism is put forward as the answer to religious fundamentalism and violence, Secularisms offers a powerful, multivoiced critique of the narrative equating secularism with modernity, reason, freedom, peace, and progress. Bringing together essays by scholars based in religious studies, gender and sexuality studies, history, science studies, anthropology, and political science, this volume challenges the binary conception of “conservative” religion versus “progressive” secularism.
With essays addressing secularism in India, Iran, Turkey, Great Britain, China, and the United States, this collection crucially complicates the dominant narrative by showing that secularism is multifaceted. How secularism is lived and experienced varies with its national, regional, and religious context. The essays explore local secularisms in relation to religious traditions ranging from Islam to Judaism, Hinduism to Christianity. Several contributors explicitly take up the way feminism has been implicated in the dominant secularization story. Ultimately, by dislodging secularism’s connection to the single (and singular) progress narrative, this volume seeks to open spaces for other possible narratives about both secularism and religion—as well as for other possible ways of inhabiting the contemporary world.
Contributors: Robert J. Baird, Andrew Davison, Tracy Fessenden, Janet R. Jakobsen, Laura Levitt, Molly McGarry, Afsaneh Najmabadi, Taha Parla, Geeta Patel, Ann Pellegrini, Tyler Roberts, Ranu Samantrai, Banu Subramaniam, Rajeswari Sunder Rajan, Angela Zito
For roughly two thousand years, the veneration of sacred fossil ammonites, called Shaligrams, has been an important part of Hindu and Buddhist ritual practice throughout South Asia and among the global Diaspora. Originating from a single remote region of Himalayan Nepal, called Mustang, Shaligrams are all at once fossils, divine beings, and intimate kin with families and worshippers. Through their lives, movements, and materiality, Shaligrams then reveal fascinating new dimensions of religious practice, pilgrimage, and politics. But as social, environmental, and national conflicts in the politically-contentious region of Mustang continue to escalate, the geologic, mythic, and religious movements of Shaligrams have come to act as parallels to the mobility of people through both space and time. Shaligram mobility therefore traverses through multiple social worlds, multiple religions, and multiple nations revealing Shaligram practitioners as a distinct, alternative, community struggling for a place in a world on the edge.
David Gordon White University of Chicago Press, 2009 Library of Congress BL2015.Y6W55 2009 | Dewey Decimal 294.561
Since the 1960s, yoga has become a billion-dollar industry in the West, attracting housewives and hipsters, New Agers and the old-aged. But our modern conception of yoga derives much from nineteenth-century European spirituality, and the true story of yoga’s origins in South Asia is far richer, stranger, and more entertaining than most of us realize.
To uncover this history, David Gordon White focuses on yoga’s practitioners. Combing through millennia of South Asia’s vast and diverse literature, he discovers that yogis are usually portrayed as wonder-workers or sorcerers who use their dangerous supernatural abilities—which can include raising the dead, possession, and levitation—to acquire power, wealth, and sexual gratification. As White shows, even those yogis who aren’t downright villainous bear little resemblance to Western assumptions about them. At turns rollicking and sophisticated, Sinister Yogis tears down the image of yogis as detached, contemplative teachers, finally placing them in their proper context.
Series Editor: Professor Julius Lipner, The Divinity School, University of Cambridge “Sita” is an ideal, an inspiration, an icon. Aimed primarily at high school students, this book may surprise many adults with its balanced, contemporary interpretation from one of the greatest cultural epics of all time, the Ramayana. This is the first volume in ‘INDIC VALUES SERIES’ published in collaboration with the Divinity School, Cambridge University.
Historians of religion have examined at length the Protestant Reformation and the liberal idea of the self-governing individual that arose from it. In Spiritual Despots, J. Barton Scott reveals an unexamined piece of this story: how Protestant technologies of asceticism became entangled with Hindu spiritual practices to create an ideal of the “self-ruling subject” crucial to both nineteenth-century reform culture and early twentieth-century anticolonialism in India. Scott uses the quaint term “priestcraft” to track anticlerical polemics that vilified religious hierarchy, celebrated the individual, and endeavored to reform human subjects by freeing them from external religious influence. By drawing on English, Hindi, and Gujarati reformist writings, Scott provides a panoramic view of precisely how the specter of the crafty priest transformed religion and politics in India.
Through this alternative genealogy of the self-ruling subject, Spiritual Despots demonstrates that Hindu reform movements cannot be understood solely within the precolonial tradition, but rather need to be read alongside other movements of their period. The book’s focus moves fluidly between Britain and India—engaging thinkers such as James Mill, Keshub Chunder Sen, Max Weber, Karsandas Mulji, Helena Blavatsky, M. K. Gandhi, and others—to show how colonial Hinduism shaped major modern discourses about the self. Throughout, Scott sheds much-needed light how the rhetoric of priestcraft and practices of worldly asceticism played a crucial role in creating a new moral and political order for twentieth-century India and demonstrates the importance of viewing the emergence of secularism through the colonial encounter.
“Rocks. Goats. Dry shrubs. Buffaloes. Thorns. A fallen tamarind tree.” Such were the sights that greeted David Shulman on his arrival in the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh in the spring of 2006. An expert on South Indian languages and cultures, Shulman knew the region well, but from the moment he arrived for this seven-month sojourn he actively soaked up such simple aspects of his surroundings, determined to attend to the rich texture of daily life—choosing to be at the same time scholar and tourist, wanderer and wonderer.
Lyrical, sensual, and introspective, Spring, Heat, Rains is Shulman’s diary of that experience. Evocative reflections on daily events—from explorations of crumbling temples to battles with ineradicable bugs to joyous dinners with friends—are organically interwoven with considerations of the ancient poetry and myths that remain such an inextricable part of life in contemporary India. With Shulman as our guide, we meet singers and poets, washermen and betel-nut vendors, modern literati and ancient gods and goddesses. We marvel at the “golden electrocution” that is the taste of a mango fresh from the tree. And we plunge into the searing heat of an Indian summer, so oppressive and inescapable that when the monsoon arrives to banish the heat with sheets of rain, we understand why, year after year, it is celebrated as a miracle.
An unabashedly personal account from a scholar whose deep knowledge has never obscured his joy in discovery, Spring, Heat, Rains is a passionate act of sharing, an unforgettable gift for anyone who has ever dreamed of India.
Stories about Posts is the magnum opus of Madeleine Biardeau, one of the most influential Indologists of the twentieth century. Nearly twenty years in the making, it connects her varied studies on the Sanskrit epics, the Hindu Goddess, Vedic sacrifice, rural India, and the interpretation of Hinduism.
After exploring several ethnographic facts that have escaped the notice of previous observers, Biardeau presents a variety of hunches, hypotheses, and insights building up to the provocative thesis of Stories about Posts: that the variations found in the contemporary cult of the Goddess—in both her royal and rural village aspects—reveal untraced regional histories of the Vedic sacrificial post, the yupa. Biardeau's work opens up new ways of thinking about Vedic sacrificial themes and elements as they recur in post-Vedic texts and iconographies. It also connects wayside stones in Maharashtra named after the buffalo to stones, posts, and people named after a so-called Buffalo King in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Tamilnadu.
A work of magnificent scholarship and fieldwork, Stories about Posts, in ways no previous work has attempted, much less accomplished, unravels much of the mystery surrounding contemporary Hindu ritual by connecting it to the ancient Sanskrit epics. As such, it will fascinate students of Indology, religious studies, and anthropology for years to come.
This book invites you to reflect upon the questions the stories of Krishna raises, and to consider their relevance for us today. The book is organized around two central and devotional texts, the Bhagavad Gita and the Bhagavata Purana, and the contributions of some Hindus in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, who are devotees of Krishna. It is called Stories of Krishna because any attempt to present one "essential" story of Krishna would be misguided as it is through exploring the diversity of Krishna stories and their apparent contradiction that understanding of the significance of Krishna grows.
The author hopes that the reader will formulate what Krishna means to the reader as the book is read, and questions raised.
A Storm of Songs
John Stratton Hawley Harvard University Press, 2015 Library of Congress BL1214.32.B53H42 2015 | Dewey Decimal 294.509
A widely-accepted explanation for India’s national unity is a narrative called the bhakti movement—poet-saints singing bhakti from India’s southern tip to the Himalayas between 600 and 1600. John Hawley shows that this narrative, with its political overtones, was created by the early-twentieth-century circle around Rabindranath Tagore in Bengal.
In this multifaceted work, John Carman and Vasudha Narayanan clarify historical developments in South Asian religion and make important contributions to the methodology of textual interpretation and the comparative study of world religions.
"A wider range than usual of Sanskrit texts: not only interesting Vedic, epic, and mythological texts but also a good sampling of ritual and ethical texts. . . . There are also extracts from texts usually neglected, such as medical treatises, works on practical politics, and guides to love and marriage. . . . Readings from the vernacular Hindi, Bengali, and Tamil traditions [serve to] enrich the collection and demonstrate how Hinduism flourished not just in Sanskrit but also in its many mother tongues."—Francis X. Clooney, Journal of Asian Studies
Listen to what I am about to tell you: do not read this book alone. You really shouldn’t. In one of the most playful experiments ever put between two covers, every other section of Trance-Migrations prescribes that you read its incantatory tales out loud to a lover, friend, or confidant, in order to hypnotize in preparation for Lee Siegel’s exploration of an enchanting India. To read and hear this book is to experience a particular kind of relationship, and that’s precisely the point: hypnosis, the book will demonstrate, is an essential aspect of our most significant relationships, an inherent dimension of love, religion, medicine, politics, and literature, a fundamental dynamic between lover and beloved, deity and votary, physician and patient, ruler and subject, and, indeed, reader and listener.
Even if you can’t read this with a partner—and I stress that you certainly ought to—you will still be in rich company. There is Shambaraswami, an itinerant magician, hypnotist, and storyteller to whom villagers turn for spells that will bring them wealth or love; José-Custodio de Faria, a Goan priest hypnotizing young and beautiful women in nineteenth-century Parisian salons; James Esdaile, a Scottish physician for the East India Company in Calcutta, experimenting on abject Bengalis with mesmerism as a surgical anesthetic; and Lee Siegel, a writer traveling in India to learn all that he can about hypnosis, yoga, past life regressions, colonialism, orientalism, magic spells, and, above all, the power of story. And then there is you: descending through these histories—these tales within tales, trances within trances, dreams within dreams—toward a place where the distinctions between reverie and reality dissolve.
Here the world within the book and that in which the book is read come startlingly together. It’s one of the most creative works we have ever published, a dazzling combination of literary prowess, scholarly erudition, and psychological exploration—all tempered by warm humor and a sharp wit. It is informing, entertaining, and, above all, mesmerizing.
Unfinished Gestures presents the social and cultural history of courtesans in South India who are generally called devadasis, focusing on their encounters with colonial modernity in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Following a hundred years of vociferous social reform, including a 1947 law that criminalized their lifestyles, the women in devadasis communities contend with severe social stigma and economic and cultural disenfranchisement. Adroitly combining ethnographic fieldwork with historical research, Davesh Soneji provides a comprehensive portrait of these marginalized women and unsettles received ideas about relations among them, the aesthetic roots of their performances, and the political efficacy of social reform in their communities.
Poignantly narrating the history of these women, Soneji argues for the recognition of aesthetics and performance as a key form of subaltern self-presentation and self-consciousness. Ranging over courtly and private salon performances of music and dance by devadasis in the nineteenth century, the political mobilization of devadasis identity in the twentieth century, and the post-reform lives of women in these communities today, Unfinished Gestures charts the historical fissures that lie beneath cultural modernity in South India.
According to public health orthodoxy, blood for transfusion is safer when derived from voluntary, nonremunerated donors. As developing nations phase out compensated blood collection efforts to comply with this current policy, many struggle to keep their blood stores up.
Veins of Devotion details recent collaborations between guru-led devotional movements and public health campaigns to encourage voluntary blood donation in northern India. Focusing primarily on Delhi, Jacob Copeman carefully situates the practice within the context of religious gift-giving, sacrifice, caste, kinship, and nationalism. The book analyzes the operations of several high-profile religious orders that organize large-scale public blood-giving events and argues that blood donation has become a site not only of frenetic competition between different devotional movements, but also of intense spiritual creativity.
Despite tensions between blood banks and these religious groups, their collaboration is a remarkable success storyùthe nation's blood supply is replenished while blood donors discover new devotional possibilities.
People have argued since time immemorial. Disagreement is a part of life, of human experience. But we now live in times when any form of protest in India is marked as anti-Indian and met with arguments that the very concept of dissent was imported into India from the West. As Romila Thapar explores in her timely historical essay, however, dissent has a long history in the subcontinent, even if its forms have evolved through the centuries.
In Voices of Dissent: AnEssay, Thapar looks at the articulation of nonviolent dissent and relates it to various pivotal moments throughout India’s history. Beginning with Vedic times, she takes us from the second to the first millennium BCE, to the emergence of groups that were jointly called the Shramanas—the Jainas, Buddhists, and Ajivikas. Going forward in time, she also explores the views of the Bhakti sants and others of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and brings us to a major moment of dissent that helped to establish a free and democratic India: Mahatma Gandhi’s satyagraha. Then Thapar places in context the recent peaceful protests against India’s new, controversial citizenship law, maintaining that dissent in our time must be opposed to injustice and supportive of democratic rights so that society may change for the better.
Written by one of India’s best-known public intellectuals, Voices of Dissent will be essential reading not for anyone interested in India’s fascinating history, but also the direction in which the nation is headed.
"An important, provocative and original work, of great interest to Indian scholars, historians of religions, psychologists and historians of ideas, but accessible also to the cultivated reader. Even if one does not always agree with the author's interpretation, one cannot but admire her vast and precise learning, her splendid translations and exegesis of so many, and so different, Sanskrit texts, and her uninhibited, brilliant, and witty prose."—Mircea Eliade, University of Chicago
"This is . . . a book which is as rich in detail as the carvings of the great Hindu temples. It shares with them a delight in the interplay of myth and mundane experience, and above all an empathy with the Hindu preoccupation with the meaning of human existence in all its complexity."—G. M. Carstairs, Times Literary Supplement
"The Work of Culture is the product of two decades of field research by Sri Lanka's most distinguished anthropological interpreter, and its combination of textual analysis, ethnographic sensitivity, and methodological catholicity makes it something of a blockbuster."—Arjun Appadurai, Journal of Asian Studies