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In late 20th-century India, Christian-Hindu dialogue was forever transformed following the opening of Shantivanam, the first Christian ashram in the country. Mario I. Aguilar brings together the histories of the five pioneers of Christian-Hindu dialogue and their involvement with the ashram, to explore what they learnt and taught about communion between the two religions, and the wide ranging consequences of their work. The author expertly threads together the lives and friendships between these men, while uncovering the Hindu texts they used and were influenced by, and considers how far some of them became, in their personal practice, Hindu. Ultimately, this book demonstrates the impact of this history on contemporary dialogue between Christians and Hindus, and how both faiths can continue to learn and grow together.
Snakes exist in the myths of most societies, often embodying magical, mysterious forces. Snake cults were especially important in eastern India and Bangladesh, where for centuries worshippers of the indigenous snake goddess Manasa resisted the competing religious influences of Indo-Europeans and Muslims. The result was a corpus of verse texts narrating Manasa's struggle to win universal adoration. The Triumph of the Snake Goddess is the first comprehensive retelling of this epic tale in modern English. Scholar and poet Kaiser Haq offers a composite prose translation of Manasa's story, based on five extant versions. Following the tradition of mangalkavyas-Bengali verse narratives celebrating the deeds of deities in order to win their blessings-the tale opens with a creation myth and a synopsis of Indian mythology, zooming in on Manasa, the miraculous child of the god Shiva. Manasa easily wins the allegiance of everyone except the wealthy merchant Chand, who holds fast in his devotion to Shiva despite seeing his sons massacred. A celestial couple is incarnated on earth to fulfill Manasa's design: Behula, wife to one of Chand's slain sons, undertakes a harrowing odyssey to restore him to life with Manasa's help, ultimately persuading Chand to bow to the snake goddess. A prologue by Haq explores the Bengali oral, poetic, and manuscript traditions behind this Hindu folk epic-a vibrant part of popular Bengali culture, Hindu and Muslim, to this day-and an introduction by Wendy Doniger examines the history and significance of snake worship in classical Sanskrit texts.
In the context of Dutch colonialism, world war, the incorporation of Bali into the Indonesian state and the tourist boom, this book examines the complex relationships between the changing nature and continuing relevance of Balinese hierarchy, the neo-Hindu reforms of Balinese religion, and the impact these have had on new forms of identity. Since at least the 1920s commoners and other intellectuals and reformers have sought ways to challenge Balinese caste hierarchy, both through egalitarian re-interpretations of Balinese institutions and through changing religious ideas and practices. State initiatives to transform 'traditional' Balinese religion into monotheistic and more 'authentic' form of Hinduism have precipitated the appearance of many indigenous new religious movements and the importation from India of devotional forms of Hinduism (Sai Baba and Hare Krishna), which has created a vastly more intricate religious landscape. These various forms of Hinduism, and the conflict and competition between, both undermine and sustain relations of hierarchy. Through historically informed, ethnographic analyses of status competition, caste conflict, ritual inflation, religious innovation, and the cultural politics of identity this book, written in an accessible style, makes a major contribution to our understanding of modern Balinese society and its future development.BR> Series editors: Wendy James & N.J. Allen
This new collection brings together the sacred scriptures of the Hindu tradition to provide readers with a comprehensive overview of the classical form of one of the world's oldest existing religions. Selections from the Vedas, the Upanisads, the Bhagvagad Gita and many more cover topics such as creation, sacrifice, birth, marriage and death and tell the stories of the great Hindu gods. But over the last two hundred years reformed, anti and radical versions of Hinduism have emerged which question the laws, traditions and even the category of Hinduism itself.
Uniquely, this reader juxtaposes the classic scriptures with the works of reformers and radicals to illuminate the new face of contemporary Hinduism. With an introduction to each reading from editor Deepak Sarma, this reader is suitable for Hinduism courses of all levels.
The Bhagavata Purana is one of the most important, central and popular scriptures of Hinduism. A medieval Sanskrit text, its influence as a religious book has been comparable only to that of the great Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Ithamar Theodor here offers the first analysis for twenty years of the Bhagavata Purana (often called the Fifth Veda ) and its different layers of meaning. He addresses its lyrical meditations on the activities of Krishna (avatar of Lord Vishnu), the central place it affords to the doctrine of bhakti (religious devotion) and its treatment of older Vedic traditions of knowledge. At the same time he places this subtle, poetical book within the context of the wider Hindu scriptures and the other Puranas, including the similar but less grand and significant Vishnu Purana. The author argues that the Bhagavata Purana is a unique work which represents the meeting place of two great orthodox Hindu traditions, the Vedic-Upanishadic and the Aesthetic. As such, it is one of India s greatest theological treatises. This book illuminates its character and continuing significance."
The present book is a collection of essays written at different points of time and published in reputed journals and books. What blends them together is the use of the primary source material in the form of a vast compendium of Puranic literature (backed by epigraphic, archaeological and anthropological data), which has been utilized to arrive at conclusions pertaining to changes in Indian society and religion during the later half of first millennium AD when the major Puranas were being compiled. The period represents a watershed in Indian history, for it marked a transition from a commercially viable economic order to a closed feudal economy. The social and religious dimensions of the brahmanical system were particularly impacted by such a transition resulting in some innovative forms of restructuring. It has been the purpose behind most of the present articles to reassess and utilize the available Puranic evidence for getting fresh insights into the rationale and precise nature of these changes. The key areas of thrust in these articles are changes in material culture, awareness and mode of dealing with environmental issues, gender based differentiation, recent ritual formations such as Mahadana and Tirthas as well as the utilization of myth as a mode of expressing historical reality.
In 2002, after an altercation between Muslim vendors and Hindu travelers at a railway station in the Indian state of Gujarat, fifty-nine Hindu pilgrims were burned to death. The ruling nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party blamed Gujarat's entire Muslim minority for the tragedy and incited fellow Hindus to exact revenge. The resulting violence left more than one thousand people dead--most of them Muslims--and tens of thousands more displaced from their homes. Parvis Ghassem-Fachandi witnessed the bloodshed up close. In "Pogrom in Gujarat," he provides a riveting ethnographic account of collective violence in which the doctrine of ahimsa--or nonviolence--and the closely associated practices of vegetarianism became implicated by legitimating what they formally disavow.
Ghassem-Fachandi looks at how newspapers, movies, and other media helped to fuel the pogrom. He shows how the vegetarian sensibilities of Hindus and the language of sacrifice were manipulated to provoke disgust against Muslims and mobilize the aspiring middle classes across caste and class differences in the name of Hindu nationalism. Drawing on his intimate knowledge of Gujarat's culture and politics and the close ties he shared with some of the pogrom's sympathizers, Ghassem-Fachandi offers a strikingly original interpretation of the different ways in which Hindu proponents of ahimsa became complicit in the very violence they claimed to renounce.
This book investigates women's ritual authority and the common boundaries between religion and notions of gender, ethnicity, and identity. Nanette R. Spina situates her study within the transnational Melmaruvathur Adhiparasakthi movement established by the Tamil Indian guru, Bangaru Adigalar. One of the most prominent, defining elements of this tradition is that women are privileged with positions of leadership and ritual authority. This represents an extraordinary shift from orthodox tradition in which religious authority has been the exclusive domain of male Brahmin priests. Presenting historical and contemporary perspectives on the transnational Adhiparasakthi organization, Spina analyzes women's roles and means of expression within the tradition. The book takes a close look at the Adhiparasakthi society in Toronto, Canada (a Hindu community in both its transnational and diasporic dimensions), and how this Canadian temple has both shaped and demonstrated their own diasporic Hindu identity. The Toronto Adhiparasakthi society illustrates how Goddess theology, women's ritual authority, and "inclusivity" ethics have dynamically shaped the identity of this prominent movement overseas. Based on years of ethnographic fieldwork, the volume draws the reader into the rich textures of culture, community, and ritual life with the Goddess.
Few works in world literature have inspired so vast an audience, in nations with radically different languages and cultures, as the "Ramayana" and "Mahabharata", two Sanskrit verse epics written some 2,000 years ago. In "Ramayana" (written by a poet known to us as Valmiki), William Buck has retold the story of Prince Rama - with all its nobility of spirit, courtly intrigue, heroic renunciation, fierce battles, and triumph of good over evil - in a length and manner that will make the great Indian epics accessible to the contemporary reader. The same is true for the "Mahabharata" - in its original Sanskrit, probably the longest Indian epic ever composed. It is the story of a dynastic struggle, between the Kurus and Pandavas, for land. In his introduction, Sanskritist B. A. van Nooten notes, "Apart from William Buck's rendition [no other English version has] been able to capture the blend of religion and martial spirit that pervades the original epic". Presented accessibly for the general reader without compromising the spirit and lyricism of the originals, William Buck's "Ramayana" and "Mahabharata" capture the essence of the Indian cultural heritage.
This volume examines several theoretical concerns of embodiment in the context of Asian religious practice. Looking at both subtle and spatial bodies, it explores how both types of embodiment are engaged as sites for transformation, transaction and transgression. Collectively bridging ancient and modern conceptualizations of embodiment in religious practice, the book offers a complex mapping of how body is defined. It revisits more traditional, mystical religious systems, including Hindu Tantra and Yoga, Tibetan Buddhism, Bon, Chinese Daoism and Persian Sufism and distinctively juxtaposes these inquiries alongside analyses of racial, gendered, and colonized bodies. Such a multifaceted subject requires a diverse approach, and so perspectives from phenomenology and neuroscience as well as critical race theory and feminist theology are utilised to create more precise analytical tools for the scholarly engagement of embodied religious epistemologies. This a nuanced and interdisciplinary exploration of the myriad issues around bodies within religion. As such it will be a key resource for any scholar of Religious Studies, Asian Studies, Anthropology, Sociology, Philosophy, and Gender Studies.
A historical and comparative study grounded in close readings of important works, this book explores the dynamics of the theory and practice of yoga in Hindu and Buddhist contexts. Author Stuart Ray Sarbacker explores the fascinating, contrasting perceptions that meditation leads to the attainment of divine, or numinous, power, and to complete escape from worldly existence, or cessation. Sarbacker demonstrates that these two dimensions of spiritual experience have affected the doctrine and cultural significance of yoga from its origins to its contemporary practice. He also integrates sociological and psychological perspectives on religious experience into a larger phenomenological model to address the multifaceted nature of religious experience. Speaking to a broad range of methodological and contextual issues, Samā dhi provides numerous insights into the theory and practice of yoga that are relevant to both scholars of religious studies and practitioners of contemporary yoga and meditation traditions.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is widely regarded as the most authoritative text on yoga. It comprises a collection of 196 Indian sutras ("threads" - as sutra translates from Sanskrit) written 1,700 years ago. These threads or aphorisms were compiled by the Indian sage Patanjali and offer guidelines for living a meaningful and purposeful life.The book is organized into four parts and provides descriptions of the eight limbs of yoga, such as pranayama and asana. The translated text is presented alongside a clear and insightful commentary by Swami Vivekananda, which makes them more accessible to the modern reader and yoga practitioner. His message of universal brotherhood and self-awakening remains relevant today, especially in the current backdrop of widespread political turmoil around the world.
This volume examines notions of health and illness in North Indian devotional culture, with particular attention paid to the worship of the goddess Sitala, the Cold Lady. Consistently portrayed in colonial and postcolonial literature as the ambiguous 'smallpox goddess', Sitala is here discussed as a protector of children and women, a portrayal that emerges from textual sources as well as material culture. The eradication of smallpox did not pose a threat to Sitala and her worship. She continues to be an extremely popular goddess. Religion, Devotion and Medicine in North India critically examines the rise and affirmation of the 'smallpox myth' in India and beyond, and explains how Indian narratives, ritual texts and devotional songs have celebrated Sitala as a loving mother who protects her children from the effects, and the fear, of poxes, fevers and infantile disorders but also all sorts of new threats (such as global pandemics, addictions and environmental catastrophes). The book explores a wide range of ritual and devotional practices, including scheduled festivals, songs, vows, pageants, austerities, possession, animal sacrifices and various forms of offering. Built on extensive fieldwork and a close textual analysis of sources in Sanskrit and vernacular languages (Hindi, Bhojpuri and Bengali) as well as on a rich bibliography on the struggle against smallpox in colonial and post-colonial India, the book reflects on the ambiguous nature of Sitala as a phenomenon largely dependent on the enduring fascination with the exotic, and the horrific, that has pervaded public renditions of Indian culture in indigenous fiction, colonial reports, medical literature and now global culture. To aid study, the volume includes images, web links, appendixes and a filmography.
"Encountering Kali "explores one of the most remarkable divinities the world has seen--the Hindu goddess Kali. She is simultaneously understood as a blood-thirsty warrior, a goddess of ritual possession, a Tantric sexual partner, and an all-loving, compassionate Mother. Popular and scholarly interest in her has been on the rise in the West in recent years. Responding to this phenomenon, this volume focuses on the complexities involved in interpreting Kali in both her indigenous South Asian settings and her more recent Western incarnations. Using scriptural history, temple architecture, political violence, feminist and psychoanalytic criticism, autobiographical reflection, and the goddess's recent guises on the Internet, the contributors pose questions relevant to our understanding of Kali, as they illuminate the problems and promises inherent in every act of cross-cultural interpretation.
The Dancing God: Staging Hindu Dance in Australia charts the sensational and historic journey of de-provincialising and popularising Hindu dance in Australia. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, colonialism, orientalism and nationalism came together in various combinations to make traditional Hindu temple dance into a global art form. The intricately symbolic Hindu dance in its vital form was virtually unseen and unknown in Australia until an Australian impresario, Louise Lightfoot, brought it onto the stage. Her experimental changes, which modernised Kathakali dance through her pioneering collaboration with Indian dancer Ananda Shivaram, moved the Hindu dance from the sphere of ritualistic practice to formalised stage art. Amit Sarwal argues that this movement enabled both the authentic Hindu dance and dancer to gain recognition worldwide and created in his persona a cultural guru and ambassador on the global stage. Ideal for anyone with an interest in global dance, The Dancing God is an in-depth study of how a unique dance form evolved in the meeting of travellers and cultures.
In this unique and exhilarating autobiography, Allan Jones - Canada's first blind diplomat - vividly describes how an untreatable eye disease slowly decimated his visual world, most challengingly during his postings in Tokyo and New Delhi, and how he discovered and took to heart the revelatory Indian philosophy that changed his life. Advaita Vedanta, the most iconoclastic and liberating of the classical Indian philosophies, profoundly altered the author's experience of self and world. He found that the true self, as distinct from the individual ego, far exceeds the boundaries of individuality. It lies beneath sightedness or blindness and is absolutely unaffected by the latter. This welcome shift of perspective was reinforced by startling discoveries in contemporary physics, evolutionary biology, and developmental psychology that are fully consistent with Advaitic metaphysics. As for the practical applications of metaphysics, this book demonstrates step by step how Advaitic insight and practice significantly reduce physical and psychological tension. The most telling examples have to do with adjustments compelled by extreme circumstances. Thus Jones describes how he drew upon Advaitic mindfulness techniques to maintain his white cane mobility skills in the teeth of permanent spinal, nerve, and muscle pain. The arc of Beyond Vision moves from the claustrophobically personal to the openness of the transpersonal. It begins in a dysfunctional family background, breaking out into a full life encompassing an adventurous foreign service career, spiritual exploration, and an unconventional kind of marital love.
This searching examination of the life and philosophy of the twentieth-century Indian intellectual Jarava Lal Mehta details, among other things, his engagement with the oeuvres of Martin Heidegger, Hans-Georg Gadamer, and Jacques Derrida. It shows how Mehta's sense of cross-cultural philosophy and religious thought were affected by these engagements, and maps the two key contributions Mehta made to the sum of human ideas. First, Mehta outlined what the author dubs a 'postcolonial hermeneutics' that uses the 'ethnotrope' of the pilgrim to challenge the philosophical hermeneutic emphasis on supplementation and augmentation. For Mehta, the hermeneutic encounter ruptures, rather than supplements, the self. Secondly, Mehta extended this concept of hermeneutics to interrogate the Hindu tradition, arriving at the concept of the 'negative messianic'. In contrast to Derrida's emphasis on the 'one to come', Mehta shows how the Hindu bhakti model represents the very opposite, that is, the 'withdrawn other, ' identifying thereby the ethical pitfalls of deconstructivism's emphasis on the messianic tradition. This is the only full-length study in English of this high-profile Hindu philosopher.
This RSS is perhaps the most controversial organisation in contemporary India. This book explores the mission, method and motive of the RSS and suggests that the ideological core of the RSS - Hindu Rashtra - is political and not cultural. It argues that K B Hedgewar the founder of the RSS, had a clear political mission, while M S Golwalkar, his successor, despite his saintly appearance and overt distaste for 'politics', sharpened and amplified its ideology Nevertheless, deep down the RSS remained political. This book goes on to delineate how Balasaheb Deoras, the third chief, who did not have much of a fancy for 'culture', plunged into Indian politics on the organisational and ideological foundation created by his predecessors. Deoras seriously pursued the homogenising agenda of the RSS to integrate different sections like the Dalits, tribals and women into the fold of the Hindu Rashtra. Rajendra Singh, the successor of Deoras, consolidated the political mission by getting control over the State and reaching out to civil society more effectively. K.S. Sudarshan, the present chief, while attempting to retain a tight control over State power, simultaneously reinforces Hindutva. The author concludes by arguing that the RSS - from Hedgewar to Sudarshan - continues its tryst with politics to convert India into a Hindu Rashtra. Highly readable and of contemporary relevance, this book would be of immense interest to political scientists, political sociologists and all those interested in present-day India.
Why do Hindus revere the cow? Must Hindus be vegetarian? Hinduism is the world's oldest religion, yet the word 'Hindu' was never used before the 18th century by Hindus to describe themselves. it is defined as polytheistic, but Gandhi declared that a Hindu needn't believe in any god. it is a religion as much of myth as of history - it has no founder, no single authoritative book, even few central doctrines. Introducing Hinduism offers a guide to the key philosophical, literary, mythological and cultural traditions of the extraordinarily diverse faith. It untangles the complexities of Hinduism's gods and goddesses, its caste system and its views on sex, everyday life and asceticism. Vinay Lal and Borin Van Loon's hugely enjoyable tour through Hinduism also explores its links with and differences from Buddhism, Jainism and other religions, the resurgence of Hindu extremism, the phenomenon of Bollywood and the overseas Hindu diaspora.
Carol Salomon dedicated over thirty years of her life to researching, translating, and annotating this compilation of songs by the Bengali poet and mystical philosopher Lalan Sai (popularly transliterated as Lalon) who lived in the village of Cheuriya in Bengal in the latter half of the nineteenth century. One major objective of his lyrical riddles was to challenge the restrictions of cultural, political, and sexual identity, and his songs accordingly express a longing to understand humanity, its duties, and its ultimate destiny. His songs also contain thinly veiled references to esoteric yogic practices (sadhana), including body-centered Hathayogic techniques that are related to those found in Buddhist, Kaula, Natha, and Sufi medieval tantric literature. Dr. Salomon's translation of the work is the first dedicated English translation of Lalan's songs to closely follow the Bangla text, with all of its dialectical variations, and is here produced alongside the original text. Although her untimely death left her work unpublished, the editors have worked diligently to reconstruct her translations from her surviving printed and handwritten manuscripts. The result is a finished product that can finally share her groundbreaking scholarship on Baul traditions with the world.
This book is based on the teachings of Bhagavad Gita, one of the most widely read books in the world. In today's busy life, we hardly get any time to meditate deeper into the meaning and purpose of life. We tend to take certain things for granted such as our status, wealth, educational achievements, etc. and also presume that they will be given to us in our next birth. But scriptures do not endorse this view. All our possessions, or the lack of them, are the result of our karma in the previous births. We rewrite our destiny everyday for our future births. Hence, we should decide our actions in accordance with the teachings of the scriptures and not allow our materialistic aspirations to distort our understanding and conduct in this world. Also one should not wait till the old age to start reading the scriptures. The right age to read scriptures is as early as one gets the consciousness so as to minimise the loss of deep, illuminating thoughts which an insightful reading of the Bhagavad Gita entails and hence, engage in righteous actions. The divine wisdom of Lord Krishna, encapsulated in the Bhagavad Gita, is addressed to each and every individual to help solve perplexing problems and progress towards a brighter future.
Since the beginning of modern Indology in the 19th century, the relationship between the early Indian religions of Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism has been predicated on a perceived dichotomy between two meta-historical identities: "the Brahmans" (purveyors of the ancient Vedic texts and associated ritual system) and the newer "non-Brahmanical" sramana movements from which the Buddhists and Jains emerged. Textbook and scholarly accounts postulate an opposition between these two groups, citing the 2nd-century BCE Sanskrit grammarian Patanjali, who is often quoted erroneously as likening them to the proverbial enemies snake and mongoose. Scholars continue to privilege Brahmanical Hindu accounts of early Indian history, and further portray Buddhist and Jain deviations from those accounts as evidence of their opposition to a pre-existing Brahmanism. In The Snake and The Mongoose, Nathan McGovern turns this commonly-accepted model of the origins of the early Indian religions on its head. His book seeks to de-center the Hindu Brahman from our understanding of Indian religion by "taming the snake and the mongoose"-that is, by abandoning the anachronistic distinction between "Brahmanical" and "non-Brahmanical." Instead, McGovern allows the earliest articulations of identity in Indian religion to speak for themselves through a comparative reading of texts preserved by the three major groups that emerged from the social, political, cultural, and religious foment of the late first millennium BCE: the Buddhists and Jains as they represented themselves in their earliest sutras, and the Vedic Brahmans as they represented themselves in their Dharma Sutras. The picture that emerges is not of a fundamental dichotomy between Brahmanical and non-Brahmanical, but rather of many different groups who all saw themselves as Brahmanical. Thus, McGovern argues, it was through the contestation between these groups that the distinction between Brahmanical and non-Brahmanical-the snake and the mongoose-emerged.
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