RELS212/312 Love and Heroism: Religions of South India
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- Brenda E.F. Beck, 'Colour and Heat in South Indian Ritual', Man 4/4 (1969): 553-572
Extract: Many authors have pointed to the fact that south Indian rituals are colourful. No one has attempted to make general statements about the repetitive use of certain colours, however, or about the contexts and sequences in which they occur. Furthermore, no one has asked what larger conceptions these colours are intended to express or how such general notions may influence the choice of ritual substances in particular contexts. This article is addressed to such questions. The answers proposed will link this initial problem to a larger scheme: the Indian conception of ritual temperature… The argument developed in this article can be summarised as follows. According to traditional Indian views, considerable personal power can be obtained by a man if he can achieve control over natural substances which are an innate part of his human condition. This internal energy can be manipulated, focused and contained through special exercises. When concentrated, a kind of spontaneous combustion occurs, a sort of internal fire. This fire can be both destructive and reproductive. It is essential to human life, yet highly dangerous if uncontrolled. Once the general procedure of controlling heat by surrounding it with cooling things is understood, many associated expressions of this basic theme can be recognised in ritual.
- Janet E. Benson, 'Politics and Muslim Ethnicity in South India', Journal of Anthropological Research 39/1 (1983): 42-60
Abstract: A recent interpretation of Islamization among south Indian Muslims suggests that ethnicity may develop in response to internal needs to acquire status rather than as a result of interethnic competition. An alternate hypothesis, however, is that more emphasis on Islamic identity, including local ideas of orthopraxy, occurs where Muslims face loss of power and status in a wider social system. This paper examines the structure of Muslim ethnicity and the process by which Muslim identity is maintained and intensified in the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh. The historical role of Muslims in this area is compared and contrasted with that of Muslims in Tamilnadu, and it is argued that recent political changes have heightened Muslim insecurity in Andhra Pradesh and have resulted in a continuing emphasis on religious distinctiveness. It is further suggested that the concept of ethnicity is more useful than that of Islamization in explaining social change.
- André Béteille, 'A Note on the Pongal Festival in a Tanjore Village', Man 64 (1964): 73-75
Extract: A festival such as pongal is generally viewed by social anthropologists of the functional school as providing an occasion for the affirmation of the bonds of solidarity between people. There is, however, another way of looking at it. In a complex and highly stratified society the same festival may have a variety of meanings for different people. And within a single village, different people may celebrate the same festival in ways which are sometimes not only unrelated, but also at conflict.
- André Béteille, 'Social Organization of Temples in a Tanjore Village', History of Religions 5/1 (1965): 74-92
Extract: In this paper we shall discuss the cults of principal temples in a multicaste village in the Tanjore district. These involve the participation of different sections of people in the village, both separately and together. The cults of the larger temples are generally organized independently. Further, each temple is typically associated with a different circle of participants, although the circles are not mutually exclusive. This means, in the concrete, that the activities associated with the principal village temples are not usually co-ordinated according to a definite or consciously organized plan… To what extent, and in what sense do the cults of the different temples constitute a unified system?
- Stuart H. Blackburn, 'Death and Deification: Folk Cults in Hinduism', History of Religions 24/3 (1985): 255-274
Extract: As a source of Indian religious thought, death is probably unsurpassed; no matter which historical period or cultural level one chooses to examine, concepts lead to or from the problems it presents… The problem of death is so pervasive that one recent study concludes: “Much – some might even say all – of Indian religion is dedicated to the attempt to achieve immortality in one form of another”. After all, it is death (along with blinking, sweating, wearing garlands that fade, and standing with one’s feet on the ground) that separates us from the gods. In the social world, if purity and impurity have anything to do with the way Hindus perceive and organize it, death is all the more central because it is the single most polluting human experience. And even if the pure/impure dichotomy is not the organizing principle of Hindu life, an opposition between death and life may be; this is the conclusion of several important studies of Sanskrit ritual and literary texts, and one confirmed by my own work with an oral tradition. This kind of rapprochement between classical and folk streams of Hinduism is the guiding light behind this essay… the popular streams of Hinduism, no less than the high-status ones, are centered on death. Looking at narrative, ritual, and iconography in cults of the dead in folk Hinduism, we will see a variety of relations with classical Hinduism; in some places there is continuity, in others divergence. But even in the latter cases, folk traditions present a contrasting and not a conflicting view.
- Douglas Renfrew Brooks, 'Encountering the Hindu "Other": Tantrism and the Brahmans of South India', Journal of the American Academy of Religion 60/3 (1992): 405-436
Extract: This study focuses on a living Tantric tradition practiced within a particular social and religious community in which being called a “Tantric” is anything but a compliment. Despite disavowals and disclaimers, this unambiguous Tantric tradition, rooted in canon and steeped in oral interpretive lore, has flourished in high-caste south Indian Hindu circles since at least the ninth century and continues to be an important force today. This situation raises important questions about religious identity and identification as well as about the invention of the “other” in contemporary Hinduism.
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