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The Life of a Text Cover

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The Life of a Text

Performing the <i>Ramcaritmanas</i> of Tulsidas

Philip Lutgendorf

The Life of a Text offers a vivid portrait of one community's interaction with its favorite text—the epic Ramcaritmanas—and the way in which performances of the epic function as a flexible and evolving medium for cultural expression. Anthropologists, historians of religion, and readers interested in the culture of North India and the performance arts will find breadth of subject, careful scholarship, and engaging presentation in this unique and beautifully illustrated examination of Hindi culture.

The most popular and influential text of Hindi-speaking North India, the epic Ramcaritmanas is a sixteenth century retelling of the Ramayana story by the poet Tulsidas. This masterpiece of pre-modern Hindi literature has always reached its largely illiterate audiences primarily through oral performance including ceremonial recitation, folksinging, oral exegesis, and theatrical representation. Drawing on fieldwork in Banaras, Lutgendorf breaks new ground by capturing the range of performance techniques in vivid detail and tracing the impact of the epic in its contemporary cultural context.

Magical Progeny, Modern Technology Cover

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Magical Progeny, Modern Technology

A Hindu Bioethics of Assisted Reproductive Technology

Magical Progeny, Modern Technology examines Hindu perspectives on assisted reproductive technology through an exploration of birth narratives in the great Indian epic the Mahaµbhaµrata. Reproductive technology is at the forefront of contemporary bioethical debates, and in the United States often centers on ethical issues framed by conflicts among legal, scientific, and religious perspectives. Author Swasti Bhattacharyya weaves together elements from South Asian studies, religion, literature, law, and bioethics, as well as experiences from her previous career as a nurse, to construct a Hindu response to the debate. Through analysis of the mythic stories in the Mahaµbhaµrata, specifically the birth narratives of the five Paµn|d|ava brothers and their Kaurava cousins, she draws out principles and characteristics of Hindu thought. She broadens the bioethical discussions by applying Hindu perspectives to a California court case over the parentage of a child conceived through reproductive technology and compares specific Hindu and Roman Catholic attitudes toward assisted reproductive technology. Magical Progeny, Modern Technology provides insightful ways to explore ethical issues and highlights concerns often overlooked in contemporary discussions occurring within the United States.

Making Virtuous Daughters and Wives Cover

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Making Virtuous Daughters and Wives

An Introduction to Women's Brata Rituals in Bengali Folk Religion

Exploring the folk religion of India and the role of girls and women within it, author June McDaniel focuses on the brata (vrata) ritual in which moral lessons are taught and goddesses are revealed. Bratas are performed to gain such goals as a healthy family, a good husband, and a happy life. They are also performed so that the performers (bratinis) develop such virtues as devotion, humility, and compassion. This book presents data from fieldwork, along with brata stories, songs, poems, and ritual activities. It discusses Bengali folk religion, offers an example of ritual worship in folk Hinduism, and surveys a variety of bratas. The author analyzes the similarities and differences among these rituals in low-caste village life and in high-caste Hindu tradition, and notes that the development of these rituals involves a form of continuing divine revelation with women as the primary transmitters. Bratas act to maintain traditional Hindu values, but also emphasize the power of women, whose virtues can save their husbands from hell worlds and their families from disasters.

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Pandita Ramabai's American Encounter

The Peoples of the United States (1889)

Pandita Ramabai. Translated and edited by Meera Kosambi

"... [A] rare and remarkable insight into an Indian woman's take on American culture in the 19th century, refracted through her own experiences with British colonialism, Indian nationalism, and Christian culture on no less than three continents.... a fabulous resource for undergraduate teaching." -- Antoinette Burton

In the 1880s, Pandita Ramabai traveled from India to England and then to the U.S., where she spent three years immersed in the milieu of progressive social reform movements of the day. Born into a Brahmin family and widowed while still young, she converted to Christianity while in England. In India, she was an activist for the education of women and the improvement of the status of widows. Abroad, she was iconized as a champion of the "oppressed Hindu woman." The Peoples of the United States is Ramabai's comprehensive description of American life, ranging from government to economy, education to domestic activity. As an account of a Western society by an Indian woman and a feminist, it reverses the established equation of male, Orientalist travel narratives. First published in Marathi in 1889, it is offered here in an elegant and engaging English translation by Meera Kosambi, who also provides a critical introduction and extensive annotations.

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Ramayana Stories in Modern South India

An Anthology

Compiled and Edited by Paula Richman

While some religious texts may remain static over time, the Ramayana epic has been retold in a variety of ways over the centuries and across South Asia. Some of the narrative's most probing and innovative retellings have appeared in print in the last 100 years in the region of South India. This collection brings together, for the first time, modern retellings translated from the four major South Indian languages and from genres as diverse as drama, short stories, poetry, and folk song. The selections focus on characters generally seen as stigmatized or marginalized, and on themes largely overlooked in previous scholarship. Editor Paula Richman demonstrates that twentieth-century authors have used retellings of the Ramayana to question caste and gender inequality in provocative ways. This engaging anthology includes translations of 22 primary texts along with interpretive essays that provide background and frameworks for understanding the stories.

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Rapt in the Name

The Ramnamis, Ramnam, and Untouchable Religion in Central India

In Rapt in the Name, Ramdas Lamb provides an intriguing account of the Ram bhakti tradition in India. Less well-known in the West than the tradition of devotion to Krishna, the Ram tradition is an important component of Hinduism. Ram is the most-worshipped form of the divine in North India today and has long been particularly important to those of the lower castes throughout India. Lamb explores both the evolution of the tradition and the rise of lower caste religious movements devoted to Ram, specifically the Ramnami Samaj, an Untouchable religious movement in Central India. Lamb’s study of the Ramnamis has spanned nearly three decades, first on a personal level as a Hindu monk and later as both a friend and a researcher. He discusses the historical origins, as well as present-day forms and structure of the Samaj, including a description of its distinctive ritual dress and practices. Among the more innovative aspects of the sect is its adaptation of the story of Lord Ram that is uniquely woven into its devotional repetition of his name (Ramnam). In addition, Lamb shares biographical sketches of six Ramnamis, each of which reveals the freedom of individual exploration and expression that is integral to the sect. This is a fascinating account of religious life and adaptation on the periphery of society.

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Reconciling Yogas

Haribhadra's Collection of Views on Yoga With a New Translation of Haribhadra's Yogadrstisamuccaya by Christopher Key Chapple and John Thomas Casey

Reconciling Yogas explores five approaches to the accomplishment of Yoga from a variety of religious perspectives: Jaina, Hindu, and Buddhist. Haribhadra, a prolific Jaina scholar who espoused a universal view of religion, proclaimed that truth can be found in all faiths and sought to elucidate differences between various schools of thought. In Yoga, he discovered a form of spiritual practice common to many faiths and juxtaposed their paths to demonstrate the common goal of liberation. Utilizing the structure of Patañjali’s advanced eightfold path of Yoga in the Yoga Suµtra, Haribhadra formulates his own eight stages of Yoga to which he assigns titles in the feminine gender that echo the names of goddesses. Discussed are the Jaina stages of spiritual ascent and two forms of Yoga for which there is no other account. Also included is a new translation of the Yogadr|s|t|isamuccaya, an eighth-century text by Haribhadra.

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Samadhi

The Numinous and Cessative in Indo-Tibetan Yoga

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, Samaµdhi 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.

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Silence Unheard

Deathly Otherness in Patanjala-Yoga

Silence Unheard maintains that the reality of PatanÅjali’s Yogasuµtra is a profound silence barely and variously audible to the scholars and interpreters who approach it. Even the Yogasuµtra itself is an “approach,” a voice articulating an other— a silent, beyond-speech yogin. Author Yohanan Grinshpon presents PatanÅjali as a Saµn³khya-philosopher, who interprets silence in accordance with his own dualist metaphysics and Buddhistic sensibilities. The Yogasuµtra represents an intellectual’s conceptualization of utter otherness rather than the yogin’s verbalization of silence. Silence Unheard focuses on the yogin’s supra-normal experiences (siddhis) as well as on the classification of silences and the ultimate goal of disintegration through gun|a balance. The book provides a translation of the Yogasuµtra divided into two sections: an essential text, concerning the yoga practitioner, and a secondary text, concerning the philosopher. Grinshpon also surveys the encounters of intellectuals, scholars, seekers, devotees, and outsiders with the Yogasuµtra.

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Siva's Demon Devotee

Karaikkal Ammaiyar

An exploration and translation of the work of Hindu poet-saint, Karaikkal Ammaiyar. The Hindu poet-saint Karaikkal Ammaiyar describes herself as a demon, accompanying the god Siva as he dances in the cremation grounds. She is believed to be the first to write devotional poetry to Siva in the Tamil language and is considered the first of the 63 Tamil poet-saints. Written in the 6th or 7th century, her beautiful poetry presents the path of love and service that brings liberation. In Siva’s Demon Devotee, Elaine Craddock provides a historical, literary, and ethnographic exploration of Karaikkal Ammaiyar and her work. An annotated translation of the poet-saint’s 143 verses is included along with an introduction to the Tamil literary tradition. Craddock’s analysis of this poetry in its ancient context and of the narrative tradition that developed around the life of the Karaikkal Ammaiyar centuries later reveals cultural tensions concerning women’s roles and the devotional path. A consideration of the two temples that celebrate this poet-saint in contemporary India illuminate both ancient traditions and contemporary transformations.

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