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Hindu Iconoclasts

Rammohun Roy, Dayananda Sarasvati, and Nineteenth-Century Polemics against Idolatry

Why, Salmond asks, would nineteenth-century Hindus who come from an iconic religious tradition voice a kind of invective one might expect from Hebrew prophets, Muslim iconoclasts, or Calvinists?

Rammohun was a wealthy Bengali, intimately associated with the British Raj and familiar with European languages, religion, and currents of thought. Dayananda was an itinerant Gujarati ascetic who did not speak English and was not integrated into the culture of the colonizers. Salmond’s examination of Dayananda after Rammohun complicates the easy assumption that nineteenth-century Hindu iconoclasm is simply a case of borrowing an attitude from Muslim or Protestant traditions.

Salmond examines the origins of these reformers’ ideas by considering the process of diffusion and independent invention—that is, whether ideas are borrowed from other cultures, or arise spontaneously and without influence from external sources. Examining their writings from multiple perspectives, Salmond suggests that Hindu iconoclasm was a complex movement whose attitudes may have arisen from independent invention and were then reinforced by diffusion.

Although idolatry became the symbolic marker of their reformist programs, Rammohun’s and Dayananda’s agendas were broader than the elimination of image-worship. These Hindu reformers perceived a link between image-rejection in religion and the unification and modernization of society, part of a process that Max Weber called the “disenchantment of the world.” Focusing on idolatry in nineteenth-century India, Hindu Iconoclasts investigates the encounter of civilizations, an encounter that continues to resonate today.

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Hindu Ritual at the Margins

Innovations, Transformations, Reconsiderations

Linda Penkower

Hindu Ritual at the Margins explores Hindu forms of ritual activity in a variety of “marginal” contexts. The contributors collectively examine ritual practices in diaspora; across gender, ethnic, social, and political groups; in film, text, and art; in settings where ritual itself or direct discussion of ritual is absent; in contexts that create new opportunities for traditionally marginalized participants or challenge the received tradition; and via theoretical perspectives that have been undervalued in the academy. In the first of three sections, contributors explore the ways in which Hindu ritual performed in Indian contexts intersects with historical, contextual, and social change. They examine the changing significance and understanding of particular deities, the identity and agency of ritual actors, and the instrumentality of ritual in new media. Essays in the second section examine ritual practices outside of India, focusing on evolving ritual claims to authority in mixed cultures (such as Malaysia), the reshaping of gender dynamics of ritual at an American temple, and the democratic reshaping of ritual forms in Canadian Hindu communities. The final section considers the implications for ritual studies of the efficacy of bodily acts divorced from intention, contemporary spiritual practice as opposed to religious-bound ritual, and the notion of dharma. Based on a conference on Hindu ritual held in 2006 at the University of Pittsburgh, Hindu Ritual at the Margins seeks to elucidate the ways ritual actors come to shape ritual practices or conceptions pertaining to ritual and how studying ritual in marginal contexts—at points of dynamic tension—requires scholars to reshape their understanding of ritual activity.

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Hinduism as a Missionary Religion

Reconsiders whether Hinduism can be considered a missionary religion. Is Hinduism a missionary religion? Merely posing this question is a novel and provocative act. Popular and scholarly perception, both ancient and modern, puts Hinduism in the non-missionary category. In this intriguing book, Arvind Sharma re-opens the question. Examining the historical evidence from the major Hindu eras, the Vedic, classical, medieval, and modern periods, Sharma’s investigation challenges the categories used in current scholarly discourse and finds them inadequate, emphasizing the need to distinguish between a missionary religion and a proselytizing one. A distinction rarely made, it is nevertheless an illuminating and fruitful one that resonates with insights from the comparative study of religion. Ultimately concluding that Hinduism is a missionary religion, but not a proselytizing one, Sharma’s work provides us with new insights both on Hinduism and the consideration of religion itself.

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Invoking Lakshmi

The Goddess of Wealth in Song and Ceremony

A multi-faceted portrait of Lakshmi, Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity. Includes translations of verses used to invoke this goddess. Beautiful, beloved Lakshmi is the Hindu goddess of wealth, happiness, and abundant good fortune. This fascinating book is the first comprehensive guide to this celebrated goddess, her worship, and the deeper spiritual domain of prosperity she reveals. Constantina Rhodes presents over five hundred elegantly translated Sanskrit verses, including devotional songs, mantras, visualizations, and ceremonial instructions that devotees use to invoke Lakshmi. Rhodes uses these texts to develop a richly detailed portrait of Lakshmi, revealing unexpected dimensions of this enigmatic deity. Even as Lakshmi is best known as a goddess of wealth and well-being, she also maintains a strong esoteric presence, expressing herself as Siddhi, the magnificent Tantric goddess of spiritual power, and as Kundalini Shakti, the transformative cosmic force that exists within each individual. These identities express the “prosperity consciousness” that is the essential nature of the goddess and the divine source of all wealth. Invoking Lakshmi is not only a matter of calling upon the external form of the goddess but also of aligning one’s consciousness with the very essence of prosperity.

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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.

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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.

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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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Pilgrims, Patrons, and Place

Localizing Sanctity in Asian Religions

Phyllis Granoff

This book brings together essays by anthropologists, scholars of religion, and art historians to explore some of the most fundamental challenges that religious groups face as they expand from their homeland or confront the demands of modernity. The chapters span a broad geographical area that includes India, Nepal, Thailand, Indonesia, and China, and address issues from the classical and medieval period to the present. They show how sacred places have a plurality of meanings for all religious communities and how in their construction, secular politics, private religious experience, and sectarian rivalry can all intersect.

A Buddha Dharma Kyokai Foundation Book on Buddhism and Comparative Literature.

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Poems to Siva

The Hymns of the Tamil Saints

Indira Viswanathan Peterson

Composed by three poet-saints between the sixth and eighth centuries A.D., the Tevaram hymns are the primary scripture of the Tamil Saivism, one of the first popular large-scale devotional movements within Hinduism. Indira Peterson eloquently renders into English a substantial portion of these hymns, which provide vivid and moving portraits of the images, myths, rites, and adoration of Siva and which continue to be loved and sung by the millions of followers of the Tamil Saiva tradition. Her introduction and annotations illuminate the work's literary, religious, and cultural contexts, making this anthology a rich sourcebook for the study of South Indian popular religion.

Indira Peterson highlights the Tevaram as a seminal text in Tamil cultural history, a synthesis of pan-Indian and Tamil civilization, as well as a distinctly Tamil expression of the love of song, sacred landscape, and ceremonial religion. Her discussion of this work draws on her pioneering research into the performance of the hymns and their relation to the art and ritual of the South Indian temple.

Originally published in 1989.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

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