Objects of worship are an aspect of the material dimension of lived religion in South Asia. The omnipresence of these objects and their use is a theme which cuts across the religious traditions in the pluralistic religious culture of the region. Divine power becomes manifest in the objects and for the devotees they may represent power regardless of religious identity. This book looks at how objects of worship dominate the religious landscape of South Asia, and in what ways they are of significance not just from religious perspectives but also for the social life of the region. The contributions to the book show how these objects are shaped by traditions of religious aesthetics and have become conceptual devices woven into webs of religious and social meaning. They demonstrate how the objects have a social relationship with those who use them, sometimes even treated as being alive. The book discusses how devotees relate to such objects in a number of ways, and even if the objects belong to various traditions they may attract people from different communities and can also be contested in various ways. By analysing the specific qualities that make objects eligible for a status and identity as living objects of worship, the book contributes to an understanding of the central significance of these objects in the religious and social life of South Asia. It will be of interest to students and scholars of Religious Studies and South Asian Religion, Culture and Society.
Explores how objects shape the worlds of religious participants across a range of South Asian traditions. Sacred Matters explores the lives of material objects in South Asian religions. Spanning a range of traditions including Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Buddhism, and Christianity, the book demonstrates how sacred items influence and enliven the worlds of religious participants across South Asia and into the diaspora. Contributors examine a variety of objects to describe the ways sacred materials derive and confer meaning and efficacy, emerging from and giving shape to religious and nonreligious realms alike. Material forms of deity and divine power are considered along with commonplace ritual items, including images, clay pots, and camphor. The work also attends to materiality’s complex role within the “materially suspicious” contexts of Islam, Theravada Buddhism, and Roman Catholicism. This engaging collection presents new frameworks for contemplating the ways in which historical, social, and sacred processes intertwine and collectively shape human and divine activity.
Traditionally, research on the history of Asian religions has been marked by a bias for literary evidence, privileging canonical texts penned in ‘classical’ languages. Not only has a focus on literary evidence shaped the dominant narratives about the religious histories of Asia, in both scholarship and popular culture, but it has contributed to the tendency to study different religious traditions in relative isolation from one another. Today, moreover, historical work is often based on modern textual editions and, increasingly, on electronic databases. What may be lost, in the process, is the visceral sense of the text as artifact – as a material object that formed part of a broader material culture, in which the boundaries between religious traditions were sometimes more fluid than canonical literature might suggest. This volume brings together specialists in a variety of Asian cultures to discuss the methodological challenges involved in integrating material evidence for the reconstruction of the religious histories of South, Southeast, Central, and East Asia. By means of specific ‘test cases,’ the volume explores the importance of considering material and literary evidence in concert. What untold stories do these sources help us to recover? How might they push us to reevaluate historical narratives traditionally told from literary sources? By addressing these questions from the perspectives of different subfields and religious traditions, contributors map out the challenges involved in interpreting different types of data, assessing the problems of interpretation distinct to specific types of material evidence (e.g., coins, temple art, manuscripts, donative inscriptions) and considering the issues raised by the different patterns in the preservation of such evidence in different locales. Special attention is paid to newly-discovered and neglected sources; to our evidence for trade, migration, and inter-regional cultural exchange; and to geographical locales that served as "contact zones" connecting cultures. In addition, the chapters in this volume represent the rich range of religious traditions across Asia – including Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Shinto, and Chinese religions, as well as Islam and eastern Christianities.
We have long recognized that many objects in museums were originally on display in temples, shrines, or monasteries, and were religiously significant to the communities that created and used them. How, though, are such objects to be understood, described, exhibited, and handled now that they are in museums? Are they still sacred objects, or formerly sacred objects that are now art objects, or are they simultaneously objects of religious and artistic significance, depending on who is viewing the object? These objects not only raise questions about their own identities, but also about the ways we understand the religious traditions in which these objects were created and which they represent in museums today. Bringing together religious studies scholars and museum curators, Sacred Objects in Secular Spaces is the first volume to focus on Asian religions in relation to these questions. The contributors analyze an array of issues related to the exhibition in museums of objects of religious significance from Hindu, Buddhist, and Sikh traditions. The “lives” of objects are considered, along with the categories of “sacred” and “profane”, “religious” and “secular”. As interest in material manifestations of religious ideas and practices continues to grow, Sacred Objects in Secular Spaces is a much-needed contribution to religious and Asian studies, anthropology of religion and museums studies.
The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Religion and Materiality provides a thoughtfully organized, inclusive, and vibrant project of the multiple ways in which religion and materiality intersect. The contributions explore the way that religion is shaped by, and has shaped, the material world, embedding beliefs, doctrines, and texts into social and cultural contexts of production, circulation, and consumption. The Companion not only contains scholarly essays but has an accompanying website to demonstrate the work of performers, architects, and expressive artists, ranging from musicians and dancers to religious practitioners. These examples offer specific illustrations of the interplay of religion and materiality in everyday life. The project is organized from a comparative perspective, highlighting examples and case studies from traditions originating in both East and West. To summarize, the volume: Brings together the leading figures, theories and ideas in the field in a systematic and comprehensive way Offers an interdisciplinary approach drawing together religious studies, anthropology, archaeology, history, sociology, geography, the cognitive sciences, ecology, and media studies Takes a comparative perspective, covering all the major faith traditions
Conference on Religion in South Asia, University of California, Berkeley, 1961
The issue of divinizing in South Asian traditions has not been examined before as a process involving various methods to affect the socio-cultural cognition of the community. It is therefore essential to consider the context of "divinizing" and to analyse what groups, institutions or individuals define the discourse, what are the ideological positions that they represent, and who or what is being divinized. This book deals with the issue of divinizing in South Asian traditions. It aims at studying cultural questions related to the representations and the mythologizing of the divine. It also explores the human relations to the "divine other." It studies the interpretations of the divine in religious texts and the embodiment of the "divine other" in ritual practices. The focus is on studying the phenomenon of divinizing in its religious, cultural, and ideological implications. The book comprises eight chapters that explore the question of divinizing from the 2nd century CE up to present-day in North and South India. The chapters discuss the issue both from insider and outsider perspectives, within the framework of textual study as well as ideological and anthropological analysis. All articles explore various aspects of the cultural phenomenon of being in relation to the divine other, of the process of interpreting and embodying the divine, and of the representation of the divinizing process, as revealed in the literatures and cultures of South Asia. Applying theoretical models of religious and cultural studies to discuss texts written in South Asian languages and engage in critical dialogue with current scholarship, this book is an indispensable study of literary, religious and cultural production in South Asia. It will be of interest to academics in the fields of South Asian studies, Asian Studies, religious and cultural studies as well as comparative religion.
This unique volume offers case-based studies on changes in Asian community or group-based emotion practices, including understandings of emotionally coded objects, thereby adding greater geographical scope and new voices from unexplored (sub)cultures to the field of the history of emotion.
Buddhist, Brahmanical and Jaina Religious Centres in Bihar and Bengal, c. AD 600–1200
Author: Birendra Nath Prasad
In the religious landscape of early medieval (c. AD 600-1200) Bihar and Bengal, poly-religiosity was generally the norm than an exception, which entailed the evolution of complex patterns of inter-religious equations. Buddhism, Brahmanism and Jainism not only coexisted but also competed for social patronage, forcing them to enter into complex interactions with social institutions and processes. Through an analysis of the published archaeological data, this work explores some aspects of the social history of Buddhist, Brahmanical and Jaina temples and shrines, and Buddhist stūpas and monasteries in early medieval Bihar and Bengal. This archaeological history of religions questions many ‘established’ textual reconstructions, and enriches our understanding of the complex issue of the decline of Buddhism in this area. Please note: Taylor & Francis does not sell or distribute the Hardback in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Over the past five decades, the field of religion-and-science scholarship has experienced a considerable expansion. This volume explores the historical and contemporary perspectives of the relationship between religion, technology and science with a focus on South and East Asia. These three areas are not seen as monolithic entities, but as discursive fields embedded in dynamic processes of cultural exchange and transformation. Bridging these arenas of knowledge and practice traditionally seen as distinct and disconnected, the book reflects on the ways of exploring the various dimensions of their interconnection. Through its various chapters, the collection provides an examination of the use of modern scientific concepts in the theologies of new religious organizations, and challenges the traditional notions of space by Western scientific conceptions in the 19th century. It looks at the synthesis of ritual elements and medical treatment in China and India, and at new funeral practices in Japan. It discusses the intersections between contemporary Western Buddhism, modern technology, and global culture, and goes on to look at women’s rights in contemporary Pakistani media. Using case studies grounded in carefully delineated temporal and regional frameworks, chapters are grouped in two sections; one on religion and science, and another on religion and technology. Illustrating the manifold perspectives and the potential for further research and discussion, this book is an important contribution to the studies of Asian Religion, Science and Technology, and Religion and Philosophy.
Recent academic and medical initiatives have highlighted the benefits of studying culturally embedded healing traditions that incorporate religious and philosophical viewpoints to better understand local and global healing phenomena. Capitalising on this trend, the present volume looks at the diverse models of healing that interplay with culture and religion in Asia. Cutting across several Asian regions from Hong Kong to mainland China, Tibet, India, and Japan, the book addresses healing from a broader perspective and reflects a fresh new outlook on the complexities of Asian societies and their approaches to health. In exploring the convergences and collisions a society must negotiate, it shows the emerging urgency in promoting multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research on disease, religion and healing in Asia. Drawing on original fieldwork, contributors present their latest research on diverse local models of healing that occur when disease and religion meet in South and East Asian cultures. Revealing the symbiotic relationship of disease, religion and healing and their colliding values in Asia often undetected in healthcare research, the book draws attention to religious, political and social dynamics, issues of identity and ethics, practical and epistemological transformations, and analogous cultural patterns. It challenges the reader to rethink predominantly long-held Western interpretations of disease management and religion. Making a significant contribution to the field of transcultural medicine, religious studies in Asia as well as to a better understanding of public health in Asia as a whole, it will be of interest to students and scholars of Health Studies, Asian Religions and Philosophy.
Religion tends to flourish when technological developments create new possibilities for communication and representation, and simultaneously change as a consequence of these developments. This book explores intersections between religion and technology in India, at the present and in the colonial past, and how various forms of techno-religious intersections transform and open up for new religious practices, discourses, communities, and institutions. With focus on Indian contexts and religions, it discusses various empirical and theoretical aspects of how technological innovations create, alter, and negotiate religious spaces, practices and authorities. The book provides rich and multifaceted empirical examples of different ways in which technological practices relate to meanings, ideas, and practices of religions. The techno-religious intersections generate several questions about authority and power, the politics and poetics of identity, community and place, and how religious agency, information, and experience are mediated, commodified, and adjusted to new demands of societies. The chapters explore the Hindu, Jain, and Sikh traditions in relation to new technological developments and media, such as photography, new means of visualization, TV serials, mobile phones, and online communication. The book will be of interest to academics studying modern and contemporary India and South Asia, and especially the role of religion and technology.
The dual foci for this collection of Raymond Williams' most important writings are Swaminarayan Hinduism and South Asian immigrants in the United States. Both are topics of wide and growing interest in India and in many countries where South Indians have settled. Swaminarayan Hinduism's growth in the past few decades in India and among Indians abroad has been remarkable: one subsect now has 8100 centers around the world where weekly meetings are held. The second focus is on the religions of South Asian immigrants: Hindus, Muslims, Jains, Sikhs and Christians. The first section is introductory and sets the stage through an analysis of the transmission of religious traditions. The second section moves from the development of Swaminarayan Hinduism and its leadership in India to its development in the United States as exemplified in Chicago. The third section analyzes the impact South Asian religions are having in the United States, and the effects that migration and modernization are having on the religions of the immigrants.
In South Asia, the period between 1100 and 1300 CE was a particularly prolific time for theorists from India's three main indigenous religions to articulate their views on the face-to-face gift encounter. This study explores the ethical and social implications of unilateral gifts of esteem.
Bridging the gap between cognition and culture, this handbook explores both social scientific and humanities approaches to understanding the physical processes of religious life, tradition, practice, and belief. It reflects the cultural turn within the study of religion and puts theory to the fore, moving beyond traditional theological, philosophical, and ethnographic understandings of the aesthetics of religion. Editors Anne Koch and Katharina Wilkens bring together research in cultural studies, cognitive studies, material religion, religion and the arts, and epistemology. Questions of identity, gender, ethnicity, and postcolonialism are discussed throughout. Key topics include materiality, embodiment, performance, popular/vernacular art and space to move beyond a sensory understanding of aesthetics. Emerging areas of research are covered, including secular aesthetics and the aesthetic of spirits. This is an important contribution to theory and method in the study of religion, and is grounded in research that has been taking place in Europe over the past 20 years. Case studies are drawn from around the world with contributions from scholars based in Europe, the USA, and Australia. The book is illustrated with over 40 color images and features a foreword from Birgit Meyer.
India is the second largest country in the world with regard to population, the world’s largest democracy and by far the largest country in South Asia, and one of the most diverse and pluralistic nations in the world in terms of official languages, cultures, religions and social identities. Indians have for centuries exchanged ideas with other cultures globally and some traditions have been transformed in those transnational and transcultural encounters and become successful innovations with an extraordinary global popularity. India is an emerging global power in terms of economy, but in spite of India’s impressive economic growth over the last decades, some of the most serious problems of Indian society such as poverty, repression of women, inequality both in terms of living conditions and of opportunities such as access to education, employment, and the economic resources of the state persist and do not seem to go away. This Handbook contains chapters by the field’s foremost scholars dealing with fundamental issues in India’s current cultural and social transformation and concentrates on India as it emerged after the economic reforms and the new economic policy of the 1980s and 1990s and as it develops in the twenty-first century. Following an introduction by the editor, the book is divided into five parts: Part I: Foundation Part II: India and the world Part III: Society, class, caste and gender Part IV: Religion and diversity Part V: Cultural change and innovations Exploring the cultural changes and innovations relating a number of contexts in contemporary India, this Handbook is essential reading for students and scholars interested in Indian and South Asian culture, politics and society.
This volume is the first English language presentation of the innovative approaches developed in the aesthetics of religion. The chapters present diverse material and detailed analysis on descriptive, methodological and theoretical concepts that together explore the potential of an aesthetic approach for investigating religion as a sensory and mediated practice. In dialogue with, yet different from, other major movements in the field (material culture, anthropology of the senses, for instance), it is the specific intent of this approach to create a framework for understanding the interplay between sensory, cognitive and socio-cultural aspects of world-construction. The volume demonstrates that aesthetics, as a theory of sensory knowledge, offers an elaborate repertoire of concepts that can help to understand religious traditions. These approaches take into account contemporary developments in scientific theories of perception, neuro-aesthetics and cultural studies, highlighting the socio-cultural and political context informing how humans perceive themselves and the world around them. Developing since the 1990s, the aesthetic approach has responded to debates in the study of religion, in particular striving to overcome biased categories that confined religion either to texts and abstract beliefs, or to an indisputable sui generis mode of experience. This volume documents what has been achieved to date, its significance for the study of religion and for interdisciplinary scholarship.
This volume draws on an interdisciplinary team of authors to advance the study of the religious dimensions of communication and the linguistic aspects of religion. Contributions cover: poetry, iconicity, and iconoclasm in religious language; semiotic ideologies in traditional religions and in secularism; and the role of materiality and writing in religious communication. This volume will provoke new approaches to language and religion.
Religion has long been a powerful cultural, social, and political force in the Himalaya. Increased economic and cultural flows, growth in tourism, and new forms of governance and media, however, have brought significant changes to the religious traditions of the region in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. This book presents detailed case studies of lived religion in the Himalaya in this context of rapid change to offer intra-regional perspectives on the ways in which lived religions are being re-configured or re-imagined. Based on original fieldwork, this book documents understudied forms of religion in the region and presents unique perspectives on the phenomenon and experience of religion, discussing why, when, and where practices, discourses, and the category of religion itself, are engaged by varying communities in the region. It yields fruitful insights into both the religious traditions and lived human experiences of Himalayan peoples in the modern era. Presenting new research and perspectives on the Himalayan region, this book should be of interest to students and scholars of South Asian Studies, Religious Studies, and Modernity.