Dealing with Deities: The Ritual Vow in South Asia

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Selva J. Raj, William P. Harman
SUNY Press, Jan 1, 2007 - History - 287 pages
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Drawing on original field research, Dealing with Deities explores the practice of taking ritual vows in the lives of ordinary religious practitioners in South Asia. The cornerstone of lay religious activity, vow rituals are adopted by Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs who wish to commit themselves to ritually enacted relationships with sacred figures in order to gain earthly boons and spiritual merit. The contributors to this volume offer a fascinating look at the varieties and complexities of vows and also focus on a unique characteristic of this vow-taking culture, that of resorting to deities and shrines of other religions in defiance of institutional directives and religious boundaries. Richly illustrated, the book explores the creativity of South Asian devotees and their deeply felt convictions that what they require, they can achieve faithfully—and independently—by dealing directly with deities.
  

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Contents

Introduction The Deal with DeitiesWays Vows Work in South Asia
1
The Vow A Short Story
15
Negotiating Relationships with the Goddess
25
Shared Vows Shared Space and Shared Deities Vow Rituals among Tamil Catholics in South India
43
Religious Vows at the Shrine of Shahul Hamid
65
In the Company of Pirs Making Vows Receiving Favors at Bangladeshi Sufi Shrines
87
Bara Buddhist Vows at Kataragama
107
Performing Vows in Diasporic Contexts Tamil Hindus Temples and Goddesses in Germany
129
Negotiating Karma Merit and Liberation Vowtaking in the Jain Tradition
187
Vows in the Sikh Tradition
201
When Vows Fail to Deliver What They Promise The Case of Shyamavati
219
Two Critiques of Womens Vows
235
Toward a Typology of South Asian Lay Vows
249
Glossary
257
Contributors
269
Appendix
273

Singing a Vow Devoting Oneself to Shiva through Song
147
Monastic Vows and the Ramananda Sampraday
165

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About the author (2007)

Selva J. Raj (1952–2008) was Chair and Stanley S. Kresge Professor of Religious Studies at Albion College. He is the coeditor (with Corinne G. Dempsey) of Miracle as Modern Conundrum in South Asian Religious Traditions; Popular Christianity in India: Riting between the Lines; and Sacred Play: Ritual Levity and Humor in South Asian Religions, all published by SUNY Press.

William P. Harman is Professor of Philosophy and Religion at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

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