Hinduism: Past and Present

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Princeton University Press, 2004 - Religion - 429 pages
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Hinduism is currently followed by one-fifth of humankind. Far from a monolithic theistic tradition, the religion comprises thousands of gods, a complex caste system, and hundreds of languages and dialects. Such internal plurality inspires vastly ranging rites and practices amongst Hinduism's hundreds of millions of adherents. It is therefore not surprising that scholars have been hesitant to define universal Hindu beliefs and practices. In this book, Axel Michaels breaks this trend. He examines the traditions, beliefs, and rituals Hindus hold in common through the lens of what he deems its "identificatory habitus," a cohesive force that binds Hindu religions together and fortifies them against foreign influences. Thus, in his analysis, Michaels not only locates Hinduism's profoundly differentiating qualities, but also provides the framework for an analysis of its social and religious coherence.

Michaels blends his insightful arguments and probing questions with introductions to major historical epochs, ample textual sources as well as detailed analyses of major life-cycle rituals, the caste system, forms of spiritualism, devotionalism, ritualism, and heroism. Along the way he points out that Hinduism has endured and repeatedly resisted the missionary zeal and universalist claims of Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists. He also contrasts traditional Hinduism with the religions of the West, "where the self is preferred to the not-self, and where freedom in the world is more important than liberation from the world."

Engaging and accessible, this book will appeal to laypersons and scholars alike as the most comprehensive introduction to Hinduism yet published. Not only is Hinduism refreshingly new in its methodological approach, but it also presents a broad range of meticulous scholarship in a clear, readable style, integrating Indology, religious studies, philosophy, anthropological theory and fieldwork, and sweeping analyses of Hindu texts.

  

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Contents

Theoretical Foundations
3
Historical Foundations
31
Epochs of Religious History
32
Epochs of the Literatures of the Hindu Religions
48
Hindu Sanskrit Literature
52
PoetSaints Sect Founders and Sects
63
Stages of Life and Rites of Passage
71
Hindu Rites of Passage
75
ab Ganesa in a quarter of Kathmandu Ganesa as a neighborhood guard ksetrapald in Benares
222
Wild and Mild Goddesses
225
Elements of Religiosity
226
Enlivening of a statue in Benares
231
The Five Components of Rituals
233
Ritualism
235
The BrahmanicSanskritic Morning Ritual samdhya
237
Morning ritual with sun and Ganges prayer at Dasasvamedhaghat Benares
238

Course of a Hindu Initiation
78
Class Distinctions in Initiation according to the Dharmasastras
81
ac Initiation of Sunil Kalikote in Kathmandu Nepal
89
The Traditional Brahman Stages of Life and Goals of Life
96
The Eight Classical Forms of Marriage
114
Course of a Hindu Wedding
116
a Wedding of Ishwor Joshi and Sahan sila Maskey in Bhaktapur Nepal
126
b Mock wedding Hi in Bhaktapur Nepal
127
Course of a Hindu Death Ritual
133
Dogs warm themselves in the ashes of a pyre in the Pasupatinatha Temple in Deopatan Nepal
137
Ancestor ritual sraddha in Benares
139
The Path to the Ancestors
140
Processes of Deification
145
The Gate of the WidowBurnings satidvara in Deopatan Nepal
151
The Social System
159
Social Segmentation
167
Social Contacts
175
Members of a clan of Jyapu farmers greet their divinity represented by a stone in the field near Bhaktapur Nepal
177
Panda priest in Benares
179
Nepalese Classification of Food into Hot and Cold
182
Temple feeding in the SvamlNarayana Temple of Ahmedabad
184
Religious and Social Hierarchy
187
Relationship of purity to impurity according to Dumont
190
The Brahmanic pilgrim priest S Vyas in Benares
191
Relationship of Ascetic and Brahman priest according to Dumont
192
Rice harvest in Bhaktapur Nepal
195
Religiosity
201
The Vedic Pantheon
203
Frequently Worshiped Deities of the EpicPuranic Pantheon
213
Trends of Saivism Tantrism and Saktism
217
Puja in Deopotan Nepal
242
The Sixteen Proofs of Respect upacard of a Piija
244
Fire sacrifice homa during an initiation in Kathmandu
247
Devotionalism and Theistic Traditions
252
Vaisnava Krsnaite and Ramaite Traditions
253
The Saints PoetSaints and Founders of Sects
254
Rim Krsna Das an ascetic devoted to the god Rama
257
Spiritualism and Mysticism
259
The Unfolding of Matter according to the Samkhyakarika
266
The Eight Stages of Yoga
268
Heroism and Kingship
272
Religious Ideas of Space and Time
283
The Seven Worlds
285
Religious Categories of Space in the Veda
287
Scientific and Religious Conceptions of Space
294
Religious Awareness of Time
295
The Yuga Calculation of Time
301
Seasons and Months
306
Frequently Celebrated Festivals Selection
308
Immortality in Life
315
Groups and Sects of Ascetics
317
whose bliss
318
The Salvation of Identifications
325
Variants of Identifications
335
Worship of a girl as a goddess Kumaripuja in Kathmandu
341
Notes
345
Glossary
375
References
381
Index
419
Copyright

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Essential Hinduism
Steven J. Rosen
No preview available - 2008
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About the author (2004)

Axel Michaels, the Professor of Classical Indology at the South Asia Institute at the University of Heidelberg, has published widely in the fields of Indology, anthropology, and religious studies. He has also conducted extensive fieldwork in Nepal and Northern India.

Barbara Harshav has translated more than thirty books from German, French, Hebrew, and Yiddish, including After the Holocaust, Jewish Memories, A Surplus of Memory, and My Life as a Radical Jewish Woman. A historian by profession, she lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

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