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 AND HISTORICAL FOUNDATIONS
1
IS INDIA DIFFERENT?
3
WHAT IS HINDUISM?
12
EPOCHS IN THE HISTORY OF RELIGIONS1
31
RELIGIOUS LITERATURE
47
RELIGION AND SOCIETY
69
3 Stages of Life and Rites of Passage
71
CHILDHOOD AND SOCIALIZATION
99
THE IDEA OF GOD AND THE PANTHEON
201
ELEMENTS OF RELIGIOSITY
226
RITUALISM
235
DEVOTIONALISM AND THEISTIC TRADITIONS
252
SPIRITUALISM AND MYSTICISM185
259
HEROISM AND KINGSHIP
272
FROM DESCENT TO TRANSCENDENCE
281
6 Religious Ideas of Space and Time
283

WEDDING AND MATRIMONY159
111
DEATH AND LIFE AFTER DEATH220
131
SOCIAL STRATIFICATION
159
SOCIAL CONTACTS
175
RELIGIOUS AWARENESS OF TIME
295
ASCETICISM LIFE IN TRANSCENDENCE1
315
THE SALVATION OF IDENTIFICATIONS27
325
Copyright

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References to this book

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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