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Strangers in the temple: An ethnographic study of the Nanakpathi traders in a Chinese textile city

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religions
Ka-Kin Cheuk
3 May 2013

This paper aims to examine the processes by which the collective migrant identity of the Nanakpathi (the followers of Guru Nanak) traders is inhibited even though these traders regularly get together in the Sikh Temple. I will explain this process through an ethnographic study conducted in the Sikh Temple at the Shaoxing county of Zhejiang province in China. Shaoxing is now the largest fabrics wholesale market in Asia, in which over 10,000 Nanakpathi middleman traders are based. These Nanakpathis are mostly Sikhs or Sindhis, specializing in the transnational trades of fabrics and having lived in China for some years. These Sikhs and Sindhis often visit the Sikh Temple for their individual religious needs. Based on my long-term observation in the Temple, I found these traders rarely interact with each other despite their public religious engagement in the temple. In other words, neither collective migrant identity nor substantial form of social organization has been formed among these young Nanakpathis. Drawing light from their business practices in China, I argue that these traders indeed have legitimate reasons not to make local Indian friends in the Temple, thereby enabling their middleman business to thrive.

Hindu Theology Seminar 1

Dr Rembert Lutjeharms
2 May 2013

Hindu Theology is an emerging field of academic inquiry. These two seminars seek to examine the boundaries and possibilities for such inquiry. According to the classical Christian definition, theology is ‘faith seeking understanding.’ Is this an adequate understanding of theology from a Hindu perspective? Is there a Hindu Theology or simply a proliferation of multiple theologies? Is faith seeking understanding simply apologetics or can the understanding come from an external discipline (such as philosophy, psychology, sociology, or neurology)? Is there a place for Hindu theology as an ‘insider’ discourse in the publically funded university? If disciplines are defined by their method and object, what is the object of Hindu theology? If God is unknowable can there be an inquiry into her? Or is the object of theology ‘revelation’ in which case Theology is concerned with history and culture? Is Hindu Theology a development in the English language of the ‘discourse’ (vāda) tradition of Sanskrit commentary or is it something different? These questions and others will be explored during these two seminars. Active participation is expected.

The Roots of Early Hindi Literary Culture

Majewski Lecture
Dr. Imre Bangha
29 Apr 2013

The theoretical framework of Hindi literature today is still defined by the almost century-old History of Hindi Literature (1929) of Ramchand Shukla. This History, written at the time of the Indian freedom struggle, created the image of a national literature extended in time and space. Rejecting claims for a 1000–1500 year old history, my talk examines the emergence of vernacular literature in the Gangetic Plain in the fourteenth century,and argues for continuity in poetic genres, forms and language between the Jain-inspired Maru Gurjar literature and the poetic idioms of Avadhi and Brajbhasha. Using reliably dated literary material, it documents the spread of Maru Gurjar literature beyond Gujarat and Rajasthan into Central North India (Madhyadesha) and presents how non-Jains used this trans-regional literary idiom to develop it into more localised ones that in modern times came to be considered literary dialects of Hindi.

Dr. Bangha is a Lecturer in Hindi. His research has focused on early modern Hindi poetry and he has produced editions and translations of early modern Hindi texts. His research interests include the emergence of Hindi as a literary dialect in various scripts, textual transmission and Hindi manuscript culture, riti poetry and the continuity of classical Sanskrit aesthetics in court literature and individual poets such as Vishnudas, Kabir, Tulsidas, and others. He publishes his work in both English and Hungarian. Among his publications are Hungry Tiger: Encounter between India and Central Europe – the case of Hungarian and Bengali Literary Cultures(Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, 2007) and a translation of Indian short stories into Hungarian (E. Greskovits ed., Tehén a barikádon: Indiai elbeszélések (The Cow of the Barricades: Indian Short Stories) Pallas Akademia, M. Ciuc/Csíkszereda, 2008). He is currently working on several editions and translations of early modern Hindi texts including ‘Love, Scorpion in the Hand’: Late Brajbhasha Court Poetry from Bundelkhand: Thākur-kabittāvali (critical edition accompanied with an introduction and English translation of selected poems).

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religions 4

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religions
8 Mar 2013

This series of seminars will provide a lively and thought-provoking forum for graduate students from across the disciplines to present their latest work on any of the Indic religions, creating an opportunity for regular discussion and cross-fertilisation among students in this area. It will be held fortnightly in Hilary term (weeks 2, 4, 6, 8) on Fridays from 4pm–5pm, with a chance for informal discussion afterwards over refreshments. Each seminar will feature two papers on related themes or subjects, of about 20 minutes each, with a chance for questions after each paper. Any graduate students working on, or otherwise interested in, Indic religions, are warmly invited to attend.

Was Vaiśeşika a materialistic darsana? An inquiry into Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya's Marxist analysis
Ionut Moise

One of the philosophical systems which enjoy a relatively great amount of attention in Chattopadhyaya’s writings is Vaiśeşika. That is a curious case indeed, since Chattopadhyaya (1918 – 1993) was an enthusiast materialist philosopher, while Vaiśeşika, at least in its later form, a staunch defender of theism (e.g. Udayana). Yet, Vaiśeşika provided Chattopadhyaya with an interesting argument as its evolution shows that originally it was not a theistic system. Theism is a later occurrence in the system. I start from the presumption that Chattopadhyaya’s view is not completely false.

The first part of my paper will look at his explanations regarding the evolution of ideas in Vaiśeşika, and I will try to explain that Chattopadhyaya's views are relatively true. The second part of my paper, however, will look at Vaiśeşika’s primary sources, which despite their lack of explicit theistic stances, shows a rather different view of theism, namely that of a ‘divine entity’, the self. And this is the 'theism' which Vaiśeşika would eventually develop.

“A bridge between the past and the future”: accessing Auroville
Emily Kilburn

Auroville is an International township in South India; the only place of its kind in the world. It is a community inspired by the texts of Sri Aurobindo; an Indian thinker who aimed to integrate the philosophies of the East and West, Idealism and Materialism, the Individual and his Society.

This talk questions the inter-relationship between the textual, political, psychological and spiritual dimensions that make up the Auroville project. In doing so it reconsiders the constructs used to theoretically access and conceive textual and social aggregates.

Hinduism 2, Hindu Traditions (Paper 21)

Prof. Gavin Flood
6 Mar 2013

Beginning with the early medieval period, this paper traces the development of Hinduism in devotional (bhakti) and tantric traditions. The paper examines the development of Śaiva, Śākta, and Vaiṣṇava traditions along with ideas about liberation, ritual, asceticism, yoga and devotion. There will be some exploration of Hinduism and Modernity and there may also be reference to major schools of Hindu philosophy such as Vedānta.

Human and animal worlds in the Atharvaveda Samhita: rituals, superstitions and psychoses in animals in Vedic society

Dr Mario Russo
5 Mar 2013

The Atharvaveda Samhita, more than any other Vedic text, is an irreplaceable source of data on the Indian society and its non-ritualistic aspects. With regard to animals, the numerous Atharvanic hymns witness a deep conditioning, either positive or negative, of them on the psyche of the Vedic social structure at that stage. Images, metaphors, descriptions of wild and domestic animals abound through the 20 books of this Samhita, together with terrific and theriomorfic descriptions of demons in the act of killing children, women and Brahmans or destroying human bodies, health and peace. The “Vedic eye” created a stunning range of scenarios in-between dream and nightmare of an unparalleled visual and terminological power. 

This lecture will highlight the relationship between human beings and animals from a moral, linguistic, religious and psychological point of view, also emphasizing interesting aspects of the irrational Vedic fear for the microcosm of the “invisible” animal enemies.

From Under the Tamarind Tree: Hereditary Performance and Sectarian Identity in South India

Shivdasani Seminar
Dr. Archana Venkatesan
4 Mar 2013

The temple of Alvar Tirunagari in the deep south of India is a unique archive of hereditary performance traditions in India. Whereas the seismic shift in patronage that occurred in the post-Independence period ensured the rapid erosion of temple-centered performance cultures, the insularity of Alvar Tirunagari ensured the preservation of multiple hereditary performance traditions—liturgical recitation, gestural interpretation, and ritual singing are just three examples—into the present century. But the performers of Alvar Tirunagari have not been untouched because of the shift in patronage, from local, elite landowners to State supported funding. Many performers have left temple service for more lucrative employment, while others supplement their meager temple income with white-collar jobs in major cities. In this paper I take up the example of Araiyar Cēvai, just one of Alvar Tirunagari’s several performance traditions, to explore the ways in which members from both within and from outside the hereditary families have sought to reshape it for a contemporary, urban audience.

Dr. Archana Venkatesan is an Assistant Professor in Comparative Literature and in Religious Studies at the University of California, Davis. She completed her PhD at the University of California, Berkeley in 2004. She has worked mainly on Andal, the female Alvar poet-saint, and published an award-winning translation of her poetry with OUP in 2010 (The Secret Garland: Antal's Tiruppavai and Nacciyar Tirumoli). She is currently working, with Prof. Francis X. Clooney (Harvard), on a translation of the Tiruvaymoli, one of the most important collections of Tamil devotional poetry.

Religion and Art

The Importance of Religion Series
Prof. Gavin Flood
1 Mar 2013

This is a series of four lectures based on Flood’s recent book The Importance of Religion: Meaning and Action in Our Strange World (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012).

A prevailing idea from the Enlightenment, still with us today, is that the light of reason would dispel the darkness of religion and reveal the universe to us. While the desire for enlightenment and the attendant aspiration for a better human future are commendable, the identification of religion with darkness and ignorance is problematic. Religion has not gone away and is a topic of deep concern both because of its destructive capacity and for its constructive capacity as a resource that gives people truth, beauty, and goodness. These lectures are within the broad claim that the importance of religion is existential: religions provide significant meaning to life and guide people in their choices and practices.

Hinduism 2, Hindu Traditions (Paper 21)

Prof. Gavin Flood
27 Feb 2013

Beginning with the early medieval period, this paper traces the development of Hinduism in devotional (bhakti) and tantric traditions. The paper examines the development of Śaiva, Śākta, and Vaiṣṇava traditions along with ideas about liberation, ritual, asceticism, yoga and devotion. There will be some exploration of Hinduism and Modernity and there may also be reference to major schools of Hindu philosophy such as Vedānta.

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religions 3

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religions
22 Feb 2013

This series of seminars will provide a lively and thought-provoking forum for graduate students from across the disciplines to present their latest work on any of the Indic religions, creating an opportunity for regular discussion and cross-fertilisation among students in this area. It will be held fortnightly in Hilary term (weeks 2, 4, 6, 8) on Fridays from 4pm–5pm, with a chance for informal discussion afterwards over refreshments. Each seminar will feature two papers on related themes or subjects, of about 20 minutes each, with a chance for questions after each paper. Any graduate students working on, or otherwise interested in, Indic religions, are warmly invited to attend.

 

The idea of affliction (klesa) in the Yogasutra of Patanjali
Ramesh Pattni

What is the nature of affliction in the Yogasutra and how does it fit in within the aim and practice of Yoga? Patanjali's Yogasutra deals with the practical means of Yogic disciplines leading to the soteriological goal of liberation from the cycles of birth and death. The normal subjective identity and experience is afflicted with the klesas and the Yogasutra describe the nature of these with prescriptions of removing them from consciousness.

Forms and meanings: the image of God in a Swaminarayan sect
Tushar Shah

With already over 1000 temples worldwide, Swaminarayan religious traditions are said to be continuously flourishing on a global scale. Of the various sects, Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) is recognised to be at the forefront of this steady expansion. In spite of such a large membership and a noticeable material presence through their temples, there has been very little comprehensive study into the art and architecture of BAPS.

This study intends to focus on the nucleus of these temples; the sacred images housed within. By taking a specific set of mūrtis as the object of study, we aim to discover the crucial tenets and beliefs of this sect; the framework within which the images conceptually reside. Combining a variety of effective methodologies, including a visual reading of the images, this examination displays how the world of BAPS can be accessed and delineated via its religious icons.

By utilising the tool of ethnographic inquiry, it has also become possible to theoretically locate the sacred image in the rationale of the devotee. We determine the different types of images they encounter, establish how they react to them, and identify how one of these—the living image of God—exists at the very centre of the BAPS doctrine.

Emotion, Ecstasy and Intensity

Mapping the Mystical Self Series
Dr. Jessica Frazier
22 Feb 2013

Sculpted Forms of Enlightenment: Gods and Goddesses in Hindu Sculpture

Jasleen Kandhari
22 Feb 2013

Explore the iconography of Hindu gods and goddesses in Indian sculpture followed by a handling session.

Jasleen Kandhari is an art historian, lecturer and curator who has lectured on Asian art over the past 10 years in museums and universities including the British Museum, British Library, Victoria and Albert Museum, National Museums Liverpool, Design Museum, Fashion and Textiles Museum and SOAS and this year, started lecturing at the Ashmolean Museum of Art & Archaeology, University of Oxford. She has published several articles on Hindu art collections and exhibitions including the Indian paintings collections at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, formerly Prince of Wales Museum of Western India, Mumbai and Hindus, Buddhists and Jains: In Search of the Divine exhibition at RJK Museum, Cologne in Asian Art. Her upcoming lectures at the Ashmolean Museum include Indian Portraiture: Sikh Paintings from Gurus to Maharajahs, a study day on Indian textiles and a summer school on Exploring Asian textiles at the Ashmolean.

Hinduism 2, Hindu Traditions (Paper 21)

Prof. Gavin Flood
20 Feb 2013

Beginning with the early medieval period, this paper traces the development of Hinduism in devotional (bhakti) and tantric traditions. The paper examines the development of Śaiva, Śākta, and Vaiṣṇava traditions along with ideas about liberation, ritual, asceticism, yoga and devotion. There will be some exploration of Hinduism and Modernity and there may also be reference to major schools of Hindu philosophy such as Vedānta.

Hinduism and Globalisation

Dr. Ferdinando Sardella
19 Feb 2013

Hindu religions and oriental spirituality have travelled West during the last two centuries, and adapted in many ways to the cultures and societies of the West. The presentation first looks briefly at the processes of migration of Indian religions and spirituality to the West and second to a case of return to their place of origin in the

East through modern global institutions. The lecture discusses issues of identity, conversion and the emerging of a globalised Hinduism in Sweden and in India that challenges local social, cultural and religious communities. It is based on field work, participant observation, and interviews of informants conducted among others in Stockholm and West Bengal during 2011 and 2012.

Ferdinando Sardella is based at Uppsala University and he is a fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. He is the author of Modern Hindu Personalism: The History, Life, and Thought of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati(2013) published by Oxford University Press.

Legends of the Goddess: Ānṭāḷ Stories in the Śrīvaiṣṇava Traditions

Shivdasani Lecture
Dr. Archana Venkatesan
18 Feb 2013

This paper examines Ānṭāḷ’s story as it circulates in both textual and oral sources since the 12 century, with a particular emphasis on the Manipravala Guruparamparaprābhavam 6000 and 3000 and the Sanskrit Divyasūricaritam. I explore issues of genre, style and language choice as I chart the changes in Ānṭāḷ’s story, and the history that such alterations both reveal and conceal. 

Religion and Rationality

The Importance of Religion Series
Prof. Gavin Flood
15 Feb 2013

This is a series of four lectures based on Flood’s recent book The Importance of Religion: Meaning and Action in Our Strange World (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012).

A prevailing idea from the Enlightenment, still with us today, is that the light of reason would dispel the darkness of religion and reveal the universe to us. While the desire for enlightenment and the attendant aspiration for a better human future are commendable, the identification of religion with darkness and ignorance is problematic. Religion has not gone away and is a topic of deep concern both because of its destructive capacity and for its constructive capacity as a resource that gives people truth, beauty, and goodness. These lectures are within the broad claim that the importance of religion is existential: religions provide significant meaning to life and guide people in their choices and practices.

Hinduism 2, Hindu Traditions (Paper 21)

Prof. Gavin Flood
13 Feb 2013

Beginning with the early medieval period, this paper traces the development of Hinduism in devotional (bhakti) and tantric traditions. The paper examines the development of Śaiva, Śākta, and Vaiṣṇava traditions along with ideas about liberation, ritual, asceticism, yoga and devotion. There will be some exploration of Hinduism and Modernity and there may also be reference to major schools of Hindu philosophy such as Vedānta.

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religions 2

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religions
8 Feb 2013

Convenors: Lucian Wong and Tristan Elby

This series of seminars will provide a lively and thought-provoking forum for graduate students from across the disciplines to present their latest work on any of the Indic religions, creating an opportunity for regular discussion and cross-fertilisation among students in this area. It will be held fortnightly in Hilary term (weeks 2, 4, 6, 8) on Fridays from 4pm–5pm, with a chance for informal discussion afterwards over refreshments. Each seminar will feature two papers on related themes or subjects, of about 20 minutes each, with a chance for questions after each paper. Any graduate students working on, or otherwise interested in, Indic religions, are warmly invited to attend.

 

Beyond Rama: Krishna and Shiva in the Brajbhāṣa works of Tulsīdās
Nayan Bedia

The aim of the dissertation is to produce a critical edition of the 66 padas that constitute Tulsīdās’s Krishna-gītāvalī. Research on the early-modern history, society and language of India is an understudied field. Also, the available scholarship on Tulsīdās tends to focus only on his magnum opus, the Rāmcaritmānas, when many other important works exist. A critical edition of the Krishna-gītāvalī will not only illuminate the understanding of one of the most popular Hindi-authors over last few centuries. It will also assist in forming a better understanding of how early-modern religious practice operated and the interplay between the Hindi vernacular languages, Braj and Avadhī.

Bhaktivinod Thakur’s Kṛṣṇa-saṁhitā: Negotiating History in Nineteenth Century Bengal
Lucian Wong

The nineteenth century is widely regarded as a pivotal period in South Asian religious history. Colonial presence in the region entailed intense and prolonged exposure to challenging currents of western modernity for many South Asian religious traditions and practitioners. While religious responses to the colonial challenge varied widely, the encounter with modernity is often thought of as marking a rupture with pre-modern religious traditions. Historical consciousness has been characterised as one of the key currents and signs of the modern.

Bhaktivinod Thakur was a prominent Bengali Vaiṣṇava theologian and leader, who emerged from a typically nineteenth century Calcuttan middle-class educational and social context. In his first major work, the Kṛṣṇa-saṁhitā, we find him addressing the modern concern for history and its relation to the mythical narratives of Purānic texts. By highlighting 1) evident tensions within the text and 2) significant revisions that he makes in a subsequent edition of the text, this paper calls into question the plausibility of the notion of rupture in relation to the Bengali Vaiṣṇava tradition in the nineteenth century.

Imagination, Narrative and Possession

Mapping the Mystical Self Series
Dr. Jessica Frazier
8 Feb 2013

The snān-yātrā of Salkia: Contrasting voices on possession and animal sacrifice in contemporary Bengal

Majewski Lecture
Prof Fabrizio M. Ferrari
7 Feb 2013

The snān-yātrā is a pilgrimage celebrated once a year in the town of Salkia (Howrah district, West Bengal). Attracting thousands of pilgrims, the festival is the occasion to celebrate Śītalā as Choṭa Mā, a loving and benevolent protective mother. The yātrāemphasises devotion but is also an arena for tense performances. Phenomena of individual and collective possession (bhar) are extremely common and are viewed as a much needed proof of the auspicious presence of the goddess. But possession is also a way to claim (or challenge) power in and across specific contexts (family, jāti, gender, political circles, etc.). It is thus not unusual that many (especially women, or non-Bengali migrants) are accused to cheat, to enact fake possessions, or to be ‘mad.’ Contention also features the day after snān-yātrā, which is dedicated to Bao Mā. This form of Śītalā is radically different. Bao Mā is believed to be potentially dangerous, and is a hungry goddess. The ritual killing of animals (balidān) is the distinctive feature of her service, a performance aiming at pleasing, feeding and thanking the goddess. Regardless of its importance, balidān does not enjoy much popularity. Temple attendance is limited to locals and the sebāits of the temple are indicated by outsiders as ignorant and violent. Such views are validated on a broader scale. In contemporary Bengal practices such as possession and sacrifice are objected by intellectuals and teachers, the middle class, the media and religious authorities from all faiths. In this climate, many facets of local folklore are increasingly dismissed, diminished and ridiculed (often aggressively) as a heterogeneous bunch of backward practices and superstitions. The snān-yātrā is not just an occasion to experience local variations of Śītalā and the gentrification of the goddess. This paper, part of a larger study on Śītalā and medical folklore in North India, reflects on the meaning and destiny of vernacular culture in contemporary India.

Professor Ferrari was educated in Indology and South Asian languages and literatures (Hindi and Sanskrit) at the University of Venice (Italy) and received his PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London) for a study on Bengali folklore. After teaching South Asian religions and Religious Studies for two years at SOAS, he joined the University of Chester in 2007. He is an active fieldworker and regularly conduct ethnographic research in India. He specialises in the study of vernacular Hinduism and folklore and is particularly interested in ritual healing and therapeutic possession; ritual theory and Marxist approaches to the study of religion.

Hinduism 2, Hindu Traditions (Paper 21)

Prof. Gavin Flood
6 Feb 2013

Beginning with the early medieval period, this paper traces the development of Hinduism in devotional (bhakti) and tantric traditions. The paper examines the development of Śaiva, Śākta, and Vaiṣṇava traditions along with ideas about liberation, ritual, asceticism, yoga and devotion. There will be some exploration of Hinduism and Modernity and there may also be reference to major schools of Hindu philosophy such as Vedānta.

The Inner Journey

The Importance of Religion Series
Prof. Gavin Flood
1 Feb 2013

This is a series of four lectures based on Flood’s recent book The Importance of Religion: Meaning and Action in Our Strange World (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012).

A prevailing idea from the Enlightenment, still with us today, is that the light of reason would dispel the darkness of religion and reveal the universe to us. While the desire for enlightenment and the attendant aspiration for a better human future are commendable, the identification of religion with darkness and ignorance is problematic. Religion has not gone away and is a topic of deep concern both because of its destructive capacity and for its constructive capacity as a resource that gives people truth, beauty, and goodness. These lectures are within the broad claim that the importance of religion is existential: religions provide significant meaning to life and guide people in their choices and practices.

Tantric Dimensions of the Rāsa Maṇḍala: The Bhagavata Rāsa Līlā and the Artistic Imagination

Professor Graham M. Schweig
31 Jan 2013

The focus of this presentation will be two-fold. First Schweig will bring out tantric dimensions of the Bhāgavata’s Rāsa Līlā: the yantra-like narrative, the feminine power of the Vraja Gopikās over divinity, the līlā of divine love as arranged by the Goddess, etc. Second, Schweig will focus on the symbolism of the Rāsa Maṇḍala by examining key elements of the passage and ways in which its tāntric character influences its artistic renderings. Schweig will argue that the imagery of the Rāsa Mandala functions as a bhakti-yantra. Through līlā-smaraṇam practitioners enter the world of the dance, becoming eternal participants in it. Contemplation and participation become one by virtue of the power of this bhakti-yantra. The centripetal, centrifugal, circumferential and centrifocal dynamics of the Rāsa Mandala circle as they function as powerful inner mechanisms within bhakti, and as expressions in artistic renderings of Rāsa Maṇḍala, will be presented.

Graham M. Schweig is currently Professor of Religion and Director of the Asian Studies Program at Christopher Newport University; he is a regularly invited lecturer at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Schweig is the author of Dance of Divine Love: India's Classic Sacred Love Story(Princeton 2005). His most recent edited publication is A Living Theology of Krishna Bhakti: Essential Teachings of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda (Oxford 2012).

Hinduism 2, Hindu Traditions (Paper 21)

Prof. Gavin Flood
30 Jan 2013

Beginning with the early medieval period, this paper traces the development of Hinduism in devotional (bhakti) and tantric traditions. The paper examines the development of Śaiva, Śākta, and Vaiṣṇava traditions along with ideas about liberation, ritual, asceticism, yoga and devotion. There will be some exploration of Hinduism and Modernity and there may also be reference to major schools of Hindu philosophy such as Vedānta.

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religions 1

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religions
25 Jan 2013

Convenors: Lucian Wong and Tristan Elby

This series of seminars will provide a lively and thought-provoking forum for graduate students from across the disciplines to present their latest work on any of the Indic religions, creating an opportunity for regular discussion and cross-fertilisation among students in this area. It will be held fortnightly in Hilary term (weeks 2, 4, 6, 8) on Fridays from 4pm–5pm, with a chance for informal discussion afterwards over refreshments. Each seminar will feature two papers on related themes or subjects, of about 20 minutes each, with a chance for questions after each paper. Any graduate students working on, or otherwise interested in, Indic religions, are warmly invited to attend.

Hanumān, a Four-fold Axis Mundi Mediator? Liminal Identity of the Messenger Monkey
Matt Martin, Wolfson College, Oxford

Fusing textual, theological and ethnographic methodologies, this interdisciplinary paper will bring to the fore some interesting elucidations concerning Hindu traditions’ most popular theriomorphic deity, Hanumān. I will suggest that Hanumān exhibits, by-and-large, all of the characteristics ascribed to a quintessential liminal mediator, and that his shaman-èsque tendencies (derived from this mediatory affiliation) are not merely confined to the literary boundaries of the Ramāyāṇa, but are more widely evident on both cosmic and social levels. In brief, I will consider Hanumān’s liminal mediator nature in relation to the following issues: the mythological flights of Hanumān as documented in the Ramāyāṇa; Hanumān as a theological nexus and cosmic Axis Mundi; and finally Hanumān invoked during healing exorcism rituals, manifested in his Balajī (child-like) persona.

Archaeology of personhood in Early Historic India
Ken Ishikawa

The present paper discusses the concept of personhood in Early Historic South Asia from anthropological / archaeological perspectives, focusing on Indic divine personality.

The construct theory of personhood has been employed in archaeology to explore the idea of personhood in the human past. The person in this context refers to humans, animals or objects. Personhood is constructed through relationships not only with other humans in the society but with all aspects of the world around them. One of the fundamental questions thus is in what context inanimate objects, events or places attain ‘personhood.’

Personhood in traditional India is largely characterized by dividuality, in which the person is considered as a composite of so-called substance-codes that can be transmitted interpersonally. In my view, divine beings display this dividuality with its temporal and transformative nature as seen in the classical example of Ardhanarīśvara, who is half Śiva and half Pārvatī. I will investigate to what extent Indic Gods can be characterized by dividual personhood by looking at archaeological, art-historical, textual/epigraphic and ethnographic evidence from Early Historic South Asia and beyond.

My key case studies include: 1) a manifestation of social interactions: the relic cult and image worship in Indian Buddhism (with ethnographic reference to relics of the Jagannath image), 2) multiplicate personhood: Seven Buddhas of the past in Indian art 3) Avatāras: Buddhist/Jain fusion art of Gujarat and the interchangeability of the 9th avatāra between Buddha and Jain Ādinātha; the divine ‘avatāra’ kingship during the Gupta period.

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