Lecture tag: Hindu Studies

The Politics of Sexuality in Ancient India: The Indebtedness of the Kamasutra to the Arthasastra

Shivdasani Lecture

The depth and extent of the influence of the textbook of politics (the Arthasastra) on the textbook of sexuality (the Kamasutra) is surprising, most evident in the high incidence of distrust, betrayal and force in sexual relationships. And the subsequent influence of the Kamasutra upon not only the erotic literary traditions of India but the eroticism of the bhakti tradition, particularly in Bengal, accounts in part for the darkness of that tradition, its emphasis on divine abandonment, betrayal, and even violence. Wendy Doniger (M.A., Ph.D. (Harvard University)?D.Phil. (Oxford University) is Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions in the Divinity School, University of Chicago; also in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, the Committee on Social Thought. Wendy Doniger’s research and teaching focus on translating, interpreting, and comparing elements of Hinduism through modern contexts of gender, sexuality, and identity. Her courses in mythology address themes in cross-cultural expanses, such as death, dreams, evil, horses, sex, and women; her courses in Hinduism cover a broad spectrum that, in addition to mythology, considers literature, law, gender, and zoology. Among over thirty books published under the name Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty and Wendy Doniger are sixteen interpretative works, including Siva: The Erotic Ascetic; The Origins of Evil in Hindu Mythology; Women, Androgynes, and Other Mythical Beasts; Dreams, Illusion, and Other Realities; Tales of Sex and Violence: Folklore, Sacrifice, and Danger in the Jaiminiya Brahmana; Other Peoples’ Myths: The Cave of Echoes; Splitting the Difference: Gender and Myth in Ancient Greece and India; The Bedtrick: Tales of Sex and Masquerade; The Implied Spider: Politics and Theology in Myth; The Woman Who Pretended to Be Who She Was; and The Hindus: An Alternative History. Among her nine translations are three Penguin Classics—Hindu Myths: A Sourcebook, Translated from the Sanskrit; The Rig Veda: An Anthology, 108 Hymns Translated from the Sanskrit; and The Laws of Manu (with Brian K. Smith)—and a new translation of the Kamasutra (with Sudhir Kakar). In progress are Hinduism, for the Norton Anthology of World Religions (2013); Faking It: Narratives of Circular Jewelry and Clever Women; and a novel, Horses for Lovers, Dogs for Husbands.

The Magic Ring of Memory and Forgetfulness in South Asian Literature and Folklore

Shivdasani Lecture

In South Asian stories of rings, men accuse women of unchastity only to have the ring prove that it was the man, in fact, who was unchaste; the ring also validates the woman’s child as the true heir. These stories—several variants of the tale of Shakuntala, the story of Muladeva from the Kathasaritsagara, and a village myth about the god Shiva and his wife Parvati– show us how widespread is the desire to believe that a little thing like a ring can bring justice to the asymmetrical power relations that have controlled female sexuality for most of human history, or the desire to project the responsibility for sexual rejection or betrayal onto an external force like a gold ring. Wendy Doniger (M.A., Ph.D. (Harvard University)?D.Phil. (Oxford University) is Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions in the Divinity School, University of Chicago; also in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, the Committee on Social Thought. Wendy Doniger’s research and teaching focus on translating, interpreting, and comparing elements of Hinduism through modern contexts of gender, sexuality, and identity. Her courses in mythology address themes in cross-cultural expanses, such as death, dreams, evil, horses, sex, and women; her courses in Hinduism cover a broad spectrum that, in addition to mythology, considers literature, law, gender, and zoology. Among over thirty books published under the name Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty and Wendy Doniger are sixteen interpretative works, including Siva: The Erotic Ascetic; The Origins of Evil in Hindu Mythology; Women, Androgynes, and Other Mythical Beasts; Dreams, Illusion, and Other Realities; Tales of Sex and Violence: Folklore, Sacrifice, and Danger in the Jaiminiya Brahmana; Other Peoples’ Myths: The Cave of Echoes; Splitting the Difference: Gender and Myth in Ancient Greece and India; The Bedtrick: Tales of Sex and Masquerade; The Implied Spider: Politics and Theology in Myth; The Woman Who Pretended to Be Who She Was; and The Hindus: An Alternative History. Among her nine translations are three Penguin Classics—Hindu Myths: A Sourcebook, Translated from the Sanskrit; The Rig Veda: An Anthology, 108 Hymns Translated from the Sanskrit; and The Laws of Manu (with Brian K. Smith)—and a new translation of the Kamasutra (with Sudhir Kakar). In progress are Hinduism, for the Norton Anthology of World Religions (2013); Faking It: Narratives of Circular Jewelry and Clever Women; and a novel, Horses for Lovers, Dogs for Husbands.

How Widespread Was Skepticism in Ancient India? Did the Materialists Really Exist, or Were They Just Straw Men?

Shivdasani Seminar

Though ancient shastras such as the Arthasastra and Kamasutra pay lip service to dharma, and criticize the so-called Materialists (Lokayatas or Carvakas), their central arguments show a total disregard for dharma and a striking congruence with Materialist assumptions. Are the Carvakas straw men that allow shastras (and other texts, such as the Jabali episode in Book 2 of the Ramayana) to express skeptical ideas without taking responsibility for them? Wendy Doniger (M.A., Ph.D. (Harvard University)?D.Phil. (Oxford University) is Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions in the Divinity School, University of Chicago; also in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, the Committee on Social Thought. Wendy Doniger’s research and teaching focus on translating, interpreting, and comparing elements of Hinduism through modern contexts of gender, sexuality, and identity. Her courses in mythology address themes in cross-cultural expanses, such as death, dreams, evil, horses, sex, and women; her courses in Hinduism cover a broad spectrum that, in addition to mythology, considers literature, law, gender, and zoology. Among over thirty books published under the name Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty and Wendy Doniger are sixteen interpretative works, including Siva: The Erotic Ascetic; The Origins of Evil in Hindu Mythology; Women, Androgynes, and Other Mythical Beasts; Dreams, Illusion, and Other Realities; Tales of Sex and Violence: Folklore, Sacrifice, and Danger in the Jaiminiya Brahmana; Other Peoples’ Myths: The Cave of Echoes; Splitting the Difference: Gender and Myth in Ancient Greece and India; The Bedtrick: Tales of Sex and Masquerade; The Implied Spider: Politics and Theology in Myth; The Woman Who Pretended to Be Who She Was; and The Hindus: An Alternative History. Among her nine translations are three Penguin Classics—Hindu Myths: A Sourcebook, Translated from the Sanskrit; The Rig Veda: An Anthology, 108 Hymns Translated from the Sanskrit; and The Laws of Manu (with Brian K. Smith)—and a new translation of the Kamasutra (with Sudhir Kakar). In progress are Hinduism, for the Norton Anthology of World Religions (2013); Faking It: Narratives of Circular Jewelry and Clever Women; and a novel, Horses for Lovers, Dogs for Husbands.

Suffering

This seminar will explore the idea of suffering in Hindu traditions and the proposed remedies for its termination.

Rudolf Otto’s Perspective of Indian Religious Thought

In the early modern period since the seventeenth century, after contact between East and West became vigorous, Indian religious thought was introduced to the West and attracted the attention of Western intellectuals. One of these intellectuals was the Lutheran theologian Rudolf Otto (1869–1937). In his works on Indian religious thought, Otto focused on Vedanta philosophy, represented by Sankara and Ramanuja, and on Vaisnava faith in Hindu religious tradition. According to his framework of religions, the Hindu tradition as the “bhakti religion” corresponds to the Christian tradition in the West. From a comparative viewpoint of religions, based on his Christian theological studies, he argued that religions provided “parallel lines of development” in the East and the West. In my lecture, I would like to clarify the characteristics of Otto’s perspective of Indian religious thought from a hermeneutical perspective of religion and to re-examine to what extent his view may be adequate for the understanding of Hindu tradition. Prof. Yoshitsugu Sawai is Professor of the History of Religions and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Tenri University (Japan), as well as Advisor of the Japan Association of Religion and Ethics. He is the author of The Faith of Ascetics and Lay Smartas: A Study of the Sankaran Tradition of Srngeri (Sammlung De Nobili).

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religions 4

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.

Hinduism 2, Hindu Traditions (Paper 21)

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.