Lecture tag: Hindu Studies

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.

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religions 3

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.

 

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religions 2

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.

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.

Hinduism and Globalisation

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.

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religions 1

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.

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

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 II: Hindu Traditions, Lecture Seven

These lectures will begin from where Hinduism 1 left off. We will trace the development of devotion (bhakti) and examine bhakti and yoga in the Bhagavad-gita before moving into the medieval period. Here the lectures will describe some developments of bhakti in vernacular literatures, focusing both on texts that advocate devotion to iconic forms and the later texts that advocate devotion to an absolute without qualities. Here we will also examine the importance of ritual texts and the relation between ritual, devotion, and yoga. We will then trace the themes of liberation and path with examples from selected tantric traditions within Vaisnavism and Saivism. Lastly we will examine the development of Hinduism in the nineteenth century with the Hindu reformers and the development of a politicised Hinduism in the twentieth century.