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Frontispiece Krsna riding through the air on a symbolic elephant made of cowgirls. Rajasthan, Jaipur School c. 1800.

An introduction to Hinduism

Lecturer in Religious Studies Department o f Theology and Religious Studies University o f Wales, Lampeter

a m b r id g e


Published by the Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge The Pitt Building, Trumpington Street, Cambridge CB2 i r p 40 West 20th Street, N ew York, N Y 10 0 11-4 2 11, USA 10 Stamford Road, Oakleigh, Melbourne 3166, Australia Cambridge University Press 1996 First published 1996 Printed in Great Britain at the University Press, Cambridge A catalogue recordfo r this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress cataloguing in publication data Flood, Gavin D., 1954An introduction to Hinduism / by Gavin Flood, p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. is b n 0 521 43304 5 (hardback). - i s b n o 521 43878 o (paperback) 1. Hinduism. I. Title.
B L 12 0 2 .F 5 6 2 9 4.5-D C 20
is b n is b n

1996 9 6 - 4 2 7 5 5 C IP

o 521 43304 5 o 521 43878 o

hardback paperback


For Leela and Claire


List o f illustrations x Acknowledgem ents xii A note on language an d transliteration xiii Abbreviations and texts xv Introduction I

1 Points o f departure 5 2 Ancient origins 23 3 Dharm a 51 4 Yoga and renunciation 75 5 Narrative traditions and early Vaisnavism 103 6 The love of Visnu 128 7 Saiva and tantric religion 148 8 The Goddess and Sakta traditions 174 9 Hindu ritual 198 10 Hindu theology and philosophy 224 1 1 Hinduism and the modern world 250
Notes 274 Bibliography 305 In d ex 329


Unless otherwise stated, the author is responsible for the plates. Symbolic elephant (Reproduced by kind permission o f the Victoria and A lbert Museum.) frontispiece Between pages 304 and 305 1 A Saiva holy man by the Kanyakumari Temple, Tamilnadu 2 A mythical representation of Patanjali from the Siva Nataraja Temple Cidambaram, Tamilnadu 3 Lord Krsna. A popular representation 4 Lord Krsna with Radha. A popular representation 5 Lord Siva the ascetic. A popular representation 6 Siva Nataraja, the Dancing Siva. Bronze, c. 110 0 kind permission o f the British Museum)

(Reproduced by

7 A Siva liriga covered in petals, Cidambaram (Reproduced by kind permission of D r David Smith, Lancaster University.) 8 Lord Ganesa (Reproduced by kind permission o f the British Museum.) 9 The Goddess Durga slaying the buffalo demon. Siva Nataraja Temple Cidambaram 10 The ferocious Goddess Camunda seated upon a corpse (Reproduced by kind permission of the British Museum.)

List of illustrations
11 Hanuman, the monkey-god (Reproduced by kind permission o f Ann and Bury Peerless Slide Resources and Picture Library.) 1 2 The Descent of the Goddess Gariga or A rjunas Penance, Mahabaiipuram, Tamilnadu, seventh century c e

The Kapalesvari Temple, Madras Cidambaram

14 The south gateway (gopura) o f the Siva Nataraja Temple at 15 A young girl offering a flower to Lord Krsnas footprint (Reproduced by kind permission of Ann and B u ry Peerless Slide Resources and Picture Library.) 16 A serpent (ndga) shrine, Bhagamandala, Karnataka 17 Teyyam Shrine housing three teyyam deities, Nileshwaram, Kerala 18 Teyyam Shrine, housing the two deities. Nileshwaram, Kerala 19 The teyyam Goddess Muvalamkuhcamundl 20 The teyyam deity Visnumurti

1 India showing some important sacred sites page 2 26

2 M ajor sites of the Indus valley civilization (adapted from Parpola, Deciphering the Indus Script, p. 7)

1 Indus valley proto-Siva seal 2 The traditions of the R g and Yajur Vedas 3 The esoteric anatomy o f Yoga 4 The development o f Vaisnava traditions 5 Pancaratra cosmology 6 The development of Saiva traditions 7 The development of traditions o f Goddess worship 8 The twenty-five Samkhya tattvas 29 38 99 118 122 15 2 180 233


M an y sources contribute to the form ation o f a b o o k and I w ou ld like to acknow ledge m y debt both to people and to other w ritings. A num ber o f excellent introductions to H induism have influenced the present w o rk , particularly those b y Jo h n Brockington, C h ris Fuller, K laus Klosterm aier, Ju liu s Lipn er and, from a previous generation, R . C . Zaehner. I should like to extend thanks to P rofessor Jo h n C layto n o f Lancaster U n iversity fo r initially suggesting the project to me, and to D r D avid Smith o f the same university, w h o first introduced me to the stu dy o f H induism . I have been deeply influenced b y the w o rk o f D r R ich Freem an o f the U n iversity o f Pennsylvania w h o introduced me to the traditions o f K erala. I should also like to acknowledge conversations w ith D r Sumati R am asw am i o f the U n iversity o f Pennsylvania, Steve Jaco b s (a postgradu ate student at the U n iversity o f Wales), Sri A . Tham ban o f P ayannur in K erala, and an afternoon spent in the hospitality o f Sri K . P. C . A nujan Bhattatirippatu, the Tantri o f the Peruvanam Tem ple near Trichur. M an y fruitful discussions w ith D r O liver D avies o f the U n iversity o f Wales, Lam peter, have influenced the w o rk, and P ro fessor Paul M orris o f V ictoria U niversity, N e w Zealand, and the C am bridge U n iversity Press reader offered useful suggestions concerning the text itself. D r R . Blurton o f the B ritish M useum allow ed me to reproduce illustrations from the museum collection. I should also like to thank M s K im B axter o f Lancaster C ollege o f H igher Education fo r her help w ith illustrative mate rial, and M r A le x W right o f C am bridge U n iversity Press fo r his interest and encouragement.

A note on language and transliteration

The languages o f H induism are Sanskrit and the Indian vernaculars, particularly Tamil. This b ook follo w s the standard form o f transliteration w ith the exception o f place names and some proper names w hich are w ritten in their generally acknow ledged anglicized form s w ithout diacritical m arks. There is a distinction in Sanskrit between the stem form o f a w ord and the nom inative o r subject case. I generally use the stem form o f Sanskrit w ord s w ith the exception o f com m on terms such as karm a (which is the nom inative singular) and some p roper names such as H anum an (rather than H anum at) and Bhagavan (rather than Bhagavat). Sanskrit is a phonetic language, so transliteration reflects correct pronunciation. There are short vow els in Sanskrit (a, i, u, r, /) and long vow els (a, i, u, f, e, o, ai, au), twice as long as the short. The vow els are approxim ately pronounced as follow s: a like a in wom an a like a in rather i like Y in sit i like ee in meet u like u in put u like u in rule r like ri in rig f like ri in reel / like le in table xm

A note on language am i transliteration e like c in red ai like ai in aisle o like o in go an like o w in vo w C onsonants are unaspirated (such as ka, g a ,p a ) and aspirated (such as kha, g h a ,p h a ). T h e retroflex sounds ta, tba, da, dha and na are pronounced w ith the tip o f the tongue bent backw ards to touch the palate. Th e dentals ta, tha, da, dha and na are pronounced w ith the tip o f the tongue behind the teeth. The gutteral nasal na, pronounced n g, and the palatal na, pronounced n ya , are alw ays found in conjunction w ith other consonants o f their class (except in the case o f some seed mantras). Th u s hriga and anjali. The m sound o r anusvara represents a nasalization o f the preceding vow el and the h sound o r visarga represents an aspiration o f the preceding vow el: a h sound follow ed b y a slight echo o f the vow el (e.g. devah is dev a h a). A p art from these sounds, tw o Tamil consonants w hich have no E n glish equivalents are la and ra w hich are retroflex sounds.

Abbreviations and texts

The follow in g are abbreviations for Sanskrit texts referred to. A ssum ing that the Sanskrit editions o f the texts w ill be o f little use to the readers o f this book, on ly bibliographical details o f E nglish translations are given, w here available. Ait.Ar. Ap.Gr.S. Ap.S.S. Ar.S. As.Gr.S. A st. Ath. V. BA U Baud.SS. Bh. G. Aitareya Aranyaka pasthamba Grhya Stra. H . Oldenberg, The Grhya Siitras, SBE 29, 30 (Delhi: M LB D , reprint 1964-5) pasthamba Srauta Stra rtha Sdstra o f Kautilya. L. N . Rangarajan, The Arthashastra (Delhi: Penguin, 1992) Asvalyana Grhya Stra. H. Oldenberg, The Grhya Stras, SBE 29, 30 (Delhi: M LB D , reprint 1964-5) Astdhyy of Pnini. See G. Cardona, Pnini, His Work and its Traditions, vol. 1 (Delhi: M LB D , 1988) Atharva Veda. M. Bloomfield, Hymns o f the Atharua Veda, SBE 42 (1897; Delhi: M LB D , reprint 1967) Brhadranyaka Upanisad, S. Radhakrishnan, The Principal Upanisads (London: Unwin Hyman, 1953) Baudhayana Srauta Stra Bhagavad Gita. J. van Buitenen, The Bhagavadgt in the Mahbhrata (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1981) Brahma Stra Bhsya. G . Thibaut, Vednta Stras with xv


List of abbreviations an d texts

Commentary by Sankardcdrya, 2 vols., SBK 34, 38 (Delhi: M LB D , reprint 1987) Ch.U. Dbh.Pur. Chandogya Upanisad. Radhakrishnan, The Principal Upanisads Devibhdgavata Purdna. See C. M. Brown, The Triumph o f the Goddess: The Canonical Models and Theological Visions o f the D evi-Bhdgavata-Purdna (Albany: S U N Y Press, 1990) Devimahdtmya. T. B. Coburn, Encountering the Goddess, a Translation o f the Devimahdtmya and a Study o f Its Interpretation (Albany: S U N Y Press, 1991) Gautama Dharma Sdstra. G. Biihler, The Sacred Laws o f the Aryas, SBE 2 (Delhi: M LBD , reprint 1987) Hathayogapradipika of Svatmarama. T. Tatya, The Hathayogapradipikd o f Svatmarama (Madras: Adyar Library, 1972) Jab.U . Jdbdla Upanisad. Patricke Olivelle, The Samnydsa Upanisads: H indu Scriptures on Asceticism and Renunciation (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992) Jaydkhya Samhitd Katha Upanisad. Radhakrishnan, The Principal Upanisads Kaulakjndnanirnaya Kubjikdmata Tantra Kiirma Purdna. A Board of Scholars, The Kiirm a Purdna, All India Tradition and M ythology (Delhi: M LB D , 1973) Mahabbdsya of Patanjali Mahdndrdyana Upanisad M aitri Upanisad Manu-smrti. W. Doniger, The Laws o f Manu (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1991) Mdrkandeya Purdna. F. E. Pargiter, The Markandeya Purdna (Delhi: M LB D , reprint 1969) Matsya Purdna. A Board of Scholars, The Matsya Purdna (Delhi: A IT M , 1973) Mahdbharata. J. A. B. van Buitenen, The Mahdbharata, 3 vols. (University of Chicago Press, 1973-8). W. Buck, The Mahdbharata Retold (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1973)


Gaut.Dh. Hat. Yog.

Jay.Sam. Kat.U. Kau. KBT Kur.Pur. M abb has. Mahnar. U. Mait. U. Mann Mark.Pur. Mat. Pur. Mbb.

xvi o f abbreviations and texts MLBD

MS. M.Stav. Motilal Banarsidass Mimms Sutras of Jaimini. M. C . Sandal, The Mimamsa Sutras o f Jaim ini, i vols. (Delhi: M LB D , reprint 1980) Mahimnastava. Arthur Avalon, The Greatness o f Siva, Mahimnastava o f Puspadanta (Madras: Ganesh and C o., reprint 196}) Nradaparivrjaka Upanisad. P. Olivelle, The Samnysa Upanisads Psupata Stra. H. Chakraborti, Psupata-Stram with Pancbrtha-Bhsya o f Kaundinya (Calcutta: Academic Publishers, 1970) RV Rg Veda Samhit, A selection of hymns can be found in M. Mller, Vedic Hymns, 2 vols., SBE 32, 46 (Delhi: M LB D , reprint 1973); W. D. O Flaherty, The Rig Veda (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981) Smkhya Krik of Isvarakrsna. G. Larson, Classical Smkhya (Delhi: M LB D , 1979) Satapatha Brhmana. J. Eggeling, The Satapatha-Brahmana, 5 vols., SBE 12, 26, 41, 43, 44 (Delhi: M LB D , reprint 1978-82) Sacred books of the East Spanda-Nirnaya of Ksemarja. J. Singh, Spanda Kriks (Delhi: M LB D , 1980) Sribha. Sribhsya of Rmnuja. G. Thibaut, The Vednta-stras with Commentary by Rmnuja, SBE 48 (Delhi: M LBD , reprint 1976) Svetsvatara Upanisad. Radhakrishnan, The Principal Upanisads TA Tait. Sam. Tantrloka of Abhinavagupta Taittiriya Samhit. A. B. Keith, in The Veda o f the Black Yajus School Entitled Taittiriya Sanhita, 2 vols., Harvard Oriental Series 18, 19 (Cambridge: Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1914) Taittiriya Upanisad. Radhakrishnan, The Principal Upanisads Vjasaneyi Samhit Vkyapdiya of Bhartrhari. K. A . Iyer, The Vkyapadiya (Poona: Deccan College, 1965) Vyu Purna. A Board of Scholars, The Vyu Purna, All India Tradition and M ythology (Delhi: M LB D , 1973)

Nar.U. Pas. Su.

Sam.Kar. Sat.Br. SBE Sp.Nir.

Svet. U.

Tait. Up. Vaj.Sam. Vakpad. Vay. Pur.

List o f abbreviations anil texts

Vis. Pur. Visnu Purdna. H. H. Wilson, The Visnu Parana: A System o f Hindu Mythology and Tradition (Calcutta: Punthi Iustak, reprint 1967) Visnu Smrti. J. Jolly, The Institutes o f Visnu, SBE 7 (Delhi: M L B D , reprint 1965) Yogatattva Upanisad. T. R. S. Ayyangar, The Yoga Upanisads (Madras: A dyar Library, 1952) Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. See Y S bhasya Yoga Siitra-bhdsya of Vyasa. Swami H. Aranya, Yoga Philosophy o f Patanjali (Albany: S U N Y Press, 1983)

Vis.Smrt. Yog.U. YS YS bhasya



V isiting India during the first half o f the eleventh century, the rem arkable Islamic scholar A l-B lru n I made a distinction between the view s o f the H indu philosophers and the ordinary peop le.1 In the form er he thought he could find analogues fo r his ow n m onotheistic belief. A l-B lru n i m ay or m ay not be correct in this, but w hat is significant is that w e have here an early recognition, b y an outsider, o f both the diversity o f H induism and its seem ingly u n ifyin g features. F o r A l B lrunl, underlyin g the diversity o f the popular religion is a philosophical unity to H indu traditions. In this book I hope to su rvey the w ide diversity o f w hat has becom e kn ow n as H in du ism as w ell as to indicate some com m on elements and u n ifyin g themes. H in duism is the religion o f the m ajority o f people in India and N ep al, as w ell as being an im portant cultural force in all other continents. A n y visi tor to south A sia from the West is struck b y the colour, sounds, smells and vib ran cy o f daily ritual observances, and b y the centrality o f religion in peoples lives. There are innumerable w ayside shrines to local goddesses or divinized ancestors, majestic temples to the great deities such as Visnu or Siva, festivals, pilgrim ages to rivers and sacred places, and garlanded pictures o f deities and saints in buses, shops and homes. H indus w ill often say that H induism is not so much a religion, but a w a y o f life. H induism also contains developed and elaborate traditions o f ph ilosoph y and theol ogy, w h ich can be v e ry different from those o f the West, A l-B lru n fs com ments notwithstanding. T h is b o ok is both a historical and thematic su rvey o f H induism . It is an

An introduction to Hinduism

Map i India showing some important sacred sites

attempt to make clear the .structures of 1 linduism and to explain its inter nal coherence as well as its apparent inconsistencies. W hile recognizing that it is im possible to include everything in a subject which covers a timespan o f 5,000 years and w hich has existed over a vast geographical area, this b o ok aims at giving com prehensive coverage o f the history, traditions, rituals and theologies o f H induism . Inevitably, in an approach w hich is both thematic and historical, there is som e overlap in the material covered, but it is hoped that this w ill provide m utual reinforcem ent o f im portant themes and ideas. T he b ook presents the realms o f the householder and the renouncer as distinct, and highlights ritual as a unify in g feature o f H indu traditions. It also lays emphasis on the influence o f Tantra w hich has often been underestimated. F o r the reader w ishing to get a general im pression o f H induism , the introductory chapter i and chapter 9 on H in du ritual (which I take to be m ore im portant than doctrine in understanding Hinduism ) are the m ost relevant. F o r the reader m ainly interested in the o lo gy and philosophy, chapter 10 provides a system atic overview . The b o o k s intended readers are students taking humanities courses in un iver sities and colleges, though it is hoped that others, particularly from H indu com m unities themselves, m ay find som ething o f interest in its pages. C hapter 1 begins w ith the question what is H indu ism ? This is a com plex issue, as the term H in d u has o n ly been in w ide circulation fo r a couple o f centuries and reading H indu ism into the past is problem atic. This chapter discusses these issues, goes on to develop ideas about H in duism s general features and relates its study to some contem porary scholarly debates. The second chapter begins the historical su rvey o f H indu traditions, starting w ith the vedic religion and exam ining the rela tion between the A ry a n culture w hich produced the Veda, H in du ism s revelation, and the Indus valley culture. C hapter 3 develops the historical survey, discussing the idea o f dharm a, truth and duty, and the institutions o f caste and kingship. C hapter 4 introduces the idea o f w o rld renunciation and examines its ideals o f liberation from the cycle o f reincarnation through asceticism and yoga. C hapters 5 to 8 describe the great traditions o f Vaisnavism , w hose focus is the deity o f Visnu and his incarnations, Saivism , w hose focus is Siva, and Saktism , w hose focus is the G oddess, D evi. C hapters 9 and 10 are thematic, exam ining H indu ritual and H indu th eology respectively, and chapter 1 1 traces the developm ent o f H induism as a w o rld religion and its m ore recent m anifestations in H indu nationalist politics.

An introduction to Hinduism
In w riting this b o ok, I have assumed that the study o f religion is o f vital im portance in the m odern w orld in which everyone is, in some sense, a global citizen , and in which issues o f identity and meaning are as im por tant as ever. In H induism w e see tw o contem porary cultural forces w hich are characteristic o f m odern com munities: on the one hand a movement tow ards globalization and identity form ation w hich locates H induism as a trans-national w o rld religion alongside C hristianity, Buddhism or Islam ; on the other, a fragm entation w hich identifies H induism with a nar ro w ly conceived national identity. B oth o f these forces, towards global ization and a fragm ented nationalism, are strong w ithin H induism and it remains to be seen w hich becom es the m ore prom inent voice. I hope that H indus reading this book w ill recognize their tradition in its pages, and I leave it fo r the reader to judge the appropriateness o f the dis courses I have highlighted and those I have thereby occluded.

i Points of departure

What is H in duism ? A sim ple answ er m ight be that H induism is a term which denotes the religions o f the m ajority o f people in India and N epal, and o f som e com m unities in other continents, w h o refer to themselves as H indus . T he difficulties arise when w e try to understand precisely what this means, fo r the diversity o f H induism is tru ly vast and its h istory long and com plex. Som e m ight claim, both from w ithin the tradition and from outside it, that because o f this diversity there is no such thing as H induism , w hile others m ight claim that, in spite o f its diversity, there is an essence w hich structures or patterns its m anifestations. The truth o f the m atter p ro b ab ly lies som ew here betw een these claims. A s k m any Hindus and they w ill be sure o f their identity as H in d u , in contrast to being C hristian, M u slim or Buddhist, yet the kinds o f H indus they are will vary a very great deal and differences betw een H indus m ight be as great as differences betw een H indus and Buddhists o r Christians. In In dias population o f approxim ately 900 m illion people,1 700 m illion are H indus, the rem ainder are M uslim s, Sikhs, C hristians, Jain s, Buddhists, Parsees, Je w s and follow ers o f tribal religions. There are 120 m illion Muslim s and 4 5 m illion tribal peoples or adivasis, w ith 14 m illion Sikhs and an estim ated 14 m illion C hristians.2 This is a w ide m ix o f religions and cul tural groups, all o f w hich interact w ith H induism in a num ber o f w ays. There are also sizeable H indu com m unities beyond the boundaries o f south A sia in South A frica, E ast A frica, South A m erica, the West Indies, the U S A , Canada, E u rope, A ustralia, N e w Zealand, B ali and Java. T he 19 8 1 census in the U S A estimated the population o f Indian com m unities to be

An introduction to Hinduism
387,223, m ost o f w hom w ould be 1lindu, while in the U K the num ber o f H indus for the same year is estimated at 300,000.3 There are also m any W esterners from E u rop e and Am erica w h o w ould claim to fo llo w H induism o r religion j deriving from it and H indu ideas, such as karma, yo g a and vegetarianism , are now com m onplace in the West. Th e actual term hindu first occurs as a Persian geographical term fo r the people w h o lived beyond the river Indus (Sanskrit: sindhu). In A rab ic texts, A l-H in d is a term fo r the people o f m od ern -d ay India4 and H in d u , o r H in d o o , w as used tow ards the end o f the eighteenth century b y the B ritish to refer to the people o f H in dustan , the area o f northw est India. E ven tu ally H in d u became virtu ally equivalent to an Indian w h o w as not a M uslim , Sikh, Ja in o r Christian, thereby encom passing a range o f religious beliefs and practices. T he -ism w as added to H in d u in around 18 30 to denote the culture and religion o f the high-caste Brahm ans in con trast to other religions, and the term was soon appropriated b y Indians themselves in the context o f establishing a national identity opposed to colonialism ,5 though the term H in d u was used in Sanskrit and Bengali hagiographic texts in contrast to Yavana or M uslim , as early as the six teenth century.6

Defining Hinduism
Because o f the w ide range o f traditions and ideas incorporated b y the term H in d u , it is a problem arriving at a definition. M ost H indu traditions revere a b o d y o f sacred literature, the Veda, as revelation, though som e do not; som e traditions regard certain rituals as essential fo r salvation, others do not; some H indu philosophies postulate a theistic reality w ho creates, maintains and destroys the universe, others reject this claim. H induism is often characterized as belief in reincarnation (sam sara) determ ined b y the law that all actions have effects (karm a), and that salvation is freedom from this cycle. Y et other religions in south A sia, such as Buddhism and Jainism , also believe in this. Part o f the problem o f definition is due to the fact that H induism does not have a single historical founder, as do so m any other w orld religions; it does not have a unified system o f belief encoded in a creed or declaration o f faith; it does not have a single system o f soteriolo gy; and it does not have a centralized authority and bureaucratic struc ture. It is therefore a ve ry different kind o f religion in these respects from the m onotheistic, western traditions o f C hristian ity and Islam , though there are arguably stronger affinities w ith Judaism .

Points o f departure
Jaw aharlal N ehru, the first prim e minister of independent India, said iliat H induism is all things to all m en/ certainly an inclusive definition, hut so inclusive as to be o f little use tor ou r purposes. Yet w hile it might not be possible to arrive at a watertight definition o f H induism , this does not mean that the term is empty. T here are clearly som e kinds o f practices, texts and beliefs w hich are central to the concept o f being a H in d u , and there are others w hich are on the edges o f H induism . I take the view that while H induism is not a category in the classical sense o f an essence defined b y certain properties, there are nevertheless p rototypical form s o f I Iindu practice and belief. The beliefs and practices o f a high-caste devotee o f the H indu god Visnu, living in Tam ilnadu in south India, fall clearly within the category o f H in d u and are prototypical o f that category. The beliefs and practices o f a Radhasaom i devotee in the Punjab, w h o w o r ships a G o d w ithout attributes, w h o does not accept the Veda as revelation and even rejects m any H indu teachings, are not pro to typ ically H in du , yet are still w ithin the sphere, and category, o f H induism . T he south Indian devotee o f Visnu is a m ore typical m em ber o f the category H in d u than the Radhasoam i devotee. In other w o rd s, H in du ism is not a category in the classical sense - to w hich som ething either belongs or it does not - but more in the sense o f prototype theory. P rototype theory, developed b y G eorge L a k o ff,8 maintains that cate gories do not have rigid boundaries, but rather there are degrees o f categ o ry m em bership; some members o f a category are m ore prototypical than others. These degrees m ay be related through fam ily resemblance; the idea that mem bers o f a category m ay be related to one another w ithout all members having any properties in com m on that define the category .9 H induism can be seen as a category in this sense. It has fu z z y edges. Som e form s o f religion are central to H induism , w h ile others are less clearly cen tral but still w ithin the category. To say what is o r is not central to the category o f H induism is, o f course, to m ake judgem ents about the degree o f prototypicality. The question o f the basis o f such judgem ents arises. H ere w e m ust turn, on the one hand, to H indu self-understandings, for H induism has developed categories fo r its o w n self-description,10 as well as, on the other, to the scholars under standings o f com m on features o r structuring principles seen from outside the tradition. A lth ou gh I have some sym pathy w ith Jon athan Z . Sm iths rem ark that religion is the creation o f the scholars im agination,1 1 in so far as the act o f

An introduction to Hinduism
scholarship involves a reduction, a selection, a highlighting o f some dis courses and texts and a backgrounding o f others, there is nevertheless a w ide b o d y o f ritual practices, form s o f behaviour, doctrines, stories, texts, and deeply felt personal experiences and testim onies, to w hich the term H in d u ism refers. Th e term H in d u certainly does refer in the contem po rary w o rld to the dom inant religion o f south A sia, albeit a religion w hich em braces a w ide variety w ithin it. It is im portant to bear in mind that the form ation o f H induism , as the w o rld religion w e kn o w today, has on ly occurred since the nineteenth century, w hen the term w as used b y H indu reform ers and w estern orientalists. H ow ever, its origins and the stream s w h ich feed into it are v e ry ancient, extending back to the Indus valley civi lization.12 I take the view that H in du ism is not p u rely the construction o f w estern orientalists attem pting to m ake sense o f the plurality o f reli gious phenom ena w ithin the vast geographical area o f south A sia, as some scholars have m aintained,13 but that H in du ism is also a developm ent o f H indu self-understanding; a transform ation in the m odern w o rld o f themes already present. I shall use the term H in d u to refer not on ly to the contem porary w orld religion, but, w ith the necessary qualifications, to the traditions w h ich have led to its present form ation.

Religion and the sacred

W hat w e understand b y H induism as a religion p artly depends upon w hat w e mean b y religion . O u r understanding o f H induism has been mediated b y w estern notions o f w hat religion is and the projection o f H induism as an other to the Wests C hristian ity.14 W hile this is not the place fo r an elaborate discussion o f the m eaning o f religion, it is neverthe less im portant to m ake som e rem arks about it, and to indicate some para meters o f its use. T he category religion has developed out o f a C hristian, largely Protestant, understanding, w hich defines it in terms o f belief. Th is is indicated b y the frequent use o f the term faith as a syn on ym fo r religion . If religion is to contribute to our understanding o f hum an view s and prac tices, its characterization pu rely in terms o f belief is clearly inadequate and w ou ld need to be m odified to include a variety o f hum an practices. D efinitions o f religion provoke much debate and disagreem ent, but to use the term w e have to have some idea o f w hat w e m ean b y it. R eligion needs to be located squarely w ithin human society and culture; there is no privileged discourse o f religion outside o f particular cultures and societies. The fam ous sociologist Em ile D urkheim in The E lem en tary Form s o f the

Points oj depart arc

Religious L ife , first published in 19 15 , defined religion as a unified set o f beliefs and practices relative to sacred things which creates a social bond between p eop le.15 Th is unified set o f beliefs and practices is a system o f sym bols w hich acts, to use Peter B ergers phrase, as a sacred can o p y, imbuing individual and social life w ith meaning. T he sacred refers to a quality o f m ysterious pow er w hich is believed to dw ell w ithin certain objects, persons and places and w hich is opposed to chaos and death. Religion, follow in g Berger, establishes a sacred cosm os w hich provides the ultimate shield against the terror o f an om y .16 This sense o f sacred p ow er is o f vital im portance to the experience o f men and w om en throughout the h istory o f religions. In H induism a sense o f the sacred m ight be experienced as the sense o f a greater being outside o f the self, a num inous experience to use the term coined b y the G erm an theologian R u d o lf O tto, characterized b y a feeling o f awe, fascination and m y stery;17 or the sense o f the sacred m ight occur as an inner o r con templative experience w ithin the self, w hat m ight be called a m ystical experience.10 There has been a tendency in recent studies to reduce the religious to the political .19 W hile it is im portant to recognize that the religious exists o n ly w ithin specific cultural contexts, as does the political, the concept o f the sacred is distinctive to a religious discourse w ithin cultures. T he sacred is regarded as divine p ow er manifested in a variety o f contexts: tem ples, locations, images and people. W hile this p ow er is not divorced from p o lit ical power, it can nevertheless exist independently, as is seen in popular religious festivals and personal devotional and ascetic practices w hich result in states o f inner ecstasy. T he sacred exists entirely w ithin culture. T he categories o f the sacred and the everyd ay are not substantive, as Jon athan Smith has observed, but relational; they change according to circum stances and situation. There is nothing in H induism w hich is inherently sacred. T he sacredness o f time, objects o r persons depends upon context and the boundaries betw een the sacred and the everyd ay are fluid. A ritual dance perform er w h o is p o s sessed b y a god one day, mediating betw een the com m unity and the divine, w ill the next day be sim ply human again; or the tem ple image or icon p rio r to consecration is m erely stone, metal, or w o o d , but once con secrated is em pow ered and becom es the focus o f mediation: it becom es sacred b y having our attention directed to it in a special w a y .20 T he sacred in H in duism is mediated through innum erable, changing form s w hich

An introduction to Hinduism
bear w itness to a d eeply rich, religious im agination, centred on mediation and transform ation. T he understanding o f these aspects o f human experience is, as N inian Sm art has pointed out, indispensable in the plural cultures o f the contem p o rary w o rld .21 Th is study o f H induism assumes this point and assumes that the academic study o f religion, o r religious studies, draws on a num ber o f m ethods w ithin the human sciences: anthropology, history, ph ilosop h y and phenom enology. There has been much recent debate concerning the nature o f objective studies o f other cultures b y w estern social scientists and a questioning o f the v ery possibility, o r desirability, o f objectivity. T he French social thinker Pierre Bourdieu has asked that w e clarify the position o f the author, and that the researcher be aware o f the lim itations o f his o r her perspective on the object o f study.22 W hile it m ay be true that w e are all personally affected b y w hat draw s us, m ethodologi cally, the present study is written from a perspective standing outside H induism , rather than from inside. We should, however, be w a ry o f regarding these categories as watertight, fo r there is a dialectical relation between the objective structures o f H induism , its beliefs and practices, and the dispositions o f the m ethod used.23 T he m ethods o f religious stud ies must mediate between, on the one hand, the objective structure o f H indu traditions and H indu self-reflection, and, on the other, the co m m unity o f readers w h o are external (whether o r not they happen to be H indus).24 N eedless to say, I am not concerned w ith the truth o r falsity o f the claims made b y the traditions described here. These claims are part o f the social and psychological fabric o f H in du com m unities w hich have given them life, and w hich have had p rofoun d personal significance fo r people w ithin them.

General features of Hinduism

M an y H indus believe in a transcendent G o d , beyond the universe, w h o is yet w ithin all living beings and w h o can be approached in a variety o f w ays. Such a H indu might say that this suprem e being can be w orshipped in innum erable form s: as a handsome yo u n g man, as a majestic king, as a beautiful you ng girl, as an old wom an, o r even as a featureless stone. The transcendent is mediated through icons in tem ples, through natural ph e nomena, or through living teachers and saints. H induism is often charac terized as being polytheistic, and while it is true that innum erable deities are the objects o f w orsh ip, m any H indus w ill regard these as an aspect or

l'oints of departure
manifestation o f sacred power. D evotion (b h a k ti) to deities mediated through icons and h oly persons provides refuge in times o f crisis and even final liberation (m oksa) from action {karm a) and the cycle o f reincarna tion (samsara). T he transcendent is also revealed in sacred literature, called the Veda, and in codes o f ritual, social and ethical behaviour, called dharm a, w hich that literature reveals. T he tw o terms v ed a and dharm a are o f central im portance in w hat m ight be called H indu self-understanding.

The Veda is a large b o d y o f literature com posed in Sanskrit, a sacred lan guage o f H induism , revered as revelation (sruti) and as the source o f dharm a. The term v ed a means kn ow led ge , originally revealed to the ancient sages (rsi), conveyed to the com m unity b y them, and passed through the generations initially as an oral tradition. There is also a large body o f Sanskrit literature, inspired but nevertheless regarded as being o f human authorship, com prising rules o f conduct (the D harm a literature) and stories about people and gods (the E p ics and m ythological texts called Puranas). These texts might be regarded as a secondary or indirect revela tion (sm rti).25 There are also texts in vernacular Indian languages, particu larly Tamil, w hich are revered as being equal to the Veda b y som e H indus. Th e Veda as revelation is o f vital im portance in understanding H induism , though its acceptance is not universal am ong H indus and there are form s o f H induism w hich have rejected the Veda and its legitim izing authority in the sanctioning o f a hierarchical social order. H ow ever, all H indu traditions make some reference to the Veda, whether in its accep tance or rejection, and some scholars have regarded reference to its legit im izing authority as a criterion o f being H in d u .26 W hile revelation as an abstract, o r even notional entity, is im portant, the actual content o f the Veda has often been neglected b y H indu traditions. It has acted rather as a reference point fo r the construction o f H indu identity and selfunderstanding.27 D harm a is revealed b y the Veda. It is the nearest semantic equivalent in Sanskrit to the E nglish term religion, but has a w ider connotation than this, incorporating the ideas o f truth , d u ty , ethics , law and even nat ural la w . It is that po w er w hich upholds o r supports society and the cos mos; that p o w er w hich constrains phenom ena into their particularity, which makes things what they are.28 Th e nineteenth-century H indu reform ers speak o f H induism as the eternal religion or law (sanatana

An introduction to Hinduism
dharm a), a com m on idea among m odern I lindus today in their self description. M ore specifically, dharm a refers to the duty o f high-caste H indus w ith regard to social position, ones caste o r class (v a rn a ), and the stage o f life one is at (asram a). A ll this is incorporated b y the term varn asram a-dharm a. O ne striking feature o f H induism is that practice takes precedence over belief. W hat a H indu does is m ore im portant than w hat a H indu believes. H induism is not credal. A dherence to dharm a is therefore not an accep tance o f certain beliefs, but the practice o r perform ance o f certain duties, w hich are defined in accordance w ith dharm ic social stratification. The boundaries o f w hat a H indu can and cannot do have been largely deter mined b y his or her particular endogam ous social group, or caste, strati fied in a hierarchical order, and, o f course, b y gender. This social hierarchy is governed b y the distinction between p u rity and pollution, w ith the higher, purer castes at the top o f the structure, and the lower, polluted and polluting, castes at the bottom . Behaviour, expressing H indu values and p o w er structures, takes precedence over belief, orth op raxy over o rth o doxy. A s Frits Staal says, a H indu m ay be a theist, pantheist, atheist, com munist and believe w hatever he likes, but w hat m akes him into a H indu are the ritual practices he perform s and the rules to w h ich he adheres, in short, w hat he does\ 29 This sociological characterization o f H induism is v e ry com pelling. A H indu is som eone born w ithin an Indian social group, a caste, w ho adheres to its rules w ith regard to pu rity and m arriage, and w h o perform s its prescribed rituals which usually focus on one o f the m any H indu deities such as Siva o r Visnu. O ne might add that these rituals and social rules are derived from the H indu p rim ary revelation, the Veda, and from the secondary revelation, the inspired texts o f hum an authorship. The Veda and its ritual reciters, the highest caste o r Brahm ans, are the closest H induism gets to a legitim izing authority, fo r the Brahm an class has been extrem ely im portant in the dissemination and maintenance o f H indu cul ture. It is generally the Brahm an class that has attempted to structure coherently the m ultiple expressions o f H induism , and w hose selfunderstanding any account o f H induism needs to take seriously.

D harm a implies a fundam ental distinction betw een the affirm ation o f w o rld ly life and social values on the one hand, and the rejection o f w o rld ly

Points of departure
life or renunciation (sam nyasa) in order to achieve salvation or liberation (moksa) on the other. R eligion in w orld ly life is concerned with practical needs; the help o f deities in times o f crisis such as a childs illness, the ensuring o f a better lot in this life and the next, and the regulating o f ones passage through time in the social institutions into which one is born. This kind o f religion is concerned w ith birth, m arriage and funeral rites; the regular ordering o f life through ritual w hich is generally distinct from reli gion as leading to personal salvation o r liberation (moksa). Richard G om brich, w h o has highlighted this distinction, has called the form er com m unal religion to distinguish it fro m soteriology, the path o f salva tion.30 R eligion as soteriology is concerned w ith the individual and his/her ow n salvation, how soever conceptualized, whereas com m unal religion is concerned w ith the regulation o f com m unities, the ritual struc turing o f a person s passage through life, and the successful transition, at death, to another w orld. The form er involves an element o f faith and, more im portantly, initiation into the particular w a y o r method leading to the practitioners spiritual goal. The latter is concerned w ith legitim izing hierarchical social relationships and propitiating deities. The relationship between soteriology and practical religion is variable. Paths m ight demand com plete celibacy and the renouncing o f social life, in w hich case the H indu w ou ld becom e a renouncer (samnysin), a w an dering ascetic, o r they m ight be adapted to the householder continuing to live in the w orld , fo r exam ple b y dem anding a certain yoga practice. Some spiritual paths m ight allow w om en to be initiated, others might not; some might be open to U ntouchable castes, w hile others might not. T he aim o f a spiritual path is eventual liberation rather than w o rld ly prosperity which is the legitimate goal fo r the fo llo w er o f practical religion. H indus might, and do, participate in both form s o f religion. Th is distinction between practical religion and religion as soteriology, between appeasement and m ysticism , is expressed at the social level in the figures o f the householder, w h o maintains his fam ily and perform s his rit ual obligations, and the renouncer w h o abandons social life, perform s his ow n funeral and seeks final release. T he purposes o f the householder and renouncer, as Lou is D um ont has show n ,3 1 are quite different, even con tradictory, yet are both legitimated w ithin H in du traditions. T he highcaste householder is born w ith three debts (rna) to be paid: the debt o f vedic study to the sages (rsi) as a celibate student (brahm acrin), the debt o f ritual to the gods (deva) as a householder, and the debt o f begetting a


An introduction to Hinduism
son to m ake funeral offerings to the ancestors (pitr). Traditionally, on ly once these debts have been paid can a householder go forth to seek libera tion. Som etim es, as in the fam ous text o f secondary revelation, the B h a g a v a d G ita , the ideals o f household obligation and ascetic renuncia tion are brought together b y saying that a person can w o rk towards liber ation w hile still fulfilling his w o rld ly responsibilities.

T he term polytheism can be applied to H induism in so far as there is a m ul tiplicity o f divine form s, from pan-H indu deities such as Siva, Visnu and G anesa to deities in regional temples, such as L o rd Jagannth at Puri, and deities in local village shrines. These deities are distinct and particular to their location; the goddess in a shrine in one village is distinct from the goddess in a different shrine. W hile m ost H in du s w ill regard these deities as distinct, m any H indus w ill also say that they are aspects or m anifesta tions o f a single, transcendent G o d. Som e H indus w ill identify this tran scendent focus w ith a specific G o d , say K rsn a or Siva, and maintain that the other deities are lo w er manifestations o f this suprem e G o d . O ther H indus w ill say that all deities are aspects o f an im personal absolute and that deities o f m yth olo gy and the icons in tem ples are w in dow s into this ultimate reality. W hat is im portant is that the deities as icons in temples mediate between the human w orld and a divine or sacred reality and that the icon as d eity m ight be seen as a spiritualization o f matter.

C entral to any understanding o f H induism is the role o f m ediation between the sacred and the everyday or p rofan e . The place o f the interac tion o f the sacred w ith the human is the place o f m ediation; the connection between the com m unity or individual and the religious focus. M ediation underlines difference; the difference betw een hum ans and deities, and the differences between human groups. These differences are mediated tem p o rarily through ritual and festival cycles, and spatially through temples, icons, h oly persons and h oly places. In ritual, o fferin g incense to the icon o f a deity mediates betw een, or is thought to open a channel o f com m uni cation between, the H in du and the transcendent p o w er em bodied in the icon. Sim ilarly, renouncers and gurus mediate betw een the sacred and the everyday w orld s, as do people w h o becom e tem porarily possessed during certain festivals.


Points of departure
The distinction between the sacred and the everyday overlaps with the important distinctions between the pure and the im pure, and the auspic ious and the inauspicious: distinctions w hich have been em phasized in recent studies o f H induism .32 T he sacred is generally regarded as pure, t hough m ay also be manifested in im purity, as in the A gh o ri ascetic living in the polluting crem ation ground. T h e sacred is also auspicious, yet m ay on occasion be inauspicious, as w hen a goddess o f sm allpox and other dis eases visits ones family. The possessed man o r w om an recapitulates the tem ple icon. B oth con tain sacred p o w er and are identified w ith the deity. B oth icon and p o s sessed person are not m erely representations o f the deity, but have actually become the deity w ithin the particular, circum scribed, ritual situation. The transform ation o f the non-em pow ered icon into em powered icon, or o f the low -caste perform er into the sacred deity, is a central structure o f I Iindu religious consciousness. T he icon, or person w ho has becom e an icon, mediates betw een the sacred realm and the human com m unity. Should the divine interact w ith the hum an outside ritual contexts, such as in an unexpected possession illness, then the u n lo o ked-fo r m ediation might not be w elcom e and, indeed, could be dangerous. N o t o n ly certain people, but also certain places, mediate between the sacred and the everyday. Places o f pilgrim age are called crossings (tirtha). O ne such crossing is the sacred city o f Varanasi w hich is so sacred that lib eration w ill occur at death fo r those lu ck y enough to die there. H ere, the crossing from everyd ay to the sacred w ill be permanent. A gain, rivers, such as the G anges in the north o r K averi in the south, are places w here the sacred is manifested and H indus receive blessings through visiting these sites. Yet, w hile difference mediated b y innum erable spatial and tem poral form s is central, identity rather than hierarchy, and b y im plication the absence o f m ediation, is also im portant. W hile the deity is w orshipped as distinct, the deity and devotee nevertheless share in the same essence and at a deep level they are one.33 The idea o f a boundless identity is at the heart o f m any H in du soteriologies w hich assert the essence o f a person, their true self (atm an), to be identical w ith the essence o f the cosm os, the absolute (brahm an). E ven traditions w hich em phasize the distinction between G o d and the self at som e level usually accept the identity or partial identity o f w orsh ipper and w orshipped, o f lover and beloved. This idea o f an iden tity betw een the w orsh ipper and the d eity has even been called, b y the


An introduction to Hinduism
anthropologist C h ris Fuller, one o f 1lin d u ism s axiom atic truths .34 Yet the coexistence o f identity and difference, o f im m ediacy and m ediation, is also axiom atic. T h ere is unity, yet there is difference: the god K rsn as con sort, Rdh, is united w ith him, yet she retains her distinct identity; the self and the absolute m ight be one, yet caste and gender differences matter.

H indu traditions
T he idea o f tradition inevitably stresses unity at the cost o f difference and divergence. In pre-Islam ic India there w ould have been a num ber o f dis tinct sects and regional religious identities, perhaps united b y com m on cultural sym bols, but no notion o f H in du ism as a com prehensive entity. Y et there are nevertheless striking continuities in H in du traditions. There are essentially tw o models o f tradition: the arboreal model and the river m odel. T he arboreal m odel claims that various sub-traditions branch o ff from a central, original tradition, often founded b y a specific person. The river m odel, the exact inverse o f the arboreal m odel, claims that a tradition com prises m ultiple streams w hich merge into a single m ainstream .35 C on tem porary H induism cannot be traced to a com m on origin, so the discussion is directed tow ards whether H induism fits the river m odel or, to extend the metaphor, w hether the term H in du ism sim ply refers to a num ber o f quite distinct rivers. W hile these m odels have restricted use in that they suggest a teleological direction o r intention, the river model w ou ld seem to be m ore appropriate in that it em phasizes the m ultiple o ri gins o f H induism . The m any traditions w hich feed in to contem porary H induism can be subsum ed under three broad headings: the traditions o f brahmanical orthopraxy, the renouncer traditions and popu lar o r local traditions. The tradition o f brahmanical orth op raxy has played the role o f master narra tive, transm itting a b o d y o f know ledge and behaviour through time, and defining the conditions o f orthopraxy, such as adherence to varnsram adharm a.

T he brahmanical tradition can itself be subdivided into a num ber o f sy s tems or religions w hich are distinct yet interrelated, and w hich refer to themselves as traditions (sam pradya) o r system s o f teacher-disciple transm ission (param par). These traditions, w h ich developed signifi cantly during the first millennium c e , are focused upon a particular deity


Points o f departure
or group o f deities. A m ong these broadly brahmanical system s, three are particularly im portant in H indu self-representation: Vaisnava traditions, focused on the deity Visnu and his incarnations; Saiva traditions, focused o n Siva; and Sakta traditions, focused on the G odd ess or D evi. There is .ilso an im portant tradition o f Brahm ans called Sm artas, those w h o fo llo w the sm rti o r secondary revelation, and w h o w orsh ip five deities, Visnu, Siva, Surya, Ganesa and D evi. These traditions have their ow n sacred texts and rituals, w hile still being w ithin the general category o f H induism .36 C utting across these religious traditions is the th eology o f Vedanta; the unfolding o f a sophisticated discourse about the nature and content o f sacred scriptures, w hich explores questions o f existence and know ledge. The Vedanta is the theological articulation o f the vedic traditions, a dis course w hich penetrated Vaisnava and, though to a lesser extent, Saiva and Sakta thinking. T he Vedanta tradition became the philosophical basis o f the H indu renaissance during the nineteenth cen tury and is pervasive in i he w orld religion w hich H induism has becom e.

The renouncer traditions, w hile their value system is distinct from that o f the Brahm an householders, are nevertheless closely related to the brah manical religions. Indeed, some brahm anical householder traditions, such as Saivism , originated am ong the w orld-renouncers seeking liberation while living on the edges o f society in w ild places and in crem ation grounds. T he renouncer traditions espouse the values o f asceticism and w orld transcendence in contrast to the brahm anical householder values o f affirm ing the goals o f w o rld ly responsibility (dh arm a), w o rld ly success and profit (artha), and erotic and aesthetic pleasure (kdm a). T he ideal o f renunciation is incorporated w ithin the structure o f orthoprax H induism , though orthoprax renunciation must be seen in the context o f general Indian renouncer traditions kn ow n as the Sram ana traditions. These Sram ana traditions, including B uddhism and Jainism , developed during the first m illennium orthopraxy.
b c e

and w ere in conflict w ith brahmanical, vedic

W hile there are pan-H indu traditions o f Vaisnavism , Saivism and Saktism alongside the renouncer traditions, there are also local or popular tradi tions w hich exist w ithin a bounded geographical area, even w ithin a


An introduction to Hinduism
particular village. T h eir languages o f transm ission are the regional, ver nacular languages rather than the Sanskrit o f the brahmanical tradition. T h ey are less concerned w ith asceticism than w ith ensuring that crops grow , that illness keeps aw ay from the children, and that one is not haunted o r possessed b y ghosts. Such popular traditions are low -caste and need to appease h ot deities, particularly goddesses, w h o demand o ffer ings o f blood and alcohol. W hile the concerns o f popular religion are d if ferent from those o f the renouncer and brahmanical traditions, they are nevertheless inform ed b y the higher culture. The process w h ereb y the brahmanical tradition influences popular reli gion is called Sanskritization. Local deities becom e identified w ith the great deities o f the brahmanical tradition and local m yths becom e identi fied w ith the great, pan-H indu myths. F o r exam ple, the D ravidian god dess o f pustular diseases, M riyam m an, might be identified as a m anifestation o f the great pan-H indu goddess D urg. Local deities can also becom e pan -H in du deities and local narratives becom e com m only shared m yths.37 Th e god Krsna, fo r example, m ay have been a local deity w h o became pan-H indu. M ore recent examples might be the northern G odd ess Santos! M a, w h o has become a pan-H indu d eity through having becom e the subject o f a m ovie, o r the Kerala deity A iyap p an , w h o is com ing to have trans-regional appeal. T he influence o f south Indian D ravidian culture on the grand narrative o f the Sanskritic, brahm anical tradition has been underestimated and, until recently, little investigated. The relationship between the popular and the brahm anical levels o f cu l ture is the focus o f much debate among scholars o f H induism . O n the one hand popular tradition can be seen as a residue or consequence o f the grand narrative o f the brahmanical tradition: an im itation o f the higher culture. O n the other hand popular tradition can be seen to function inde pendently o f the high, brahmanical culture, but interacting w ith it.38 Scholars w h o interpret H induism holistically, such as M adeleine Biardeau, tend to favou r the im portance o f brahm anical culture in shaping the tradition.39 O thers, particularly anthropologists w h o have carried out fieldw ork in a specific locality, stress the discontinuities o f tradition, em phasizing the im portance and independence o f regional o r popular religion.40 H indu traditions, w ith their emphasis on continuity and the im p or tance o f the teacher or guru in the transference o f know ledge, are essen tially conservative and resistant to change. There is a fine balance between

l'oints (1 departure
such conservatism , which preserves the tradition, and the necessity to adapt to prevalent historical conditions. It traditions adapt too m uch then they are no longer the traditions that they w ere, yet if they do not adapt they are in danger o f dying out. Som e H indu traditions have faded and others have arisen. H induism has adapted and reacted to political and social upheavals throughout its history, w hile maintaining m any o f its rit ual traditions and social structures alm ost unchanged fo r centuries. The impact o f m odernity and the developm ent o f a m iddle class in India w ill inevitably effect H induism , and debates about civil rights, nationalism, the rights o f the scheduled castes, and the Indian w om en s m ovem ent w ill inevitably transform it.

Hinduism and contem porary debate

Issues w hich have arisen in the contem porary stu dy o f H induism relate to wider cultural problem s and general intellectual debates about agency, the relation o f religion to politics, and gender issues. M an y o f these issues have arisen out o f what is generally termed postm odernism , a m ovem ent o rig inating in the West, w hich manifests in all areas o f culture, and a discourse which questions and challenges traditional, rationalist view s. C ultural studies, w hich cuts across traditional divisions in the humanities o f so cio l ogy, history, ph ilosoph y and even theology, has developed w ithin the gen eral postm odernist fram ew ork. In deconstructing rationalist discourses, cultural studies has highlighted traditions w hich have been occluded, both in the West and the East. O ne o f the m ost im portant examples o f this w ith regard to India and H induism has been the w o rk o f the historian Ranajit G u ha and his colt

/<- . if 6 f w '

leagues, w h o have w orked on the subordinated o r subaltern classes o f India. O ne o f the themes o f this group is that in western, i.e. colonial and post-colonial, historiography o f India, the highlighting o f some themes and backgrounding o f others has dem onstrated the exercise o f p o w er and a denial o f the agency o f those w h o w ere oppressed. H istorical discourse, according to G uha, has tended to w rite out subaltern classes (the low est castes) and to see protests b y those groups as m erely an eruption o f dis content akin to natural disasters.41 This critique o f the western scholar ship o f India, particularly o f the discipline o f Indology, can also be seen in Ronald Indens im portant and influential book, Im agin in g In d ia .*2 Inden critiques the epistem ological assum ptions and political biases o f oriental ist constructions o f H induism , w hich have seen H induism prim arily in


An introduction to Hinduism
terms o f caste, as a rom anticized, idyllic com m unity, or as oriental despo tism . H e argues that all these view s deprive H indus o f agency and sees them governed b y external forces outside o f their control. Related to the discussion about the im portance o f understanding human agency and practice, in contrast to em phasizing im personal struc tures w h ich govern peop les lives,43 is the debate about gender issues. The h istory o f H induism is the history o f a male discourse. Its w ritten texts and narratives have, w ith the exception o f som e notable devotional poetry, been com posed b y men, u sually o f the highest, brahm anical caste. In a tra ditions self-reflection it is generally high-caste, male perceptions o f them selves and o f w om en w hich have come dow n to us, though some m odern scholarship has highlighted w om en s voices from the past.44 Because H induism has been dom inated b y men, this b o o k reflects this fact, w hile being aware that w o m en s self-perceptions and experience have generally been w ritten -ou t o f the tradition. These debates, o f course, are not exclu sive to H induism and some contem porary concerns o f the Indian w o m en s m ovem ent, about whether H induism is inherently androcentric or w hether H induism can be separated from androcentrism , have echoes in C h ristianity and other religions. Recent scholarship has begun to uncover these m arginalized traditions and I refer the reader to som e o f that w o rk w here appropriate.

The chronology of Hinduism

B efore the first m illennium

there is no h istoriography in the south

A sian cultural region and texts are not dated. T he ch ro n o logy o f Indian religions has therefore been n otoriously difficult to establish. We have to rely on archaeological evidence o f coins, po ttery and, particularly, inscrip tions, and on the internal evidence o f texts. T h e dating o f early texts is v e ry problem atic. T he sequence o f texts can sometimes be established in that if one text is quoted b y another, the form er m ust be earlier, but precise dat ing is im possible. C hinese translations o f Buddhist texts are dated, w h ich helps establish the ch ro n ology o f Buddhism , but is less useful w ith regard to H indu material. T he m ore accurate dating o f the B uddha to alm ost a century later than the traditional dating o f 566, to 486, b ment o f the dating o f all early Indian material. O ne o f the cliches about H induism has been that it is ahistorical and sees time as cyclic rather than linear, w hich has militated against the keep20
c e

discovered b y

Richard G om b rich and H einz Bechert,45 w ill h op efu lly lead to reassess

l'oints <>) depart arc

in g o f accurate historical records. W hile it is true that I linduism does have a view o f time repeating itself over vast periods, it is not the case that

11indus have not been interested in their past. Within India, as elsewhere,
i he record o f the past has reflected the concerns o f the present, though any historical awareness has been em bedded in m yths, biographies o f people in authority (the carita literature), in genealogies o f families (the vam snucarita sections o f the Purnas), and in histories o f ruling families in specific locations (the v a m sa v a ll literature). T he earliest w ritin g o f h istory in the south A sian region occurs in the fourth cen tury

w ith the chronicles

written b y Sri Lankan Buddhist m onks.46 M yth s and genealogies have heen recorded particularly in the H in du E pics and texts called Purnas, reaching their present form in the mid first m illennium c E 47 A particu larly striking text, part o f the v a m sa v a li genre, m ore concerned w ith his toricity than w ith m ythology, is the H isto ry o f the Kings o f K ash m ir , the R ajatarangin com posed during the tw elfth century b y Kalhana. This records the genealogies o f the kings and brief descriptions o f their exploits.48 The ch ron ology o f south A sia has been divided into ancient, classical, medieval and m odern periods. W hile this scheme does reflect genres o f texts, it is im portant to remem ber that there are continuities between these periods. T he fo llo w in g pages assume the fo llo w in g general chronological scheme: - the Indus valley civilization (c. 2500 to 1500 b c e ). Elements of Hinduism may be traced back to this period. - the vedic period (c. 1500 to 500 b c e ). The rise of Aryan, in contrast to Dravidian, culture occurs during this period, though there may be more continuity between the A ryan and Indus valley cultures than was previously supposed. During this period the Veda was formulated and texts of Dharma and ritual composed. - the epic and purnic period (c. 500

to 500

c e


This period sees

the composition of the M abbhrata and Rm yana, as well as the bulk of the Purnas. A number of important kingdoms arise, particularly the Gupta dynasty (c. 320 c e to 500 c e ), and the great traditions of Vaisnavism, Saivism and Sktism begin to develop. - the medieval period (c. 500 c e to 1500 c e ) sees the development of devotion (bbakti) to the major Hindu deities, particularly Visnu, Siva and Devi. There are major developments in the theistic traditions of Vaisnavism, Saivism and Sktism. This period sees the composition of


An introduction to Hinduism
devotional and poetic literature in Sanskrit and vernacular languages, as well as the composition of tantric literature. - the modern period (c. i 500 c e to the present) secs the rise and fall of two great empires, the Mughal and the British, and the origin o f India as a nation state. The traditions continue, but without significant royal patronage. The nineteenth century sees the rise o f Renaissance Hinduism and the twentieth century the development of Hinduism as a major world religion.

Ancient origins

/ -

The origins o f H induism lie in tw o ancient cultural com plexes, the Indus valley civilization w hich flourished from 2500 during the second m illennium
b c e bc e


to about 1500
b c e

though its roots are much earlier, and the A ry an culture w hich developed

There is som e controversy regarding

the relationship between these tw o cultures. Th e traditional view, still supported b y som e scholars, is that the Indus valley civilization declined, to be replaced b y the culture o f the A ryan s, an In do-E u ropean people originating in the C aucasus region w h o m igrated into south A sia and spread across the fertile, northern plains, w hich, throughout Indias long history, have offered no obstacle to invaders o r migrants. The alternative view is that A ry a n culture is a developm ent from the Indus valley civi lization and was not introduced b y outside invaders or m igrants; that there is no cultural disjunction in ancient south A sian history, but rather a continuity from an early period. Yet, w hether the A ryan s came from ou t side the subcontinent or not, H induism m ight be regarded as the devel opment over the next 2,000 years o f A ry a n culture, interacting w ith n o n -A ryan o r D ravidian and tribal cultures, though it is A ry a n culture w hich has provided the master narrative, absorbing and controlling other discourses. T he view s and arguments regarding the origins o f H induism have not been free from ideological interests and the quest fo r origins itself has been a factor in the developm ent o f H induism over the last tw o centuries. H indu revivalists in the nineteenth century, such as D ayananda Sarasvati, looked to H in d u ism s A ry an past to imbue it w ith new m oral impetus

An introduction to Hinduism
and the search fo r origins has been im portant for In dology as a scholarly articulation and justification for colonialism . T he quest for origins is also relevant in the contem porary politics o f H induism , w hich traces continu ity between an ancient past and the present, bearing witness to Indias past, H indu, greatness (see p. 262). In exam ining the roots o f H induism w e m ust be aware o f the rhetoric o f origins, as it m ight be called. Indeed, the v e ry quest fo r an origin m ay suggest an essence w hich is highly problem atic. In searching fo r an origin w e find o n ly traces o r signs w hich constantly point beyond themselves, are constantly deferred.1 That is, an origin is alw ays the consequence o f som ething w hich has gone before, and the origin cannot be regarded in a teleological w ay, w ith hindsight, as pointing tow ards that w hich follo w s. In exam ining the traces which constitute a past culture, w e should rem em ber that such a culture was com plete in itself rather than in some sense prelim inary, lived b y people w h o experienced the fullness and con tradictions o f hum an life, and that any sketch m ust necessarily be selective and restrictive. W ith these qualifications in mind, this chapter w ill examine the roots o f H induism in the Indus valley and A ry an cultures, and discuss the vedic religion o f early Indian society.

The Indus valley civilization

In 19 2 1 Sir Jo h n M arshall, D irecto r G eneral o f the A rchaeological Survey o f India, directed D . R . Sahni to begin excavations at H arappa. H e and R . D . Banerjee, excavating at M oh en jo-D aro in Sind, discovered the Indus valley civilization. A s w ith the great civilizations o f Sum er and pharaoic E g y p t, this urban civilization w as centred on a river and located in the basin o f the Indus w hich flow s through presen t-day Pakistan. This Indus valley o r H arappan civilization developed from about 2500
b c e


its origins reach back to the N eolithic Period (7000 - 6000 b c e ) , reached its peak around 2300-2000 b c e (trade links w ith M esopotam ia have been dated to this period), w as in decline b y 1800 150 0.2 This w as a developed, urban culture. M o h en jo -D aro and H arappa, sep arated b y some 40 miles, w ere tw o o f this civilization s m ost im portant cities and housed som e 40,000 inhabitants w h o enjoyed a high standard o f living. The cities had sophisticated w ater technologies, m ost o f the houses having drainage system s, w ells, and rubbish chutes em ptying into w asteb c e

and had faded aw ay b y


Ancient origins
pots which w ere emptied m unicipally.' As in ancient M esopotam ia, grain was the basis o f the econom y and the large store-houses in the Indus towns m ay have been fo r grain collected as tax. There were trade contacts with the M iddle East and w ith the hunter-gatherer tribes o f G u ju rat, the town o f Lothal in G u jarat being one o f the m ost im portant centres fo r i mporting and exporting goods. There remain other cities o f the Indus val ley civilization yet to be excavated, at Ju d e iro -D aro , Lurew ala Th er and G anaw eriw ala Th er on the course o f the H akra, an ancient dried-up river in present day H aryana. T he antecedents o f this culture can be traced to the site o f M ergarh, 15 0 miles north o f M oh en jo-D aro in Baluchistan, where the French archaeologist Jean-Franoise Jarrige has dated the agri cultural com m unity to before 6000 civilzation.4
b c e

and has established an unbroken

cultural continuity from that early date to the period o f the Indus valley

The developm ent and expansion o f the Indus valley culture was p ro b ab ly the consequence o f a grow th in population, itself due to the developm ent o f farm ing and the availability o f food supplies grow n on the rich alluvial deposits o f the Indus valley. Indeed, the im portance o f arable farm ing is dem onstrated b y the large granaries in M o h en jo -D aro on the w est bank o f the Indus, and in H arappa on the east bank o f the Ravi. Evidence fo r this civilization has com e m ainly through the excavations o f these tw o cities and from other, smaller, sites. A p art from M ergarh, the sites at A m ri, 100 miles south o f M ohen jo-D aro, at Kalibangan in the Punjab, and at Lothal near A hm adabad in Rajasthan, are notable. This culture was v e ry extensive and archaeological evidence fo r the mature Indus valley civilization has been found at over 1,000 sites co ver ing an area o f 750,000 square miles, from R u par in the east in the foothills o f the H im alayas near Simla, to Sutkagen D o r in the w est near the Iranian border, to Lothal on the G u jarat coast.5 Ju d g in g b y the archaeological record, there w as a un ity o f material culture, notably pottery, architecture and w riting, in the Indus valley b y as early as the fourth m illennium

which was preceded b y a period o f continuous developm ent at different sites from the early N eolithic Period. T h e Indus valley culture did not develop due to the direct influence o f external cultural forces fro m Sum er or E gyp t, but was an indigenous developm ent in the Baluchistan and Indus regions, grow ing out o f earlier, local cultures. 25

An introduction to Hinduism

Map 2 Major sites of the Indus valley civilization (adapted from Parpola, Deciphering the Indus Script, p. 7)


Ancivnt origins


Needless to say, w e know little o f the p olity o r religion o f this civilization. There is a system o f w riting, the Indus valley script, w hich has been found inscribed on steatite seals and copper plates, but this has not yet been suc cessfully deciphered and, until m ore sam ples o r a bilingual inscription are found, w ill prob ab ly remain largely obscure. T he biggest issue w hich has bearing on the developm ent o f H indu traditions from the Indus valley, lies in the answ er to the questions: w hat is the language o f the steatite seals? A nd to w hat group o f languages is it related? T h ere have been tw o p re dom inant view s among scholars, one that it represents a language belong ing to the D ravidian linguistic family, the other that it is an early fo rm o f In do-E uropean .6 The D ravidian languages include the south Indian languages o f Tamil, Kannada, Telegu and M alayalam , as w ell as Brahui, the language o f a hill people in Pakistan. The presence o f these languages is strong evidence for there being a pan-Indian D ravidian presence, before the predom inance o f the Indo-Iranian language group, itself a part o f the In do-E u ropean fam ily. T he In do-E u ropean languages include G reek, Latin, and the IndoIranian languages w hich com prise Avestan (the sacred language o f the Zoroastrians), Sanskrit, and the north Indian vernaculars o f G ujarati, U rdu , H in di, K ashm iri, O riy a and Bengali. C o lin R en frew makes the point that in deciphering the script w e need to begin w ith som ething know n, but there are no bilingual inscriptions, so decipherers assume a solution and then try to dem onstrate its plausibility.7 The successful decipherm ent o f the script w ou ld tell us som ething about the daily transactions o f these people and m ight tell us som ething o f their religion o r religions. A s it stands w e have to infer social and religious con tents from the material culture, though A sk o Parpola claims to have made significant advances in understanding the Indus script and its relation to D ravidian languages and D ravidian form s o f H induism . Perhaps the m ost striking thing about the Indus civilization is the high degree o f u n iform ity o f urban planning and even a conform ity in size o f building bricks. M an y o f the houses w ere built on a similar ground plan around a central courtyard, and m any houses had a w ater su pply and drainage system . Th is suggests a sophisticated adm inistration and a hierar chical structure o f authority. In both H arappa and M oh en jo -D aro there was a fortified low er city separated from a fortified citadel or acropolis sit 27

An introduction to Hinduism
uated on a raised m ound, which contained halls and temples. Such unifor m ity m ay suggest m ore than wide diffusion o f a culture, even a p olity im posed on a large area through conquest, with the centre o f this empire and its adm inistration at M ohenjo-D aro. I f so, this w ou ld be the earliest im perial form ation in South A sia, w hich m ay also have involved the im po sition o f an official religion, perhaps centred on the cult o f the king. There is, how ever, no conclusive evidence w ithout the decipherm ent o f the Indus valley script and ideas about the nature o f the state m ust remain speculative. T h e religion o f the mature Indus valley culture has to be inferred from the buildings w hich w ere m ost p rob ab ly tem ples, stone statues, terracotta figurines and particu larly the steatite seals. The state religion seems to have involved tem ple rituals, perhaps animal sacrifice, and ritual bathing in the great bath found in the citadel at M ohen jo-D aro. This bath is rem inis cent o f tanks found in later H indu temples and reflects a concern w ith rit ual purification through water, an im portant idea in H induism . A t Kalibangan a ritual area has been found in w hich animal sacrifice seems to have been practised and seven fire altars have been located. Indeed, the brick platform s b y the great bath at M o h en jo -D aro m ay have served a sim ilar purpose.8 T he large num ber o f female terracotta figurines unearthed during the excavations, m ay have been goddess images and the presence o f the go d dess in later H induism m ay be traced back to this early period. It is, o f course, im possible to say w hether there is a continuity in the cult o f the goddess from this early age, and the fact that the goddesses are the focus o f w orsh ip in the Indus culture does not necessarily mean that these are the forerunners o f the H indu goddesses. G oddess w orsh ip and the central concerns o f fertility seem to have been com m on in the ancient w orld and the H arappan goddess o r goddesses m ay have m ore in com m on w ith Sum erian than w ith later H indu deities. Perhaps suggestive o f the later religions are the images on the rem ark able steatite seals, particularly the Pasupati seal, o f a seated, perhaps ithyphallic, figure surrounded b y animals, either horned o r w earing a headdress. Sir Jo h n M arshall and others have claimed that this figure is a prototype o f the H indu god Siva, the yo gin and L o rd o f the animals {pasu p a ti), sometimes represented w ith three faces, and the posture w ith the knees out and feet joined has been interpreted as evidence o f yoga in preA ry a n culture (see fig. i) .9 H ow ever, it is not clear from the seals that the p ro to -Siva figure has three faces, as is claimed, nor is it clear that he is 28

Ancient origins

Figure i Indus valley proto-Siva seal

seated in a yo gic posture. A sk o Parpola has convincingly suggested that the proto-Siva is in fact a seated bull, alm ost identical to figures o f seated bulls found on early Elam ite seals (c. 300 0-2750 b c e ).10 W hile the claim that in the seals w e have representations o f a proto -Siva is speculative, it is nevertheless possible that iconographie features are echoed in the icon o graphy o f Siva; the half-m oon in Sivas hair resem bling the horns o f the bull-god. Phallic -shaped stones have also been found, suggestive o f the later aniconic representation o f Siva, the linga. H ow ever, w hile these connections m ay be speculative, Parpola has tried to dem onstrate that there are a num ber o f linguistic and iconographie continuities between the Indus valley civilization and south Indian, D ravidian form s o f H induism . The South Indian god M urugan, the yo u n g man identified w ith the god o f war, Skanda, is represented in the Indus val ley script, argues Parpola, b y tw o intersecting circles (the w o rd m uruku in D ravidian languages, suggestively denotes bangle ), and a seal depicting a person b ow in g to a figure standing in the m iddle o f a fig tree echoes in later Indian icon ograp hy o f fig trees (such as the Buddhist banyan tree w hich


An introduction to Hinduism
indicates the Buddha in early representations). T he fig is furtherm ore associated w ith the planet Venus, which is in turn later associated w ith the goddess D urga, and w ith the tilak, a red dot w o rn on the forehead.1 1 It is tem pting to speculate that there are continuities o f religion from the Indus valley into H induism , w hich w ou ld make the roots o f the reli gion go back a v e ry long w ay, but w e m ust exercise caution. The ritual bath, the fire altars, the fem ale figurines, the horned deities and the lirigas are certainly suggestive o f later H indu traditions. H ow ever, ritual purity, an em phasis on fertility, sacrifice, and goddess w orsh ip are com m on to other religions o f the ancient w orld as w ell. Indeed, the steatite image o f a figure battling w ith lions is m ore rem iniscent o f the M esopotam ian G ilgam esh m yth than anything found in later H induism , though again Parpola has argued continuities w ith the G odd ess D urga battling w ith the buffalo dem on.12 T h e Indus valley civilization seems to have declined rather suddenly betw een 1800 and 1700
b c e

prim arily due to environm ental causes such

as flooding o r a decrease in rainfall. A squatters period continued fo r som e time after this and smaller Indus valley tow ns and villages survived the abandonm ent o f the large cities. A t M o h en jo -D aro a num ber o f skele tons w ere found w here they had fallen, the victim s o f a violent death. It has been claimed that these deaths w ere caused b y early A ry an invaders.13

The Aryans
Th e m ost com m on ly accepted theory to date has been that H induism is the consequence o f incursions o f groups kn o w n as A ryan s into the north ern plains o f India from central A sia, via the m ountain passes o f A fghanistan, around 1500
b c e

Som e o f these groups w ent into Iran and

there are close affinities between the Iranian religion o f the Avesta (the sacred scripture o f Zoroastrianism ) and the religion o f the Veda. This nar rative has maintained that the A ryan s w ere o f the same stock as groups w hich w ent w est into E urope. T h eir language was an In do-E u ropean tongue w hich developed into vedic Sanskrit and fin ally into classical Sanskrit, the sacred language o f H induism , and they w orshipped prim ar ily a fire god, A gn i, a hallucinogenic plant, Som a, and a w arrio r god, Indra. T h e self-designation o f these people was the Sanskrit dry a, meaning noble o r honourable , w hich referred to the three highest social classes o f their society, as distinct from the indigenous people o f south A sia w h om they encountered and subjugated b y means o f a superior w ar tech


Ancient origins
nology. T h ey spread over the northern plains and, som e time after iooo
b c e

reached the G anges region which became know n as the A ryan

c e

hom eland (arydvarta). A ry an culture slow ly spread to the D eccan and was established in south India b y around the sixth century

Thus the

Indo-European-speaking A ryan s are contrasted w ith the indigenous, D ravidian-speaking descendants o f the Indus valley civilization w hom they conquered. K now led ge o f the A ry an s com es m ostly fro m their sacred text the R g Veda Sam hita, the earliest literature o f H induism . The predom inance o f A ry a n culture o ver D ravidian culture is not dis puted, but the origin o f the A ryan s as com ing from outside the subconti nent has recently been questioned. Tw o theories concerning the origin o f the A ryan s have emerged: what m ight be called the A ry an m igration thesis and the cultural transform ation thesis. - The A ryan migration thesis. The Indus valley civilization, which speaks a Dravidian language, declines between 2000 and 1800 b c e . The A ryan migrations, or even invasions, occur from about 1500 b c e and the Aryans become the dominant cultural force. This has been the traditional, scholarly picture and is the one roughly sketched above. - The cultural transformation thesis. A ryan culture is a development of the Indus valley culture whose language belongs to the IndoEuropean family, possibly spoken in the region as far back as the Neolithic Period, in interaction with Dravidian culture. On this view there were no A ryan incursions into India, but Indus valley culture is an early A ryan or vedic culture. These positions are stated rather b aldly here fo r the sake o f clarity and there m ay be variations o f these.


A lth o u gh there is an undisputed connection betw een Sanskrit and other In do-E u ropean languages, the picture m ay be m uch m ore com plex than the A ry a n m igration thesis allow s. Indeed, the h istory w hich has been portrayed o f the A ryan s in India m ay reflect to a large extent the European social w orld in w hich the th eory developed. A ccordin g to Poliakov, the idea o f invading In d o -A ryan s developed in the eighteenth century w hen w estern scholars w ere w ishing to be free from the confines o f Ju d eo C hristian thought w hile at the same time becom ing aware o f Indian culture through colonization .14 The idea o f an A ry a n invasion developed


An introduction to Hinduism
w ith interest in Sanskrit, linguistics and vedic studies and, according to Shaffer, was perpetuated by Indian historians after independence in order to dem onstrate the equality o f ancient India with E u ro p e.15 L a y in g aside, fo r the moment, the question concerning the truth or fal sity o f A ry an m igrations into north India, this history, w hich P oliakov has called the A ry a n M y th , has constructed H induism in a certain way. The A ryan s, representing a w orld -orderin g rationality, a higher religion, are contrasted w ith the irrationality o f the D ravidians, the p re-A ryan original inhabitants o f India. A ccord in g to this line o f thinking, the D ravidian cul ture increasingly m akes incursions into H in du ism after the vedic period. Inden has show n h ow the h istory o f H induism has been seen b y the founders o f Indological discourse as an initial phase o f pure, intellectual vedic religion, fo llow ed b y the classical phase w hich reacted w ith devotionalism against the higher religion o f the earlier period, follow ed b y a third religion o f an animistic folk level, the religion o f the D ravidian or p re -A rya n race .16 Essentially, the argum ent goes, the intellectual, nature-religion o f the A ry an s - a religion w ith G reek and Scandinavian equivalents - became corrupted b y the em otional devotionalism o f the D ravidians. In other w ord s, western reconstructions of Indian history, particularly the early period o f its form ation, have been governed b y deeper cultural interests. Th is picture has recently been questioned.

I f there w ere A ry a n m igrations, let alone an invasion, into India after the decline o f the Indus valley culture, then this w ou ld h op efu lly be co rro b o rated b y archaeological evidence. Th e m ost convincing evidence to date fo r the A ry a n incursions has been a kind o f pottery, painted grey w are, found in the G anges-Y am u na region, supposedly occupied b y the A ryan s. C arb on 14 dating places this painted g rey w are betw een 110 0 and 300
b c e

precisely the dates o f the postulated A ry a n m igrations. Som e o f

the sites w here this p ottery has been found, such as H astinapur, have been associated w ith the later Sanskrit epic poem the M ahdbhdrata, thereby further establishing the connection between the In d o -A ryan s and the painted grey w a re .17 H ow ever, continuities have been found betw een the painted grey ware and indigenous protohistoric cultures o f the region, thereby suggesting a continuity o f culture rather than a disjunction as w o u ld be im plied by


Ancient origins
A ryan incursions. Furtherm ore, Shaffer lias argued that iron technology developed within the Indian subcontinent itself,1 rather than being intro duced b y an external source such as the A ryan invaders. A ccordin g to Shaffer, m odern archaeological evidence does not support the idea o f A ry an m igrations into India. Rather, in Shaffers w ord s, it is possible to docum ent archaeologically a series o f cultural changes reflecting indige nous cultural developm ent from prehistoric to historic p eriods.19 The idea o f A ry an incursions based on the linguistic evidence o f the connec tions between Sanskrit and European languages has been read back into the archaeological record which, upon re-evaluation, is not supportive o f that theory. It should be noted here, how ever, that Parpola thinks that the pattern o f distribution o f painted grey w are corresponds to the distribu tion o f vedic, A ry an culture.20 Even if the Shaffer line o f argument is correct - that the painted grey ware is incom patible w ith A ry an incursions - there is still the linguistic evidence to be considered. O n the one hand archaeological evidence sup ports the idea o f a continuity o f culture from the earliest times in north India, and, according to some, does not support the A ry a n m igration the sis. Yet, on the other, the strong links established between Sanskrit and In do-E u ropean languages and between vedic religion and the religions o f other In do-E u ropean groups is undeniable. O ne argum ent w h ich brings these ideas together is that the language o f the Indus valley does not belong to the D ravidian language family, but, as C o lin R en frew and others suggest, to the Indo-E uropean . T h is h yp oth e sis w ou ld carry the history o f the In do-E u ropean languages in north India and Iran back to the early N eolithic Period in those areas .21 There w ou ld then be continuity at all levels from the Indus valley through to the A ry an culture o f the first m illennium

. A ccord in g to this view, Indus

valley religion develops into the religion o f the H indus. Indus valley lan guage develops into vedic Sanskrit and Indus valley agriculture develops into the vedic agrarian lifestyle.

B oth the A ry a n m igration thesis and the cultural transform ation thesis have bodies o f supporting evidence. A rgu ably, however, the m eticulous, thorough w o rk o f A sk o Parpola establishes strong evidence fo r the Indus valley script belonging to the D ravidian language group. H is evidence is based on an analysis o f language from a w ide-ranging cultural sphere,


An introduction to Hinduism
from A natolia to the D eccan; on iconographic continuities between Indus valley and D ravidian form s o f H induism , and on discontinuities between vedic o r A ry a n form s and thosp o f the Indus valley. T h e A ryan sacred text, the R g Veda speaks o f the A ryan s subduing cities o f the Dasas, w hich it describes as com prising circular, multiple concentric walls. W hile this seems not to refer to the cities o f the Indus valley, w hich are square, it does, Parpola argues, correspond to the hundreds o f fortified B ron ze A ge v il lages in Bactria. T h e D asas, the enemies o f the A ryan s, are not the inhabi tants o f the Indus valley, but other groups w h o spoke an A ry a n language, and w hose m igration preceded those o f the A ryan s. O ne piece o f evidence that the Indus valley people could not have been In do-E u ropean speakers, suggests Parpola, is the absence o f the horse and the chariot. W herever In d o -A ryan cultures have been identified, horse remains have been found as w ell as chariots. The A ry a n tribes w h o entered the north-w est o f India, argues Parpola, drove in tw o-w heeled warchariots draw n b y horses, terms w hich have In do-E u ropean etym ology. N o w h e re in the Indus valley culture have the remains o f horses been found, and n ow here depicted on the seals.22 T he horse is an A ry an animal and the chariot an exam ple o f a superior w a r technology. A m odified A ry a n m igration theory is therefore supported b y
b c e

Parpolas w o rk . A t the beginning o f the second m illennium

A ry an

nom ads entered the Indian subcontinent. T h ey w ere, o f course, a m inor ity, and, w hile the Indus valley culture continues w ithou t a break, as the archaeological record show s, the A ry an culture lived and developed alongside it and absorbed elements o f it. H ow ever, there is little doubt that there are continuities betw een the Indus valley and vedic cultures. T he new groups, w h o possessed drya, n o b ility , form ed a dom inating elite speaking the A ry a n language, though Sanskrit has absorbed protoD ravidian features, such as the retroflex sound w hich does not exist in other Indo-E u ropean languages, as w ell as agricultural terms. D ravidian languages, as one w ou ld expect, have also absorbed elements o f Sanskrit.25 O ver a num ber o f centuries bilingualism w ou ld have developed until the m ajority o f the population adopted the A ry a n language, a form o f vedic Sanskrit, as M odern French developed from vulgar Latin .24 Th e idea o f bilingualism is perhaps problem atic - there w ou ld need to be strong social pressures to adopt a new language - but P arpolas argu ments are w ell supported. The vital evidence m ust com e from the Indus valley script, and o n ly w hen that is successfully deciphered can the ques


Ancient origins
tion o f the relation between A ryan and Indus valley culture be adequately addressed. Yet, wherever the A ryan s originated, whether their culture was a developm ent o f indigenous cultures or whether they migrated from else where, our know ledge o f their social structure, their m ythologies and, above all, their ritual com es from their self-representation in their Sanskrit texts, the Veda.

The Veda
T he Veda is regarded b y som e H indus as a timeless revelation w hich is not o f hum an authorship (apaurusya), is eternal, and contains all know ledge, w hile others regard it to be the revelation o f G o d . It was received o r seen by the ancient seers (rsi) w ho com m unicated it to other men and w as put together in its present form b y the sage V yasa. Indeed, a popular definition o f a H indu is som ebody w h o accepts the Veda as revelation. This idea is not w ithout problem s and exceptions, but indicates the undoubted im portance o f the Veda in H indu self-perception and self-representation. From the perspective o f the believer the Veda is timeless revelation, yet from the text-critical perspective o f the western-trained scholar, it was com piled o ver a long period o f time and reflects different periods o f social and religious developm ent. T he tw o perspectives are not, o f course, incom patible: revelation could be gradual and there have been, and are, m any scholars w h o have also been believers. Th e term text o r canon in the Indian context implies an oral tradition passed dow n w ith m eticulous care and accuracy through the generations from , according to tradition, the vedic A ry a n seers o f rsis. The priestly class o f the vedic A ry an s, the Brahm ans, w ere - and continue to be - the preservers o f this tradition, w h o preserve the oral recitation o f the texts. Indeed the Veda w as not written dow n until som e thousand years after its com position and the ve ry act o f w riting w as itself regarded as a polluting activity.25 A lth ou gh the main b o d y o f the Veda is clearly delineated, the category o f revelation sometimes incorporates m ore recent material. F o r exam ple, texts calling themselves U p an isad w ere com posed into the sev enteenth century

and even the w ritings o f m odern h oly men and

w om en m ight be regarded as revelation. It is this Sanskrit, vedic tradition w hich has maintained a continuity into m odern times and w hich has p ro vided the most im portant resource and inspiration fo r H indu traditions and individuals. T he Veda is the foundation fo r m ost later developm ents in what is know n as H induism .


An introduction to Hinduism
T he Veda is intim ately connected with vcdic ritual and its prim ary func tion is a ritual one. T he categorization o f the Veda is not o n ly the w a y in w hich H induism has organized its scriptures, but is also connected with ritual. O ne o f the prim ary vedic distinctions fo r its ow n literature is betw een mantra, verses used in liturgy w hich m ake up the collection o f texts called Sam hita, and brdhmana, texts o f ritual exegesis. The Brahm anas are texts describing rules fo r ritual and explanations about it concerning its m eaning and purpose. T h ey contain aeteological m yths, posit elaborate correspondences ( bandhu ) betw een the rite and the co s m os, and even maintain that the sacrifice ensures the continuity o f the cos m os. T he A ran yakas, texts com posed in the forest, form the concluding parts o f several Brahm anas. T h ey are concerned w ith ritual and its inter pretation and form a transitional link between the Brahm anas and the U panisads. T he U panisads develop the concerns o f the A ranyakas, explaining the true nature and meaning o f ritual.

T h e term veda is used in tw o senses. It is a syn on ym fo r revelation (s'ruti), w hich is heard b y the sages, and so can denote the w hole b o d y o f revealed texts, and is also used in a restricted sense to refer to the earliest layers o f vedic literature. T he Veda in the form er, general sense com prises fo u r traditions, the R g , Yajur, Sama and A tharva, w hich are divided into three o r fo u r categories o f texts: the Samhitas, Brahm anas, A ran yakas and U panisads (these last tw o are sometimes classified together). In the latter, m ore restricted sense, the term veda refers to the Sam hita portion o f this literature; itself com prising fo u r groups o f text identified b y the four tra ditions, the R g Veda Samhita, Sama Veda Samhita, Yajur Veda Samhita and the A tharva Veda Samhita. E ach o f these w ou ld have its ow n Brahm ana, A ran yaka ( forest treatise) and/or U panisad (Secret Scripture). A further group, the sutra literature is sometimes added to this scheme, but this group is not part o f the prim ary revelation (sruti) but part o f secondary revelation (smrti), the texts com posed b y human beings. This sequence is rou gh ly in chronological order, the earliest text being the R g Veda Samhita, the latest being the U panisads. A s w e shall see, this pattern reflects an interest in ritual w hich becom es overlaid w ith an interest in the understanding and interpretation o f ritual, an im portant m ove in the developm ent o f H indu ideas. T he structure is therefore as follow s:


Ancient origins
Samhit: Brhmana: ranyaka: Upanisad: T he R g Veda is a collection (sam hit) in ten books (m andata) o f 1028 hym ns to various deities, com posed in vedic Sanskrit from as early as 1200





over a period o f several hundred years.26 E ach o f its ten books was

com posed b y sages o f different fam ilies, the oldest being books tw o to seven. These texts are our earliest and m ost im portant sources o f k n o w l edge about vedic religion and society. T he Sm a Veda is a b o ok o f songs (sman) based on the R g Veda w ith instructions on their recitation (gana). The Yajur Veda is a collection o f short prose form ulae used in ritual, o f w hich there are tw o recensions, the b lack and the w h ite - the form er being a m ixture o f prose and verses, the latter being com posed entirely o f verses or mantras. The w hite Y aju r Veda contains one b ook, the V jasaneyi-Sam hit, the black Y aju r Veda com prises three b ooks, the Taittirya Sam hit, the M aitryan Sam hit and the K athaka-Sam hitd. L a stly the A th a rva Veda is a collection o f hym ns and magical form ulae com piled around 900 b c e , though som e o f its material m ay go back to the time o f the R g Veda. T he A th a rva Veda has less connection w ith sacrifice and has been considered som ew hat in ferior to the other three Samhits. M ost o f this truly vast literature has yet to be translated into any m odern E uropean language.


A lth ou gh difficult to date, the earliest text and the m ost im portant fo r our understanding o f the early In d o -A ryan s is the R g Veda Sam hit com posed p ro b ab ly around 1200 b c e , though som e, such as K ak and Fraw ley, w ou ld date it very much earlier to the Indus valley culture, assum ing that the Indus valley language w as In d o-E u rop ean .27 T he m ore sober ch ron ol o g y proposed b y M ax M ller suggests a date o f 1500 to 1200 A ssu m ing the birth o f the Buddha to be around 500
b c e b c e

(which scholars

n o w think is later), M ller suggested that the Upanisads w ere com posed from 800 to 600 b c e . H ow ever, this dating m ay be rather early. G iven the re-dating o f the Buddha to the fourth o r fifth rather than the fifth or sixth centuries 300
b b c e

the U panisads w ere p ro b ab ly com posed between 600 and

c e , as some texts are post-Buddhist. T he earlier Brhm ana literature


Anavnt origins
Mller dates between iooo to Noo and the Samliit.i literature around 1200 to 1000, allow ing about 200 years tor the form ulation o f each class o f texts, though even M ller admits that the R g Veda could be earlier.28 The Brhmana literature, however, m ay be later than the dates proposed b y Mller, given the probable later date o f the U panisads.

The classification scheme o f the Veda is further com plicated b y theologi cal schools or branches (skh ) w hich specialized in learning certain texts. A Veda might have a num ber o f theological schools associated w ith it. F o r example, Brahm ans o f the Taittiriya branch w ould learn the

Taittiriya Samhit o f the black Y aju r Veda, its Brhm ana, A ran yaka,
U panisad and Srauta Stras. The school o f the Sdma Veda w ou ld learn its Brhm ana, the Jaim iniya Brhmana, and the Ltyyana Srauta Stra. The Brahm ans o f the R g Veda w ou ld learn the Aitareya and Kausitaki

Brhmanas, w hich include the A ran yakas o f the same name, the Aitareya and Kausitaki Upanisads and the svalyana and Snkhyana Srauta Sutras, and so on (see fig. 2). These schools ensured the accurate transm is
sion o f the Veda through the generations w ith the help o f rules fo r recita tion, even though the m eaning o f the early texts m ay have been lost to m ost reciters as the language m oved aw ay from its vedic origins. A n example o f this structure can be seen in fig. 2 w h ich show s the branches o f the R g and Y aju r Vedas. Perhaps the m ost rem arkable thing about vedic literature is that it has been orally transmitted w ith little change to its contents fo r up to 3,000 years. This accuracy has been enabled b y a system o f double checking. The texts w ere learned at least twice: as a continuous recitation, called the

samhitptha, in w hich the Sanskrit rules fo r com bining w ords (sandhi )

operated, and as the recitation o f w ord s w ithout the rules o f euphonic com bination, called th epadapdtha. Frits Staal gives an illustrative example from the vedic Samhits, the verse the im m ortal goddess has pervaded the w ide space, the depths and the heights is rem em bered in tw o versions, as the continuous flo w o f the samhitptha ( orv apra am artya nivato devy udvatah ) and w ord fo r w ord in the padaptha ( a/ uru/ aprah/ am artya/ nivatah/ devi/ udvatah//).29 H ow ever, not o n ly has the Veda been preserved through oral traditions o f recitation, but also through the transm ission o f ritual. The Veda is prim arily a liturgical text and its use in ritual has been its prim ary and


An introduction to Ilinduism invariant function. Interpretations of the ritual entei I linduism at a later date with the Upanisads.

The Upanisads
T he U panisads are a developm ent o f the A ran yakas and there is no clear break betw een the tw o genres. The Aitareya Aranyaka, attached to the Rg

Veda, calls itself an upanisad ,i0 and one o f the earliest, if not the earliest, o f the U panisads, the Brhadaranyaka ( G reat F o rest) o f the white Yajur Veda, calls itself an aranyaka (as does the last bo ok o f the Satapatha Brahmana belonging to the same s'dkha). T he oldest U panisads (the Brhadaranyaka, Chandogya and Taittiriya) are in prose, w hile the later
U panisads, m oving aw ay from the A ran yakas, are in verse. T h e U panisads are not a hom ogeneous group o f texts. Even the older texts w ere com posed over a w ide expanse o f time from about 600 to 300 b c e , given that som e early texts are post-Buddhist, and texts w ith the title

upanisad continue to be com posed throughout the m iddle ages into the
m odern period. Because o f this some scholars have begun to re-evaluate the category o f revelation (sruti), w hich, Thom as C o b u rn argues, must be seen as an ongoing and experientially based feature o f the H indu reli gious tradition .31 Y et it is nevertheless the case that the older group o f U panisads, rather than later ones, have been taken to be authoritative and been com m ented upon b y H indu theologians.32

Vedic ritual
T he central religious practice o f the vedic A ryan s w as sacrifice and sharing o f the sacrificial meal w ith each other and w ith the m any supernatural beings o r devas. In sacrifice the gods could be propitiated, material bene fits such as sons or cattle received from them, and the social standing, pow er, or pu rity o f the sacrificer (yajamana ), the person w h o had instig ated it, enhanced. Such religious practice w ou ld not require elaborate buildings o r icons, but m erely the presence o f the qualified priests w ho kn ew the necessary procedures and recitations. Jam iso n has observed that vedic religion is the ideally portable religion w ith no fixed places o f w o r ship and no images or sacred texts to be carried around,33 perhaps sugges tive o f a nom adic lifestyle. T he term sacrifice (homa, yajna) is not confined to the im m olation o f animals, but refers m ore w id ely to any offering into the sacred fire, notably o f m ilk, clarified butter o r ghee, curds, grains such as rice and barley, and the soma plant, as w ell as dom es 40

A ncicnt origins
tic animals (goats, cattle, sheep and horses). Indeed the offering o f milk into the fire was m ore com m on than animal offerings. These ritual su b stances w ould be transported through the fire to the deva or devas which had been invoked. F ire is the central focus o f vedic ritual and is both a sub stance o r element and a deva: the transform ative link between the w o rld ly and divine realms.

Tw o kinds o f ritual w ere developed, the srauta or solem n, public rites and the grhya, dom estic and life-cycle rites. T h e srauta rites are the older and the tw o types can be form ally distinguished from each other b y the num ber o f fires used. T he srauta rites required the burning o f three sacred fires, while the dom estic observances required o n ly one. T he principal deities w hich w ere the focus o f the srauta observances w ere the fire god A gn i and the plant god Som a, to w hom m ilk, clarified butter, curds, vegetable cakes, animals o r the stalks o f the soma plant itself w ou ld be offered into the fire. Vedic religion w as closely associated w ith the rhythm s o f the day and the seasons and srauta rites w ou ld involve offerings at various junctures (par-

van) betw een night and day, at the new and full m oons and at the junctures
o f the three seasons (rainy, autumn, hot). O u r inform ation concerning the srauta rituals com es m ainly from the Srauta Sutras associated w ith the various branches o f vedic know ledge and form ulated between the eighth and fourth centuries
b c e

A lth ou gh this is

about half a m illennium after the com position o f the R g Veda, w e can assume that some form o f the srauta rites was already established at that early period. The R g Veda refers to the various, num erous kinds o f priests involved in the rituals, refers extensively to soma and its preparation, and describes the horse sacrifice (asvam edha ).34 There was also a human sacri fice (purusamedha ) m odelled on the horse sacrifice, though the human victim s w ere set free after their consecration.35 A m o n g som e Brahm ans, notably som e N am b u d ri families in Kerala studied b y F rits Staal, the srauta rituals have remained intact to the present day, since at least the time o f the Srauta Sutras.36 T he pre R g-ved ic origin o f ritual is, o f course, inaccessible, unless it lies in the fragm entary sugges tions o f the Indus valley. This continuity o f ritual traditions in south A sia needs to be stressed. O n the w h ole they have, surprisingly, survived even radical political changes and a variety o f different interpretations. This ritual continuity,


An introduction to Ilinduism
w hich m ay be linked to a continuity ol social relations, is the most im p or tant factor in linking m odern form s with ancient I raditions, though adm it ted ly the elaborate srauta rites are on ly perform ed am ong a m inority o f Brahm ans in Kerala. A lth ou gh the central act o f all vedic ritual, both solem n and dom estic, is sim ple - the o ffering o f substances into the fire - the preparatory and clo s ing rites can be ve ry com plex due to the em bedding o f one type o f ritual and its accom panying verses into another. In the srauta rites, the com plex ity is com pounded b y the need fo r a num ber o f specialists. These special ists, and their assistants, w ere required fo r specific parts o f the rituals and w ou ld k n o w the appropriate recitations from the Veda. In the m ost elabo rate rituals, such as the sacrifice o f the soma plant, fo u r priests w ou ld be present, each o f w h o m w ou ld be a specialist in one o f the fo u r Samhitas, though on ly tw o priests w ould be necessary in m ost rites. T he chief priest o r hotr w ou ld recite verses from the R g Veda, a second priest, the udgatr, w ou ld chant o r sing songs (stotra) com prising verses set to the m elodies o f the Sdma Veda, and the adhvaryu priest w o u ld chant verses from the

Yajur Veda and perform m any o f the necessary ritual actions. In later times all this w ou ld be overseen b y a priest associated w ith the Atharva Veda, the brahman, w h ose function was to w atch out fo r om issions or
incorrect procedures. There w ere origin ally o n ly three priests associated w ith the first three Sam hitas, fo r the Brahm an as overseer o f the rites does not appear in the R g Veda and is o n ly incorporated later, thereby show ing the acceptance o f the Atharva Veda, w hich had been som ew hat distinct from the other Samhitas and identified w ith lo w er social strata, as being o f equal standing w ith the other texts.

Srauta rites w ou ld m inim ally involve the establishing o f the three fires:
the householders fire (garhapatya ) in the west, the fire to be offered into

(ahavaniya) to the east and a third southern fire (daksinagni). The altar or vedi, w hich was a shallow pit, narrow in the centre and strew n w ith grass,
or, fo r specific rites, a m ore elaborate b rick structure, w as placed between the eastern and w estern fires. The ritual implements needed fo r the sacri fice w ere placed there and the sacrificers and gods invited to sit there. F o r animal sacrifice a post (yupa ) w ou ld be required, to w hich the victim was tied. A num ber o f srauta rituals, ranging in com plexity, are recorded in vedic texts. T he agnistoma was a fairly sim ple on e-d ay soma sacrifice, though preceded b y various preparations, and the agnicayana, the piling up o f


Ancient origins
A gn i, a com plex proceeding lasting several days. Th e agnicayana rite as a living tradition am ong N am budri Brahm ans in Kerala, has been clearly documented and analyzed by Staal.37 T h is rite involved the building o f an altar from over 2,000 bricks, in the shape o f a large bird, to the w est o f the standard ritual enclosure o f three fires. N ear to this altar are tw o areas fo r chanting the texts and fo r preparing soma. Th is altar is built in five layers w ith the appropriate recitation o f mantras. O ver a period o f tw elve days a num ber o f ritual sequences are perform ed, w h ich involve singing verses

(stotra) from the Sama Veda , reciting from the R g Veda, offering soma to
the deities and the drinking o f soma b y the sacrificer and some priests. The sacrificer o r patron (yajamana), w h o has paid a fee o f cattle o r m oney fo r the rites, reaps the benefits, though th roughout the proceedings he remains fairly passive. B efore the ritual the yajamana, accom panied b y his w ife, undergoes an initiation (diksa ), w hich m ight involve some degree o f asceticism (tapas) such as fasting, to achieve purification.

T he soma drink, requiring an elaborate preparation during the Som a sacri fice, w as p ro b ab ly originally a hallucinogenic o r intoxicating substance prepared from the soma plant. It w as alm ost certainly not a ferm ented drink w hich the vedic A ry an s also possessed and called sura. Th is plant, G o rd o n W asson has argued, m ay have been the fly agaric m ushroom

(Amanita muscaria) w hose use in inducing m ystical states o f conscious

ness is attested in Sham anism .38 A ltern atively m any scholars n ow think that it w as ephedra, the sea grape; a jointed but leafless desert plant. Traces o f this plant have been found in jars from sites in Iran, w here soma w as called haoma .39 Ephedra is a stimulant rather than a hallucinogen, but if soma w as ephedra, then this circum vents the problem o f the fly agaric m ushroom not grow in g in northern India. W hatever its identity, the im portant poin t is that soma induced exalted states and p ossib ly visions in its takers.40 T he original soma was eventually lost b y the vedic A ryan s and replaced b y soma substitutes; plants w ithout intoxicating properties. We can see in the vedic material that ritual w as the p rim ary religious concern o f the In d o -A ry an s, but also that m ystical experience induced b y the soma plant w as, at an early date in the develop ment o f the tradition, im portant. These tw o concerns, ritual and m ysti cism , are found throughout the later traditions o f India. T he soma sacrifice w as em bedded w ithin other rituals as w ell, m ost


An introduction to / Hnduism
notably w ithin animal sacrifices, the most im portant o f which was the horse sacrifice (as'vamedha ), and the consecration o f a king (rdjasuya). The horse sacrifice41 described in f,he Rg Veda and in the Brahm anas42 could o n ly be carried out b y a king. The sacrifice involved allow ing a stallion to w ander free fo r a year before it was ritually suffocated. B efore the horse w as dism em bered and the various parts o f its b o d y offered to different deities, the k in gs w ife w ou ld sym bolically copulate w ith the dead stallion: divine p o w er from the h o r s e -w h o is also identified w ith the deity Prajapati - entering the queen and thereby entering the king and the people.43 The m eaning and functions o f ritual in In d o -A ry an culture cannot be reduced to any one factor. Sacrifice could have had a cathartic function, expressing a societys aggression in a controlled and socially acceptable w ay, as G irard has argued.44 W hether or not the sacrifice had a cathartic effect, it certainly functioned to establish the patron s status and pow er w ithin the com m unity and may, in a D urkheim ian sense, have served to reinforce social values and legitimate p o w er relations w ithin a society, not o n ly in allow ing o n ly higher classes o f society to perform the rituals, but also in excluding others. T he ritual w as im portant not on ly fo r those it included, but fo r those it excluded as w ell, draw ing a line between higher and low er social groupings.45

Vedic m ythology and theology

The vedic universe is populated w ith benevolent and m alevolent super natural beings o f various kinds. In one sense every tree and river has a divine being associated w ith it, yet undoubtedly some deities are m ore im portant than others. In the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad4 the sage (> Y ajn avalkya is asked h ow m any gods there are, and he gives an am biguous reply. F irstly he says there are 303, then that there are 3,003, w hen pressed further that there are 3 3 , 6 , 3 , 2 , 1 V and fin ally 1. In the next verse he settles i, on 3 3. A lth ou gh this m ust be seen in the light o f the later m onistic ph iloso p h y o f the Upanisads - that all deities are m anifestations o f a single p o w er - the text is certainly echoing the early vedic identification o f the various gods w ith each other; the M oon is identified w ith Som a, Som a is identified w ith A gn i, A gn i w ith the Sun and so on.

T he R g Veda is filled w ith hym ns o f praise to the various deities (deva ) invoked in ritual. There are, however, few straight narrative accounts o f the 44

Ancient origins
gods, either in the Rg Veda or in the Brahm anas, and die texts assume a co m mon know ledge o f their stories. The great nineteenth-century Sanskritist, Max Muller, thought that all the deities of the Veda were the agents postu lated behind the great phenomena o f nature, such as fire, water, rain, the sun and storms etc.47 W hile it is certainly true that m any deities o f the Veda are related to natural phenomena, some gods do not fit into this m odel and vedic scholarship no longer accepts this as an explanation o f the pantheon. The gods also have human qualities. The m ajority o f deities are male, though there are a few goddesses (devi) such as A diti, the mother o f the uni verse, U sas, the dawn, N irrti, destruction, and Vac, speech. T h ey can be addressed in hym ns, they share in human em otions, they have desire, they can be invited to the sacrifice and can share in the ritual meal. Indeed in the later texts, the Brahm anas, their connection w ith the sac rifice is what distinguishes them from other supernatural beings such as the dem ons or anti-gods , the asuras. A ccord in g to the Satapatha

Brahmana 48 both the dev as and the asuras are said to have been born from
Prajapati, the lord o f creatures , a deity w h o becom es the creator god. The

asuras made sacrificial offerings to them selves, whereas the devas made
offerings to each other. Because o f this, Prajapati gave him self to the latter as their nourishm ent and so the devas accept ritual offerings, whereas the

asuras do not. The devas are beings intim ately connected with, and,
indeed, defined by, the sacrifice as the class o f supernatural beings w h o accept offerings and, in return, give help or, in the case o f m ore w rathful deities such as Rudra, sim ply stay aw ay from the human w orld. It is p o s sible that the devas represent the original deities o f the A ryan s and the

asuras the deities o f their enemies the Dasas.

The devas inhabit a hierarchical cosm os. In one scheme, encapsulated in the three utterances pronounced each day b y orthodox Brahm ans, this cosm os is divided into the three w orld s o f sk y o r heaven (sva r), atm os phere (b h u va s), and earth (bh u r), each realm populated b y different deities. T h e three realms and the principal deities they contain are: - heaven (svar), contains the sky god D yaus; the lord of righteousness (rta) and of night, Varuna; the companion of Varuna and god of night, Mitra; the nourisher Pusan; and the pervader Visnu. - atmosphere (bhuvas) contains the warrior Indra; the wind Vayu; the storm gods, the Maruts; and the terrible Rudra. - earth (bhur) contains the plant god Soma; the fire Agni; and the priestly god of creative power, Brhaspati. 45

An introduction to Hinduism
A n oth er classification places a group oi gods called A dityas, the sons o f the G odd ess A d iti (nam ely M itra, A ryam an , Bhaga, Varuna, D aksa, and A m sa), w ithin the category o f heaven; the M aruts or Rudras, the sons o f R u d ra, w ithin the atm osphere; and the Vasus, the attendants o f Indra, p er sonifications o f natural phenom ena, nam ely A p a (water), D hruva (the pole star), Som a (the m oon), D hara (the earth), A n ila (wind), A nala (fire), Prabhsa (dawn), and P ratysa (light), at the level o f the earth. There is no suprem e deity in the R g Veda, though som e are undoubt edly m ore im portant than others. The tw o m ost significant devas, placed at the level o f the earth, are A gn i and Soma. A gn i m ysteriously pervades the w o rld as heat and is identified w ith the earth as the sacred cow Prsni, w ith the sun, w ith the daw n and w ith fire hidden in its stom ach.49 W hile being sim ply fire, A gn i is particularly the sacrificial fire. H e transports the dead to the realm o f Yam a, the lord of death, and transports, and purifies, all offerings to the realm o f the gods. T he m y th o lo gy o f A gn i plays on the idea o f fire being hidden w ithin the w orld and aw akened b y the fuel-sticks w hich kindle him. L ik e A gn i, Soma is a deity w h o intercedes betw een men and gods and is regarded as a link betw een the human and divine, the pillar o f the sk y and bringer o f ecstasy and understanding o f the divine realm s.50 Indeed Soma is identified w ith A gn i and w ith the m oon w hich contains the am brosia o f im m ortality (am rta) and there are parallels betw een the m yth o lo gy o f Som a and that o f A gni. A gni, hiding w ithin the waters from w here he w as origin ally born, is discovered b y the gods and agrees to co n vey the sacri fice to them.51 Sim ilarly Som a, like A gn i, w as hidden from the gods upon a m ountain and captured b y Indra riding an eagle.52 T here are parallels here w ith the G reek m yth o f Prom etheus and both A gn i and Som a can be seen as bringers o f culture, as things w hich distinguish the hum an w o rld from the natural w orld. O ther deities in the R g Veda are im portant, though none have such transform ing p o w er in the w orld as A gn i and Som a. Indra is the w arrior king, em powered b y soma, w h o destroys obstacles w ith his thunderbolt club. H is m ost fam ous m yth is the destruction o f the snake V rtra (whose name means obstacle ), sym bolizing cosm ic chaos, thus freeing the w aters o f the sky.53 The storm gods, the M aruts, accom pany Indra on his adventures w hich seem to reflect the w arrio r ethos o f vedic society: Indra captures the cow s as the A ry an w arriors w ou ld have gone on cattle raids to neighbouring groups.

Ancient origins
A lthough Indra stands out in clear profile, many of the gods in the Veda are opaque. Th e A dityas, the sons o f the goddess A diti, include Varuna, the distant, majestic sk y god w ho protects the cosm ic and social order (rta); M itra, the god o f social responsibilities o r contracts, w h o accom pa nies Varuna; A ryam an , the god o f custom such as marriage, and, though very inferior to these other three, Pusan, presider over jo u rn eys.54 O f these, Varuna, the lord o f the ethical order, is the m ost im portant, and is asked fo r forgiveness and m ercy fo r any m oral transgression or fo r going against the current .55 The you n g A svin twins are deities o f good fortune and health. A part from these, the elements and natural phenom ena are deified, such as the sun (Surya), the sun at dawn and sunset (Savitr), the w ind (V ayu), the waters (Apas), the goddess earth (PrthivI) and her consort, father sk y (D yaus Pitar). There are other deities in the pantheon such as V isnu and R udra (i.e. Siva) w h o becom e the central focuses o f later traditions.

In the vedic w o rld view ritual has suprem e im portance and the vedic Samhitas prim arily serve as liturgical texts. A lth ou gh their use is prim arily liturgical, the contents o f the vedic songs or hym ns reflect and presuppose narrative traditions about the gods, and the origins o f the w o rld and o f human society. There are also philosophical speculations concerning the origins o f life. T he m ost fam ous o f these hym n s56 asks unansw erable questions about w hat existed at the beginning o f time w hen there w as nei ther existence (sat) nor non-existence (asat), neither death nor im m ortal ity, neither light nor dark. T he final verse conveys the hym n s sense o f cosm ic m ystery and w e can read into it both the beginnings o f a theistic tradition and also the beginnings o f Indian scepticism . It reads: W hence this creation has arisen - perhaps it form ed itself, o r perhaps it did not - the one w h o looks dow n on it, in the highest heaven, on ly he know s - or p er haps he does not k now .57 H ow ever, it is w ith the Brahm anas, later developed in the U panisads, that m ore system atic speculation begins, particularly on the nature o f sac rifice. The Brahm anas are a discourse b y the Brahm ans on the srauta ritu als, w hich attempt to explain ritual action and relate it to w ider cosm ic and m ythological phenom ena; one Indian com m entator on the Taittiriya Sam hitd clearly and succinctly defined a Brahm ana as an explanation o f a ritual act and o f the m antras belonging to it .58 The sociologist Em ile


An introduction to Hinduism
D urkheim once w rote that the moment when men have an idea that there are internal connections between things, science and philosophy become possib le .59 O ne o f the Brahm anas central concerns was the establishing o f such hidden o r inner connections (bandhu, nidana) between the srauta rituals and their purposes, and between ritual and m ythology. F o r exam ple, the Satapatha Brahmana clarifies the connection between the upper and lo w er fire-sticks used to kindle the sacred fires and the divine beings UrvasT and her husband Pururavas, w h ose names are invoked du r ing the fire-kindling cerem ony. The redactor o f the text is aware o f the sex ual sym bolism o f the fire sticks and identifies the ghee in the ghee pan, touched b y the adjvaryu priest, w ith A y u , the child o f the divine couple, w hich is placed on the lo w er (female) fire stick. G hee is also identified w ith semen (retas), and retas in turn is identified w ith an em bryo and also w ith rain.60 These kinds o f identifications and analogies are foun d throughout the texts and express a cosm ology in w hich the hierarchical structure o f the w ider cosm os is recapitulated in the structure o f society, in the individ uals b od y and in the ritual. The ritual is a m icrocosm reflecting the w ider m acrocosm o f the cosm os and the m esocosm o f society.

Identification, or cosm ical h om olo gy , as the historian o f religions M ircea Eliade has called it,61 along w ith hierarchy, m ight be said to be a principle o f Indian religion. It is present in the vedic tradition from the Rg

Veda and is found in all later Indian traditions, including Buddhism and
Jainism . O ne o f the fundam ental vedic identifications o r hom ologies, w hich becomes central in later esoteric traditions, is between the body, the universe and the sacrifice. A k ey text here, occurring late in the Rg Veda, w hich is quoted and reiterated throughout the H indu tradition, is the fam ous hym n o f the cosm ic man, the Purusa Sukta .62 This hym n occurs in a late b ook o f the R g Veda and p rob ab ly does not accurately reflect vedic society in the earlier period w hich m ay have had less clearly delineated boundaries between social groups. This hym n describes the creation o f the w orld b y the gods, w h o sacri fice and dism em ber a cosm ic giant, the male person {purusa), from the different parts o f w hose b o d y the cosm os and society are form ed and even the verses, songs and form ulae o f the Veda itself. The highest sacerdotal class, the Brahm ans, came from his m outh as so cietys voice; the w arrio r class {rajany a, o r later ksatriya ), as societys strength, came from his arms; 48

Ancient origina
the com m on people (vais'ya) came from his (highs as societys support, and the serfs (sdra), those on w hom society stands, came from his feet.63 In many w ays this is an idealized picture; the Brahm ans as the priests sustain ing the com m unity w ith spiritual sustenance, that is, perform ing vedic rit ual; the rulers o r w arriors protecting and ruling the com m unity; the com m on fo lk practising, prim arily, animal husbandry and agriculture; and the serfs serving the other classes. Y et this im portant hym n show s that the hierarchical, hereditary social groups w ere part o f the structure o f the cosm os. If the cosm os w as in some sense sacred, then so w as society w hich manifested its hierarchical order. M oreover, this order is reflected in sacri fice and in the hierarchical structure o f the body. The scale o f this order was the degree o f pu rity o r pollution associated w ith the b ody: the head, as the highest part o f the body, w as the purest and the feet, the low est part, the m ost polluted. T he social and individual bodies w ere reflections o f each other, and both w ere part o f the larger structure o r b o d y o f the cos m os. This integration o f society and cosm os, o f b o d y and society, is the sacred order or law (rta) o f the universe, w h ich is eternal and unchanging, brought to life in vedic ritual, expressed in the songs o f the vedic seers, and elucidated in the Brhm anas.

Vedic society
O f the fo u r classes (varna) o f A ry an society, the highest three are kn ow n as the tw ice-born (dvija) because their male mem bers have undergone an initiation (upanayana ), a rite o f passage, w h ich gives them access to being full members o f society, w h o can m arry and perpetuate the ritual tradi tions. T h is rite separates the tw ice-born from the fourth estate, the serfs

(sdra), and clearly m arks the boundary betw een those w h o have access to
the vedic tradition and those w h o do not. G eorges D um zil, a scholar o f In do-E u ropean studies, has argued that In do-E u ropean ideology is char acterized b y a social structure o f three classes o r functions: the function o f the priest, the w arrio r or ruler and the farm er.64 T he sacerdotal class w o u ld serve the ruling, m ilitary aristocracy. This structure has been pre sent throughout Indo-E u ropean com m unities. In vedic India, D u m zils three functions correspond to the tw ice-born classes o f priests (brhmana), w arriors or rulers (ksatriya, rjanya) and com m oners (vais'ya). T he argument has been that upon entering the su b continent the A ryan s w ith their tripartite social structure placed the local population on the bottom , w hich is the serf class (sdra) com posed o f


An introduction to Hinduism
n o n -A ryan D ravidians. H ow ever, the process of class form ation in early Indian society is m ore com plex and may go back to an indigenous struc ture in the ancient past, perhaps present in the Indus valley civilization. Indeed, the priestly and ruling classes o f the Indus valley cities probably lived separately in or near the citadels o f their towns. W hatever the origins o f the system , it m ust be remem bered that the fou rfold class structure is a theoretical model and ideological justification based on sacred revelation. The reality o f social classes in vedic society seems to have been m ore com plex. Rather than a priestly class serving a ruling aristocracy, at least at the time o f the R g Veda, there seems to have been tw o ruling elites, the Sris and the A ris, each o f w hich w ere served by their ow n priesthoods. A gu ilar i Matas has argued that R g-ved ic religion w as patronized b y the Sris and so the R g Veda favours them at the expense o f the A ris w h o have a negative reputation in the text. Th is is reflected at cultic and theological levels w hen Indra, the favourite god o f the Sris, trium phs over and becomes m ore im portant than Varuna, the suprem e god o f the A ris. Furtherm ore the tw o liturgical deities A gn i and Som a, pass from the side o f Varuna to Indra, thereby ensuring the Sris ritual pow er.65

Sum m ary
We have seen h ow the origins o f H induism lay in the ancient cultures o f the Indus valley civilization and A ry an culture. A lth o u gh the issue is con tentious, there is strong supporting evidence to show that the language o f the Indus valley civilization was D ravidian, w h ich contrasts w ith the Indo-E u ropean language o f the vedic A ryan s. These tw o cultures, the D ravidian Indus valley culture and the A ry a n vedic, contribute to the fo r mation o f H indu traditions, and H indu civilization can be seen as a p ro d uct o f the com plex interaction between the D ravidian and A ry an cultural spheres. W hile the A ry a n culture o f the Brahm ans provides the master narrative fo r later traditions, the im portance o f the D ravidian cultural sphere should not be underestimated and A ry a n culture itself, including the Sanskrit language, has absorbed D ravidian elements.


D urin g the late vedic period b y the time o f the com position o f the Satapatha B rhm ana and the early U panisads, A ry a n culture had becom e established in the G anges plain; w e kn o w that the Satapatha Brhm ana and B rhad ran ya ka U panisad w ere com posed in the Videha regio n .1 Larger kingdom s replaced smaller ones and a process o f urbanization began. This was a form ative period in the h istory o f Indian religions, w hich saw the rise o f the renouncer traditions, particularly Buddhism , and the establishing o f brahmanical ideology. Betw een the M auryan dyn asty (c. 3 2 0 -18 5
b c e

and the G u pta em pire (320-500

c e


there w as a p olitic

ally unsettled period prom pted b y incursions from the north-w est. The last M au ryan king, Brhadratha, was assassinated b y his Brahm an general Pusyam itra Sga in 185
b c e

The Snga d yn asty (c. 18 5 -7 3

b c e


m uch o f its em pire to G reek invaders from Bactria under K in g D em etrios w h o founded an extensive empire, the m ost im portant king o f w hich was M enander (c. 16 6 - 15 0
b c e


A fter M enanders death the kingdom broke

b c e

up to be eventually replaced b y the Ska em pire, established b y Sai-W ang tribes from central A sia (c. 140


c e


W ith a slight decline in Ska

pow er, the Kusnas (Kuei-shang) invaded, and established an em pire w hich extended along the Ganges plain to beyond Varanasi, culm inating in the rule o f K aniska (between 78 and 144 w as founded b y C andragupta I (c. 320 ern, and much o f central, India. Political support fo r religions varied w ith different dynasties and w ith different kings. A so k a (268-233
b c e ) was
c e c e


F in ally the G u p ta em pire

and spread across all o f n orth

favourable to Buddhism , as was


An introduction to Ilinduism
K aniska (first century
c e


though both kings seem to have been tolerant

o f other religions within their realms. C andragupta M aurya may have been a Jain . With the death o f the last M auryan, his assassin Pusyam itra favoured a return to vedic sacrificial religion and perform ed the horse sac rifice and seems to have perform ed a human sacrifice at the city o f Kausam bi, perhaps in celebration o f a victo ry over the G reeks. A lthough official patronage o f religions varied, brahmanical ideology grew in im portance and established itself as the centre o f a sociopolitical religion, intim ately allied to the status o f the king, an id eo lo gy central to the G uptas (320-600
c e

and to later dynasties. This brahmanical religion w as con

cerned w ith the ritual status o f the king, the m aintaining o f boundaries betw een social groups, and the regulation o f individual behaviour in accordance w ith the overarching principle o f dharm a. W ith the rise o f the kingdom s culm inating w ith the G uptas, dharm a becom es an ideal operat ing in the dom estic realm o f the high-caste householder and in the political realm o f the H indu state. T he brahm anical id eology o f dharm a w as articulated b y the vedic tra ditions or schools (sakha) in texts concerned w ith the perform ance o f vedic ritual and social ethics, and expressed in the dom estic realm b y the figure o f the ideal Brahm an and in the political realm b y the figure o f the ideal king. These tw o figures, the Brahm an and the king, w ere intim ately connected. It w as the king w h o legitim ized the B rahm ans p o w er through his patronage, yet it was the Brahm ans w h o perform ed the ritual consecra tion o f the king. T he id eology o f dharm a was articulated at the level o f the court, em bodied in the figure o f the king, and manifested in the social w orld in rules o f interpersonal interaction and ritual injunction. In this chapter w e shall examine the institutions o f dharm a as they are developed in the D harm a literature and as they became expressed in H indu history. T h e idea o f dharm a T he term dh arm a is untranslatable in that it has no direct semantic equiv alents in any western languages w hich con vey the resonance o f associa tions expressed b y the term. It has been vario u sly translated as d u ty , religion, justice, law , ethics , religious m erit , prin ciple and right .2 M ore particularly dharm a is the perform ance o f vedic ritual b y the Brahm ans. It is the ritualistic order o f Vedic sacrifice ,3 w h ich refers espe cially to the perform ance o f the solem n rites (srauta) enjoined on all Brahm ans, to the dom estic rituals (grh ya), and to obligations appropriate 52

I )harm a

to on es fam ily and social group. D hartna is an all encom passing ideology which embraces both ritual and moral behaviour, w hose neglect w ould have bad social and personal consequences. T h e philosopher o f the Mimamsa school (see p. 236), Jaim ini, defines dharm a as that o f w hich the characteristic is an injunction (v id h i).4 T h is means that dharm a is an obligation, declared b y the Veda, to perform ritual action (karm a), w hich brings o f itself no rew ard other than that its non-perform ance w ould be that w hich is not dharm a (adharm a) and result in retribution or sin (papa). The rituals, particularly the solem n rites, are fo r their ow n realiza tion: it is ritual for rituals sake, though it does create reward in heaven fo r the ritual patron. A Brahm an can also perform supererogatory rituals for gaining w ealth and happiness in this w o rld and the next, but these are not obligatory. D harm a is identified w ith vedic obligation, w hich is eternal, and w ith action w hich is particular: the transcendent dharm a is expressed or manifested at a human level in ritual action in order to produce that w hich is good.
L ! j'f *

The sources of dharma

W hile the source o f dharm a is ultim ately the Veda, oral texts w ere fo rm u lated betw een the eighth and fourth centuries
b c e

w ithin the vedic tradi

tions (sdkha), concerned w ith ritual and law. T hese texts, the K alpa Sutras, form part o f a b o d y o f know ledge, the auxiliary sciences, kn ow n as the lim bs o f the Veda (vedanga). The Vedangas are: siksa, correct pronunciation of vedic texts; kalpa, the correct performance of ritual; vydkarana, the study of grammar; nirukta, etym ology of vedic words; chandas, prosody; jyotisa, astrology. T he G au tam a D harm a Sutra says that the Veda is the source o f dharm a and also o f the traditions w hich flo w from it.5 There are three sources o f dharm a according to the D harm a Sutras: revelation (i.e. the Veda), tradi tion (smrti), and the custom s o r good custom o f the virtuous or those learned in the Veda. The M anu S m rti o r M a n a va D harm a Sastra adds to these three w hat is pleasing to oneself w hich might be rendered as conscience .6


An introduction to Hinduism
T he Kalpa Sutras, the second source ol dharm a, ire categorized into three groups: - the Srauta Sutras, texts dealing with the correct performance of the solemn or public rites; - the G rhya Sutras, dealing with domestic rites; - the Dharma Sutras, dealing with law and social ethics. W hile the Veda is revelation, the Kalpa Sutras are tradition o r secondary revelation, rem em bered texts (smrti) com posed b y hum an sages w ithin the various vedic schools, though regarded as inspired and extraordinary hum ans. E ach sage is thought to have com posed a text in all three classes, though in fact o n ly three sages, A pastam ba, H iranyakesin and Baudhayana, have Srauta, D harm a, and G rh y a Sutras attributed to them. In all o f these texts w e see h ow dharm a was seen v e ry m uch in terms o f rit ual; to perform dharm a correctly is to fulfil ones ritual obligations.

These texts, called srauta because they fo llo w fro m sruti, lay dow n the rules, in a high ly technical form , fo r the perform ance o f public, vedic ritual. The actual srauta rites are prim arily focused upon A gn i and Som a to w h om vegetarian and non-vegetarian offerings are made into three o r five fires established upon altars. These public rituals are older and m ore co m plex than the simpler, dom estic rites, and surprisin gly have survived p o lit ical upheavals and social changes throughout In dias long history. D urin g the G u pta period they underwent a revival and are preserved in present times am ong the N am bu dri Brahm ans o f Kerala. The Srauta Sutras are rit ual manuals w hich lay out the rules fo r the perform ance o f srauta rites. T he earliest is b y Baudhayana (sixth century
b c e

o r earlier) w h ose text is

the first example o f the sutra style. A sutra, literally thread, is a pith y aphorism w hich states a principle or rule. These rules are cum ulative, the later rules assuming the earlier. Thus, in an injunction to m ake an oblation, an oblation made w ith ghee is understood.7 The Srauta Sutras are technical manuals com prising rules and metarules fo r w hat Frits Staal has called a science o f ritual . This science o f ritual has close parallels to the science o f language w hich developed a little later, but w hich uses the same sutra style. Th is science is furtherm ore distinct from the Brahm ana literature w hich preceded it, in not speculating about the hidden meanings o f ritual, but rather concentrating on the rules b y w hich it should be perform ed. These


I )h a rm a

texts, as Staal lias shown, are also distinct Icom Ihe later M imamsa philoso phy which is concerned with arguing a viewpoint, particularly against the Buddhists.8

The G rh y a Sutras describe different kinds o f ritual (yajna) to be per form ed in the home. These dom estic rituals m ay have been perm itted fo r all tw ice-born classes in the earlier vedic period, but came to be restricted to the Brahm an class. A Brahm an could perfo rm them fo r him self or fo r the other tw ice-born classes. These texts contain instructions on kindling the dom estic fire w h ich it is incum bent upon the Brahm an to keep; rules fo r ritual pu rity; and rites o f passage, p articu larly birth, initiation, m ar riage and death. Indeed, a household m ight em ploy a Brahm an to perform dom estic rituals on ly fo r rites o f passage, classified as occasional rites (naim ittika-karm a) rather than daily rites (n itya-k arm a). C on cern fo r ritual became supplemented in the D harm a Sutras w ith a concern fo r reg ulating and defining social relationships w ithin and betw een groups. It is interesting to note that at the level o f self-representation, ritual procedures took precedence over social considerations, though the tw o spheres became intim ately connected: to perform ones ritual obligations w as to act in accordance w ith ones social status w hich w as to act ethically. That is, from the perspective o f dharm a there is no gap between ritual perfo r mance and social or ethical obligation, an idea w hich the renouncer tradi tions, particularly Buddhism , w ere to reject.

These texts develop material found in the G rh y a Sutras and are concerned w ith custom s and correct human conduct. In contrast to the Srauta Sutras, the G rh y a Sutras dem onstrate the dom estic concerns o f the Brahm an householder, laying emphasis on dom estic rituals and codes o f acceptable behaviour. T he m ost im portant o f the D harm a Sutras are ascribed to the sages Gautam a, Baudhayana, Vasistha and Apastam ba, w hose texts con tain rules fo r perform ing dom estic rites, jurisprudence, and rules pertain ing to the fo u r stages o f life (asram a). T he significance o f these texts is that they lay d ow n rules fo r the perform ance o f dharm a fo r the A ry a n house holder, and lay the foundations for the im portant traditions o f the D harm a Sastra.


An introduction to Hinduism


T h e D harm a Sastras are a slightly later group o f texts, though they contain older material, w hich elaborates upon the topics o f the Sutra literature. W hile other texts o f human authorship were regarded as smrti, particul arly the Epics (itihdsa ) and narrative traditions (purana ), it is the D harm a Sastras w hich are particu larly associated w ith smrti and are, indeed, som e times sim ply referred to b y that name. The D harm a Sastras differ from the earlier Sutras in that they are com posed in verse in contrast to the prose or m ixture o f prose and verse o f the Sutras. T he subject matter is the same, though the Sastras give m ore explication w here the Sutras are silent, and contain m ore material o f a juridical nature, particularly pertaining to the role o f the kin g .9 It is these texts w hich are particularly im portant as sources o f dharma and w hich provide clear indications fo r the high-caste householder as to w h at duties he should perform , w hat w as expected o f him, w hat w as prohibited, and h ow these rules relate to a wider, cosm ic sense o f law and duty. The Brahm ans w h o fo llo w ed the teachings o f these texts w ere know n as Smartas, those w h o fo llo w ed the smrtis, and w ere particularly concerned w ith dharma in respect to caste and stage o f life, the varnasrama-dharma. T h e rules o f dharma in the D harm a Sastras merge into jurisprudence and they becom e im portant texts in H indu legislation and litigation, even during the period o f British rule in India. Indeed, one o f the first Sanskrit texts discovered b y the British w as the M ann Smrti or M anava Dharma

Sdstra, first translated into English b y the founder o f Indology, Sir W illiam Jon es, and published in 1794. W hile the M anu Smrti is the oldest
and m ost im portant text o f this genre, com posed betw een the second cen tu ry b c e and third century c e , other D harm a Sastras are im portant fo r their legal material, particularly the Yajnavalkya Smrti and the Narada

Smrti, p rob ab ly com posed during the G u pta period (320-50 0 c e). The
Sanskrit com mentaries are also im portant, particularly M edhatithis com m entary on the M anu Smrti. These texts contain a doctrine o f dharma as a universal, all-encom passing law, w hich is y et flexible and adaptable to different circumstances and a variety o f situations. T h ey w ere used particularly b y assemblies o f Brahm ans throughout the history o f H induism to help decide legal matters. We kn o w som ething o f their use from tw elfth-century epigraphic evidence. In one inscription, the caste o f W heelw rights, the rathakaras (lit. cart-m akers ), are disputing their p o si


1)h arm a
tion in the vetlic social hierarchy. W illi quotations from a num ber o f Sanskrit sources, including the N arada and Y djn avalk ya Smrtis, the stone records the decision that there are tw o types o f wheelw rights, one group born from respectable o r hypergam ous marriages o f the tw ice-born classes, and another, menial group, born from the marriages o f high-caste w om en w ith low -caste m en.10 Such inscriptions show that the D harm a Sastras w ere im portant and were used in an advisory capacity to help settle am biguous legal matters. In quoting from a w ide range o f textual sources, not on ly from the D harm a Sastras, the inscriptions suggest an awareness o f a scholarly H indu tradition and a high degree o f assertiveness and self-aw areness am ong low er social groups. These inscriptions also show us that texts w ere open to a continuous process o f interpretation in the light o f contem porary social events. The Sastras reflect the dom inant brahmanical ideol o gy and a vision o f social order in w hich the Brahm ans, the class w ith the highest status, had an im portant place as the upholders o f ritual and moral pu rity and the conveyors o f the sacred traditions.

The context-sensitivity of dharma

W hile dharm a has been an im portant concept associated w ith kingship and has pervaded all classes o f H indu society, the law books have been m ainly concerned w ith the obligations o f Brahm ans. To fulfil his dharm a a Brahm ans ritual action must be pure (su d dh i). A lth ou gh there is some debate concerning the im portance o f p u rity in H induism , w hether the sta tus o f pu rity is subordinate to political p o w er o r superior to it, pu rity is undoubtedly a ve ry im portant concept. Th e body, w hich is polluted every day b y its effluents, should be in as pure a state as possible through ritual purification, p rincipally b y water. There is, how ever, a deeper level o f p o l lution w hich is a p rop erty o f the b od y and differentiates one social group from another. The p olarity o f pu rity and pollution organizes H indu social space, a principle recognized in the D harm a Sastras w hich view social ethics as the maintenance o f order and the boundaries between groups and genders as governed b y degrees o f pu rity and pollution. The Brahm an, by virtue o f being the highest class o f person, is excluded from certain kinds o f interaction w ith other classes; rules o f com m ensality and strict m arriage regulations ensure the clear maintenance o f boundaries. A t a universal level dharm a refers to a cosm ic, eternal principle, yet it m ust also relate to the w orld o f hum an transaction. A t a particular level,


An introduction to Hinduism dharma applies to specific laws and the contexts to which they are applied.
O ne o f the sources o f dharma according to Manu, is custom . This means that dharma can be adapted to particular situations and particular applica tions o f it w ere decided b y a local assem bly o f a num ber o f learned m en;1 1 as W endy D on iger has observed, dharma is context sensitive.12 The D harm a Sastras p rovid e us w ith examples o f this. Th e religious obliga tions o f men d iffer at different ages and v a ry according to caste {jati), fam ily (kula ), and cou n try (des'a).13 A king, fo r instance, m ust judge according to the custom s and particular duties (svadharma ) o f each region. T his idea o f svadharma is im portant in understanding that dharma is relative to d if ferent contexts: w hat is correct action fo r a w arrio r w o u ld be incorrect fo r a Brahm an, w hat is correct fo r a man m ay be incorrect fo r a w om an, and so on. M anu says: on es ow n duty, [even] w ithout any good qualities, is bet ter than som eone elses du ty w ell-d on e .14

V arnasram a-dharm a
Tw o concerns in particular dom inate the D harm a Sutras and Sastras, ones obligation {dharma) w ith regard to ones position in society, that is, class

{varna), and obligation w ith regard to ones stage o f life (asrama ). These
tw o concerns together became know n as varnasrama-dharma w hose fu l film ent w as a sign o f brahmanical orth op raxy and, indeed, part o f an essentialist definition o f a H indu. W hile it should be rem em bered that some H indu traditions have rejected this model, its influence has been substantial in terms o f H indu self-perception and self-representation, and in terms o f the W ests perception o f H induism . It has been integral to brahmanical id eology and m any H indu traditions, such as tantric tradi tions, have defined themselves against this brahm anical norm .
C L A S S (V ARN A) A N D C A S T E { j A T l )

Vedic society, as w e have seen, was divided into fo u r classes, the Brahm ans, the N o b les o r W arriors (rajanya, ksatriya), the C om m oners

{vais'ya) and the Serfs (sudra), the top three classes being called the tw iceb o rn {dvija) because b oys underwent an initiation {upanayana). This sys tem w as part o f a larger chain o f being , fitting into a cosm ical hierarchy in w hich various categories (jati) w ere arranged in varyin g degrees o f subtlety and purity and associated w ith each other.15 O n ly the tw ice-born classes were allow ed to hear the Veda and, w hile in an earlier period all tw ice-born were eligible to learn it, on ly the Brahm ans came to be its

I )h arm ,i

guardians, learning it and reciting it during i iiu.ils. T he Visnu Sm rti states clearly that the Brahm ans duties are to teach the Veda and to sacrifice for others, the K satriyas is to practise with arms and protect the people, the Vaisya should tend cattle, practise agriculture and m oney-lending, and the Sudra should serve the other classes and practise a rt.16 T he term translated as class is varn a, colou r , w hich refers not to an y supposed racial charac teristics, but to a system o f colour sym bolism reflecting the social hierar chy as w ell as the qualities (gu n a) w hich are present in varyin g degrees in all things. Th e Brahm ans w ere associated w ith w hite, the colour o f pu rity and lightness, the K satriyas w ith red, the colou r o f passion and energy, the Vaisyas w ith yellow , the colour o f the earth, and the Sudras w ith black, the colour o f darkness and inertia. W hile the term varna. refers to the fo u r classes o f vedic society, the term ja ti (birth) refers to those endogam ous sections o f H indu society w hich w e k n o w as castes . C astes are characterized b y the fo llo w in g features: - castes are arranged in a hierarchical structure in any region, with the Brahmans at the top, the Untouchables (harijans, as Gandhi called them; dalits as they call themselves) at the bottom. Between these are a wide array o f other castes. - the caste hierarchy is based on the polarity between purity and pollution, the Brahmans being the most pure, the Untouchables the most impure. - the caste of any individual is inalienable; it is a property of the body and cannot be removed (except according to some traditions by initiation). - there are strict rules of caste endogamy and commensality. The term ja ti refers not on ly to social classes, but to all categories o f beings. Insects, plants, dom estic animals, w ild animals and celestial beings are all jdtis, w hich show s that differences betw een human castes m ight be regarded as being as great as differences between different species. M em bers o f a ja ti share the same b o d ily substance, substances w h ich are ranked hierarchically.17 This substance has been regarded b y some anthropologists as som ething w hich is exchanged in transactions: social actors constantly emit and absorb each others substances and so are not autonom ous individuals.18 The hum an jdtis are a highly com plex social reality w hich incorporate w ithin them m any sub-divisions. Indeed the Brahm an and K satriya varnas are also taken to be jdtis. The caste system ,


An introduction to Hinduism
w hile having changed through time, as do all human social institutions, has nevertheless retained a continuity. It is probable that the caste system was com plex even at the time o f Manu, and fluid in the sense that different castes can change their rank relative to each other in any region over a period o f time by, fo r exam ple, creating a pure, legendary origin. The

varnas on the other hand, provide a stable m odel fo r a stratified social order
in w h ich each group is clearly defined and functions as part o f an organic w hole: as part o f the b o d y o f society w hich is also the b o d y o f the prim al person or being, sacrificed at the beginning o f time, as the Rg Veda states. T he exact historical relationship between varna and jd ti is unclear. It is not certain that the castes or jatis developed from the varna system . Indeed philosophical texts do not consistently distinguish between the tw o terms and, according to H albfass,yiiz is used in the sense o f varna in the D harm a Sastra literature.19 The traditional view is that the jatis repre sent a proliferation o f social groups from the varna system . M anu could be attempting to m ake sense o f a pre-given social stratification in terms o f the clear id eology o f the vedic classes, w hen he attempts to explain the proliferation o f jatis in terms o f miscegenation am ongst the varnas, against the dangers o f w hich he warns the tw ice-bo rn .20 Indeed Manu prescribes some severe penalties fo r sexual m isconduct . A Brahm an w ho sleeps w ith a Sudra w om an goes to hell and loses brahm anical status upon the birth o f a son; hom osexuality is punished b y loss o f caste, and adultery b y the w om an being eaten b y dogs in a place frequented b y m an y and the man burnt on a red hot iron bed.21 It is not certain w hether such severe punishm ents w ere ever actually carried out, but these examples certainly have rhetorical impact and M anu clearly makes the point that sex outside the boundaries o f m arriage pre scribed b y dharma is not to be tolerated b y an ordered society. Yet w hile

M anu presents a clear vision o f social ethics based on caste hierarchy, there are nevertheless subtleties in dharma w hich accom m odate various human
situations. F o r exam ple, sex outside caste-restricted m arriage is w rong, yet there is the institution o f the tem porary gandharva marriage fo r the satisfaction o f desire, and w hile killing is w ron g, there are circumstances in w hich it is permitted. Dharma, the universal m oral law, m ust be adapted to human situations and to the everyday reality o f the householder. A lth ough cross-caste marriages are condemned in Manu, if they are to occur, then those in w hich the man is o f higher caste than the w om an, m ar riages with the grain (anuloma ), are better than marriages o f low-caste 60

I )h arm a

men with high-caste wom en, marriages against the grain (jnatiloma). The

jdtis, according to Manu, are the consequences of such mixed marriages.

F o r example, three o f the lowest or outcast groups - the castes o f carpenters, carvers, and the fierce Untouchables (candala ) - are born from the union o f Sudra wom en with C om m oners, W arriors and Brahm ans respectively.22 The fierce caste, the candalas, w hom Manu classifies as a group w hom he contem ptuously calls dog-cookers, are taken as exem plifying the low est social groups, highly polluting to the higher castes, and so becom ing know n as untouchables in the West, though the actual term asprsta, untouched, is not much used in Sanskrit sources. There was never a literal caste o f dogcookers , this is m erely M anus rhetoric fo r groups identified w ith the most impure o f creatures, cocks, dogs and pigs. If a Brahm an is touched b y a member o f one o f these groups, am ongst others such as one fallen from caste or a menstruating wom an, he should p u rify him self w ith a bath.23 A lth ough untouchability is now legally prohibited in India, U ntouchable castes constitute about a fifth o f Indias population. T h ey were totally excluded from vedic society and high-caste ritual traditions, outcaste beyond the system o f the fo u r classes (avarna ). E ven the Sudras w ere w ithin the class system , though forbidden to hear the Veda and ou t side the tw ice-born designation, but the U ntouchables had no place w ithin the higher social orders, living on the outside o f villages, as Manu directs,24 and living b y perform ing m enial and polluting tasks such as w o rk in g w ith leather and sweeping excrement from the village. Th e fifthcentury C hinese Buddhist pilgrim , Fa-hsien, mentions the Untouchables as having to strike a piece o f w ood before entering a tow n as a w arning fo r people to avoid them.25 Th e untouchable classes alm ost certainly go back into the first m illennium b c e . The dating o f Manu is unsure, though it is earlier than the third century c e and p ro b ab ly far older. There is evidence, cited b y D um ont, o f untouchable castes several centuries before the com m on era, from the Buddhist Jatakas, stories o f the previous lives o f the Buddha, and D um ont not im plausibly suggests that both Brahm ans and U ntouchables w ere established at the same time, fo r the im purity o f the U ntouchable is inseparable from the p u rity o f the Brahm an; they are at opposite ends o f the status hierarchy.26

T he second concept in the id eology o f dbarma is that o f lifes stages o r the

asramas. These are codifications o f different elements present in vedic


An introduction to Hinduism
society and an attempt to integrate them into .1 coherent system . The four stages are: that o f the celibate student (brabmacdrya ), householder

(grhastha), herm it o r forest dw eller (vanaprastba ), and renouncer (samnydsa). P atrick O livelle has show n that the dsrama system , as a theo
logical construct w ithin the H indu hermeneutical tradition, should be dis tinguished from the socio-religious institutions com prehended b y the system .27 T he ds'ramas are a theological entity w hose object o f reflection is the social institution, or institutions, w hich the system reflects upon. The dsrama system arose during the fifth century b c e as a result o f changes w ithin the brahm anical tradition. Initially the term referred to a herm itage (dsrama , the source o f the anglicized ashram ) and came to be applied to the style o f life o f those Brahm ans w h o lived there. T he brah manical herm its w h o lived in an dsrama w ere householders w ithin the vedic fold, perform ing the dom estic sacrifice, w h o pursued a religious life, p rob ab ly in areas rem oved from towns and villages. The term, as O livelle has show n, referred to this special category o f brahm anical householder.28 T he m eaning o f the term came to be extended, referring not on ly to the place w here the brahm anical householder-herm its dw elled, but to the style o f life they led, and eventually came to refer to other brahmanical styles o f life as w ell. In the D harm a Sutras the dsramas are not regarded as successive stages through w hich a man m ust pass, but as perm anent po ssi bilities - or lifestyle choices - open to the tw ice-born male after com plet ing his studies. The tw ice-born b o y w ou ld be separated from childhood b y the vedic initiation. H e w ou ld then becom e a student in the house o f a teacher, during w hich time he w ou ld learn about the duties and responsi bilities o f each o f the fo u r dsramas. A t the end o f this period o f study he w ou ld choose one o f the dsramas that he w ould w ish to fo llo w fo r the rest o f his adult life.29 T h us, he could choose a life o f stu dy and continue as a student or brahmacdrin. B y the time o f the D harm a Sastras, the dsramas have solidified into successive stages through w h ich the tw ice-born should pass, and much space in the Sastras is devoted to describing the demands o f each stage. A s w ith the varna system , the dsramas are a m odel, this time concerned not w ith the ordering o f society but w ith the diachronic ordering o f the individuals life: they are a paradigm o f h ow the high-caste man should live. T he celibate student stage o f life (brahmacdrya) refers to the traditional period after the high-caste initiation (upanayana ) w h en a b o y w o u ld go to the hom e o f his teacher (dearya, guru) to learn the Veda. T he student o f the 62

I )h a rm a

Veda o r brahmacarin, one w ho moves with or applies him self to brah

man, is know n as early as the Atharva Vccla,10 where he has all the charac
teristics o f the student portrayed in the 1 )harma Sastras: he begs fo r food, practises penances, wears an antelope skin, collects fuel, and practises heat-generating austerity (tapas).31 Yet, unlike the contem porary idea o f the student, the brahmacarin is in a h oly condition in w hich he is identi fied w ith Prajpati, the creator deity in the Brhm anas, and is under a strict rule o f celibacy. Indeed the term brahmacarin can mean one w h o is celi bate , the idea behind this, com m on to all Indian religions, being that to remain celibate is to be unpolluted b y sex and to control sexual energy w hich, usually understood as the retention o f semen, can be sublimated fo r a religious purpose. A ccordin g to M anu, this state w ou ld last between nine and as m any as th irty-six years, during w hich time the student w ou ld learn all, or a num ber of, the Vedas. A fte r this the student w ould undergo a hom e-com ing ritual and w ou ld soon be m arried and entered upon the householders life.32 W hen a householder is w rinkled and grey and sees his grandchildren, then, says Manu, he should retire and becom e a herm it o r forest-dw eller

(vanaprastha). In this stage a man, along w ith his w ife if he so wishes,

retires from householders duties to live an ascetic life in the forest and to devote him self to ritual. H ere, in the w o rd s o f Manu, constantly devoting him self to the recitation o f the Veda, he should be controlled, friendly, and m entally com posed; he should alw ays be a giver and a non-taker, com pas sionate to all living beings .33 H e is not a com plete renunciate and has not given up fire fo r cooking and, m ore im portantly, fo r m aking the daily offerings into the three sacrificial fires. N evertheless, from the descriptions o f this stage in the D harm a Sastras, w e can see that vanaprastha practised severe b o d ily asceticism, eating on ly certain kinds o f food such as vegeta bles, flow ers, roots and fruits and even practising extreme austerity such as sitting surrounded b y five fires in the sum m er o r w earing w et clothes in winter, in order to generate spiritual energy or inner heat (tapas) ? The 1 significant difference between this stage and that o f the total w o rld renouncer is the use o f fire. Th e renouncer has gone beyond the vedic injunctions o f maintaining his sacred fires; living entirely b y begging he does not coo k his ow n food. If fire and cooked food are sym bols o f culture and raw food o f nature, as Lvi-Strauss has suggested, then the renouncer in relinquishing fire has, in a sense, relinquished culture; he is attem pting to transcend culture fo r a pure, trans-hum an realm o f spiritual liberation.


An introduction to Hinduism
I f a Brahman fo llo w s through the slaves nl life, says M ann, and has paid his three debts (rn a) o f vedic study to the seers (>>/), of ritual to the gods (d e v a ), and o f begetting sons to make funeral offerings to the ancestors (pitr), then he m ay aim at attaining liberation (m oksa). I lowever, if he has not fulfilled his social obligations then he goes to hell, making it clear that w hile renunciation and the goal o f liberation are valid, they must be deferred until social obligations have been met: here, db arm a , in the sense o f social obligation, is clearly superior to moksa. O f the asramas the householder and renouncer stages are clearly the m ost im portant both ideologically and in terms o f concrete historical developm ents. These tw o stages, or rather the figures o f the householder and the renouncer w h o pass through them, reflect the distinction between sociopolitical religion and soteriology. W hile throughout the history o f H induism there are attempts to reconcile the householder and the renouncer ideals, the tw o images, and tw o institutions, remain in tension. Th e D harm a Sastras favou r the householders life. Manu, explicitly states that, o f the fou r stages, the householders is the best because the householder supports the others and his activity is the suprem e good .35 The text presents a picture o f the Brahm an as a learned man, a model o f rational self-control w h o restrains his senses as a charioteer his race horses ,36 and w h o perform s the correct ritual activity. H e abides b y the ritual injunctions (vidh i) o f the Veda, nam ely the perform ance o f obliga to ry daily rituals (nitya-karm a ), occasional rituals (n aim ittika-karm a) such as the life-cycle rituals (samskara) o f birth, high-caste initiation, and death rites - and rites perform ed fo r a desired result (kam ya-karm a) such as going to heaven. This is in contrast to the renouncer, w h o has given up hom e, the use o f fire fo r ritual and cooking, and w h o cultivates total detachment, treating everything w ith equanim ity and going beyond attachment to the material w o rld .37 The image o f the renouncer might be contrasted not o n ly w ith the Brahm an but also w ith the image o f the king, the ideal householder, w ho, unlike the renouncer, possesses political pow er, and, unlike the Brahm an, does not possess brahmanical purity, being lo w er in the varn a hierarchy and having corpse-pollution due to w ar and punishm ent. The relation between the images o f the renouncer, the Brahm an householder and the king, has been contentious. Some scholars, such as Lou is D um ont, have regarded the renouncer and the householder to be the central contrast w ith H induism , w hile others, notably Ja n H eesterm an, have argued fo r


I )h a rm a

I he sim ilarity between the renouncer and the Brahm an and have em pha sized the contrast between the Brahman and the king38 (seep. 72).

Gender roles
All these stages are characterized b y different regimens o f the body, p ar ticularly the control o f diet and sexuality. The first and last asramas are explicitly celibate; celibacy is a defining characteristic o f brahmacarya^ the 1 cntral ascetic idea being that sexual p o w er contained in semen can be 1 (directed to a spiritual end and, indeed, be stored in the head. The forestdweller and the renouncer, like the brahm acarin, are seeking to transcend ,md transform sexual pow er for the purposes o f the higher goal o f libera11011. O n ly the householder can express and explore his sexuality as a legit imate goal o f life (kam artha), concerning w hich there is an extensive literature, the Kam a astras, and the m ost notable text, V atsy ay anas K am a Sutra, a text to which, exceptionally, w om en had access. Sexual enjoym ent was regarded as the forem ost o f pleasures and a man o f wealth, particu larly a king, w ou ld experience kam a w ith courtesans trained in the arts o f love. Yet even the B rah m an s sexuality stands w ithin his rational control; a control which orders his w orld according to the principles o f maintaining 1 itual purity and o f controlling elements w ithin it w hich threaten to dis rupt that purity, particularly his ow n desire and its focus, nam ely his w ife and other w om en o f his household. 'That physical love {kam a) is a legitimate purpose o f life is significant in demonstrating a strand in brahmanical id eology w hich was generally p o s it ive towards the b od y and sexuality. Sex is not inherently sinful but can be legitimately explored and expressed w ithin the correct caste-specific boundaries, especially b y men w ith w ealth and power. E ven M anu, a text which in the light o f contem porary western sensibilities seems oppressive o f wom ens rights, recognizes the need fo r the mutual sexual satisfaction of husband and w ife.39 This is also the case in H indu erotic literature where w om en are not sim ply the instruments o f male desire. A s Biardeau <>bserves, love {kam a) w as a traditional art w hich w om en handed dow n to one another through the generations; love was a w om an s svadh arm a, or more correctly her strldharm a, w om an s d u ty ,40 and a realm o f human experience w hich is legitim ized in the Sm rti literature. H ow ever, sexuality beyond rational control, that is, outside o f caste restrictions and pollution controls, was anathema to the orth od ox Brahm an fo r it threatened his ritual pu rity and threatened the stability o f society and the family.


An introduction to Hinduism
M ann's attitude to wom en expresses tlie ambivalence of the general brahm anical ideal. W omen are to be revered and kept happy by the house holder in order that the fam ily may thrive, yet wom en are also polluting to the Brahm an male during menstruation. A ccordin g to M an u , wom en are to be subject to male control throughout their lives. A high-caste wom an must do nothing independently (svatantra), but must be subject to male authority - as a child to her father, as a married w om an to her husband, and as a w id o w to her sons.41 B y leading a life subject to male authority, a w om an s virtuous behaviour w ill be rewarded b y heaven upon her death.42 In later brahm anical tradition, a good w om an (sati) is one w h o dies on her husbands funeral p yre if he predeceases her, a practice w hich had devel oped b y the fourteenth century though it was not kn ow n to Manu> and although n ow illegal, still sometimes occurs in contem porary India.43 An eighteenth-century dharmic text, T ryam bakas Strldharm a P a d d h a ti, gives details o f the w ife s duties tow ards her husband, w h o is treated b y her as a d e v a , and his expectations o f her. A b o v e all, obedient service to her husband is her prim ary religious duty, even beyond regard fo r her ow n life.44 H ow ever, prob ab ly the text w hich best portrays the ideal high-caste w om an is not a technical law b ook, but the H indu epic poem com posed perhaps as early as the fifth century
b c e

the R am ayana.

In this narrative the god-king Ram a is banished to the forest w ith his brother Balaram a and his w ife Sita. Sita is demure, m odest, beautiful and dedicated to her L o rd Ram a, yet she is also strong in herself, endures great hardship and displays great devotion to her husband. She is the ideal highcaste w ife. In exam ining H in du literature on dharm a w e are dealing w ith brah m anical self-representations and idealized images o f gender roles. In M anu w e have the brahmanical view o f h ow things should be, a clear p ic ture o f brahmanical ideology, but the degree to w hich this reflected social reality is unclear. W omen p ro b ab ly wielded p o w er w ithin the hom e, w ithin the realm o f dom esticity, but w ielded little p o w er in the realms o f public office, adm inistration and politics, a situation w hich, in India as elsewhere, has on ly begun to change in the twentieth century.

Purity and auspiciousness

Tw o distinctions have been im portant in the h istory o f H indu society: on the one hand the distinction between pu rity (.sauca, suddhi) and pollution (asauca, asuddhi) and on the other the distinction between auspiciousness


Dharma (yu bh a, m agala) and inauspiciousness (a iu b h a , amarnala). The scale o f purity and pollution is a scale o f status hierarchy which corresponds to the caste hierarchy with the Brahmans at the top and the dalits at the bottom . H indu society is arranged around this scale. A uspiciousness and inauspi ciousness, on the other hand, is a scale o f the degree to w hich events, times and relationships are conducive to the w ell-being o f the society or in d ivid ual. A stro lo g y is particularly im portant here in determ ining the degree o f auspiciousness for a particular event such as a m arriage. The degree o f pu rity and pollution is concerned w ith status, the degree o f auspiciousness and inauspiciousness concerned w ith power, particu larly political power. W hile p u rity has been the predom inant concern o f the Brahm an, auspiciousness has been the predom inant concern o f the king and the local dom inant caste. W hile the Brahm an creates a ritually pure environm ent, so the king must create an auspicious kingdom ; one in w hich there is good fortune and prosperity. The ability to create auspi ciousness in the kingdom is a function o f the kin gs divinity. The king, like the icon in a temple, might be regarded as a channel fo r divine p o w er and the level o f p rosperity in the kingdom related to the degree to w hich he lives up to this responsibility.

The political theology of kingship

O ne o f the m ost im portant aspects o f dharm a is its applicability to k in g ship. Kingship has been ve ry im portant in H induism , both as an ideal and as a sociopolitical reality, intim ately linked to the idea o f the sacred. A s the icon o f a deity is thought to mediate betw een the divine and hum an realms, sim ilarly the king was thought to do so. W hereas the G rh y a Stras are concerned on ly w ith dom estic ritual, the D harm a texts have w ider inter ests in the fou r stages o f life, social or caste obligation, jurisprudence and, particularly, the rites and duties o f kings. F ro m these texts w e see that, w hile dharm a is timeless and transcendent, it was also the province o f dom estic affairs and public, social relationships, and had apolitical dim en sion in governing the status and behaviour o f the king. Regardless o f the actions o f any particular king, the ideal o f kingship was upheld through out H indu h istory from the vedic period onw ards, an ideal in w hich the king was the centre o f the H indu universe. This ideal o f kingship plays an im portant role even in contem porary H induism and rituals o f kingship persist into the present.45 A lth ou gh in one sense the king is the ideal householder, able to fulfil the

An introduction to Hinduism
goals o f dharm a , o f wealth, and o f sexual love with innumerable courte sans, he is also divine. W orldly pow er in the history of I lindu kingship is legitim ated in terms o f a religious sym bolism in which the qualities o f deities are attributed to kings. The king was regarded as a divine being - a divin ity w hich is attested in one o f the names fo r king, deva - particularly identified in the m edieval period w ith the god Visnu. The beginnings o f this id eology are found in the R g Veda Samhita where Indra is the king o f that w hich m oves and that w hich rests, o f the tame and o f the horned. H e rules the people as their king, encircling all this as a rim encircles spokes.46 Sim ilarly the hum an king is lord o f his kingdom or sphere and as such should protect his realm and w age w ar against his enemies.47 The king ideally aspires to be a ruler o f the universe or cakravartin (one w h o is at the centre o f the w h eel ). X The kings o f the early vedic period w ere constrained b y the po w er o f tribal councils, but this changed in the later vedic period w hen the pow er o f the king became m ore absolute. W hile the king is not endowed w ith divine origin in the D harm a Sutras, later texts clearly identify the king w ith a deity or deities. It is from the D harm a Sastras, K a u tilyas Artha

Sdstra and the great epic poem the M ahabharata , that w e can build a
clearer picture o f the id eology o f sacral kingship in early Indian politics. This m odel o f sacral kingship w as later em bellished b y the tantric identifi cation o f the king w ith the deity, particularly the G oddess, and b y the id eology o f the d eitys energy (sakti) flow in g through him .48 O nce consecrated, generally even if not a K satriya, the king is no mere hum an being but a god. A ccordin g to M anu , the king is emitted b y the L o rd o f the C osm os. H e is a great deity in the form o f a man, or rather a com posite deity, being form ed from fragments o f the different vedic gods Indra, V ayu , Yam a, Surya, A gn i, Varuna, Som a and K u bera and in some sense m ight be said to contain all gods. Manu writes: Because a king is made from particles of these lords of the gods, therefore he surpasses all living beings in brilliant energy, and, like the Sun, he burns eyes and hearts, and no one on earth is able even to look at him. Through his special power he becomes Fire and Wind; he is the Sun and the Moon, and he is (Yama) the King of Justice, he is Kubera [Lord of wealth] and he is Varuna, and he is great Indra.49 This passage show s the king as the highest point o f the kingdom or polity. E ven a child king is no mere m ortal but a great deity in human form .

1)h arm a
It was not so much the charisma of any particular king which maintained power, but the tradition and legitim ation of the institution o f kingship through the idea o f the descent o f p o w er from above during the k in gs anointing. From the king, pow er descends to the court and to the rest o f the realm. W hile there is much rhetoric in the D harm a literature concerning the need for the king to administer justice, the H indu king was m ore im p or tant as a ritual figure in close p ro xim ity to the divine than as a ruler involved w ith the bureaucracy and running o f the kingdom . The ruler o f a large kingdom , a dharm araja, was m ore im portant as a m oral and ritual source, than in the practical concerns o f the day-to -d ay running o f a region or regions. The politically segm entary nature o f the H indu k in g dom was ritually united in the figure o f the king. We cannot sim ply regard the H indu king as a despot or the institution o f divine kingship as a pecu liar consequence o f caste society. Rather, the king was an integral part o f a w hole structure in w hich he and those b elow him, dow n to com m on people in the villages, functioned in an integrated way. The H indu p o lity was a com plex structure, an imperial fo rm ation , to use R onald Indens term, in w hich each part played a role in its maintenance. Inden writes that w ithin this w orld the kingship equated w ith the sun, its officialdom w ith the lesser gods o f the sky, the queen w ith the earth, w ere, together w ith the com m oners, all parts .50

The H in du kingdom , as historian B u rto n Stein has show n, was segm en tary, com prising a num ber o f em bedded elements or socio-political groupings w hich form ed a pyram idal structure. These elements w ere em bedded w ithin each other; the village w ithin the locality, the locality w ithin the supralocality, and the su pralocality w ithin the kin gd om .51 Lesser kings gave ritual and sym b olic lo y a lty to m ore p o w erfu l kings and chieftains paid hom age to lesser kings. F o r m ost o f the h isto ry o f south A sia from the advent o f kingship to dom ination b y foreign p o w ers, each region w o u ld have been ruled b y a chief or p etty-kin g w h o acknow ledged and paid allegiance to a sacred centre. The H in du king w o u ld have been the ritual focus o f the sacred centre, a ritual figure w h o held together his kingdom not so m uch as a united adm inistrative entity, but as a segm ented political structure w ithin a com m on m oral fram e o f reference. Th is m odel is found in K a u tily a s A rth a Sdstra w h ich presents 69

An introduction to Hinduism
the king as the centre o f a state form ation held together by alliances and w ars. Furtherm ore, the kingdom was embedded within a hierarchical cos m os. In vedic and later H indu cosm ologies, the universe is regarded as a hierarchical structure in w hich purer, m ore refined w orlds are located above , yet at the same time they incorporate, lower, impure w orlds w hich, as in the segm entary H indu kingdom , have some autonom y. In this hierarchical cosm ology the various w orlds or realms are governed b y an overlord or god w h o also em bodies the principles controlling or govern ing that w orld . T he various w orlds w hich com prise the cosm os are con trolled b y forces w h ich are also persons . Inden has observed that the natural w orld o f ancient and m edieval India was person-based, con structed b y a cosm ic overlord out o f him self .52 The hum an realm m ust be located w ithin the context o f this w ider cosm o lo gy o f w hich it was thought to be a part. There is a chain o f being w ithin the H indu universe w hich is reflected in the sociopolitical realm o f the H in du segm entary state. A s a god might rule a sphere o f the cosm os, so the king rules his kingdom .

The fam ous study b y K an torow icz show s h ow in medieval E urope the king had tw o bodies, a natural b o d y subject to disease and death and an im m utable political b o d y in w hich resided his sovereignty.53 This m odel can be applied to kingship in south A sia. W hile the physical b o d y o f the king was subject to death, as are all human bodies, the political b o d y o f the king as a m anifestation o f the gods, contained splendour and great power. T he physical b o d y o f the king could be killed, but the political body, the b o d y o f the kingdom 54 lived on in the form o f the new king, regenerated b y the act o f royal consecration. The king is the pivotal point o f the b o d y politic: the b o d y o f the k in g dom is recapitulated in his ow n body. If he acts in accordance w ith dharm a the kingdom prospers, but if he acts against d h arm a, the b o d y o f the kingdom - w hich means the people - suffers. The k in gs body, w hich expressed the social body, was the w o rld ly counterpart o f the cosm ic m ans imm olated b od y w hich com prised the cosm os. The king could be seen, therefore, as the interm ediary between the eternal, cosm ic law o f dharm a and its w o rld ly m anifestations in justice adm inistered through the courts o f a segmented hierarchical structure. W hatever happens to him


I )h a rm a

as the pinnacle o f the social body affects the dom ain for good or bad. As the king is a m anifestation o f the gods, so society is a recapitulation o f the cosmic body o f the primal man.

A ccording to the D harm a literature, the central functions o f the king, the rajadharm a, are: - the protection of the people; - the maintaining of social order through the control of caste boundaries; - the administration of justice (danda). M anu says that the king is created as the protector o f the classes and stages o f life .55 H e is the suprem e upholder o f justice in the social w o rld w h o ensures the prosperity and protection o f the com m unities w hich he g o v erns so that his subjects live w ith a sense o f security. The king is the absolute dispenser o f justice, the term fo r w hich, danda (literally the stick), also meant punishm ent. D an da is the w a y in w hich dharm a is manifested upon the earth. It creates fear in all beings so that they do not w ander from their ow n, castespecific duties and ensures the obedience o f the castes to the dharm ic ideal. It keeps the w hole w o rld in order, governs all created beings, protects them w hile they sleep and w ithout it there w ou ld be no order in society; castes w ou ld be m ixed and the w hole w o rld w o u ld be in a state o f rage.56 Th rough the legal processes o f the state, the king should see that justice is done and so maintain social order and harm ony. A bad king, one w ho neglects the protection o f the people and neglects the adm inistration o f justice, w ou ld bring about social disharm ony and chaos. W ith British colonialism the p ow er o f kings in India dim inished but was not w h o lly eradicated. A s Fuller notes, there w ere still 565 kingdom s or princely states not under direct B ritish rule in 1947, and even up until the 1 930s the M aharaj o f M ysore, a kingdom w hich had developed out o f the ruins o f Vijayanagara, celebrated the n avaratri festival, a direct legacy from the festival o f the Vijayanagara kings. T he ritual im portance o f the king should not be underestimated, and even at an ideological level, the king as upholder o f cosm ic order or dharm a is central to the contem po rary H indu politics (see p. 262). The king was the centre o f the H indu uni verse in the material w orld , and the ideal state was the ideal kingdom


An introduction to / /induism
ruled by a king w ho was the analogue ol I he deity; an ideal established in ritual.

The jajm anl system

W hile the king o f kings ruled over a num ber o f kingdom s, themselves ruled b y kings, those kings in turn ruled over a num ber o f regions con trolled b y a dom inant caste or coalition o f castes. These controlling castes are u sually not Brahm ans, but other castes, often Sudras. T h e ja jm a n is a local, pow erfu l landow ner w h o em ploys Brahm ans to perform rituals fo r him in return for a fee. H e also gives a portion o f grain to other castes w ho provide him w ith services. The term is derived from the vedic yajam ana, the sacrificer or ritual patron for w hom sacrifices w ere perform ed b y the Brahm ans. The jajm anl system is not a pu rely econom ic arrangement, but is rooted in the socio-ritual structure o f caste hierarchy w hich itself is regarded as sacred. D um on t has observed that castes can be divided into those w h o ow n land and those w h o do not. The caste in a village or region w hich ow ns the land is the caste w ith political p ow er and control over other castes, because it controls the means o f subsistence. The other castes gain access to the means o f subsistence through personal relationships w ith the dom inant caste. There is a reciprocal relationship here. The dom inant caste em ploys Brahm ans for its ritual needs, barbers, carpenters, and untouchable labourers w h o in turn receive gifts5 fo r their services.57 A t the level o f the kingdom , the king might be regarded as a jajm an, receiving the services o f others, including w orsh ip, and giving in turn gifts and, above all, protec tion.

Royal power and transcendence

The w o rld ly p ow er o f the king, a K satriya, has been contrasted w ith the pu rity o f the Brahm an. Heesterm an contrasts the Brahm an, w h o em bod ies an ideal o f w orld transcendence in perform ing the ritual, w ith the king, w h o is necessarily em broiled in the w o rld ly concerns o f p o w er and v io lence. A ccording to Heesterm an, the king aspires to participate in the transcendent realm o f the Brahm an, but necessarily fails because o f his involvem ent and entanglement in the w o rld o f politics, desire and inter ests. There is a rift between the kings order o f conflict and the B rahm ans and renouncers order o f transcendence.58 B y em ploying Brahm ans in his court to perform the necessary sacrifices, the king hopes to participate in


I )h a rm a

their sacred level, yet in becom ing entangled in the w orld, the Brahman moves aw ay from that transcendence. Th ere is thus an insoluble problem here and a gap between the pow er o f the king operating in the turbulent order o f conflict and the authority or status o f the Brahm an, operating in the static order o f transcendence .59 The Brahm an, according to H eesterm an, turns tow ards transcendence, w hile the king, lacking the Brahm ans pu rity and authority, remains w ithin the w o rld o f strife and violence. This contrast is related to a contrast betw een tw o senses o f dharm a. O n the one hand it refers to an eternal, timeless principle, and, on the other, it refers to w o rld ly or human transactions. The Brahm an faces both w ays, towards transcendence through ritual, w hile yet being in the w orld , w hile the king is em broiled in the realm o f w orld ly, tem poral dh arm a. This is w hat Heesterm an calls the inner conflict o f tradition ; the need to assert dharm a as the eternal, timeless principle, in contrast to the need to accom m odate to w orldly, tem poral interests, a contrast w hich poses an insoluble dilemma. This m odel has been criticized from the perspective o f h istory and anthropology, particularly b y R on ald Inden and N icholas D irks. Inden argues, against Heesterm an, that there was no such distinction between the pure Brahm an and the pow erful, but im pure, king.60 Rather there was an intimate relationship betw een king and Brahm ans w h o lived b y the k in gs patronage. The king w o u ld donate wealth, land and other valuables to the Brahm ans, and, w hile they w ere clearly distinct from the king, there was not the rift between w o rld ly life and transcendence w hich H eesterm an suggests. The Brahm an perceived a continuity between his inner life and its outer expression. N icholas D irks has argued against D um ont that caste cannot be under stood outside o f the ideas o f kingship and the structure o f the H indu state. D irks argues that caste is em bedded in kingship and that the dom inant ide o lo gy has not been one o f p u rity but one o f royal authority and social rela tions based on pow er and dom inance. C aste, and particularly the role o f the Brahm ans, is based on p o w er related to kingship and the H indu state. W ith the general demise o f the H indu state, caste became separated from kingship and survived it, a process w h ich led to the ascendancy o f the Brahm ans. U ntil recently, however, kings still ruled the small state o f P udokkottai in the middle o f Tam ilnadu, w here the Brahm ans perform ed rituals fo r the king and became emblems o f the kin gs sovereignty. The king in return gave the Brahm ans land. T h eir importance was alw ays,


An introduction to ! Un du ism
argues D irk s, mediated through the king, 'w h ose kingship was in turn made all the m ore p ow erful because o f the presence o f the Brahm ans.61 Pudokkottai provides an example in which the pow er ot the Brahmans is directly related to the p ow er o f the king and in which the Brah m an s p u rity is subordinated to his dependence on the k in g s patronage.

Sum m ary
D h arm a is the central id eolo gy o f orthoprax H induism , believed to be eternal and deriving from the revelation o f the Veda and from the sec on dary revelation o f the D harm a literature. It is particularly concerned w ith caste hierarchy expressed in the varnsram a system and w ith the nature and behaviour o f the H indu king. The king expresses dharm a through just rule and so ensures the p rosperity o f the kingdom . The rela tion o f the Brahm an to the king is am biguous. O n the one hand the Brahm an is the highest being on the status hierarchy o f p u rity and p o llu tion, yet the Brahm an is dependent upon the p o w er o f the king fo r patronage. H eesterm an has described the tension between the w o rld transcending tendencies o f the Brahm an and his w o rld ly concerns as the inner conflict o f tradition. Studies b y Inden and D irk s, in contrast, have argued fo r the closer p roxim ity o f the Brahm an to the king and D irks has argued that the status o f the Brahm an cannot be separated from the po w er o f the king; the religious realm o f the Brahm an cannot be understood out side the political realm o f the king. W hether there is an opposition between the Brahm an and the king, or w hether the tw o figures are closer than has been thought, is a matter o f continuing debate. H ow ever, one contrast w hich is made b y the H indu tradition is that betw een the renouncer and the householder. H induism contains a sociopolitical id eology o f a chain o f being w hich endorses the social hierarchy, caste, and gender roles, alongside an id eo lo gy o f renunci ation w hich negates those roles at doctrinal and practical levels. In order to com e to a fuller understanding o f orthoprax H induism and the contrasts w ithin it, w e need to turn our attention to renunciation, the institution fo r leaving the sociopolitical w orld o f suffering.


4 Yoga and renunciation

B y the sixth century

bc e

the brahmanical schools are w ell established and

the ritual traditions passed through the generations from teacher to stu dent. P rob ab ly the h eyday o f vedic ritual perform ance was between iooo and 500
b c e

though the traditions are never com pletely attenuated and

have survived into the present. A longside the perform ances o f ritual, spec ulation about its nature and purpose developed, initially in the Brhm anas and later in the ra n y akas and U panisads. In speculating about the ritual patron and the renew ing effects o f the ritual upon him, the Brahm anas begin to represent the ritual as the sustainer o f life and posit elaborate co r respondences (b a n d h u ) between ritual and the w ider cosm os. These spec ulations are developed in the ranyakas and U panisads w hich com pletely re-evaluate the nature o f ritual, seeing its internalization w ithin the indi vidual as its highest meaning, and subordinating ritual action to k n o w l edge. This spiritual know ledge could be attained b y asceticism or w orld-renunciation and disciplines w hich came to be kn ow n as yoga. The U panisads attest to the existence o f ascetic traditions and, b y the sixth or fifth century b c e , traditions o f asceticism and w orld-renunciation fo r the purpose o f spiritual know ledge and liberation had developed both w ithin the bounds o f vedic tradition and outside those boundaries, m ost notably in the Ja in and Buddhist traditions.

General observations
Tw o ideas o f great significance developed between the ninth and sixth cen turies b c e , nam ely that beings are reincarnated into the w o rld (samsdra)


An introduction to Hinduism
over and over again and that the results of action (karma) are reaped in future lives. This process o f endless rebirth is one o f suffering (duhkha ), escape from w hich can be achieved through the m inim izing o f action and through spiritual know ledge. Patanjali (second century b c e ) , a system atizer o f yo ga practice and philosophy, states that all is suffering to the spiritually discrim inating person (vivek in )} This doctrine that all life is suffering is com m on to renouncer traditions and is the first noble truth o f the Buddha. To be free o f suffering one needs to be free from action and its effects. The renunciation o f action at first meant ritual action, but comes to refer to all action in the social w orld. This renunciation o f action could be achieved through asceticism (tapas) and meditation, w hich means tech niques o f altering consciousness or w ithdraw ing consciousness from the w o rld o f the senses in order to experience total w o rld transcendence. The groups o f ascetics w hich grew up during this period are kn ow n as, am ong other names, sramanas (Pali samana ), strivers , w h o seek libera tion through the efforts o f their austerity. T h ey are hom eless, depend fo r food on alms (bhiksd), and m inim ize, in varyin g degrees, their ow nership o f possessions. Buddhism , the first w o rld religion, originated in these groups, as did Jainism . B oth Buddhism and Jain ism reject the Veda as rev elation and em phasize the practice o f austerity, in the case o f Jainism , and m editation, in the case o f Buddhism . Indeed these early renouncer tradi tions cannot be understood in isolation from each other as there is mutual cross-fertilization o f term inologies and ideas: Buddhism influences the brahm anical renouncer religion and brahm anical religion influences B uddhism .2 The higher states o f consciousness or meditative absorptions spoken o f in the Buddhist scriptures, the jhnas (Pali) or dhynas (Sanskrit), w hich are certainly pre-Buddhist, are rem iniscent o f the later H indu stages o f yogic concentration o f samdhi. These renouncer traditions offered a new vision o f the human con di tion w hich became incorporated, to some degree, into the w o rld view o f the Brahm an householder. The ideology o f asceticism and renunciation seems, at first, discontinuous w ith the brahm anical id eo lo gy o f the affir m ation o f social obligations and the perform ance o f public and dom estic rituals. Indeed, there has been some debate as to w hether asceticism and its ideas o f retributive action, reincarnation and spiritual liberation, might not have originated outside the orthodox vedic sphere, or even outside A ry a n culture: that a divergent historical origin m ight account fo r the apparent contradiction w ithin H in du ism between the w o rld affirm ation


Yoga and renunciation

o f the householder and the world negation o! the renouncer. H ow ever, this dichotom ization is too sim plistic, fo r continuities can undoubtedly be found between renunciation and vedic Brahm anism , while elements from non-brahm anical, ramana traditions also played an im portant part in the form ation o f the renuncate ideal. Indeed there are continuities between vedic Brahm anism and Buddhism , and it has been argued that the Buddha sought to return to the ideals o f a vedic society w hich he saw as being eroded in his ow n day.3 G eneral ideological features o f w o rld renunciation com m on to d iffer ent renouncer traditions can be sum m arized as follow s: - action leads to rebirth and suffering. - detachment from action, or even non-action, leads to spiritual emancipation. - complete detachment, and therefore spiritual emancipation can be achieved through asceticism and methods of making consciousness focused and concentrated.

Ascetics in the Veda

In the R g Veda Sarnhita the im portant religious figures are the priests w h o officiate at the ritual and the inspired seers (rsi) w h o receive the Veda. There are, however, some references in the vedic corpus to figures w h o do not have a ritual function and seem to be outside the brahmanical, vedic com m unity. Tw o groups are o f particular note, the Kesins and the V rtyas.


O ne fam ous hym n in the R g Veda Sam hita describes long-haired ascetics ( [kesin) or silent ones (m uni), w h o strongly resem ble later H indu ascetics. The text describes them as either naked ( swathed in w in d 5) or clothed in red tatters. T h ey have ecstatic experiences, being possessed b y the god s, and they fly outside the body, perhaps suggestive o f w hat have becom e kn ow n as o u t-o f-th e-b o d y experiences . The text also indicates that they possess the ability to read minds, a pow er attributed to accom plished yogins in later yo ga traditions. Such experiences are seem ingly induced b y an unidentified d ru g (visa) w hich the ascetic drinks w ith the god Rudra, and w hich is pre pared b y a (possibly hunch-backed) goddess Kunam nam .4 W hether the hym n describes a drug-induced vision ary experience depends upon the interpretation o f the term visa, w hich is usually taken to


An introduction to Hinduism
mean poison*. Som e scholars have argued that visit here refers to a hallu cinogenic drug, though distinct from som a^ while others have argued that to see the hym n in terms o f a chem ically induced ecstasy is to disregard the sym bolic nature o f the vedic texts, and that drinking poison is akin to the m yth o f S iv a s drinking the poison churned up from the w orld ocean. O n this view the K esin attained his m ystical state through a yoga practice, and the poison he drinks refers to his ability to remain in the poisonous m ater ial w orld , w hile being unaffected b y it.6 It is, o f course, possible to view the hym n as describing a hallucinogen-induced ecstasy and being sym bolic at the same time. The description o f the K esin is rem iniscent o f later ascetics w h o undergo extraordinary inner experiences. Regardless o f the cause or facil itator, w hether through a drug or through ascetic practices, this hym n provides us w ith one o f the earliest recorded descriptions o f an ecstatic religious experience. O ther features o f the hym n, such as the K esin s asso ciation w ith R udra, are significant in establishing a connection w ith later yo gic traditions. R udra, w h o later becomes Siva, the archetypal ascetic, him self associated w ith the hallucinogenic plant datura, is a terrible deity w ith long, braided hair, on the edges o f vedic society, w h o is entreated not to harm the com m unities b y taking aw ay their cattle and children.7 R u d ra is peripheral to the vedic pantheon, there are o n ly three hym ns to him in the R g Veda, and the K esin s association w ith him suggests that he too w ou ld have been on the edges o f the vedic com m unity. T he goddess Kunam nam a is on ly m entioned in the Veda in this hym n, again suggestive o f the K esin s location outside o f the vedic com m unity. W hile it might not be legitimate to argue that the K esin represents a n o n -A ryan tradition - after all the com poser o f the hym n is sym pathetic to the K esin - it w ou ld be reasonable to assume that the K esin represents a strand o f asceticism existing outside mainstream, vedic ritual culture and was p ro b ab ly an influence on later renouncer traditions; indeed the Buddha him self, like the Kesin, is described as a m uni. H ow ever, it w o u ld be a gross oversim plification to suggest that the renouncer tradition sim p ly developed from this M uni culture. The developm ent o f renunciation in the U panisads is intim ately connected to the vedic ritual tradition, yet one must also recognize the force o f the argument that the U panisads co n tain a discontinuity o f ideas w ith the vedic ritual tradition; a discontinuity w hich indicates non-vedic influences, such as are represented b y the K esin H y m n .


Yoga and renunciation


A part from the Kesins, B ook 1 5 of the Atharva Veda Samhita attests to the existence o f a com m unity o f aggressive w arriors m oving about in bands, the Vratyas, w h o lived on the edges o f A ry an society and m ay have been connected w ith the Kesins. These V ratyas com prised itinerant groups, concentrated in the north-east o f India, w h o spoke the same lan guage as the vedic A ryan s, but w h o w ere regarded w ith disdain b y them. Indeed, there is a special purification ritual, the vratyastoma , in w hich they could be assimilated into vedic society and assume the A ry a n status w hich they forfeited b y not undertaking the brahm anical rites o f passage. W hile evidence is lacking to say precisely w h o the Vratyas w ere, they cer tainly seem to have been on the bound ary o f groups w h o w ere acceptable to the vedic A ryan s, though H eesterm an has suggested that the vedic, sacrificial initiate (diksita ) derives from the V ratya.8 The A tharva Veda describes them as w earing turbans, dressed in black, w ith tw o ram skins over their shoulders.9 The V ratyas practised their ow n cerem onies. The precise nature and structure o f these rites is unclear, but they w ere p rob ab ly concerned w ith fertility and the magical renewal o f life w ith the seasons. D urin g the sum mer solstice great v o w (mahavrata ) ritual, the priest (hotr) muttered chants w hich included reference to the three breaths animating the body. These breaths are inhalation, the breath w hich is retained, and exhalation, and suggest an early kind o f breath control w h ich becomes developed as

prandyama in later yogic traditions. This rite is accom panied b y obscene

dialogues and also involves ritual sexual intercourse between a bard, w h o m ay have otherw ise remained celibate, and a prostitute ; a rite w hich has echoes in later tantric ritual (see pp. 18 9 -9 1). The V ratyas demonstrate a close connection, found in later traditions, between asceticism and martialism. W arrior brotherhoods, skilled in physical techniques and the technologies o f war, became associated w ith ascetic, renunciatory practices: the outer war, as it w ere, becom es an inner w ar to subdue the b o d y and the passions. This connection between ascetic and martial fraternities is further borne out in that ascetic ideologies and practices emerged w ithin the ruling o f w arrio r classes o f Indian society. The Buddha, fo r example, came from a m artial background and the secret teachings o f the U panisads are associated w ith rulers. W hile renunciation and asceticism are prefigured in vedic religion, a


An introduction to Hinduism
developed id eolo gy o f renunciation comes with a change in social and eco nom ic conditions in India from the sixth century


These changes

allow ed fo r the developm ent o f ideas from outside the strictly brahmanical, ritual fram e o f reference. To these conditions we now turn.

Individualism and urbanization

Vedic ritualism developed in an agrarian society: the A ryan s w ere pastoralists and later agriculturalists living in rural com m unities. B y the fifth century
b c e

how ever, an urban culture is developing along the Ganges

plain and m ajor kingdom s have arisen associated w ith the grow th o f urban centres. O f particular note are the kingdom s o f M agadha and K osala, w ith the tribal republics o f the Vrijis and the Sakyas to the north. Some o f these tow ns, such as Pataliputra (Patna), the capital o f the M agadha em pire, w ere w ell-fortified centres w hich rapidly expanded w ith an increase in population, a food surplus, and the developm ent o f trade. W ith the developm ent o f kingdom s, trade routes w ere secured and roads con structed. Such im proved com m unication in turn meant that new ideas could be more easily disseminated, particularly b y w andering ascetics. It is in the context o f this urbanization that renouncer traditions developed. Richard G om b rich has outlined this process, show ing h ow the rise o f tow ns under royal protection allowed fo r trade, fo r the m ovem ent o f p eo ple, and fo r greater personal freedom and m obility. A lo n g with this devel opm ent came a bureaucracy and institutions o f control w hich eroded the traditional, rural social order.10 N o t on ly do w e need to take these material and political concerns into consideration, but ideological concerns as w ell. Paul W heatley has con vincingly argued that the earliest towns and cities are not o n ly com m ercial centres, but prim arily ritual com plexes, and that the size and com plexity o f the c ity s walls might be seen not on ly in terms o f defence, but also in terms o f status and prestige w hich reflect the k in gs glo ry.1 1 Such a picture clearly fits into the H indu theology o f sacral kingship. The early cities o f the Ganges valley are centres o f early polities w hich reflect or sym bolize the ritual status o f the king. The urban centre as sym bol o f the k in gs p ow er is a phenom enon w hich occurs in the later h istory o f south A sia, fo r example at Vijayanagara, and attests to a continuity o f the id eology o f kingship from ancient times to the m edieval period. W ith urbanization a traditional agrarian lifestyle was eroded and emphasis placed on trade initiatives and enterprise; values w hich highlight 80

Yoga and renunciation

the individual above the w ider social group. The m ove from an agrarian to an urban situation provided a context in which individualism could develop in some segment o f the com m unity. With the weakening o f tradi tional, ritualized behaviour patterns, the individual rather than the group, as G om brich show s, became the im portant agent in the socioeconom ic functioning o f tow ns, as the trader, the shopkeeper, the skilled w orker, and the governm ent official.12 This is not to say that at this time there w as an articulate id eology o f individualism w hich stressed autonom y and per sonal rights - there was not - or that the urban individual was not subject to law and a hierarchical social structure, but m erely that socioeconom ic functioning w as placed m ore in the hands o f innovators than w o u ld have been possible in a rural context. The form o f individualism that developed in the Protestant West, w ith its emphasis on autonom y and responsibility, was not present in the ancient w orld , but a form o f individuality w hich em phasized or particularized the distinct self, did develop in urban cen tres. Indeed, the separation or distinction o f persons is necessary fo r them to be objects o f social control b y an abstract social structure, law and bureaucracy.13 The earliest ascetic traditions w hich are w ell docum ented, Jain ism and Buddhism , grew up in urban contexts, w here em erging com m ercial classes w ere interested in new ideas. The Buddha visited num erous tow ns, mentioned in the B uddhist scriptures, and was supported b y the urban laity, some o f w hom w ere w ealth y tow n-dw ellers. M oreover, the m ajority o f his com m unity o f m onks and nuns seem to have been draw n from the towns rather than the country.14

The sram ana traditions

F ro m about 800 to 400
bc e

Sanskrit and Prakrit texts bear witness to the

emergence o f the new id eology o f renunciation, in w hich know ledge (jn a n a ) is given precedence over action (ka rm a ), and detachment from the material and social w orld is cultivated through ascetic practices (tapas), celibacy, p o verty and methods o f mental training (yoga). The purpose o f such training is the cultivation o f altered or higher states o f consciousness w hich w ill culminate in the blissful m ystical experience o f final liberation from the bonds o f action and rebirth. W hile the renouncer o f sramana tra ditions differ on points o f doctrine and m ethod, they generally agree that life is characterized b y suffering (duhkha) and adhere to a teaching in w hich liberation (m oksa, nirvana) from suffering is a form o f spiritual 81

An introduction to Hinduism
know ledge or gnosis (Jnanayvidyu). The spread o f disease among the new urban population m ay well have contributed to the grow th o f ascetic m ovem ents and added poignancy to the doctrine o f life as sufferin g.15 In these new ascetic ideologies, spiritual salvation cannot be attained sim ply due to a high-caste birth, but on ly b y liberating insight or understanding the nature o f existence. The true Brahm an, according to the Buddha, is not som eone born to a particular mother, but a person w hose conduct is pure and m oral.16 Personal experience in this w a y is placed above the received know ledge o f the vedic revelation. A t an early period, during the form a tion o f the U panisads and the rise o f B uddhism and Jainism , w e must envisage a com m on heritage o f m editation and mental discipline practised b y renouncers w ith varyin g affiliations to n on -orthod ox (Veda-rejecting) and orth odox (Veda-accepting) traditions. The institution o f w orld-renunciation or going fo rth offers the renouncer (.sramana , bhiksu , parivrajaka) an escape route from w o rld ly suffering, as w ell as from w o rld ly responsibilities, and a life dedicated to finding understanding and spiritual know ledge; a know ledge w hich is expressed and conceptualized in various w ays according to different sy s tems. W hile there are elements o f doctrine and practice shared b y the sramana m ovem ents, there are nevertheless w ide differences between

lokayata , cdrvdka ), fo r example, rejected the idea them. The materialists (<
o f reincarnation and spiritual insight, w hile the A jlvik as rejected free w ill. W hile the Buddhists em phasized a m iddle w a y between extremes o f aus terity and indulgence, the Jain s em phasized extreme m ortification in order to becom e detached from action.17 Yet, w hile there are divergencies w ithin Sram anism, all sramana groups shared a com m on value system and fram ew ork o f discourse, and all rejected the Veda as revelation and so rad ically turned against orthodox, brahmanical teaching or reinterpreted those teachings. These schools are understandably regarded as heterodox (nastika ) b y orth odox (dstika) Brahm anism . T h eir mutual hostility has been pointed out b y R om ila Thapar w h o notes that the gramm arian Patanjali refers to their attitude towards each other as being like that between a snake and a m ongoose.18 Yet w hile Brahm anism rejects the authority and teachings o f the sramana schools, teachings akin to those o f the Sram anas, concerning rebirth, retributive action, and liberation, com e to dw ell in the heart o f the brahmanical tradition and find expression in the U panisads, the fourth layer o f the Veda, and in later literature. 82

Yoga and renunciation

Renunciation in the Upanisads

The sramana traditions developed a clear identity, defining themselves against what they regard as an em pty vedic ritualism which does not lead to liberation. B y contrast the Upanisads - the Vedanta or end o f the V eda - define themselves centrally w ithin the vedic tradition as a reinterpreta tion o f the ritual process and an elucidation o f its inner meanings. Indeed the U panisads indicate no explicit awareness o f non-vedic, ascetic tradi tions, though practices found in the U panisads seem to be directly akin to Jain and Buddhist meditation m ethods.19 The emphasis on a m ore p er sonal religious experience is indicated not on ly in internalized m editation but also in the idea o f a direct transm ission o f teachings from teacher to disciple.20 The w ord upanisad is perhaps derived from the student or dis ciple sitting at the feet o f a teacher to receive his teachings (upa = near to ;

nisad = to sit d o w n ) and the term upanisad takes on the general sense o f
esoteric teaching .


The U panisads continue the w o rk o f the Brahm anas and A ran yakas in interpreting the meaning o f the srauta ritual. W ith these texts w e see the increasing im portance o f know ledge o f esoteric correspondences as com pared to ritual action; the sections on know ledge (jnanakanda ) take prece dence over sections on ritual (karmakanda). The earlier U panisads continue the magical speculations o f the Brahm anas, w hich maintained that know ledge o f the correspondences betw een ritual and cosm os is a kind o f power. The opening verses o f the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad , fo r example, begin b y identifying the horse sacrifice (asvamedha) w ith the natural w orld ; the h orses head is the daw n, its eye the sun, its breath the w ind and so on.21 A gain, the Chandogya Upanisad illustrates this kind o f speculation, though com bined w ith the idea that know ledge gives rise to p o w er or energy. H avin g identified the udgitha , the verses o f the Sama

Veda chanted b y the udgatr priest during the srauta ritual, w ith the sacred
syllable aum , the text makes the distinction between know ledge and ign o rance: Saying aum one recites: saying aum , one orders: saying aum , one sings aloud in honour of that syllable, with its greatness and its essence.


An introduction to Hinduism
He who knows this thus, and he who knows not, both perform with it. Knowledge and ignorance, however, are different. What, indeed, one performs with knowledge, faith and meditation, that, indeed, becomes more powerful.22 The text then goes on in the next group o f verses to internalize the ritual: the sound aum is to be contemplated as being identified w ith various parts o f the b ody: w ith the breath, speech, eye, ear and mind. W hereas the Brahm anas are concerned w ith establishing the hidden connections betw een the srauta ritual and the cosm os, connections w hich appear to be fairly arbitrary,23 the Upanisads are concerned w ith contem plating the deeper significance o f these correspondences. The emphasis moves from external perform ance to internal m editation; the true sacrifice becom es the fire oblation on the breath (pranagnihotra ), a sacrifice to the self w ithin the self. Th e internalization o f the ritual means that the real purpose o f the rite is not its external perform ance, but know ledge o f its deeper meaning, a m eaning w hich points to an underlying foundation or being, supporting the ritual and even the cosm os itself. This being or essence o f the ritual, the cosm os, and the self, is termed brahman and is identified w ith the sacred sound aum or om (called th tpranava).

In the Brahm anas, the term brahman means the p o w er o f the ritual, apart from w hich there is nothing m ore ancient or brighter.24 Brahman is a neuter noun and it should not be confused w ith the masculine noun Brahm a, the creator god, nor w ith Brahm ana, the group o f texts, nor Brahm an (brahmana ) the highest caste, though the term is related to these other meanings. In time, a process o f abstraction occurred w h ereb y brah

man became a principle referring not o n ly to the p o w er o f the ritual, but

also to the essence o f the universe; the very being at the heart o f all appear ances. In the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad there is a dialogue between one o f the earliest H indu theologians, Y ajnavalkya, and Janaka, the king o f Videha, w hich illustrates the early U p an isads questing spirit fo r the essence o f the universe. K in g Janaka tells Y ajn avalk ya the teachings o f other sages he has heard concerning brahman , that it is speech (vac), vital breath (prana ), the eye, the mind, and the heart (hrdaya). Y ajn avalk ya replies that these answers are half-true and that brahman is in fact the deeper support o f all these phenom ena.25 This brahman is not on ly the essence o f the ritual and o f the w o rld , but is 84

Yoga and renunciation

also the essence of the self (atman), the truth ol a person beyond apparent differences. U ddalaka A runi, who along with Y ajfiavalkya can be regarded as one o f the earliest H indu theologians, in dialogue with his son vetaketu, illustrates how brahman is the essence, the smallest particle o f the cosm os. In an early example o f theological em piricism , he splits a fruit and then the fru its seed to show h ow brahman cannot be seen. Sim ilarly, as salt placed in w ater b y Svetaketu com pletely dissolves and cannot be seen, though it can be tasted, so brahman is the essence o f all things, w hich cannot be seen but can be experienced.26 This essence is the self, and the passage explicat ing this concludes w ith the fam ous lines: that w hich is minute, the totality is that self. That is truth. That is the self. T hat yo u are, Svetaketu. This im personalist m onism is central to the earlier Upanisads and becomes a theology o f great im portance, particularly in the later Vedanta tradition and in m odern N eo -H in d u ism (see ch. n ) . The essence o f the self is the absolute, realized w ithin the self, through the know ledge o f the rituals inner meaning and the w ithdraw al o f the senses from the sensory w orld. The emphasis in the Upanisads is on the internalization o f ritual and the texts are even critical o f their external perform ance.The true m ean ing o f the ritual is not to be found in outer action, but in the realization o f its sym bolism and its esoteric meaning revealed b y the U panisads.27 The Upanisads represent the culm ination o f a process w hich com es to regard the individual self as having great inner depths, and, indeed, as con taining the universe within. The truth (satya) is the absolute (brahman) which is also the self (atman). This is the single reality underlying the diversity o f appearances, know ledge o f w hich is the purpose o f the rituals internalization. This know ledge is not sim ply inform ation to be under stood, but a direct and immediate intuition experienced as jo y or bliss. To quote the Taittiriya Upanisad : H e kn ew that brahman is bliss (ananda). F o r truly, beings here are born from bliss, w hen born, they live b y bliss and into bliss, w hen departing, they enter .28 T his is no ordinary bliss, but is at the top o f the hierarchy o f blissful experiences, far beyond any o rd i nary hum an joy.


Such spiritual fulfilm ent and the blissful experience o f realizing ones essence to be brahman is the cessation o f action and its consequences, nam ely rebirth. The idea that every action has an effect w hich must be accounted fo r in this or future lifetim es, and that the experiences o f the 85

An introduction to Hinduism
present lifetim e are the consequences ol past actions, is o f central im por tance fo r H indu soteriology. Salvation or liberation (moksa , mukti,

apavarga) in m ost H indu traditions is freedom from the cycle o f reincar

nation (samsara), w hich is also to be freed from the store o f action (karma) built up over innum erable lifetimes. This basic soteriological structure, developed w ith variations b y most later traditions, begins to be articulated in the Upanisads. The origin o f the doctrines o f karma and samsara are obscure. These concepts w ere certainly circulating among the Sramanas, and Jainism and B uddhism developed specific and sophisticated ideas about the process o f transm igration. It is ve ry possible that karm a and reincarnation entered mainstream brahm anical thought from the sramana or renouncer tradi tions. Yet on the other hand, although there is no clear doctrine o f transm i gration in the vedic hym ns, there is the idea o f redeath : that a person, having died in this w orld , might die yet again in the next. R itual pro ce dures are meant to prevent this eventuality. F ro m the notion o f redeath the idea o f a return to this w o rld could have developed. We also have in the R g

Veda the idea that different parts o f a person go to different places upon death: the eyes go to the sun, the breath (atman) to the w ind, and the essen
tial person to the ancestors.29 Rebirth into this w o rld could have devel oped from this partite view o f a person. A third alternative is that the origin o f transm igration th eory lies outside o f vedic or sramana traditions in the tribal religions o f the Ganges valley, or even in D ravidian traditions o f south India.30 In the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad retributive action first appears to be a secret and little-know n doctrine. Artabhaga questions Y ajn avalk ya about the fate o f a person after death. E choing the R g Veda , he asks w hat becom es o f the person after different parts have been dissipated - the eyes to the sun, the breath (atman) to space, the mind to the m oon and so on? Y ajnavalkya leads him aw ay to a private place and, w arning him not to divulge this doctrine, tells him about karma: that m eritorious action leads to merit (punya), w hile evil action leads to further evil (papa).31 Later the text spells out the th eory m ore clearly - that the self (atman) moves from b o d y to body, as a caterpillar or leech moves from one blade o f grass to another.32 B y the later Upanisads the doctrine is firm ly established. The

Svetasvatara Upanisad (400-200

b c e


fo r exam ple, clearly states that the

subject, the perform er o f action w hich bears fru it , w anders in the cycle o f transm igration according to his actions (ikarma ).33 86

Yoga and renunciation

The origins of renunciation

Both brahmanical and sramana asceticism share a number o f com m on fea tures, w hich presents a problem in understanding the origins o f renuncia tion. O n the one hand, the ideology o f renunciation can be seen as a natural developm ent from vedic ritual traditions; on the other, it can be argued that renunciation comes from outside the vedic tradition. It may, o f course, be the case that both theories are accurate in some respects w hile lacking in others.

W hat has been called the orthogenetic th eo ry o f renunciation maintains that there is a developm ent from the vedic, householder id eology o f the srauta ritual, to the id eology o f renunciation. T he term orthogenetic is used b y H eesterm an to refer to this gradual, internal developm ent w ithin vedic thought.34 In other w ord s, renunciation is not an idea com ing from outside the vedic com m unity, perhaps from the p re -A rya n D ravidians, but is a developm ent w ithin vedic culture. U ltim ately there is little d iffer ence between the ideal Brahm an and the ideal renouncer, save one o f emphasis. The gap or conflict in brahm anical society is not between the Brahm an householder and the renouncer, but rather between the Brahm an and the king (see above pp. 7 2 -3 ). O n this account, renunciation, developed in the U panisads and later codified in the D harm a Sastras, has its origin in the vedic srauta rituals as presented in the Brahm anas and Srauta Sutras. H ere the ritual patron (yajam ana ) undergoes initiation (diksa ), becom ing one w ho is initiated

(1 iksita ), and perform s ascetic practices in preparation fo r the ritual itself. d

The ritual sym b olically acts out the regeneration or renewal o f the patron and also sym bolizes the regeneration o f the cosm os. The patron is at the centre o f the ritual w hich he has instigated, thereby em phasizing that man depends on ly on his ow n (ritual) w o rk .35 The idea o f the ritual as a private process develops, on H eesterm ans account, into the upanisadic ideal that the true ritual is its internalization or transcendence, and renunciation develops as a consequence o f this internalization.

F urtherm ore, there is a strong parallelism between the ideal code o f the Brahm an householder and the renouncer; their difference is one o f degree


An introduction to Hinduism
rather than kind. L ik e the renouncer, the lir;ihman should restrain his senses, be truthful, practise non-violence to all beings, and act with detachm ent and equanim ity36 - the difference between the tw o figures being that the Brahm an is fulfilling his househ olders obligations, whereas the renouncer is in the last stage o f life (asram a), exempt from ritual o b lig ations. W hereas the renouncer has turned his back on society, the Brahm an has not, or rather has on ly turned his back on the social w o rld during the srauta ritual, but returns to it after the rites conclusion. Com plem enting H eesterm ans argument, M adeleine Biardeau and C harles M alam oud have also argued fo r the continuity o f vedic tradition. F o r Biardeau the various traditions w ithin the H indu universe are united at a deeper level: the diverse, though interrelated, parts are integrated into a com plete H indu culture. This integration is not an institutionalized unity, w hich is n ow here found in H induism , but rather a structural unity all the fragm ented m ovem ents w ithin H induism , including renunciation, stem m ing from the vedic revelation.37 This structural un ity can be p er ceived in the tw o m ost im portant elements w ithin H in du culture, sacrifice and renunciation, w hich are tw o sides o f the same coin, the difference being that the householder is concerned w ith external sacrifice, whereas the renouncer has internalized the sacrifice. The continuity is further stressed in that both the ritual patron and the renouncer undergo p urifica to ry rites and so are structurally related to each other.
N O N - V E D I C O R I G I N S OF R E N U N C I A T I O N

U ndoubtedly, as Biardeau and Heesterm an have show n, there are ele ments in the renouncer tradition w hich are also present in the house hold ers ritual tradition, and the full docum entation o f the renouncer traditions is later than texts describing the srauta rituals. Yet it might be the case that the renouncer traditions develop outside the vedic ritualist cir cles, and gradually becom e incorporated and assim ilated b y the vedic tradition. Patrick O livelle has argued in a num ber o f publications that renuncia tion represents a new id eology w hich emerges w ithin the context o f vedic ritualism and uses the term inology o f that tradition, but w hose ethos and aims are quite distinct. M ore than mere difference, there is a conflict between the tw o traditions. The conflict o f tradition is not therefore, as H eesterm an argues, between the Brahm an ritualist and the king, but rather between the Brahm an ritualist and the renouncer. The fault line

Yoga and rc nun dation

runs in a different direction, separating the w orld of the Brahman house holder from the world o f the renouncer. This distinction between householder and renouncer has been a focus of Louis D u m o n ts w ork, on whose ideas O livelle builds. D um ont argues that H induism can be seen in terms o f a dialogue between the w o rld renouncer and the m an -in-th e-w orld, nam ely the Brahm an, male, householder. U nlike the renouncer, the m an-in-the-w orld is defined b y his social existence, and functions w ithin the restrictions and boundaries o f his social context, nam ely the caste system . The caste system , based on the distinction between p u rity and im purity, determines the Brahm an householders status. Because o f the social restrictions o f caste, the manin-the-w orld is not an individual, but exists pu rely in a n etw ork o f social relationships, unlike the renouncer w h o has stepped outside this net w o rk .38 A ccordin g to this view, the renouncer is outside society and so has established an individuality. The renouncer is an individual devoted to his ow n salvation, from w hom the seminal ideas and influences on the house holder religion are derived. The renouncer, as an individual outside soci ety, is the true agent o f developm ent in Indian religion and the creator o f values w hich enter the brahmanical householder tradition from outside. W hile m any criticism s can be levelled against D u m o n ts thesis, particu larly that it takes aw ay agency from Indian social actors,39 the idea that renunciation introduces a n ew element into Indian religions and presents a challenge to vedic orthodox ritual tradition needs to be taken seriously. O livelle has developed the distinction betw een the renouncer ideal and the householder ideal, arguing that the p rofound conflict between the tw o cannot be explained if Heesterm an is correct in thinking that renunciation is a developm ent o f vedic thought. Statements in the later D harm a litera ture w hich praise the Brahm an as the ideal renouncer, rather than reflect ing the close p roxim ity o f renouncer and Brahm an, show that renouncer values are incorporated into vedic ideology, and statements lauding the B rahm an as the ideal renouncer are often mere rhetoric .40 To sum m arize this discussion so far: there are essentially tw o positions w ith regard to the origins o f renunciation in India: on the one hand it m ay have developed from vedic ritualism (the view o f Heesterm an and Biardeau), on the other it m ay have developed from outside the vedic w o rld , though not necessarily outside the brahm anical w o rld (the view o f O livelle draw ing on the w o rk o f D um ont). The form er position highlights the continuities between the vedic tradition and renouncer traditions, 89

An introduction to 11indu ism

between the individualism o f the ritualist and renounccr, and between the pu rificatory practices o f the ritualist and renounccr. The latter position highlights the discontinuities, arguing that the w orld-negating values o f renunciation are quite distinct from the w orld-affirm in g values o f the ritu alist householder. It seems clear that the origins o f renunciation cannot be understood sim ply in terms o f either a vedic or a non-vedic tradition. Rather, there is a com plex process o f assim ilation from outside the vedic sphere as w ell as a transform ation o f elements w ithin the vedic tradition.

O rthodox renunciation
The early renouncers wandered alone, in small itinerant groups, or, w ith the advent o f Buddhism , joined a monastic com m unity. W hile there have been w om en renouncers, m ost have been men. Renouncers are homeless except fo r fou r months o f the year during the rainy season, they obtain fo od b y begging and dress in an ochre robe or go naked. It is significant that early Brahm anism does not contain institutions o f renunciation akin to those o f Buddhism or Jainism . There are certainly lineages o f teachers going back m any generations, but these are not m onastic institutions. N o m onastic institution develops in H induism until the medieval period, though, nevertheless, in the Upanisads w e do find the idea o f giving up w o rld ly life and retiring to the forest to perform religious observances. F o r example, in the B rhadran yaka U panisad the sage Y jn avalk ya decides to leave his tw o w ives, his status as a householder, and retire to the forest.41 W hile there is no m onasticism in early brahm anical tradition, the four fold system o f the sramas or stages o f life develops, in w hich renunciation (samnydsa) is the final, liberating institution. O rthoprax renunciation is open on ly to the tw ice-born, and is meant o n ly fo r those w ho have fu l filled their w orld ly, social obligations as householders or fo r those celibate students w ho have never becom e householders. O rthoprax renunciation is o n ly fo r those w h o have fulfilled vedic obligations and w h o correctly perform rules laid dow n in the D harm a Sstras. This contrasts w ith the heteroprax renouncer traditions o f Buddhism and Jainism , w hich accept people from a w ider social spectrum and o f all ages, though there are some restrictions on people entering the early B uddhist m onastic order, includ ing a ban on soldiers and slaves.42 The central emphasis o f brahmanical religion is on the householder and the perform ance o f the appropriate ritual, though b y the time o f the 90

Yoga and renunciation

Dharma Sastras (c. 500 B C E -500

c e ) renunciation (samnyasa) is

in corpo

rated into the brahmanical system as the last stage o f life (as'rama). The actual term samnyasa is purely brahmanical, not occurring before the sec ond century b c e , and does not occur in the literatures o f Buddhism and Jainism . Later texts develop the idea o f renunciation, particularly the Sam nyasa Upanisads, com posed during the first few centuries o f the com mon era. These texts describe the act o f renunciation, the behaviour expected o f the renouncer, and types o f renouncers. L ik e his heterodox counterpart, the orthodox renouncer seeks liberation from the cycle o f birth and death b y fostering detachm ent from w o rld ly concerns and desires through asceticism and yo ga practices. The rite o f renunciation is a ritual to end ritual and the shift, at least sym bolically, from a ritual to a non-ritual state; from action to non-action. The rite o f renunciation w ill be the last time the renouncer kindles his sacred fire. Renunciation means the abandoning o f the religion o f vedic ritual and the abandoning o f fire, a sym b ol o f the B rah m an s status. In giv ing up fire, the renouncer has given up brahm anical rites, he has given up cooking and must henceforw ard beg fo r food , and he has given up life in the hom e fo r the homeless life o f wandering. The L a w B oo k s, such as the Visnu Sm rti, state that a renouncer must not stay for m ore than one night in a village,43 though he can remain in the same place during the rain y sea son. Sym bolically breathing in the flames during his last rite, the renouncer internalizes the fire o f the vedic solem n ritual and so abandons its external use.44 Taking the fire into him self, the renouncer also gives up his old clothes, becomes naked and so resem bles his condition at birth. H e offers his sacred thread, a sym bol o f his high-caste status w o rn over the shoulder, into the fire and takes on a w aistband, loincloth and ochre robe, w hile bearing a staff, w ater pot and begging bow l. Some renouncers, the N agas, remain naked. There are a num ber o f variations on the ritual o f renunciation. Sometim es a renouncer w ill sym b olically perform his ow n funeral before the fire, w hich consumes his old, social self. Sometimes the rite w ill involve the burning o f the ritual im plem ents, but, whatever the variations, the im portant point is that this is the last time the renouncer w ill kindle fire and thenceforth he w ill not be allow ed to attend further rituals.45 There are exceptions to this and some renouncers do maintain fires, practising austerity through the five fire sacrifice5, w hich involves m editating sur rounded b y five fires in the heat o f the day. N evertheless, these exceptions


An introduction to Hinduism
aside, generally the renouncer has abandoned lire and will not even be cre mated at death, but rather his body placed in a sacred river or buried upright in a special tom b or samadb.

Later renuncate orders

W hen they are not w andering, m any renouncers, also kn ow n as good m en (sadhus) and good w om en (sadhvis ), have chosen to live a life alone on the edges o f society, b y the banks o f sacred rivers, or in w ild places such as m ountainous regions or crem ation grounds. W earing ochre robes, or naked, covered w ith sacred ash, w ith shaven heads or long, matted hair, these renouncers develop their ow n spiritual practice (sadhana) fo r the purpose o f liberation w hile living (jivanm ukti ). O thers have joined co m munities o f renouncers and live in herm itages (asramas) or m onasteries

(mathas). Such com m unities are associated w ith larger H indu traditions,
particularly the Saiva and Vaisnava traditions, focused on the great H indu deities Siva and Visnu respectively. Some renuncate orders are centrally placed w ithin the vedic tradition, while others, such as crem ation ground ascetics associated w ith the w orship o f Siva and the G oddess, are on the edges o f vedic orth od o xy and orth op raxy (see p. 16 1). W hile m onasticism developed in Buddhism from its inception, similar institutions on ly appear later in H induism . A ccordin g to tradition, the great Vedanta theologian Sankara (c. 788-820
c e

founded monastic

centres in the fou r corners o f India, nam ely at Sringeri in Kerala, D w ark a in the far west, Badrinath in the H im alayas and Puri on the east coast. A n oth er im portant centre at Kanchi in Tamilnadu m ay have been founded b y Sankara or his disciple Suresvara. A lo n g w ith these m onastic centres, Sankara founded the renunciate order o f the ten named ones, the D asanm is, nam ely giri ( m ountain), puri ( city ), bhdrati (learning ), vana ( forest), aranya (forest), parvata (m ountain), sgara ( ocean),

tirtha (fo rd ), asrama (herm itage ) and sarasvatl ( eloquence ). These

orders are associated w ith the different m onastic centres: the Bhratis, Puris, and Sarasvatls at Sringeri; the Tirthas and A sram as at D w arka; the G iri, Sgara and Parvata at Badrinath; and the A ran yas and Vanas at Puri. The hierarch o f the m onastery at Puri is regarded as the head o f the entire D asanm i order and is referred to as the jagadguru , the teacher o f the u n i verse. A t initiation, the renouncer into these orders is given a new name, often ending in A nanda, and the name o f the order he or she is joining. T he orders founded b y Sankara w ere partly instrum ental in eradicating


Yoga and renunciation

Jainism and Buddhism from south India and also in giving coherence and a sense o f pan-Indian identity to orth od ox, vedic traditions. Indeed, renouncers have provided an im portant sense o f coherence within H induism , as they w ander around the villages teaching and conveying religious ideas to ordinary people. A lso o f im portance in giving a sense o f cohesion to vedic tradition is the re n o u n c e d pilgrim age o f circum am bu lating India b y visiting the four corners o f Badrinath in the north, Puri in the east, Ram eshw aram in the south, and D w ark a in the west. The Dasanam is are among the m ost orth od ox and learned o f H indu renouncers. C lad in ochre robes they can be contrasted w ith the naked renouncers, the N agas, w h o, since the seventh century c e have been w arrio r-A scetics, protectors o f the D asanam i tradition. These armed ascetics, like the Dasanam is, philosophically adhere to a m onistic m etaphysics (see pp. 2 4 1-2 ) and their tutelary diety is Siva, the lord o f ascetics and yogins. These w arrior-ascetic orders develop from the ninth to eighteenth cen turies as a response to M uslim invasions and organize themselves into six regim ents or akhdras (called A nanda, N iranjani, Ju n a, A vahan, A tal and N irvan i).46 D uring the seventeenth century Vaisnava w arrio r sects arise, the bairagls, w h o, unlike the N agas, do not go naked. There are also tradi tions o f fighting ascetics w ho have developed elaborate fighting system s, particularly in Kerala. H avin g abandoned the w orld , the renouncer can practise asceticism or the developm ent o f inner heat (< tapas) in order to attain liberation. A sceticism might take the form o f a severe penance, such as vow in g not to lie dow n or sit for twelve years but on ly rest leaning on a fram e, or to hold aloft an arm until the muscles becom e atrophied. H ow ever, an ascetic is particularly encouraged to practise yo ga in order to achieve a state o f n on action: to still the body, still the breath, and, finally, to still the mind. Yoga A lon gside concepts o f w orld renunciation, transm igration, karma, and liberation are ideas about the w ays or paths to liberation - the methods or technologies w hich can lead out o f the w o rld o f suffering. There are a num ber o f responses to the question o f h ow liberation can be attained in H indu traditions. O n the one hand, theistic traditions maintain that liber ation occurs through the grace o f a benign deity to w hom one is devoted, on the other, non-theistic traditions maintain that liberation occurs through the sustained effort o f detaching the self from the sensory w o rld

An introduction to Hinduism
through asceticism and meditation, which leads to a state o f gnosis (jnana ). Both responses can be com bined when devotion is seen as a form o f know ledge and grace as a com plem ent to effort. Th e term yoga , derived from the Sanskrit root yuj, to con trol, to y o k e or to unite, refers to these technologies or disciplines o f asceticism and m editation w hich are thought to lead to spiritual experience and p ro found understanding or insight into the nature o f existence. Yoga is the means w h ereb y the m ind and senses can be restrained, the limited, em piri cal self or ego (ahamkara) can be transcended and the selfs true identity eventually experienced. It is this aspect o f H induism w hich is not neces sarily confined to any particular H indu w o rld view and has, indeed, been exported beyond the boundaries o f H induism to the contem porary West. W hile the developm ent o f yoga, and the idea o f spiritual salvation (moksa ) to w hich it leads, m ust be understood historically in the context o f tradi tions o f renunciation, w hich, as w e have seen, form an ideological and social com plex developing in the new urban centres o f ancient India, yoga becom es detached from the institution o f renunciation and becom es adapted to the householders life. The concept o f yo ga as a spiritual discipline not confined to any partic ular sectarian affiliation or social form , contains the fo llo w in g im portant features: - consciousness can be transformed through focusing attention on a single point; - the transformation of consciousness eradicates limiting, mental constraints or impurities such as greed and hate; - yoga is a discipline, or range of disciplines, constructed to facilitate the transformation of consciousness.

Yoga in H indu traditions

The h istory o f yoga is long and ancient. The earliest vedic texts, the Brahm anas, bear witness to the existence o f ascetic practices (tapas) and the vedic Samhitas contain some references, as w e have seen, to ascetics, nam ely the M unis or Kesins and the Vratyas. In the sramana traditions and in the U panisads technologies fo r controlling the self and experiencing higher states o f consciousness in meditation are developed, and the litera ture o f yoga traditions on this subject is extensive. In the U panisads one o f the earliest references to meditation is in the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad , 94

Yoga and renunciation

the earliest Upanisad, which states that, having becom e calm and concen trated, one perceives the self (atman) w ithin oneself.47 The actual term yoga first occurs in the Katha Upanisad where it is defined as the steady control o f the senses, which, along with the cessation o f mental activity, leads to the suprem e state.48 Y o ga s appearance in the Katha Upanisad is in the context o f the story o f N aciketas and Death. N aciketas, w h o is banished to the realm o f death w hen he irritates his father, is kept w aiting w hile the god o f death, Yam a, is out. U p o n his return Yam a grants N aciketas three boons in recom pense for so rudely keeping him waiting. N aciketas first request is to be returned to his father, fo r the second he asks about the sacrificial fire w hich leads to heaven, and fo r the third he asks h ow to conquer re-death {pun-

armrtyu). Yam a tries to dissuade him from asking this third question w ith
the prom ise o f long life and riches, but in the face o f death, N aciketas replies, all life is short . N o matter h ow long life lasts, death takes it in the end. Yam a eventually responds to the question, saying that the w ise man realizes G o d through the practice o f self-contem plation. The text goes on to liken a person to a chariot: the self (atman) is the controller o f the char iot, the b o d y the chariot itself, and the senses are the horses. A s a chario teer controls the horses o f the chariot, so the self should control the senses through keeping them restrained.49 The Svetasvatara Upanisad sim ilarly says that a yo gin should hold the b o d y erect, repress the breathing and restrain the mind as he w o u ld a chariot y oked w ith vicious horses . This yo k in g o f the mind leads to inner visions and, m ore im portantly, a b o d y made in the fire o f y o g a w hich ensures that the w ise man is healthy, freed from sorrow , his purpose com pleted.50 The last o f the classical U panisads to deal w ith yoga to any extent is the Maitrayaniya or M aitri Upanisad , belonging to the branch o f the black Y aju r Veda. This text describes a retired king, Brhadratha, w h o prac tises austerity (tapas) b y staring at the sun w ith his arms raised high fo r 1,000 days. H e is then visited b y an enlightened ascetic, w h o tells the old king about the difference between the phenom enal self subject to karma, and the pure self unaffected b y action. The seer, Sakayanya, then teaches the king a six-faceted yoga involving breath-control (prandyama ), w ith draw al o f the senses (pratyahara ), m editation (dhyana ), concentration

(dharana ), inqu iry (tarka) and absorption (samadhi), a classification

w hich predates the sim ilar system o f Patanjalis classical yo ga (see below ).51


An introduction to Hinduism
There are several centuries between the com position of the Katha and the Svetasvatara Upanisads and we must assume that the yoga tradition developed during this time within the orbit o f 1lindu thought. Parts o f the fam ous epic poem the M ahabharata (c'400 B C K -300
c e

contain pas

sages describing the practice o f yoga as does the B h a g a v a d G ita , includ ing a com plete chapter (ch. 6) devoted to traditional yoga practice. The G ita also introduces the fam ous three kinds o f yoga, kn ow led ge (jn a n a ), action (karm a), and lo ve (b h ak ti). U panisads continue to be com posed into the com m on era and tend to becom e sectarian in orienta tion. O ne group o f about tw en ty texts, the Y o ga U panisads, prob ab ly dating from around
io o bce

to 300

c e

contain interesting details about

the practice o f yoga, such as postures, breath control, inner visions, the y o ga o f inner sound (nada, sabda), and descriptions o f esoteric or subtle anatomy. The m ost fam ous o f the Yoga U panisads, the Yogatattva, mentions fo u r kinds o f yoga: m antra-yoga, w hich involves the repetition o f mantras; laya-yo g a, the sym bolic dissolution o f the cosm os w ithin the b o d y and the raising o f a corporeal energy kn ow n as K undalini; hathayoga, the yoga o f fo rce focusing on various postures, breath control, visions o f light, and inner sound; and rdja-yoga (ro y a l, or sim ply the best , yoga), w hich is the classical system o f Patanjali. The text also m en tions the magical pow ers (siddhi) gained b y the yogin . H ath a-yoga itself develops an extensive literature, particularly Svatm aram as H ath ayogap ra d ip ik a (fifteenth century c e ) , w hich has links w ith Indian alchemy, Tantrism and the Siddha tradition.

The text w hich is m ost significant in the yo ga tradition is Patanjalis Yoga Sutra. This text, com posed sometime between
io o bce

and 500

c e


tains pith y aphorism s on classical yoga, called the eight-lim bed (astdnga) or the best (raja) yoga. The Yoga Sutra represents a codification o f yoga ideas and practices w hich had been developing fo r m any centuries. Patanjali gives a succinct definition o f yoga in the second sutra: yo ga is the cessation o f mental fluctuations .52 That is, yo ga is a state o f concentration in w hich the w andering mind, fed b y sense im pressions and m em ories, is controlled and made to be one-pointed (ekagratd). This mental control occurs through developing eight aspects or lim bs o f the yo gic path. These are: 96

)'<>ya an d ranun< :iation

1 ethics or restraint (yama), comprising non violence (ahimsa), telling the truth, not stealing, celibacy and not being greedy; 2 discipline (niyama), comprising cleanliness, serenity, asceticism, study, devotion to the Lord; 3 posture (asana); 4 breath-control (prandydma)\ 5 sense-withdrawal (pratyahara);

6 concentration (dharana);
7 meditation (dhydna ); 8 absorbed concentration (samadhi), comprising: (i) concentration with the support of objects of consciousness (samprajnata samadhi) sustained on four levels - initial thought (vitarka ), sustained thought (vicara), jo y (ananda), and the sense of T (asmita); (ii) concentration without the support of objects of consciousness (asamprajnata samadhi). H avin g developed ethical behaviour and discipline the yo gin stills the b o d y and the breath and withdraw s attention from the external w o rld , as a tortoise pulls its limbs and head into its shell, in order to control the mind through various degrees o f concentration or m editation. There is a clear connection here between consciousness, breath and body; the b o d y is stilled through posture, the breath through pranayama and the mind through concentration. In the state o f concentrated absorption or

samadhi the yogin is no longer conscious o f the b o d y or physical environ

ment, but his consciousness is absorbed in a higher state, free from greed, anger and delusion. The states o f samadhi are classified b y Patanjali into various degrees o f subtlety and refinem ent until the transcendent state o f isolation is finally achieved. These degrees o f absorption represent levels o f consciousness purified o f lim iting constraints. W hile the experience o f samadhi leading up to liberation (kaivalya ) is ineffable, kaivalya is nevertheless conceptualized w ithin a fram ew ork o f dualist m etaphysics, nam ely the m etaphysics o f the Sam khya school o f philosophy. In this school there is a com plete distinction between the self or the passive, conscious observer {purusa ) and matter (prakrti). In his exposition, Patanjali assumes this system as the philosophical backdrop to his thinking. K aivalya , in Patanjalis system , is liberation from the w heel o f transm igration. H ow ever, unlike the m onistic Upanisads, liberation is here not the realization o f the selfs identity w ith the absolute, but rather


An introduction to Hinduism
the realization o f the selfs solitude and com plete transcendence. This is a condition o f pure awareness in which the self has become com pletely detached from its entanglement with matter. It is a state beyond w o rld ly or sensory experience, in w hich consciousness is absorbed in itself w ith out an object, or is reflexive, having itself as its ow n object.

W hile Patanjalis yo ga is prim arily concerned w ith developing mental concentration in order to experience samdhi, hatha-yoga , or the yoga o f fo rce , develops a system o f elaborate and difficult postures (dsana) accom panied b y breathing techniques (prdndydma ). A lth ough aspects o f these practices are m uch older, hatha-yoga as a com plete system was developed from about the ninth century

c E b y the N th or Knphata sect,

w hich traces its origins to a saint, M atsyendranth, revered also in Buddhism , and his disciple G orakhnth (between the ninth and thirteenth centuries c e ) . The purpose o f hatha-yoga is the realization o f liberation during life, in w hich the self awakens to its innate identity w ith the absolute (.sahaja ), a realization made possible through cultivating a b o d y made perfect or divine in the fire o f yoga. O ne o f the main texts o f the tradition is the H athayoga-pradipikd b y Svtm arm a (fifteenth century) w hich describes the various com plex p o s tures (dsana), breath control, and lo cks (bandha), w hich are the m uscular constrictions o f breath and energy w hich flo w through the body.53 O ther texts o f note are the Gheranda Samhita, the Siva Samhita and, p ro b ab ly the oldest N ath text, the Siddhasiddhnta Paddhati. W hile these texts are concerned w ith the m ore subtle levels o f m editation, the emphasis is undoubtedly upon disciplines o f the body: cleansing the stomach b y sw al low in g a cloth, draw ing w ater into the rectum , cleaning the nose w ith threads and taking w ater through the nose and expelling it through the m outh. Such practices are high ly regarded as purifications w hich make the b o d y fit fo r the m ore difficult practices o f postures and breath control.

These texts also describe the existence o f a subtle b o d y w ith centres or w h eels (cakra) located along its central axis, connected b y channels (nddi) along w hich flow s the energy (prna), or the life-force, w hich ani mates the body. O f these channels, three are o f particular im portance: the central channel (susumn nddi) w hich connects the base o f the trunk to the 98

Yoga and renunciation

crow n o f the head, form ing a vertical axis through the body, and tw o chan nels to its right and left, flow ing from the nostrils and joining the central channel at its base. Th rough h atha-yoga the energy lyin g dorm ant at the base o f the central channel in the root centre (m uladhara) is awakened. This energy is envisaged as the goddess Kundalinl, the serpent p o w e r , w hich flow s up the central channel to the thousand petalled lotus (sahasrarapadm a) at the crow n o f the head, w here the bliss o f liberation is experienced.54 W hile in earlier texts there are various system s o f cakras and nadls, one system o f six or seven cakras along the b o d y s axis becomes the dom inant, pan -H ind u m odel, adopted b y m ost yo ga schools. This system originates in the cult o f the tantric goddess K u b jika in about the eleventh century c e , but rapidly becom es a popular and standardized m odel o f esoteric anatomy. These centres are said to be located in the regions o f the p er ineum, the genitals, the solar plexus, the heart, the throat, between the eyes and at the crow n o f the head (see fig. 3). The pow er o f Kundalini, aw ak ened b y hatha-yoga rises up the central channel, piercing these centres until the bliss o f union w ith the god Siva residing at the crow n o f the head


An introduction to Hinduism
is achieved. Each centre or lotus is described as being associated with a particular sound and having a specific number o f petals, upon which are inscribed the letters o f the Sanskrit alphabet. It is not clear that such sy s tems o f esoteric anatom y w ere meant to be understood in a literal or o n to logical sense; they w ere rather system s o f visualization in meditation fo r the purpose o f achieving samadhi. O ne im portant centre fo r the N ath yogis, not incorporated into the six-centre scheme, is the palate centre (talu-cakra ) or uvula, know n as the ro yal tooth , from w hich is said to drip the nectar o f im m ortality (amrta). This part o f the b o d y as an im portant locus fo r spiritual realization is attested from as early as the Taittiriya Upanisad w hich describes this point as the birthplace o f In d ra w here the head is split a hairs w idth .55 O ne o f the N ath practices, kn ow n as the kloecari m udra , is to stop the nectar o f im m ortality dripping aw ay through this tooth b y turning the tongue back inside the palate and entering the cavity leading into the skull. The

Hathayogapradipika details h ow this is to be achieved b y cutting the

membrane w hich connects the tongue w ith the lo w er part o f the m outh and gradually stretching the tongue.56 The dripping o f the nectar o f im m ortality from the crow n o f the head through the talu-cakra is not on ly regarded as a m etaphor fo r the attention flow in g out into the w orld , but at one level is taken literally, and the khecarim udra is meant to stop this flow. A yo gin w h o has perform ed this technique is said to be not afflicted b y disease, not tainted b y karm a and unaffected b y time. H e does not need to sleep and can control desire, even if embraced b y a passionate w om an .57

T he practice o f Kundalini yoga, the raising o f energy in the body, and the doctrine o f an esoteric anatomy, is accom panied in hatha-yoga b y a fu r ther practice, the yoga o f inner or unstruck sound (anahata nada or sabda). The absolute manifests in the form o f sound in hatha and other yo ga doctrines. This subtle sound resounds in the central channel and can be heard b y the yo gin b y blocking the ears, nose and eyes and controlling the breath. Th rough concentrating on this inner sound, w hich, according to the Hathayogapradipika initially resembles a tinkling sound, then a rum bling sound like a kettledrum , a flute, and then a lute, the yo gin becom es absorbed in the suprem e reality w hich is, ultimately, his true self. Th rough the yo ga o f inner sound the mind is controlled and becom es absorbed, like a serpent w hich, on hearing the sound o f a flute, becom es


Yoga and renunciation

oblivious o f all else, and, absorbed in the one iliing, does not move aw ay elsewhere*.58 This doctrine o f inner sound is well attested in the Yoga U panisads, m ostly com posed between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, though it has precursors in the earlier vedic idea o f the syllable om, the sound o f the universe identified w ith brahm an. Indeed mantras might be regarded as expressions o f the inner sound and m an tra-yoga, the repetition (japa) o f mantras, as a means o f accessing the inner sound w hich is their source. The yoga o f inner sound is im portant fo r m any contem porary H indu yo ga schools, particularly those w ithin the Radhasoam i tradition w hose central teaching is that o f inner sound m anifested in the form o f the guru.59 A s in m any yoga traditions there is a correlation between psychological experience and cosm ology. The inner experiences o f yoga, the apprecia tion o f sound and light, are regarded not on ly as states o f individual p s y chology, but also as subtle levels o f a hierarchical cosm os. L ik e an onion, the yogic cosm os is divided into a num ber o f layers - the lower, grosser levels corresponding to the usual, fluctuating states o f human conscious ness, the higher levels corresponding to m ore refined, purer states identi fied w ith various levels o f sam adhi. The practice o f K undalinl yoga and the yoga o f inner sound are not on ly regarded as psychological experiences, but as a jou rn ey through the layers o f the cosm os back to its source.

W hile the ultimate aim o f yoga practice is liberation in life, along the w a y yoga traditions claim that magical pow ers are attained, alm ost incident ally. W hile generally the cultivation o f these pow ers fo r w o rld ly ends is frow ned upon, they nevertheless hold an im portant position as indicators o f progress along the path. The third section o f Patanjalis Yoga Sutra is devoted to m agical pow ers or w onders. Patanjali says that upon attaining concentration, or the mental penetration o f the objects o f consciousness, various pow ers begin to arise. These pow ers include know ledge o f past and future, know ledge o f past lives, telepathy, the ability to disappear, foreknow ledge o f ones ow n death, great strength, supernorm al senses, levitation, and om niscience, including know ledge o f the cosmic regions.60 W hile such pow ers m ay be advantageous from the perspective o f w akin g consciousness, they are a hindrance to higher consciousness, fo r they create attachment. The com m entary on the Yoga Sutra b y V yasa lists eight magical pow ers 101

An introduction to Hinduism
or accom plishm ents (sid d h i): the ability to becom e as small as an atom, levitation, the ability to expand, all-pervasiveness, the pow er o f irresistible w ill, control over the natural elements, the pow er to create and the fu lfil ment o f desires.61 This is a standard list o f magical pow ers found in other texts, though there are variants. These pow ers are included in the Buddhist system as the first o f the five higher know ledges (abhijna) attained b y m editation, w hich show s that the association o f meditation or yo ga w ith supernorm al pow ers has been w ithin Indian meditation traditions from an early date. We are dealing here w ith oral traditions o f teachings in w hich the list o f pow ers, as w ell as o f other states, has been standardized and the original meaning o f som e o f this term inology has becom e obscure.

Sum m ary
This chapter has surveyed a com plex set o f concepts, practices and social form s w hich are at the heart o f H induism and w hich have developed over thousands o f years. Renunciation, w hile being incorporated w ithin m ain stream vedic tradition, m ay have originated outside that tradition in the sramana m ovem ents o f w hich Buddhism and Jain ism are a part. Yet w h at ever its origin, w hether from w ithin the vedic tradition or from outside it, renunciation is a vital institution w ithin H induism and central to H indu soteriology. A lo n g w ith renunciation go ideas o f karm a - that a person reaps the consequences o f their action - reincarnation, and liberation or salvation from the cycle o f rebirth. Y oga is the m ethod o f attaining libera tion, fo r both renouncers and laity, and w e have in this chapter surveyed the origins o f yoga and some o f the central developm ents in its vast history. Yoga has been adapted to different doctrinal system s and has been used in the service o f different traditions w ithin H induism , m ost notably o f the traditions o f Siva and Visnu. To the latter tradition w e n o w turn.


5 N arrativ e traditions and early Vaisnavism

The first m illennium

b c e

saw the developm ent o f the brahmanical tradi

tions o f ritual, adherence to varnasrama-dharma and the id eo lo gy o f renunciation. These developm ents occurred w ithin the context o f the grow th o f kingdom s, such as M agadha in the fourth century id eology o f sacral kingship. From about 500 b
c e b c e

and an

through the first m illen

nium c e , there was a grow th o f sectarian w orsh ip o f particular deities, and vedic sacrifice, though never dying out, gave w a y to devotional w orsh ip (puja). P e r fo r m in g / ? ^ is a w a y o f expressing love or devotion (bhakti ) to a deity in some form , and became the central religious practice o f H induism . Bhakti to a personal G od



G oddess

(.Bhagavati ), became a central, all-pervasive movem ent. This grow th o f H indu theism and devotionalism is reflected in the Sanskrit narrative tra ditions o f the E pics (itihasa ), in m ythological and ritual treatises kn ow n as the Puranas, and in devotional poetry in vernacular languages, particu larly Tamil. This chapter w ill trace some o f these developm ents, focusing on the rise o f the gods Visnu and K rsna and the traditions associated w ith them, w hich came to be characterized as Vaisnava .

H indu narrative traditions

There is no h istoriography in south A sia, w ith a few exceptions, o f the kind w hich developed in the G reek, A rab ic and European traditions. This lack o f h istoriography has made the dating o f Sanskrit texts difficult and has reinforced a tendency to construct India as ahistorical, m ythical and irrational, in contrast to the West - seen as historical, scientific and 103

An introduction to / /in du ism

rational. T he construction o f India as the Wests irrational other* has tended to hide the stroivgly rationalist element in I I indu culture (the sci ence o f ritual, grammar, architecture, mathematics, logic and philosophy) and to underplay the m ythical dim ension in western thought. N evertheless, H induism did produce elaborate m ythical narratives in w hich there is no clear distinction between h isto ry , hagiography and m y th o lo g y . Indeed, the Sanskrit term itihdsa embraces the western cate gories o f h istory and m yth . We have texts w ritten in Sanskrit, and ver nacular languages, w hich are clearly presenting what w ere regarded as im portant ideas, stories and presentations o f norm ative and non-norm ative behaviour, and the historicity o f particular events is either assumed, or is sim ply not an issue. Rather, w hat seems to be im portant w ith these m ythological narratives is the story being told, the sense o f truth that it conveys, and the sense o f com m unal or traditional values and identity being com m unicated. Th e tw o m ost im portant groups o f H indu narrative traditions em bod ied in oral and w ritten texts are the tw o E pics, the Mahabhdrata and Rdm dyana , and the Purnas. The Itihdsa Pur ana is even kn ow n as the fifth Veda , although it is classified as smrti, texts o f hum an authorship, and not sruti, revelation, and all castes have access to it, not o n ly the tw iceborn. In these texts w e see reflected the concerns o f political life at the court, the concerns o f Brahm ans, the concerns o f ord in ary people, and descriptions o f ritual, pilgrim age and m ythology. These texts also docu ment the rise o f the great theistic traditions o f H induism focused on the gods, particularly Visnu, Siva and D evi, the G oddess. H in du traditions have been com m unicated through the generations in these narrative gen res, w hich still play a vital role in contem porary H indu life, though som e times n ow mediated through the television and cinema screen. The Itihdsa Purdna has had, and continues to have, imm ense impact upon H induism at all levels. A lth ou gh the Epics contain a wealth o f material w hich cannot be neatly categorized as belonging to any particular tradition, there is nevertheless a case fo r saying that the Epics are prim arily Vaisnava in orientation, as, indeed, are m any o f the Purnas. Even the M ahdbhdrata w hich is som e times com pared to an encyclopaedia of H indu deities, stories, yoga, rituals and theologies, is orientated tow ards the traditions o f Visnu. Some review o f this vast literature is necessary in order to understand the unfolding o f H indu theistic traditions in general and the religions o f V isnu in particular. 104

N arrative traditions and early Vaisnavism

The M ahabharata
The Mahabharata is an epic o f universal proportions with appeal across centuries and across cultures, as the popularity o f Peter B ro o k s nine-hour English stage production has attested. It is the longest epic poem in the w orld, com prising over 100,000 verses. A ccord in g to tradition, the author o f the text was the sage V yasa w hose name means an arranger , though scholarship has show n that it was in fact com piled over several centuries from the first half o f the first m illennium b c e , reaching its established form b y the first century
c e

though still being form ulated b y the fourth

century. There w ere prob ab ly tw o m ajor stages in its com position. The first, a version o f about 7,000 verses or s'lokas, attributed to V yasa, the sec ond, an elaboration b y Vaisam payana. B y the medieval period the E pic existed in tw o m ajor recensions, one northern and one southern, and was retold in a Tamil version. The critical edition o f the Sanskrit version was produced b y scholars at the B handarkar O riental Research Institute at Poona, in India, w h o com pared m any different m anuscripts.1 T h eir v e r sion is the one form ulated b y the Brahm an fam ily o f Bhargava, descended from the ancient sage Bhrgu, w ho rew rote the epic incorporating into it much material on dharma. Indeed, the central hero o f the E pic, Yudhisthira, is the son o f D harm a personified as a deity. The text itself is divided into eighteen parts o f varyin g length, the longest com prising over 14,000 verses, the shortest having o n ly 120 verses. The text is further sub divided into 98 sub-portions. There is also a supplem ent to the E pic, the

H arivam sa , a text about the life o f Krsna.

A part from the northern and southern recensions, there are regional variations o f the text and it is im portant to em phasize that the

Mahabharata exists not on ly as a critical edition or as the object o f schol

arly study, but also as a vital and fluid part o f contem porary H induism , still in the process o f being recast in different modes. The Sanskrit narra tive traditions o f the Mahabharata are also acted out and recited o rally in vernacular languages throughout the villages o f India at popular festivals. The Mahabharata lives in these presentations and recitations, not to m en tion in a television series w hich presented the sto ry to rapt audiences throughout India in the 1980s. The origins o f the Mahabharata lay in non-brahm anical social groups o f the A ry a n hom eland (aryavarta), nam ely the K satriya aristocracy, and it gives us some understanding o f the life o f those groups, though the story 105

An introduction to Hinduism
was qu ickly appropriated by orthodox, Sanski it u Brahmans and overlaid b y the Bhargava fam ily with a brahmanical id eo lo gy which emphasized the perform ance o f social duty (dh arm a). While the text is enjoyed sim ply as a story, it is also understood to have different levels o f meaning and to be a m etaphor for the ethical battle on the human plane, and fo r the battle betw een the lo w er and higher self on a w orld-transcending plane. T he story is as follow s. A king o f the lunar dynasty, V icitravirya, had tw o sons, Pandu and D hrtarastra. D hrtarastra, the elder prince, should have succeeded his father on the throne, but as he w as born blind, a partic u larly inauspicious karm a, he could not. Pandu reigns and has five sons, the Pandavas or sons o f Pandu . W hen Pandu dies, his blind brother D hrtarastra takes over the throne and the Pandavas (nam ely Yudhisthira, B him a, A rju na, N ak u la and Sahadeva) grow up w ith their 100 cousins, the sons o f D hrtarastra: the Kauravas. The eldest o f the K auravas, D uryod han a, claims to be the rightful successor to the throne and has the Pandavas, and their com m on w ife D raupadi, exiled. D uryodhan a becom es king and his father abdicates. The Pandavas, how ever, challenge his right to the throne, so, to avoid conflict, the blind old ex-king divides the kingdom in tw o, w ith D uryod han a ruling in the north from Hastinapur, and Yudhisthira, the eldest Pandava, ruling in the south from Indraprasta (modern D elhi). D u ryo d h an a pays a visit to Indraprasta, but w hile he is there he falls into a lake w hich provokes laugh ter from Yudhisthira. D uryod hana cannot abide this insult and challenges Yudhisthira to a game o f dice at H astinapur fo r the entire kin g dom . Yudhisthira w h o has a passion fo r gam bling, loses everything to D uryod hana, including his w ife D raupadi. She is p u b licly hum iliated b y the Kauravas w h o try to tear o ff her clothing, but it m iraculously never unfolds due to the p o w er o f K rsn as grace. T h ey p lay one further game o f dice, the loser having to go into exile in the forest fo r tw elve years and spend a further year incognito. O nce again Yudhisthira loses and so begins the Pandavas thirteen-year exile with D raupadi. In the forest m any adventures befall them, all recorded in the M ah abh arata, and there are stories within stories told b y different charac ters. T h ey spend the thirteenth year in disguise in the court o f a king and emerge from exile in the fourteenth year to reclaim their kingdom . B y ' now, how ever, D uryod han a is no longer w illin g to give up his kingdom and so the stage is set fo r war. The w ar lasts eighteen days. O n the field o f K uruksetra the tw o armies are lined up and the eve o f the battle sets the 10 6

Narrative traditions and early Vaisnavism

scene for the Bhagavad G ita , the fam ous dialogue between Krsna and Arjuna. The battle is fierce and all the K auravas are killed. A lthough the Pndavas w in, they are filled with sorrow at the loss o f so m any allies and relatives, even though they w ere their enemies. Yudhisthira abdicates, leaving the kingdom under the sovereignty o f a you nger relation, and w ith his brothers and D raupadi leaves fo r the realm o f In dras heaven in the H im alayas. D raupadi and four o f the brothers die along the w ay. O n ly Yudhisthira, accom panied b y a devoted dog w hich had attached itself to him, continues the journey. Indra in his chariot meets Yudhisthira and invites him into heaven, but Yudhisthira w ill not go w ithout the dog w h o has been devoted (bhakta). The dog, how ever, turns out to be the god D harm a him self, w h o then leads Yudhisthira into heaven w here he is astonished to see D uryodhan a, the cause o f so much suffering, en joying heaven because he had fulfilled his dharma as a w arrior. Yudhisthira, the exem plum o f dharm ic conduct, has yet to be reborn on earth because o f his affection: a last attachment to be purged before liberation can be attained. W ithin this basic narrative structure m any other stories are em bedded which m ay originally have been independent tales, such as the love story o f N ala and D am yantI2 and the sto ry o f the nym ph Sakuntal.3 The fam ous Bhagavad G ita , the Song o f the L o r d , dated to not before the sec ond century b c e , m ay w ell have been inserted into the M ahabhdrata , though some scholars think that it was com posed as part o f the text.4 This dialogue between A rju n a and K rsna, narrated b y the sage Sanjaya to the blind king D hrtarstra, became one o f the m ost im portant texts in H induism . A s the dialogue unfolds, K rsn a responds to A rju n a s doubts about the w ar and gradually reveals him self as a suprem e L o rd , the creator, m aintainer and destroyer o f the universe.

The R m yan
The second, slightly shorter, E pic is the Ram dyana , the story o f K in g Ram a, attributed to Valm lki. This text w as certainly in circulation b y the first century c e , though on stylistic grounds its origin m ay be later than the Mahabhdrata. A s w ith the Mahabhdrata there are tw o m ajor recen sions, the northern and the southern, the southern being the earlier.5 There are later Sanskrit versions o f the text and versions w ere com posed in ver nacular languages, o f particular note being K am pan s Tamil rendering (ninth-tw elfth centuries) and the fam ous H indi Rdmacaritmanas (The io 7

An introduction to Hinduism
Lake o f R am aa Deeds*) by Tulsidas (c. 1543 1^23). Apart from these texts, there are innum erable versions o f the text told and retold in different regions.6 The Rdm ayana exists in many versions and in m any tellings, from a H in di television production in 1987 which attracted 80 m illion view ers to village perform ances in Tamilnadu or stage productions in the U S A .7 The annual R am L ila festivals and perform ances, particularly at Ram nagar near Varanasi, attract thousands o f pilgrim s and express the liv ing, enacted tradition o f the Rdmayana?* Th e story is essentially simple. Ram a , a prince o f A yo d h ya, son o f K in g D asaratha, m arries Princess Slta, the daughter o f K in g Jan aka o f Videha (w ho first appeared in the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad). Because o f his fathers second w ife, K a ik eyl, w h o makes D asaratha prom ise to banish him, Ram a is forced to go into exile into the D andaka forest, out o f filial duty. H e is accom panied b y his w ife and brother Laksm ana. W hile the brothers are aw ay hunting, Slta is abducted b y Ravana, the ten-headed dem on-king o f Sri Lanka, but w ith the help o f a m on key arm y sent b y the m onkey king Sugriva, Ram a w ins her back. U n d er the leadership o f the m on key general H anum an, w h o is no ordin ary m on key but the son o f the w in d-go d V ayu , a causew ay is built from India to Sri Lanka, w hich allow s Ram a and his arm y to cross over and defeat the dem on-king. Ravana and his arm y are killed and Ram a returns with Slta to A yo d h y a w here he reigns as king. The people o f the city, however, suspect that Slta did not remain chaste w hile held b y Ravana, though Ram a him self has no doubts about her virtue (since she had p reviou sly proved this to him b y em erging unscathed from a fire ordeal). To fulfil his duty to his subjects, Ram a ban ishes Slta to the hermitage o f V alm iki, traditionally the author o f the text, w here she gives birth to twins. M an y years later Ram a discovers the twins and wishes to take back Slta along w ith their children, but not w ishing to return to A yo d h ya, Slta calls on the Earth, her mother, w h o opens and sw allow s her. The text ends w ith Ram a and all the inhabitants o f A yo d h ya going to the Sarayu river and there entering the b o d y o f Visnu. The Ramayana is the story o f a heroic king w h o becom es deified. Indeed, b y the last books o f the text Ram a is referred to as an incarnation

(avatara) o f Visnu. A b o ve all, however, as w ith the M ahabharata , it is a

tale about dharm a . D asaratha is forced to banish his son because he must keep his w ord , and his w ord is his pow er; Ram a must go to the forest to ob ey his father, as dharma dictates; and Ram a m ust banish Slta in the end to fulfil his duty to his subjects, even though her virtue is not in question. 108

N arrative traditions and early Vaisnavism

The Rmayana is the story of the trium ph ol good over evil, o f order over chaos, o f dharma over adharma. Kama and Si ta are ideal examples o f dharmic gender roles for Hindu couples. I le is honest, brave, the fulfiller o f all his ethical responsibilities, and devoted to his w ife, while she is m od est, demure, virtuous, dedicated to her L o rd and husband, yet strong in herself. This strength, and some degree o f independence, asserts itself at the end o f the narrative w hen St, w hose name means fu rro w and w h o perhaps originated as an independent goddess associated w ith agriculture, returns to her m other the Earth, whence she sprang w hen her father, Janaka, was ploughing. St is the ideal H indu w om an, fulfilling her w o m anly d u ty (strisvadharma) to the letter, yet w h o retains self-possession and an element o f autonom y and identity independent o f her husband Rma. The story is m ore straightforw ard than the Mahbhrata and has w id e spread, popular appeal. The language is beautiful in its detailed descrip tions, even dow n to describing the spiral m ovem ents o f the hairs on H an u m n s tail, and is a precursor o f later Sanskrit poetic literature or

kvya. The w orsh ip o f Rm a became w idespread in the medieval period in

northern India and the name R m became a syn on ym fo r G o d .9 The w orship o f Rm a has becom e high ly significant today as the focus o f politicized H in du movements in recent years (see pp. 264-5). Yet the

Rmayana is im portant beyond these considerations and plays a vibrant

part in contem porary H induism . L ike the Mahbhrata it is an oral tradi tion recited and acted out throughout the villages and tow ns o f India.

The Puranas
In contrast to the Epics, the Purnas, stories o f the ancient past5, are a vast b o d y o f com plex narratives w hich contain genealogies o f deities and kings up to the G uptas, cosm ologies, law codes, and descriptions o f ritual and pilgrim ages to h oly places. W ith the Puranas w e are dealing w ith oral tra ditions w hich w ere w ritten dow n and w hich have absorbed influences from the Epics, U panisads, D harm a literature and ritual texts. The Puranas w ou ld have been recited at gatherings b y specialists w h o w ere tra ditionally the sons o f K satriya fathers and Brahm an mothers, and today the texts are recited b y special individuals kn o w n b y the H in di term bhat. There are eighteen m ajor Purnas and eighteen related subordinate texts know n as U papurnas, though there are variations as to w hich texts are included w ithin the ideal num ber o f eighteen. The Purnas have 109

An introduction to Hinduism
traditionally been classified according to three qualities (guna) which are inherent in existence, nam ely the quality of light or purity (sattva ), pas sion (rajas) and darkness or inertia (tamas). Six Puranas belong to each cat egory. The sattva category contains the Vaisnava Puranas (the Visnu

Bhagavata , G aruda , N aradiya , Padma and Varaha Puranas ), the rajas

category contains Puranas w hose central deity is the creator Brahm a (the

Brahm a , Brahm anda , Brahm avaivarta , M arkandeya , Bhavisya and Vamana Puranas ), w hile the category contains the Saiva Puranas,
those texts w hose central deity is Siva (the Siva , Linga , Matsya , Kurm a ,

Skanda and ylgm Puranas). This neat classification, although interesting

in terms o f the traditions self-understanding, does not really th row light on the nature or contents o f these texts, w hich do not fall easily into this fram e o f reference fo r the texts themselves are not exclusively focused upon a single deity. N evertheless there are tendencies tow ards sectarian affiliation, and som e texts, such as the Visnu and Siva Puranas , are clearly centred on a particular god. O thers such as the A gni Purana w hich con tains material about both Visnu and Siva, are not so clearly sectarian. There are also Puranas affiliated w ith a particular place or temple, the

sthala Puranas.
We do kn ow that the bulk o f the material contained in the Puranas was established during the reign o f the G uptas (c. 320 -c. 500 c e ) , though amendments w ere made to the texts up to later medieval times. Attem pts have been made b y scholars to establish the original portions and chronologies o f individual texts,10 but this is n oto rio u sly difficult. Because these texts developed over a long period o f time and had fluid boundaries, it is im possible to precisely date them or to establish an accu rate chronology. It is possible to find passages w hich have parallels across different Puranas but it is v e ry difficult to establish the sequence o f their com position or inclusion. To understand the Puranas it makes m ore sense to treat them as com plete texts in themselves and examine them and their intertextuality synchronically, rather than to try to establish their diachronic or historical sequence. The Puranas contain essential material fo r understanding the religions o f Visnu, Siva, the G oddess (Devi) and other deities o f the H indu pan theon such as A gn i (the god o f fire), Skanda (the god o f w ar and son o f Siva), Ganesa (Sivas elephant-headed son) and Brahm a (the four-headed creator o f the universe). T h ey indicate the rise in popu larity o f Visnu and Siva and docum ent the brahmanical expression o f their cults, show ing no

N arrative traditions and early Vaisnavism

how popular levels o f religion w ere assimilated by the Brahm ans w ho com posed them. Although these texts are related to each other, and m ater ial in one is found in another, they nevertheless each present a view o f ordering o f the w orld from a particular perspective. T h ey must not be seen as random collections o f old tales, but as h igh ly selective and crafted exp o sitions and presentations o f w orld view s and soteriologies, com piled b y particular groups o f Brahm ans to propagate a particular vision, w hether it be focused on Visnu, Siva or D evi, or, indeed, any num ber o f deities. The Visnu P urana for example (fourth century

c e ), w hile generally fo l

low ing the typical puranic style, is centred on Visnu and presents a Vaisnava w orldview . Visnu awakens, becom es the creator god Brahm a, creates the universe, sustains it and destroys it as R u d ra (a name fo r Siva). H e then rests on the serpent Sesa upon the cosm ic ocean. The text thus establishes Visnu as the supreme deity; it is really Visnu, w h om the text calls Janarddhana, the adored o f hum anity , w h o takes the designation Brahm a, Visnu and Siva.11 The suprem acy o f Visnu in this text is also established b y narratives such as the sto ry o f Prahlada. Prahlada is the son of the dem on H iranyakasipu w h o cannot be killed b y day or b y night, b y man or b y beast, w ithin or outside the house. H iran yakasipu orders the bo y to be killed because he is a w orsh ipper o f Visnu. Yet despite his efforts the b o y cannot be killed and Visnu, to avenge Prahlada, incarnates as the m an -lion 5 N arasim ha (neither man nor beast), at tw ilight (neither day nor night), bursting out from a pillar (neither inside nor outside the house) to kill the demon.

A lth ou gh no one text strictly adheres to this pattern, the Puranas tradi tionally cover five topics: - the creation or manifestation of the universe; - destruction and re-creation of the universe; - the genealogies of gods and sages; - the reigns of the fourteen Manus or mythological progenitors of humanity; - the history of the solar and lunar dynasties of kings, from which all kings trace their descent. The m ost im portant features o f the Puranas are the genealogies o f various royal lineages, in w hich h istory as w ell as m yth o lo gy m ay be em bedded,

An introduction to Hinduism
and the elaborate cosm ologies occurring over vast expanses o f time. The universe is conceptualized as an array o f concentric circles spreading out from M ount M eru at the centre, enclosed within the vast w orld egg\ Im m ediately surrounding M eru is Jambu-dvTpa, the earth or island o f the rose-apple tree , though itself several thousand miles from M eru. Jam b udvipa is surrounded b y a salt ocean. Spreading out from here are seven fu r ther lands and various kinds o f ocean made o f sugar-cane juice, wine, ghee, butterm ilk, m ilk and sweet water, until the realm o f darkness is reached b y the outer shell o f the egg. This is very similar to Ja in cosm ologies which list the oceans as containing salt, black water, clear water, rum , m ilk, ghee and treacle.12 W ithin Jam b u -d vlpa are a num ber o f lands, including India (Bharata) w hich is subdivided into nine regions ruled b y descendants o f the culture-hero Prthu, w h o cultivated the earth (prthvi). B elo w and above the level o f the earth in the cosmic egg are further layers. B elo w the earth are the seven underw orlds and below them at the base o f the egg, the hell realms, w hose various names, such as im paling and red-hot iro n , vivid ly describe their contents. A b o ve the earth (,bhur ) are the atmosphere

(ibhuvas ), sk y (svar) and various other w orlds up M oun t M eru to the true
w o rld (satyaloka ) at the top. This entire cosm os is populated b y all kinds o f beings; hum ans, animals, plants, gods, snake-beings (naga ), nym phs (,apsaras), heavenly musicians ( gandharva ), dom estic beings (paisaca) aAd m any more, and one can be reborn into any o f these realms depending upon ones action (karma) nor heaven are perm anent here. A lon gside a vast conception o f the structure o f the cosm os, the Puranas also have a vast conception o f time. The w o rld goes through a cycle o f four ages or yugas: the perfect krta or satya age w hich lasts fo r i ,728,000 human years; the treta age o f 1,296,000 years; the dvapara age o f 864,000 years; and the dark kali age o f 432,000 years w hich began w ith the M ahabharata war, traditionally dated to 3 10 2 b c e . This makes a total o f 4,320,000 years during which time the w orld moves from a perfect state to a progressively m ore m orally degenerate state in w hich dharma is forgotten. The kaliL ife in all o f these w o rld s is, o f course, im perm anent and one w ill eventually be reborn elsewhere. N either hell

ynga , the present age o f darkness, is characterized b y loss o f dharma

w hich w ill be renewed b y the future incarnation o f V isnu, K alki, w h o w ill com e to begin a new perfect krta yuga. 14 The im age used is o f a co w stand ing on all four legs in the perfect age, standing on three legs in the treta age, on tw o legs in the dvapara age, but tottering on o n ly one leg in the kali age.

Narrative traditions and early Vaisnavism

The total period o f four yugas is called a m an van tara, the age or lifeperiod of a Manu. A fter 1,000 manvantaras, which com prise one day fo r Brahma, the universe will be destroyed by fire or flood and undergo a night o f Brahm a o f the same period (i.e. 1,000 manvantaras), until the process begins again fo r all eternity. A kalpa is one such night and day o f Brahma com prising 8,649 m illion years. There is no end to this process; nor purpose other than the L o r d s play (lil).

With the com position o f the Purnas a mainstream form o f brahm anical religion developed w hich expanded and continued into the medieval period. The Brahm ans w h o follow ed the puranic religion became kn ow n as sm rta, those w hose w orship was based on the Smrtis, or p a u r n ik a , those based on the Purnas. This form o f religion was concerned w ith the dom estic w orship o f five shrines and their deities, the pan cyatan a-puj, nam ely Visnu, Siva, Ganesa (Sivas elephant-headed son), Srya (the Sun) and the G oddess (Devi). The Smrtas m ay be seen in contrast to the Srautas w h o perform ed elaborate, public, vedic rituals - the solemn rites and also in contrast to the Tntrikas, heterodox follow ers o f non-vedic revelation called the Tantras. A lth ough the authors o f the Purnas are not Tntrikas, the texts nevertheless contain a significant amount o f tantric material, particularly on ritual. A lth ou gh the central Smrta practice was the dom estic w orship o f the five deities, w hile, o f course, abiding b y vedic social values and p u rity rules, there also arose w orship o f particular deities, especially Visnu and Siva, w h o w ere elevated to a suprem e p o si tion. Thus w ith the Purnas, the norm ative, mainstream Smrta w orsh ip o f Visnu and Siva is established, w hich absorbs into it external, nonbraham nical and sometimes non-vedic or tantric material.

The development of temple cities

The com piling o f the Purnas and the developm ent o f devotion or bloakti to particular deities must be seen firstly in the context o f the stability o f the G u pta period and secondly, after the collapse o f the G uptas, in the context o f the rise o f regional kingdom s, particularly in the south. D urin g the sev enth century these w ere the kingdom s o f the C h alukyas in the central and western Deccan, and the Palavas in the south-east. Fro m about 900 to 1200 these kingdom s are replaced b y the dynasties o f the Pandeyas in the far south, the C holas in the Tamil region, and the Rashtrakutas, replacing the


An introduction to Hinduism
C h alukyas. Each o f these kingdom s developed urban centres and these cities became the centres o f those kingdom s; cities which were not only centres o f com m erce and adm inistration, but ritual centres with the tem ple at the hub o f the tow n and the streets radiating out from there. The ritual sovereignty o f the king was established through his brahmanical legitim ization in the tem ple and, from the eleventh to thirteenth centuries, large temple com plexes w ere built as centres o f the regional kingdom s. Exam ples o f such cities are the Jagannatha temple at Puri in O rissa, the N ataraja tem ple at C idam baram in Tam ilnadu, and the Rajarajesvara tem ple at Tanjavur also in Tamilnadu. Each o f these temples w ou ld have installed one o f the m ajor puranic deities or a m anifestation o f those deities. O f particular im portance are the gods Visnu, Siva and D evi, all o f w h om had their ow n Puranas, and all o f w h om w ere established in im p or tant temples. Visnu in particular is associated w ith the ideal o f the divine king, and it is to his h istory and tradition we n o w turn.

The late U panisads com posed from the eighth to sixth centuries
b c e

p ar

ticularly the Svetasvatara and the Mahanarayana, bear witness to the beginnings o f H in du theism. Theism is the idea that there is a suprem e, distinct G o d (Bhagavan) or G oddess (Bhagavati ) w h o generates the co s m os, maintains it, and finally destroys it, and w h o has the po w er to save beings through his grace. Tw o deities begin to becom e the focus o f theistic attention, Siva, w h o in the R g Veda appeared as R udra, and Visnu, w ho both gain in im portance and becom e identified b y their devotees as the highest god, the suprem e or absolute reality. The devotees o f Siva com e to be referred to as Saivas; those o f Visnu and his m anifestation, as Vaisnavas. In the R g Veda Visnu is a benevolent, solar deity, often coupled w ith the w arrior god In d ra.15 The name Visnu m ay be derived from the Sanskrit verbal root vis ( to enter), so Visnu is he w h o enters or pervades the u n i verse . In one hym n, Visnu takes three strides thereby separating the earth from the sky,16 a story w hich form s the basis o f the later m yth in the Puranas w here Visnu, incarnated as a dw arf, covers the universe w ith three strides and destroys the p ow er o f the dem on B a li.17 B y the time o f the Puranas (fou rth -sixth century
c e


Visnu is icono-

graphically depicted in tw o w ays. F irstly as a dark blue youth, standing upright, possessing fou r arms and holding in each hand, respectively, a conch, discus, mace and lotus. H e wears the jew el called the kaustubha 114

Narrative traditions and early Vaisnavism

and has a curl o f hair on his chest, the irivatsa ( beloved o f the goddess Sri*). The second form is Visnu lying asleep upon the coils o f the great cosmic snake, Sesa ( rem ainder) or Ananta ( endless*), floating upon the cosmic ocean. When he awakes, he creates the universe. A lotus emerges from his navel, out o f the lotus appears the creator god Brahm a, w h o then manifests the universe w hich is maintained b y Visnu and then destroyed by Siva: Brahm a is enfolded b y the lotus w hich w ithdraw s into V isn u s navel w ho, finally, falls asleep once more. Visnu is married to Laksm i and Sri, w ho form a single being, though they w ere initially distinct goddesses. They appear in later H induism as other consorts o f the god. H e is also depicted riding, sometimes w ith Laksm i, upon his mount, the eagle G aruda. F o r his devotees and in Vaisnava literature, Visnu is the transcendent Lord dw elling in his highest heaven, Vaikuntha, at the top o f the cosm ic egg, where, w ith their L o rd s grace, his devotees go upon liberation. Yet Vaisnava traditions maintain that the L o rd not on ly dwells in far-o ff Vaikuntha, but also manifests him self in the w orld , principally in three w ays: - in his ten incarnations (avatara) upon the earth during times of darkness; - in his various manifestations or icons (murti, area) in temples and shrines; - within the hearts of all beings as their inner controller (antaryamin). These ideas are maintained, w ith varyin g degrees o f emphasis, b y all Vaisnava traditions and have been articulated in Sanskrit and in Tamil texts.

The incarnations of Visnu

Visnu is the suprem e L o rd w ho manifests him self in the w o rld in times o f darkness w hen dharma has disappeared from view. These m anifestations are his incarnations or descent-form s (avatara). The classic statement o f this doctrine is in the Bhagavad Gita. H ere K rsna, an incarnation o f Visnu, is addressing A rju n a (whom he addresses as Bharata): Although, indeed, I am unborn and imperishable, although I am the lord of the creatures, I do resort to nature, which is mine, and I take on birth by m y own w izardry (maya). F or whenever the Law (dharma) languishes, Bharata, and lawlessness (adharma) flourishes, I US

An introduction to Hinduism
crcate myself. I take on existence from aeon to aeon, for the rescue of the good and the destruction of the evil, in order to re-establish the Law (dharm a).18 This is a clear statement o f the doctrine. A lth ough particular incarnations are not m entioned here, they do begin to appear in the later epic literature in varyin g num bers, and b y the eighth century

c e the standard num ber o f

descent-form s in the Vaisnava Puranas is ten. These are M atsya (The F ish ), K urm a (Th e Tortoise), Varaha (The B o a r), N arasim ha (The M a n -L io n ), Vam ana (The D w a rf), Parasuram a (Ram a w ith the axe), Ram a or Ram acandra, Krsna, Buddha and K alk l. A p art from this list, some other figures are mentioned as incarnations in the Puranas, such as Balaram a, K rsn as brother; H ayagrlva ( H o rse-n eck ed) w h o recovered the Veda stolen b y Titans (daityas); and D attatreya, a rustic, pleasureseeking figure, later regarded as an incarnation o f the three gods, som e times erroneously referred to as the H indu trin ity : Brahm a, Visnu and Siva. This picture is further com plicated b y the idea o f portions o f Visnu (am sa) m anifested in history. These incarnations are represented as appearing during different w orld ages iyuga) w hich display signs o f grad ual degeneracy from the first to the fourth or dark age (see above). The m yth o lo gy o f these incarnations focuses upon the creation, destruction and recreation o f the cosm os. The M atsya P u r ana tells h ow the first man, M anu, is saved from a cosm ic deluge b y the F ish .19 The Tortoise places him self at the bottom o f the ocean o f m ilk as the support fo r the m ountain M andara, w hich is then used as a stick b y the gods and dem ons to churn the cosm ic ocean, from w hich various desired, and unde sired, objects emerge, including the nectar o f im m ortality (am rta). The B oar rescues the Earth, personified as a G oddess, from the bottom o f the cosm ic ocean and brings her to the surface w here he spreads her out, piles up mountains and divides her into seven continents.20 N arasim ha, the m an -lion, destroys the w icked dem on H iran yakasipu, w h o has tried to destroy his son Prahlada, a devotee o f Visnu (see above). The D w a rf avatara strides across the universe in three steps and destroys the dem on Bali (see above). Parasuram a is incarnated to d estroy the arrogant K satriyas w h o threaten the Brahm ans, w hile Ram acandra and K rsn a are the hero kings o f the epics. The Buddha is a curious inclusion in this list: an incarnation sent to lead the wicked and the dem ons astray and so to hasten the end o f the current age o f darkness (k a li-yu g a ). L a stly K alk i, The W hite H o rse , w ill com e at the end o f the dark age to d estroy the w icked

11 6

N arrative traditions and early Vaisnavism

and restore purity and righteousness. We see in these incarnations a m ove ment from lower, aquatic life form s to higher life form s living on the

M ythological texts are never neutral but alw ays present a particular angle or view point, usually from the perspective o f a particular group. The doctrine and m yth ology o f the incarnations is im portant in Vaisnavism for it emphasizes the suprem acy and transcendence o f Visnu. The Visnu Purana says that all beings, including the gods, w orsh ip V isn us incarna tions, fo r his suprem e form is u nknow able.22 This allows fo r nonVaisnava deities to be incorporated into the Vaisnava tradition and fo r other cults to be colonized b y Vaisnava ideology. Som e, if not all, o f the descent-form s m ay have had an independent life w ith cults o f their ow n. F o r example, Balaram a, K rsn as brother, w as a distinct fertility deity and, indeed, K rsna him self was a distinct deity incorporated into the m ain stream tradition. The a vatar a doctrine allow s fo r the universalizing claim o f V isnu s total world-transcendence, w hich is yet expressed in finitude, and allow s fo r Vaisnavism to incorporate other traditions.

Early Vaisnava traditions

The early h istory o f the developm ent o f Visnu and his w orship is high ly com plex. In this h istory Visnu becom es fused w ith other, originally inde pendent deities, and the traditions w hich focused upon these deities becom e merged in the Vaisnava tradition. W hile there are difficulties in applying the w estern term religion to H induism as a w hole before the nineteenth century, the term can be applied w ith m ore justification to the great theistic traditions o f Vaisnavism and Saivism . These are religions w ith revealed, authoritative texts, developed doctrines, rituals and social organizations. In its early stages, Vaisnavism represents the m erging o f the religions o f a num ber o f different social groupings from both north and south India. We shall firstly describe the form ation o f Vaisnavism in the northern traditions before m oving on to the southern. Literature in Sanskrit attests to the existence o f a num ber o f originally independent deities - and cults focused upon them - w h o became fused w ith Visnu, particularly Vasudeva, K rsna and N arayana. O f these deities K rsna is p ar ticularly im portant and Vaisnava traditions tend to cluster around either V isnu or Krsna. Indeed, the term K rsn aism has been used to describe the cults o f K rsna, reserving Vaisnavism fo r cults focusing on Visnu in w hich K rsn a is m erely an incarnation, rather than the transcendent being 117

An introduction to Hinduism
Visnu in the Veda Vaikhanasa ---Pcartra

Tamil sources Bhgavata

K rsn a-G o p ala

P u r a n ic V aisnavism

V a is n a v a Sam pradyas

-M r

m odern Vaikhanasas Sri V aisnava G a u d ly a V allabhacrya etc.

Figure 4 The development of Vaisnava traditions

him self.23 The independent cults o f V a su d e v a -K rsn a , K rsn a-G o pala, and N arayan a becom e merged in V a isn avism , itself a term used to encompass a num ber o f distinct traditions (sam prczdaya). Yet in spite o f the diversity o f traditions w ithin the Vaisnava fold, t h e r e are certain features w hich are held in com mon: - the Lord is the Supreme Person (purusottama) with personal qualities (saguna), rather than an abstract absolute (nirguna ); - the Lord is the cause of the co sm o s, he creates, maintains and destroys* it; - the Lord reveals himself through sacred scriptures, temple icons, in his incarnations (avatara) and in sain ts. E a rly Vaisnava w orsh ip focuses o n three deities w h o becom e fused together, nam ely V asudeva-K rsna, K r s n a - G o p a la and N arayan a, w h o in turn all becom e identified w ith V isn u .. P u t simply, V asu d eva-K rsn a and K rsn a-G o p ala w ere w orshipped b y groups generally referred to as Bhagavatas, w hile N arayan a was w o rs h ip p e d b y the Pancaratra sect. The picture is, however, m ore com plex t h a n this, as the traditions intersect over time, w ith V asudeva becom ing a term used fo r the Pancaratrins absolute. To help clarify this com plex p ic t u r e , w e shall firstly describe the form ation o f the three deities V a su d e v a -K rs n a , K rsn a-G o p ala and N arayana, and then m ove on to d e s c r ib e the traditions associated w ith them. 118

Narrative h adHums and early Vaisnavism

T H E C U L T OF V A S U D E V A - K R S N A

Vsudeva, w ho becom cs identified with Krsna and Visnu, was the supreme deity o f a tribe called the V rsnis or Satvatas and m ay have o rigi nated as a V rsni hero or king, though it is im possible to trace a line back to an original Vsudeva. The Vrsnis became fused with the Ydavas, the tribe o f Krsna. The w orship o f Vsudeva is recorded as early as the fifth or sixth centuries b c e , being m entioned b y the fam ous gram m arian Pnini in his book o f gramm ar the A st dbyyi.2^ H ere he explains the term v su d eva ka as referring to a devotee (bh akta) o f the god Vasudeva. M egasthenes, a G reek am bassador to the court o f K in g C andragupta M aurya (c. 3 20


at Pataliputra, records that the people o f M athura on the river Yam una revered H eracles, thought to be the nearest G reek equivalent o f V asudeva. Tw o centuries later another G reek ambassador, H eliodorus, says on an inscription found at Besnagar in M ad hya Pradesh, that he erected a co l umn w ith an image o f G aruda at the top in honour o f V asudeva (c. 1 1 5 b c e ) . H eliodorus describes him self as a bb d ga va ta , a devotee o f Vasudeva, w hich show s that the V asudeva religion was adopted b y (at least some of) the G reeks w ho ruled Bactria in the far north-w est. The scriptures o f the Theravda Buddhists, the Pali canon written dow n in the first century b c e , also m ention the w orshippers o f Vasudeva in a list o f various religious sects.25 Vasudeva is m entioned in the B h a g a v a d G t 2() and in the gram m arian Patanjalis M ahbhsya ( G reat C o m m en tary ),27 a com m entary on Pnini (c. 150 b c e ) , w here he describes V asudeva as belonging to the Vrsni tribe. K rsna was a deity o f the Y dava clan, w h o p rob ab ly became fused w ith the deity Vasudeva. W hile it is im possible to arrive back at an original K rsna - the historical form ation o f the deity is too com plex - it is p ro b a b ly the case that K rsna was a deified king or hero. The historicity o f K rsna is im possible to assess from sources in w hich hagiography and his to ry are inextricably bound together. H ow ever, the historicity o f K rsna is im portant fo r the tradition, and Vaisnavas believe that he was a historical personage.28 There is a reference to K rsna in the C hdn dogya U p a n isa d 2C ) a reference w hich, for his devotees, places K rsn a w ithin the vedic fram e o f reference. In the M ah bh rata, K rsn a appears as the chief o f the Ydavas o f D vraka, present-day D w arka on the north-w est coast, and, indeed, he is one o f the central focuses o f that text, particularly the B h a g a v a d -G t . B y the second century
b c e

V su d eva-K rsn a was w orshipped as a 119

An introduction to I hndiiism
distinct deity and finally identified wilh Visnu in the M ahabharata, appearing, fo r exam ple, three times in the H hagavad G ita ^ as sy n o n y m ous w ith Visnu.

B y the fourth century


the Bhagavata tradition, that is, the tradition

about V asu d eva-K rsn a in the M ah abh arata, absorbs another tradition, nam ely the cult o f K rsna as a you ng man in Vrndavana: K rsn a-G o pala, the protector o f cattle. K rsn a-G op ala, a tribal god o f the A bhlras, along w ith his brother Balaram a or Samkarsana, w ere pastoral deities w ho became assim ilated into the Vaisnava tradition. The H arivam sa (the appendix to the M ah abh arata), the Visnu Puran a, and particularly the B hagavata P u ran a, em body narrative traditions about K rsn a as a b o y and yo u n g man in G o ku la, a settlement o f cow herds o f the A bhlras clan, on the banks o f the Yam una. The H arivam sa directly influenced the Visnu Purana w hich in turn influenced the B h agavata P uran a, though this text was com posed in the south under the strong influence o f south Indian em otional devotionalism . The H arivam sa is dated to the first few centuries o f the com m on era and sees itself as supplying inform ation about K rsna before the events o f the M ahabharata war. These stories, w hich are so im portant as the focus o f later devotional and folk traditions, describe K rsn a-G o p ala as an am orous you ng man, wandering w ith his brother Balaram a through the forest o f Vrndavana, destroying dem ons, dancing and m aking love w ith the cow girls (gopis). The erotic exploits o f the yo u n g K rsna becom e * highlighted in later Vaisnava poetry, such as Ja y ad ev a s G itago vin da (twelfth century) w hich extols the love between K rsn a and his favourite gop i, Radha, and in the p oetry o f Candidas and V idyapati (fourteenth century).

The cult o f N arayan a is another im portant ingredient in the fusion o f tra ditions w hich form s Vaisnavism. N arayan a is a deity found in the Satapatha Brahm ana:31 where he is identified w ith the cosm ic man (purusa), w ho possib ly originates outside the vedic pantheon as a nonvedic deity from the H indu K ush mountains. H is name, according to M a n u , means resting on the w aters ,32 and in the N a ra ya n iya section o f the M ahabharata he is the resting place and goal o f m en,33 both o f which are characteristics o f Visnu. N arayan a appears in the M ahanarayana 120

N arrative traditions and early Vaimavism

IJpanisad34 (com posed around the fourth century


which praises

him as the absolute and highest deity w ho yet dw ells in the heart. In the M ahabharata and in some Puranas, he is the suprem e deity, lying, like Visnu, on a giant snake in an ocean o f m ilk. A ccordin g to a later text o f the eleventh century, the Kathasaritsagara, N arayan a dw ells in his heaven o f white island where he lies on the b od y o f Sesa w ith Laksm I sitting at his feet.35 H ere N arayan a has clearly becom e identified w ith Visnu. Visnu is therefore a com posite figure, a figure w h o has fused w ith o rigi nally distinct deities and various elements from the m ythologies o f those deities over the centuries. Yet although these form s becom e identified with each other, different form s o f Visnu still becom e favoured above others b y devotees o f particular Vaisnava traditions. This is particularly salient w ith regard to Krsna. F o r some Vaisnavas, such as the Sri Vaisnavas, he is an incarnation o f V isnu, and therefore subordinated to Visnu, w hile fo r others, such as the G au d iya Vaisnavas, he is the suprem e deity himself. T h e P a n c a ra tra The tradition associated w ith the w orsh ip o f N arayan a is the Pancaratra.The name pancaratra ( five-night5) m ay w ell be derived from the five night sacrifice m entioned in the Satapatha B rahm an a ,36 in which P u ru sa-N arayana conceives the idea o f a sacrifice lasting five nights w h ereb y he w ou ld becom e the highest being. The doctrines o f the Pancaratra are m entioned in the N a ra ya n lya section o f the M ahabh arata37 where Bhagavan N arayan a, w h o pervades the universe and is seen in all religious system s, is regarded as the preceptor o f the Pancaratra tradition. Yet although N arayan a denotes their supreme deity, the term V asudeva is also used. Indeed, the Pancaratra is characterized b y a doctrine o f the m anifestation o f the absolute through a series o f emana tions or vyu h a s. These begin w ith V asuveda w h o manifests Sam karsana, w h o in turn manifests Pradyum na, from w h om A niruddha emerges. These are the names o f K rsn as elder brother, his son, and grandson, respectively, though the familial relation is not particularly significant in the cosm olo gy o f the system . This series o f vyu h a emanations com prise the highest level o f the universe, the pure creation, w hile below this are intermediate or m ixed creation and the im pure or m aterial creation. Each vyu h a has a cosm ological function w ith regard to the low er creation, w hich manifests through Pradyum na. Th e cosm os below the vyu has is

An introduction to Hinduism The vyubas

Vasudeva Samkarsana Pradyumna Aniruddha mixed creation impure creation
Figure 5 Pancaratra cosmology

- pure creation

made up o f categories (tattva ) some o f w hich have their origin in the earlier philosophical system o f Sam khya (see p. 23 2). A p art from the N arayaniya section o f the M ahabharata , w hich bears witness to the early existence o f the tradition, Pancaratra literature as a dis tinct genre develops o n ly from about the seventh or eighth centuries
c e


This literature, kn o w n as the Pancaratra Samhitas, is classified as part o f a w ider group o f texts kn ow n as Agam as or Tantras (see pp. 15 8 - 6 1), texts w hich w ere rejected b y m any orthodox Brahm ans. The m ost im portant o f these texts are the three gem s o f the Pauskara , Sattvata and Jakakhya Samhitas , and the A hirbudhnya Samhita and Laksm l Tantra should also be mentioned as im portant texts within the tradition.38 The concerns o f this literature are cosm ology, initiation (1diksa ), ritual, sacred form ulae

(mantra) and temple building. The texts form the basis o f w orsh ip in south
Indian temples to this day, w ith vedic mantras replacing tantric mantras and vedic deities replacing tantric deities. The Pancaratra Samhitas represent tantric Vaisnavism in contrast to an orth od ox vedic Vaisnavism o f the Bhagavatas. W hile this distinction should not be exaggerated, it is nevertheless an im portant factor in that m any orthodox Brahm ans w h o accepted the authority o f the Veda, rejected the authority o f the Tantras. Indeed, the status o f the Pancaratra Samhitas w ithin Vaisnavism - whether or not they could be classed as rev elation - was an issue w hich provoked debate, w ith Y am una, one o f the teachers o f the Sri Vaisnava tradition, arguing fo r the status o f these texts 122

Narrative traditions am ! early Vaisnavism as revelation.39 One tradition of Brahmans who are associated with the Pcartra, but who remain distinct from them over this issue of ortho doxy, are the Vaikhnasas.

The Vaikhnasas
The Vaikhnasa sect regards itself as a Vaisnava tradition, w h o lly o rth o dox and vedic, being w ithin the Taittiriya school o f the black Y aju r Veda. The sect has its ow n Vaikhanasasmrta Stra (fourth century
c e

w hich

describes daily w orship o f Visnu as a blend o f traditional vedic and nonvedic ritual. There is also a collection o f Vaikhnasa Samhits, distinct from the Pcartra Samhits, w hich describe kinds o f offerings and the w orship o f the L o rd in his form s as V isnu, Purusa, Satya, A cyu ta and Aniruddha. There is some connection here w ith the Pcartra Samhits, for the Jayakhya lists Purusa, Satya and A cyu ta as the vyhas o f Vsudeva.40 The daily ritual proceeds b y m aking the obligatory vedic offerings into the fire, and m aking offerings to Visnu in either his essential, indivisible form , installed in the inner sanctum o f a temple, or his divisible, movable form . D urin g the w orship (puja), Visnu is welcom ed as a royal guest and given food offerings accom panied b y the recitation o f vedic and non-vedic mantras. W ith V isn u s grace, the devotee w ill attain liberation

(moksa), understood as entry into V isn u s heaven (vaikuntha). The Vaikhnasas came to function as chief priests (arcaka) in m any
south Indian Vaisnava temples, where they remain to this day, particularly at the Tirupati temple, a pilgrim age centre in A ndh ra Pradesh. In the tradi tions self-perception it is clearly distinguished from the u n orth o d o x

tantrika tradition o f the Pcartra, insisting on its orthodox or vaidika


The Bhgavatas
B y the second century b c e , if not earlier, the terms Vsudeva and K rsna w ere used to refer to the same deity. The w orshippers o f this deity w ere Bhgavatas, those w h o fo llo w Bhagavn, a name w hich had developed to refer to a personal absolute or theistic G o d . The term bhgavata might have referred to a general tradition or orientation towards theistic concep tions and modes o f w orsh ip, particularly o f V sudeva-K rsn a, rather than a specific sect in the sense that the Pcartrins or Vaikhnasas w ere specific sects. The G uptas, w h o ruled during the fourth to sixth centuries c e , sup ported the religion o f the Bhgavatas, as w ell as the Buddhist Yogcra


An introduction to Hinduism
tradition, though Vaisnavism remained the most important religion in the state. The royal patronage of the Guptas suggests the wide influence and appeal o f the Bhgavata religion - that it was m ore central to state life and culture than a n arrow ly defined sect. Indeed, the central text o f the Bhgavatas, the fam ous and eminent B h a g a v a d G it , has had a non-sectarian and universalist appeal in H induism , w hich reflects the non-sect-specific nature o f the Bhgavata tradition. This is not to say that the text does not have a specific theology, but that the theology was estab lished on a broad basis w ith royal and brahm anical support. The terms K rsna, V sudeva, Visnu and Bhagavn all refer to the same, supreme, per sonal deity fo r the Bhgavatas, a deity w hose qualities are articulated in the G ita. T h e B h a g a v a d G it The B h a g a v a d G it , the Song o f the L o r d , is perhaps the m ost fam ous o f the H indu scriptures, translated into m any European and Indian lan guages and reported to have been G an dh is favourite book. It has touched the hearts o f m illions o f people both in south A sia and throughout the w orld . The first E nglish translation was made b y C harles W ilkins in 1 78 5, w ith a preface b y W arren Hastings. N um erous renditions have been made, since then, and it has even been referred to as the H in du N e w Testament . It did not, how ever, alw ays enjoy popu larity and such great interest has o n ly occurred since H indu revival movements o f the nineteenth century, particularly am ong m ore educated social groups. E ven G andhi read, and was influenced b y the English rendering o f the G it b y Sir E d w in A rn old . H ow ever, in the villages, rather than the G it , it is the earthy stories o f the B h gavata Purna w hich have alw ays had much w ider appeal. A lth ough it is im portant to get the fame o f the text into perspective - its mass appeal being a fairly recent phenom enon - w e must nevertheless acknow ledge the texts theological im portance as one w hich has pro vo k ed a num ber o f com mentaries upon it b y fam ous H indu theologians, particularly Sankara, Rm nuja and M adhva in the Vednta tradition, and Abhinavagupta in the Saiva tradition. It was rew orked in vernacular languages, notably into a M arathi verse rendering b y Jnnesvara (thirteenth century), and contem p o rary com mentaries have appeared in English, b y fo r example the fam ous Transcendental M editation guru M aharishi M ahesh Y o gi and the H are K rsn a guru Srila Bhaktivednta Swam i Prabhupada. The Vednta tradition claims the G it as its ow n , as one o f three system s 124

N arrative trail mans and early Vaisnavism

which constituted it, along with the Upanisads and the Brahm a Sutra. I lowcver, the texts theology differs considerably from these others and it must be understood on its own terms, as a theology in which devotion to the Lord and action in the w orld for the sake o f social order, perform ed with detachment, become central. The text puts in narrative form the con cerns o f H indu orth od oxy: the im portance o f dharm a and o f m aintaining social stability, the im portance o f correct and responsible action, and the importance o f devotion to the transcendent as a personal L o rd (not dis similar to the ideal king). The G ita displays a num ber o f influences, including the bh akti cult o f K rsna, Sam khya ph ilosoph y and even Uuddhist ideas and term inology. The main themes o f the G ita can be sum marized as follow s: - the importance of dharma\ - dharma and renunciation are compatible: action (karma) should be performed with complete detachment; - the soul is immortal and until liberated is subject to rebirth; - the Lord is transcendent and immanent; - the Lord is reached through devotion (bhakti) by his grace. O n the eve o f the great battle between the Pandavas and the K auravas, A rjuna is faced w ith a m oral dilemma: should he fight in the battle and so kill members o f his fam ily or w ou ld it not be better to renounce and go beg ging fo r alms, thereby avoiding, fo r him, the inevitable bloodshed o f the battle ? There is a conflict w ithin A rju n a betw een his duty - as a w arrio r and son o f Pandu - to fight, and the ideal o f non-violence (ahimsa), espoused by the renouncer traditions. In response to his deep m isgivings, K rsna exhorts him to go to battle, for not to do so w ou ld be unm anly and dishon ourable. A rju na, however, rejects this argum ent and refuses to fight, so K rsna gives tw o further reasons fo r A rju n a s involvem ent in the battle. Firstly, the soul cannot be killed, it is not killed nor does it k ill , but rather: As a man discards his worn-out clothes A nd puts on different ones that are new, So the one in the body discards aged bodies And joins with ones that are new.41 Regardless o f whether A rju na fights or not, his action w ill not affect the eternal soul w hich journeys from b od y to b o d y in a series o f reincarna tions. The second, m ore significant, reason, and the one w hich convinces

An introduction to Hinduism Arjuna to fight, is that it is Arjunas own duty (svudharma) and responsi bility as a warrior to do battle. The war is lawful and should be fought to uphold dharm a,42
A num ber o f themes run through the text: the necessity o f doing o n es du ty w hich is nevertheless com patible w ith liberation; the unfolding o f K rsn a s divinity; and the developm ent o f the paths to liberation. O ne o f the m ost im portant messages that the text conveys is the necessity o f p er form ing ones appropriate duty, yet perform ing these actions w ith detach ment. Krsna, as L o rd , says to A rju na that although he is the creator o f the fo u r social classes (varna) he is not bound b y action (karma) and has no attachment to the results or fruits o f his actions. A man w h o understands the L o rd sim ilarly becom es detached from the fruit o f his actions. The term action here refers to both everyday action in the w o rld and also to the traditional, vedic ritual action. A s the ancient sages w h o desired libera tion w ere detached from the result o f their ritual perform ances (karma), so too A rju n a should becom e detached and give over the results o f his acts to Krsna. N o action accrues to a person w h o acts w ith a controlled mind, w ithout expectation and contented w ith w hatever comes his way. T h rou gh non-attachm ent to action, and know ledge o f the L o rd , a person w ill be liberated and be united w ith the L o rd at death.43 K rsn a gradually reveals his divinity to A rju n a, a process w hich culm i nates in the theophany o f chapter n . H ere A rju n a asks K rsna, the Suprem e Person (purusottama), to reveal his majestic or glorious form . K rsn a responds to this request b y giving A rju n a a divine eye w ith w hich he can see K rsna as the creator and destroyer o f the universe: a cosmic form o f innum erable shapes and colours, containing the entire universe, all gods and all creatures, w ithin it.44 The Gita expounds the idea that there are various paths (marga) to lib eration, an idea w hich has been developed in m odern H induism . The path o f action (karma-yoga), w hich, as w e have seen, is detachment from the fruits o f action or ritual action, is em phasized as a w a y o f reconciling w o rld ly com m itm ent w ith liberation, an idea w hich is clearly im portant to the Gita. Yet above action is the path o f devotion (bhakti-yoga) as a w a y o f salvation. Indeed, even w om en and lo w castes can achieve liberation in this w ay,45 a statement in stark contrast to the orth odox brahmanical idea that on ly the tw ice-born have access to liberation through renunciation (i.e. through the asrama system). Th rough devotion, one attains the state o f brahman and enters the L o rd through his grace (prasada). The idea even 126

Narrative traditions and early Vaisnavisrn

appears here, fo r the first time in 1 linduism , that ,i human being, namely Arjuna, is dear (priya) to the L ord ; there is a bond of love between human and divine.46 These paths o f action and devotion contrast with the path o f know ledge (jn a n a -yo ga ) mentioned in the text, which refers to know ledge o f the absolute (brah m an) but also refers to the Sam khya system o f discrim inat ing the various constituents (tattva) o f the cosm os.47 The B h a g a v a d G ita is a rich and open text, as the variety o f interpretations placed upon it show. Com m entators have put their ow n emphases on its diverse aspects: the m onist philosopher Sankara highlighted know ledge o f the absolute (jn d n a ), whereas the Vaisnava Ram anuja regarded know ledge o n ly as a condition o f devotion. S u m m a ry D uring the last half o f the last m illennium
b c e

devotion (b h ak ti) to a per

sonal L o rd (Bhagavan) began to develop in H indu traditions. This devotionalism is expressed in the fifth V eda, the tradition o f the Epics and Puranas (Itihasa Purana). These texts reflect a brahmanical appropriation o f popular traditions on the one hand, and the ascendancy o f the ideal o f kingship on the other. The theistic traditions centred on Visnu and Siva particularly begin to develop during this period and w e have traced here the rise o f Visnu and some o f the early traditions w hich w orshipped him or one o f his form s. We shall n ow trace the developm ent o f this w orsh ip in later traditions, particularly in the south o f India.


The love of Visnu

So far w e have described the Sanskrit narrative traditions w hich developed in the north and focused on the religions o f Visnu reflected in that litera ture. A lth ou gh it com es to have pan-H indu appeal, the B h a g a v a d G ita originated in the north, as did the cults o f Visnu and K rsna. H ow ever, there is a vast b o d y o f devotional literature, both Saiva and Vaisnava, from the south o f India, com posed in the D ravidian language o f Tamil. W hile the Sanskrit material is im portant in understanding the developm ent o f theism in India, the Tamil literature had a deep effect upon that develop ment and, in the south, its influence is equal to that o f the Sanskrit m ater ial. The earliest Tamil literature developed before the onset o f Sanskritization and so is originally quite distinct from Sanskrit literature. Sanskritization is the process w h ereby local or regional form s o f culture and religion - local deities, rituals, literary genres - becom e identified w ith the great tradition o f Sanskrit literature and culture: nam ely the culture and religion o f orthodox, A ry an , Brahm ans, w hich accepts the Veda as revelation and, generally, adheres to varn asram a-dharm a. Tamil began to be cultivated as a literary language around the th ird -fo u rth centuries Tolkappiyam , was com posed around th inking.1 From the first century the sixth century
c e bc e io o bce b c e

and a descriptive gram m ar o f the early literary Tamil language, the b y a Ja in m onk in southern K erala, w h o seems to have been conversant w ith Sanskrit gramm atical to the first, and perhaps through to

a tradition o f bardic p o etry developed w hich was

gathered into a num ber o f anthologies collectively kn ow n as the C an kam literature.2 O nce established, H indu Tamil culture thrived under the rule 128

ihe love of Vimu

ol the C h ola dyn asty from the ninth to the thirteenth centuries C E and the K.iveri basin became as im portant in the developm ent o f H induism as the ( iangcs basin in the north. I he process o f Sanskritization only began to significantly influence the south after the first few centuries

and Tamil deities and form s o f w o r

ship became adapted to northern Sanskrit form s. Yet, nevertheless, a th riv ing Tamil culture flourished and Tamilnadu became the central region fo r i he developm ent o f H induism after the M uslim M ughals established their empire in the north. Enorm ous temple com plexes, unsurpassed b y any in the north, grew up at Cidam baram , Srirangam , M adurai and Tanjavur. These became bastions o f classical, orth od ox H indu doctrines and praci ices associated w ith brahmanical w orsh ip o f the deities and w ith the cult of the deified king. In the process o f Sanskritization, indigenous Tamil deities became identified and absorbed into A ry an , vedic deities. The Tamil deities M udvalan and Tirum al became identified w ith Visnu and Siva, K otravai the goddess o f w ar w ith D urga, and the im portant deity M urukan, w ith Sivas son, Skanda, the god o f war.

Tamil poetry and culture

Before the influence o f Sanskritic or brahm anical culture, Tamil culture was itself ve ry rich and any influences or cultural form s from the north were adapted and shaped b y indigenous Tamil w ays. W ith regard to devo tional religion, there are tw o im portant factors w hich allowed its develop ment in Tamil culture, nam ely Tamil p o etry and the Tamil d eity M urukan. The earliest bo d y o f the Carikam literature com prises tw o main groups, the Eight A nth o logies and the Ten Songs . These anthologies o f bardic poetry have tw o central concerns: love and war. The class o f love po etry is called akam (inside or internal), w hile the class o f w ar or heroic po etry is calledpu ram ( outside or external ). The class o f love po etry is particu larly significant fo r it classifies the inner em otions o f love (uri) into five groups w hich correspond to five types o f external landscape and their sym bolic representations; correspondences which are furtherm ore identi fied w ith types o f flow er. These are love-m aking, w hich corresponds to a m ountainous landscape, w ith the m ountain flow er that bloom s every twelve years, sym bolized b y millet fields and waterfalls; w aiting anxiously for the beloved, w hich corresponds to the seashore, sym bolized b y sharks and fisherm en; separation, w hich corresponds to an arid landscape, w ith a desert flow er, sym bolized b y vultures, starving elephants and robbers; 12 9

An introduction to / linduisni
patiently waiting for a w ife, which corresponds to a pastoral landscape, w ith the jasm ine flow er, sym bolized by a bull, cow herd or the rainy sea son; and anger at a lo v e rs infidelity, real or imagined, which corresponds to an agricultural, river-valley landscape, sym bolized by a stork or heron. The significance o f this poetry is that we see w ithin Tamil culture a strong tradition o f em otional expression through verse and a pattern o f stylized or culturally classified em otional states associated w ith love. This allow s fo r the w holehearted adoption o f bh ak ti and sets the scene fo r the poetry o f em otional devotion so characteristic o f Tamil religious litera ture, and fo r the developm ent o f an em otional bh akti w hich was to signif icantly influence northern H indu culture. The C ankam po etry reflects an elite culture w hich propagated an id eology o f a ve ry th is-w o rld ly nature, depicting the ideal man living a m arried life, fighting, hunting and m aking love: a far cry from the ascetic ideal o f the northern renouncer tradition. A low er level o f society, w hich the C ankam literature hardly mentions, w ou ld com prise manual labourers, iron- and goldsm iths, carpenters, p o t ters and farm ers.3 W ithin this culture there was little idea o f transcendence, as had been developed, fo r example, in the U panisads. Rather, there is a concept o f the divine or supernatural (katavul) w hich can be manifested in possession, states. A god m entioned in the C ankam anthologies is M urukan, a deity w h o is you ng, handsom e and heroic, and w h o accepted blood sacrifice. H e is a god o f both w ar and o f love. H is cult m ay have been served b y priestesses and the texts indicate a possession cult in w hich yo u n g wom en became possessed b y the god and danced in a fre n z y (v e r l ayartal).4 M urukan later became identified w ith Sivas son Skanda, the god o f war, and absorbed into the H indu pantheon. Yet his presence here show s, firstly, that this religion was far from the ascetic ideals o f renunciation and w orld-transcendence propagated in the U panisads and also b y the renouncer traditions o f Jainism and Buddhism , and, secondly, that the fo lk religion w hich he seems to represent was im portant and had official, cou rtly sanction. H a rd y makes the point that the cult o f M urukan was not unlike fo lk religion in the north, and represented a v e ry archaic and uni versally Indian form o f popular religion o f n o n -A ryan origin .5 Indeed, Parpola has argued that M urukan was a deity o f the Indus valley civiliza tion w hose name is preserved in the Indus valley language.6 The possession cult o f M urukan and a developed bardic tradition o f love-po etry allowed for the easy absorption o f a b h ak ti id eo lo gy from the 130

The love of Visnu nin th and a transformation of it into a particularly Tamil form. Krsna and ilie stories of Vrndavana begin to move south and infiltrate into the
< arikam literature from as early as the third century C E . K rsna becomes M.iyon and his mythical landscape o f M athura becomes translated into a 1 .1 mil landscape. The narrative traditions and cult o f K rsna becom e firm ly i <m )ted i n the south, linking into patterns o f culture already established. B y I lu* seventh century c

bh akti, as an intense, em otional love fo r a personal

Lord, for both V isnu/K rsna and Siva, em bodied in a temple icon and expressed in narrative traditions, had developed in the south. This intense devotion was expressed in the poetry o f the Vaisnava A lvars and the Saiva Nayanars, and was to influence later b h a k ti traditions both in the north and the south. T heir songs are still recited in Tamil homes and in temples <>n public occasions such as w eddings. lih akti traditions often reject institutionalized form s o f religion, such as formal temple w orship, yoga and theology, in favour o f an immediate experience o f the divine. D evotional form s o f religion, particularly those which developed in the south during the early medieval period, tend to si ress the devotees em otional outpouring fo r his or her deity and the sense ol losing the limited, self-referential ego in an experience o f selfi ra nscending love. This kind o f devotional religion w hich emphasizes per sonal experience is often centred around a charismatic founder w h o is deified b y the later tradition. The bh akti traditions w hich developed in the south, both Vaisnava and Saiva, illustrate these general tendencies.

The A jvars and the Tamil Veda

The A lvars, those imm ersed in go d , are poet-saints, revered in Vaisnava com munities, w h o, between the sixth and ninth centuries, wandered from temple to temple in south India singing the praises o f Visnu. T h ey helped to establish pilgrim age sites (particularly at the fam ous tem ple at Srirangam), to convert m any people o f all castes to the w orship o f Visnu, and to help stem the grow th o f B uddhism and Jainism in the south. 'Tradition maintains that there w ere tw elve A lva rs,7 the most fam ous o f whom is N am m alvar and one o f w hom , A ntal, was a w om an .8 The A lvars came from the w h ole social spectrum o f Tamil society. N am m alvar was from a low -caste farm ing fam ily (vellala), w hile his disciple, M aturakavi, was a Brahm an. A ntal was the daughter o f a Brahm an priest o f the temple o f Srivillipputtur, him self one o f the A lvars. She came to be regarded as an incarnation o f V isnu s w ife Sri, and legend has it that she was absorbed into


An introduction to Hinduism
V isn u s icon in the fam ous Vaisnava temple of Srirangam. The other lvrs w ere sim ilarly regarded as incarnations of Visnu or his deified regalia, the mace, conch, discus, kaustubha jewel, and ammonite stone (slagrma ). T he songs o f the lvars w ere collected in the tenth century by Ntham uni, a theologian and a founding father o f the Sri Vaisnava com m unity, in a co l lection know n as the T o u r Thousand D ivin e C o m p o sitio n s (Nlyira

D ivyaprabandham or Prabandham fo r short). This collection proved to

be v e ry influential as a scriptural basis fo r the Sri Vaisnavas. It attracted a num ber o f significant com mentaries and had impact beyond the south in B engali Vaisnavism . W ithin this collection the m ost fam ous and influen tial text is the Tiruvym oli o f N am m lvr (c. 880-930), w hich contains 1,000 verses o f songs to Visnu - referred to b y his Tamil name M y n (the D a rk O n e) - as both K in g and Lover, thereby reflecting the old Tamil poetic genres o f akam zndpuram . The Tiruvymoli (the ten decads ) is regarded as equal to the Veda am ong Vaisnavas and is called the Tamil Veda . Indeed the Tamil tradition o f the Sri Vaisnavas is kn ow n as the D ual V edanta (ubhaya vednta) because it reveres both the Sanskrit tradition from the Veda and the Tamil tradition o f the lvrs. The Tamil Veda contains songs o f em otional pow er, expressing the p o ets devotion to Visnu in m any o f the form s in w hich he is installed in the temples o f Tamilnadu. These poem s w ere intended to be sung and so are more akin to bardic com positions than to the m ore form al Sanskrit p oetry (kvya) o f the court. In these poem s N am m lvr conveys the idea of V isn us transcendence and form lessness and yet the L o rd is also manifested in the form o f icons in particular tem ples. The w eeping, dancing and singing o f the devotee, possessed b y the god, is characteristic o f em otional devotionalism , the devotion o f longing

(viraha bhakti ), so characteristic o f the lvrs and later devotees o f K rsnaG opla. This is a religion o f longing, ecstasy and service to a personal L o rd w h o is beyond the cosm os and yet present in the w o rld in specific loca tions in the sacred geography o f Tamilnadu. H e is installed in temples and devotion to him must be seen in the context o f tem ple w orsh ip {puj ) to these specific form s. Indeed the form s o f the lvrs themselves came to be treated as icons or manifestations o f the L o rd .

Later Vaisnava traditions

The poetry and ecstatic bhakti o f the lvrs influenced later traditions and was adopted b y devotees in different regions and at various temples 132

I 'he love o f Visnu throughout the land. The Bhdgavata Purina, composed in Sanskrit in the m iiIi, was influenced by Tamil devotionalism, as was Sanskrit devotional m pi 1 ry and northern forms of Vaisnavism, particularly in Bengal. 1* Devotionalism, especially in the south, emphasized the expression of inn! ions, rather than their control through yoga, and emphasized the Im as a sacred locus of the Lord in the world, in contrast to the gnostic uly vision of the body and senses as the prison of the soul, expounded by m hiu* systems such as Smkhya. The bhakti tradition placed emphasis on IIn body, the emotions and the embodied forms of the Lord which * ihi Id be seen and worshipped, rather than on the idea of the souls worldII anscendence, cognition, and the abstract, transpersonal brahman. Some
1 i he most fervent bhakti poetry was in Tamil, but there w ere also m ore philosophical texts in Sanskrit such as the B h a k tiStra o f Sndilya (eighth
c e


Yet bhakti alw ays retained an em otional dim ension and

placed emphasis on affective experience rather than cognitive understand iii)', The N rada Bhakti Stra (possibly tw elfth century) says that K rsn a should be w orshipped in varying degrees o f em otional attachment: from perception o f the L o rd s majestic glo ry to experiencing the various emoi ions associated w ith the roles o f K rsn as slave, his com panion, his parent .md finally his w ife.9 The early medieval period saw the rise o f regional kingdom s and the popularization o f brahmanical ritual and m yth o lo gy w hich sometimes came to be fused w ith regional and local traditions, and expressed in ver nacular languages. A num ber o f traditions developed in Vaisnavism du r ing the m edieval period. M an y o f these traditions are associated w ith a particular individual saint as their founder, though m ost o f the earlier ones, as Fuller has observed, p rob ab ly evolved gradually over a long period. C laim ing descent from a particular saint is, however, im portant in order to establish a pu pillary succession and so validate the traditions authenticity. These orders also needed to locate themselves in a w ider social context and needed the support o f the laity and, particularly, the patronage o f the k in g.10 Within Vaisnavism , four traditions or sampradayas are highlighted, based respectively on the teachings o f Ram anuja (c. 1 0 1 7 - 1 1 3 7 ) , the famous Sri Vaisnava theologian; M adhva (thirteenth century), the dualist theologian; Vallabha ( 14 7 9 -15 3 1), the pure non-dualist; and N im brka (twelfth century) w h o emphasizes total surrender to the guru. The h istor ical reality o f the developm ent o f Vaisnavism is, however, more com plex


An introduction to Hinduism
than this. Th e most im portant order in the south, directly influenced by the lvars, was that o f the Sri Vaisnavas. This in turn influenced devotion to K rsn a in Bengal, or G au d lya Vaisnavism, and the cult o f Vithob or Vitthala in M aharashtra, as well as the orders, just m entioned, founded by the Vaisnava theologians and saints, M adhva, N im brka and Vallabha. The term sect , ord er5 or tradition is a rough equivalent o f the Sanskrit term sampradya , w hich refers to a tradition focused on a deity, often regional in character, into w hich a disciple is initiated b y a guru. Furtherm ore, each guru is seen to be w ithin a line o f gurus, a santna or

param par , originating w ith the founding father or po ssib ly the deity. The
idea o f pu pillary succession is extrem ely im portant in all form s o f H induism as this authenticates the tradition and teachings; disputes over succession, w hich have sometimes been vehem ent, can be o f deep religious concern, particularly in traditions which see the guru as the em bodiment o f the divine, possessing the pow er to bestow the L o r d s grace on his d evo tees. W ith initiation (diks ) into the sampradya the disciple undertakes to abide b y the values o f the tradition and com m unity, he or she receives a new name and a mantra particularly sacred to that tradition. A sam

pradya m ight demand celibacy and com prise o n ly w orld-renouncers, or

it might have a much w ider social base, accepting householders o f both, genders and, possibly, all castes including U ntouchables. These sampradyas developed w ithin the w ider m ainstream o f brahmanical w orship based on the Smrti texts, especially the Purnas. Smrta w orsh ip (based on smrti) was itself pervaded b y form s and ideas derived from non-vedic revelation, the Tantras, but incorporated these form s in a respectable, vedic, w ay. Indeed the Vaisnava sampradyas generally located themselves w ithin the context o f Smrta w orsh ip, particularly the Sri Vaisnava and G au d lya Vaisnava traditions w hich are squarely in the vedic, puranic tradition, yet w hich nevertheless have absorbed m any ele ments from the non-vedic Tantras. A num ber o f devotional attitudes to the personal absolute developed, often associated w ith different sampradyas. The relationship between the disciple and the L o rd could be one o f servant to master, o f parent to child, friend to friend, or lover to beloved. The Bengali Vaisnavas, fo r example, regarded the attitude o f the lover to the beloved as the highest expression o f devotion, w hile the sect o f Tukrm view ed the devotional relationship as one o f servant to master. H ow ever, w hat is significant here is that the relationship between the devotee and the L o rd is m odelled on human rela-


TheloveofVisnu lionships and that the Lord can be perceived and approached in a variety nl ways: the love of God takes many forms.
While it is im portant to remem ber that there is a strong element o f per sonal seeking and devotion w ithin bhakti traditions, the form s that this devotion will take have been moulded b y the devotees place w ithin the > k i.11hierarchy, that is b y caste and gender. E ven though at an ideological ( level most bhakti traditions have m aintained that caste and gender are immaterial to devotion and final salvation, nevertheless some are m ore tolerant o f non-discrim ination on the grounds o f caste and gender than others. The Sri Vaisnavas, fo r example, w hile not excluding lo w er castes ,md wom en, restrict lower-caste access to their tem ple at Srirangam , w hile (> her sects such as the Raidasis are themselves low -caste. The m ost im pori u n t Vaisnava orders and cults are: - the Sri Vaisnavas located in Tamilnadu whose centre is the temple at Srirangam, for whom the theology of Ramanuja is particularly important. - the Gaudlya or Bengali Vaisnavas located mainly in Bengal, Orissa and Vrndavana. They revere the teachings of the Bengali saint, Caitanya, and focus their devotion on Krsna and Radha. the cult of Vithoba in Maharashtra, particularly in the pilgrimage centre of Pandharpur. Their teachings are derived from the saints (sant) Jnanesvara, Namdev, Janabai etc. - the cult of Rama located mainly in the north-east at Ayodhya and Janakpur and associated with an annual festival of Ramllla in which the Ramayana is performed. The ascetic Ramanandl order is devoted to Rama and Slta. - the northern Sant tradition; while not being strictly Vaisnava, worshipping a transcendent Lord beyond qualities, this tradition nevertheless derives much of its teachings and names of G od from Vaisnavism. Especially venerated are Kablr and Nanak, the founder of Sikhism.

The Sri Vaisnava tradition, w hich developed in Tamilnadu, inherited a dual vision o f the universe: on the one hand, the northern Sanskrit tradi tion o f the Pancaratra and puranic w orsh ip o f Visnu, w ith its emphasis on the L o rd as the transcendent cause and sustaining pow er o f the cosm os,


An introduction to Hinduism
and, on the other, the southern Tamil tradition of longing devotion to a personal Lord installed within specific temple icons. The Sri Vaisnavas therefore revered sacred scriptures in Sanskrit, both the Vedas and the Pncartra gam as or Samhits, and the Tamil songs o f the lvars. The Sri Vaisnavas also revered a line o f teachers (crya) w ho functioned as the ologians and interpreters o f the tradition and as hierarchs o f the order. The first o f these cryas, and the founder o f the Sri Vaisnavas, was Ntham uni (tenth century
c e

w h o collected the songs o f the lvars in his

P raban dh am . W hile his em otional and aesthetic inspiration came from the Tamil poet-saints, N atham un is main intellectual inheritance was the Sanskrit philosophical tradition, particularly the Vedanta, and the theolo gies o f the B h a g a v a d G it , the Visnu Purna and the Pncartra gam as. H e is attributed w ith founding the Sri Vaisnava tradition and legitimated the tradition b y establishing a lineage w ith the Tamil lvrs. N tham uni is said to have gone on pilgrim age to Vrndvana in the north, the Vaisnava religious centre and m ythological hom e o f K rsna, w here he received a vision o f Visnu in the form Mannanr, the icon in his local temple in Tamilnadu. In the vision the god told him to return to his hom e tow n. H e did so and became an administrator, firstly in the temple o f M annanr and later in the Visnu temple at Srirangam w hich became the centre o f the Sri Vaisnava com m unity. N tham uni^ grandson, Ym una, became the next Sri Vaisnava crya, noted fo r his defence o f the Pncaratra gam as as having revelatory status and o f the Pncaratra ritual as being equal to orth odox brahm anical rites.11 The m ost fam ous Sri Vaisnava leader, w hose influence was to extend throughout H induism , w as Rm nuja (c. 1 0 1 7 - 1 1 3 7 ) . H e did not directly meet Ym una, but became the recognized leader o f the com m unity, devel oping a Vaisnava th eology and interpretation o f the Vednta tradition in the light o f his theism, w hich became kn ow n as qualified non-dualism (visistdvaita\ see p. 243). Rm nuja w rote in Sanskrit, but he was in flu enced b y the bh akti p oetry o f the lvrs. H is favoured disciple, Pilln, w rote a com m entary on N am m lvrs T iru vym o li in a language w hich was a m ixture o f Sanskrit and Tamil, m an ip ravla, thereby elevating the status o f the Tamil text, the first text in a D ravidian language to have com m entary written on it. Pilln, w ho was a Sudra, implies here that caste is not an impediment to salvation.12 Salvation or liberation fo r the Sri Vaisnavas was conceived as transcend ing the cycle o f reincarnation (samsra) and karm a and going to V isn u 5 s 13 6

he love ofVisnu
In .won (vaikuntha ) at death, where the soul is united with the Lord in a loving relationship, while yet maintaining its distinction. This state is iti liieved through attachment to the I ,ord and detachm ent from the w orld , oi, more specifically, through the religious practice (upasana ) o f devotion i n I service (seva ) to the Lord in one o f his incarnations in temple icons < (,in uvatara). There is also a path o f total surrender (prapatti) in w hich the devotee gives him self up to the L o rd w h o saves him through an act o f unmerited divine grace (saranagati). In the form er there is some emphasis on effort and human agency, in the latter the emphasis is entirely on the p,i ace and agency o f the Lord. About 200 years after Ram anujas death, the Sri Vaisnava com m unity 11.ul split into sub-sects called the northern culture (vatakalai ) and the 'southern culture (< tenkalai ). The vatakalai em phasized the Sanskrit .( t iptures and salvation through traditional bhakti-yoga , that is devotion io the temple icon, w hile the tenkalai em phasized the Tamil scriptures and s 111 render to the L o rd b y his grace. These tw o theologies became kn ow n as i lie m onkey and cat schools respectively. In the m o n k ey school, salvanon is achieved b y both effort and grace; the devotee clings to G o d i hrough his effort, w hile the L o rd saves him, as a baby m onkey clings to its mother as she moves through the trees. T he cat school, on the other hand, emphasized the grace o f the L o rd , claim ing that the devotee is saved o n ly i hrough grace, as a m other cat picks up her yo u n g and carries them w ith out any effort on their part. This distinction is brought out in tw o under standings o f a passage in the Bhagavad Gita ( i 8.66), the fam ous carama-sloka , w hich reads A bandoning all law s seek shelter in me alone. I will save yo u from all sins. D o not fear. T he tenkalai understood this pas sage to mean that there w ere tw o distinct paths, traditional bhakti-yoga and the esoteric, superior, path o f surrender {prapatti). O n the other hand, the vatakalai theologian, Vedantadesika (i 26 9 -130 7 ), maintained that the verse referred to tw o groups o f people, those w h o are tw ice-born and lib erated through the perform ance o f ritual devotion and those o f lo w er castes w h o cannot perform ritual devotion in the temples, and so are lib er ated through surrender.13 The Sri Vaisnava com m unity, consisting o f Brahm ans and nonBrahm ans, existed w ithin the w ider social context o f Brahm ans w h o adhered to the puranic w orship o f Visnu and other deities, nam ely the Smartas, and non-Brahm an castes w h o w orshipped and became possessed b y local village deities. The Sri Vaisnavas encompass high-caste levels o f


An introduction to Hinduism
Sanskrit learning and theological tradition, while at the same time having a w ide popular appeal even am ongst low er castes. Yet while the devotionalism o f the lvrs had been ecstatic, the devotion o f the Sri Vaisnavas was controlled, occurring in the context o f form al temple ritual. This ecstatic dim ension in bh a k ti traditions did not, however, die out with the lvrs but developed in northern Vaisnavism , particularly in Bengal.

D evotional traditions focused on K rsna the C o w h erd developed in north ern India, and found articulation in Sanskrit devotional and poetic litera ture as w ell as in m ore popular devotional m ovem ents, particularly around V rndvana and in Bengal. The form o f Vaisnavism w hich grew in Bengal (G audlya) developed a theology w hich laid great emphasis on devotion and the love relationship between the devotee and K rsna. A lth ou gh in Saivism a direct correspondence between the religious and the aesthetic had been perceived, the G au d lya Vaisnava tradition devel oped a th eology in w hich the categories o f aesthetic experience, described in classical p oetry (,k v y a ), came to be applied to devotional religious experience. B y the early medieval period, there was a thriving tradition o f co u rtly love p o etry in Sanskrit, a poetry w hich was ornate and baroque^ expressing prescribed em otions in a particular form . In the court o f the Bengali K in g Laksm anasena (c. 1 17 9 -12 0 9 ), Jayad eva, a poet under his patronage, com posed a fam ous poem , the G lta g o v in d a , about the love o f K rsna and Rdh his m istress.14 Jayad eva is a high-class poet in the classi cal k v y a tradition, w h o used the form al conventions o f k v y a - the pre scribed vocabulary, the ornamental language and the stock metaphors - to express the love o f Rdh fo r K rsna and, b y im plication, o f the devotee for Krsna. A s w ith co u rtly poetry generally, the theme o f the poem is the union, separation and reunion o f the lovers. W hile they meet secretly in the forest fo r their love-play, the lovers yet k n o w that w ith the daw n they must be separated, a fact w hich causes great longing (viraha) until their next meeting. This tradition o f poetry focused on the love o f K rsn a and R dh continued, particularly w ith the Bengali p o etry o f Candldsa and the M athili verses o f Vidypati (fourteenth/fifteenth cen tu ry).15 Th eir poetry, written from the point o f view o f Rdh, expressed her deep em o tional longing for Krsna, as the devotee longs fo r the Lo rd . Candldsa b eautifully expresses the essential longing, characteristic o f bh a k ti, w hen he describes Rdh hearing the sound o f K rsn as flute. H e writes: 138

I he love of Visnu
Let us not talk of that fatal flute. It calls a woman away from her home and drags her by the hair to that Shyam [i.e. Krsna]. A devoted wife forgets her spouse To be drawn like a deer, thirsty and lost. Even the wisest ascetics lose their minds And the plants and trees delight in its sound. What then can a helpless, innocent girl do?16
I lowever, the figure w h o did m ost to prom ote K rsna b h ak ti was Kisnacaitanya or sim ply C aitanya ( 14 8 6 -15 3 3 ), w h o is regarded as an incarnation o f K rsna and Radha in one body. H e generated a tradition which continues to this day, and in the West is m anifested as the H are K 1 sna movement. C aitanya was brought up in a Vaisnava Brahm an fam ily where he had a conventional Sanskrit education. In 1508 he w ent to G a y a lo perform a mem orial rite for his deceased father. There he had a con ver sion experience induced b y a south Indian renouncer w h o initiated him into the w orship o f Krsna. H e returned to his hom e tow n o f N avadvipa (N abadw ip) in Bengal where he began to w orsh ip K rsna w ith a group o f devotees b y singing or chanting his praises. H e began to experience ecstalic or possessed states o f consciousness. In 1 5 1 0 C aitanya took form al vows o f renunciation and m oved to the pilgrim age tow n o f Puri in O rissa where K rsna is w orshipped as L o rd Jagannatha in the fam ous temple. I ach year, during his annual festival, the L o rd Jagannatha is paraded out of 1 he temple in a huge processional carriage. C aitan ya and his follow ers would accom pany the carriage, dancing and singing the L o r d s praise. ( laitanya spent the rem ainder of his life at Puri, w orshipping Radha and Krsna, and frequently going into ecstatic states.17 A lthough C aitan ya was not the founder o f an order in a form al sense, by w riting a com m entary on the B rahm a Sutra, he nevertheless firm ly established G au d iya Vaisnavism and determ ined its style and flavour. The central focus o f G au d iya Vaisnava devotion is the love between Radha and Krsna, a love w hich is strongly erotic, though w ith an eroticism w hich is regarded as transcendent and not w orld ly. The eroticism o f G au d iya devotion is perhaps not dissim ilar to the bride-m ysticism (brautm ystik) o f C hristian m ystical theology. Indeed, liberation fo r the G au d iya Vaisnavas is the constant, ecstatic experience o f the divine love-play (lila ) between Radha and K rsna in a spiritual or perfected body. This erotic love and attraction between Radha and K rsna is pure love (prema) as opposed


An introduction to Hinduism
to an im pure w o rld ly love pervaded by selfish desire (lcama).[H K rsna is the suprem e Lord (not sim ply an avatara o f Visnu) w ho creates, maintains and destroys the cosm os over and over again. Radha is K rsn as refreshing p o w e r through w hich the cosm os is manifested, and although they are united, they are yet distinct. Indeed the relationship between the L o rd as the holder o f p o w e r (saktimat) and Radha as his po w er (sakti), and between the devotee and the L ord , is characterized as inconceivable differen ce-in-identity (acintya-bhedabheda). This relationship is m anifested in the w o rld in the love between Radha and K rsna, and an erotic devotional th eology was developed b y six o f C aitan yas disciples, kn ow n as the G osvam ins, focused on this relation ship. This th eology m ay have been influenced b y a tantric Vaisnava sect, the Sahajiyas, w h o maintained that ritual sexual union could overcom e duality and reflect the divine union o f K rsn a and Radha, a tradition which developed into the low -caste, antinomian and ecstatic B au ls.19 The G au d iya Vaisnava tradition, however, rejects these practices as a m isun derstanding o f a p rofoun d spirituality. The w o rk s o f the G osvam ins are, indeed, high ly orth od ox in the sense that they accept the authority o f the Veda, but they include w ithin the category o f revelation the Puranas, espe cially the Bhagavata Pur ana.

A lth ou gh m uch o f the Bhagavata Purana contains reference to K rsn as love-play w ith the gopis, it does not m ention b y name Radha w h o on ly appears w ith the Gitagovinda and in later literature and visual art. In Vaisnava m ythology, she is an older married w om an and the love between her and K rsna is conventionally adulterous. Radha leaves a shadow o f her self b y her husbands side and goes out at night, pulled b y the sound o f K rsn as flute, to meet him. This is theologically im portant and relates to a distinction in Sanskrit poetics between love-in-union (.svakiya , ones ow n w om an ) associated w ith marriage, and love-in-separation (paraklya , anothers w om an ) associated w ith adulterous love. The form er is charac terized b y lust (kam a ) and union, the latter by pure love (prema) and lo n g ing (viraha). In loving K rsna, Radha disobeys w ife ly du ty (stridharma) (see p. 6 5), fo r the love o f G o d transcends social obligation. The love between Radha and K rsna is love-in-separation characterized b y longing - as the souls longing for the L o rd is the highest hum an spirituality. Rupagosvam in w rote tw o im portant texts in Sanskrit on K rsna devo tion, the Ujjvala-m lam ani (The Splendid B lue Je w e l) and the Bhaktirasamrta-sindhu (The O cean o f the Im m ortal N ectar o f D evo tio n 20). 140

The love of Visnu I Inc aesthetic categories which had been developed in Sanskrit poetics
w eir applied to different kinds of devotional em otion and experience. A* cording to Sanskrit poetics, em otion (b h a v a ) can be transform ed into ,n hetic experience (rasa): for exam ple, grief can be transform ed into the ( fHpm ence o f tragedy, hum our into com edy, and sexual desire into the i npcrience o f the erotic. Sim ilarly, sexual desire can be transform ed into ru n ic or sw eet love (srngara- or madhura-bhakti) fo r K rsna: the subli mation o f human sexual love into divine, or transcendent, erotic love. This passionate all-consum ing love fo r K rsna is called, b y Rupagosvam in,

ufrtnuga-bhakti, in contrast to devotion in w hich the devotee fo llo w s

i tiles and injunctions (vidhi) laid dow n in scripture, called vaidhi-bhakti. In raganuga-bhakti K rsna can be as close and intimate w ith the devotee as a lover, whereas in vaidhi-bhakti K rsna is perceived as a pow erful and majestic king. B oth paths lead to salvation, though passionate devotion is higher than the m ore form al approach and leads directly to Krsna. The main practices o f the G au d iya Vaisnavas to achieve their soteriolo^ical goals w ere the ritual practices o f repeating the names o f K rsn a

(nama japa), singing hym ns (kirtana ), w orsh ip o f temple icons or the

114Iasi plant sacred to Visnu, and, on the path o f rdganuga-bhakti , visu aliz

ing K rsnas acts, particularly the lo ve-p lay o f K rsn a and the gopls (lila

smarana). A fter initiation the K rsna devotee w o u ld perform w orsh ip in

iIk* morning, afternoon and evening. This w ou ld involve repetition o f Is, i snas names, such as the fam ous H are K rsn a mantra - hare krsna , hare krsna, krsna krsna , hare hare , hare rama, hare rama, rama rama, hare hare follow ed b y libations fo r the ancestors and m aking offerings.21 The name o f the deity em bodies his essence, so b y repeating it the devotee is m voking his presence. A t death the devotee w ill serve K rsna in a perfected spiritual b o d y (siddha-deha) in one o f the L o r d s spiritual abodes.22

( )ther Vaisnava sampradayas sim ilarly maintained an element o f erotic mysticism . Vallabha ( i 4 7 9 - 15 3 1) founded a tradition centred on the w o r ship o f K rsna the C o w h erd after receiving a vision o f K rsna. H e w rote com mentaries on the Brahma Sutra and Bhagavata Pur ana and con structed a th eology w hich is a fusion o f m onistic and devotional ideas, calling his w a y the path o f grace (pustimarga) and his doctrine pure n on dualism (suddhadvaita). Vallabha identifies K rsna w ith the absolute

(brahman) and maintains that the w o rld is not illu so ry (mdyd) but is real 141

An introduction to Hinduism
and is identified with Krsna. Liberation occurs, with K rsnas grace, through follow in g a path com prising a series of stages until the devotee, as in G au d lya Vaisnavism , becomes part o f his play (lild)y though unlike G au d lya Vaisnavism the Pusti M rga is non-renunciatory, com prising o n ly householders. W hile m aintaining an erotic dim ension, the main focus o f Pusti M rga devotion is on K rsna as a child and the devotee as the parent. The Pusti M rga is particularly large in w estern India, its main temple being at N athd vara in Rajasthan.23 A n im portant order developed from the Pusti M rga in the nineteenth century, the Sw am inarayan m ove ment, w hose follow ers take refuge in the sects founder Swam inarayan, rather than in K rsn a.24 Several other orders focus their attention on the erotic pastimes o f K rsna. The Rdhvallbhis founded b y H arivam sa (158 5) concentrate their w orsh ip on Rdh, w hile an offshoot, the male sect o f the Skhi B hvas, w h o still exist, dress in w om en s clothing and adopt female m an nerisms in order to emulate the gopls. Lastly, the Visnusvm is should be m entioned, founded in the tw elfth century, fam ous fo r a Sanskrit text b y one o f their devotees, Bilvam angala: the Krsnakrnmrta (The N ectar o f the A cts o f K rsn a).25

Vaisnava devotionalism spread northw ards and local deities, associated w ith the great H in du gods, became the focus o f devotional movements. In M aharashtra, situated b y the eastern seaboard w ithin the northern Sanskritic cultural sphere yet strongly influenced b y the D ravidian, were a num ber o f Vaisnava devotional m ovem ents w hich can b road ly be described as Sant traditions. The term sant means good m an and refers to saints from all castes w h o lived between the thirteenth and seventeenth centuries. T h ey taught a path to liberation through devotion to the L o r d s name (nm ), devotion to ones guru, and the devotional meetings or

satsang ( the com m unity in truth ). The Vaisnava Sants taught devotion to the L o rd as a personal being installed in tem ples, w ith qualities (.saguna),
though another Sant tradition based in the Punjab, from w hich Sikhism developed, taught devotion to an abstract L o rd beyond qualities

In M aharashtra, w ithin the general Sant category, several devotional traditions w ere established. The M ahnubhva Sam pradya, founded b y C hakradhr Swam i in the thirteenth century, w orshipped o n ly K rsna, 142

/'he love ofVisnu while the most im portant sect, the Varkari Panth ('T he Pilgrims* path),

centred on the w orship o f Vithoba w hose main temple, the focus o f an

important pilgrimage, is at Pandharpur in southern M aharashtra. A literature in Marathi, a Sanskritic language, developed in the w rit

of a number o f Marathi saints, notably Jnanesvara (thirteenth

m iiu ry ), N am dev (c. 12 7 0 -13 5 0 ), Tukaram (c. 15 6 8 -16 5 0 ), Janabai, I lui.ith (c. 15 3 3-9 9 ) and Ram das (16 0 8 -8 1), all except Ram das belonging io the V arkari tradition.26 B y the seventeenth century the V arkaris w ere Ilie most im portant sect in M aharashtra and the fam ous K in g Sivaji, the
m ourge

o f the M ughal A urangzeb, is said to have met Tukaram and been

initiated by Ram das. Jnanesvara is sometimes considered to be the founder o f the V arkari I\m t h, though w orship o f Vithoba predates him. H e w rote a M arathi com mentary on the B h a g a v a d G ita , the Jn a n e s v a r i27 w hich show s influences 1 1 apart from Vaisnava bh akti - A dvaita Vedanta and the N aths (see p. jK). His text extols devotion to the L o rd and to his guru w h o, says |iunesvara, rescued him from the ocean o f w o rld ly existence. F o r |n.mesvara liberation is m erging w ith the L o rd , though the individual devotee can never com prehend his imm ensity. N am d ev is not on ly 1 evered as a saint in M aharashtra but in the Punjab as w ell, and some o f his verses have found their w a y into the sacred scripture o f the Sikhs, the A d i ( ninth. Tukaram is perhaps the m ost revered saint in M aharashtra, w h o stressed the love o f the L o rd as the path to liberation and the necessity o f 1 lie dualism between the devotee and the L o rd in order fo r love to develop. As with m any other Sants, Tukaram advocated singing the L o rd s praise and a m editational devotionalism in w h ich one attains liberation b y sitting m meditation and repeating the L o r d s name (n am ) - a teaching w hich is com mon to the Sant traditions o f the north as well. In contrast to G au d iya Vaisnavism, erotic im agery is not used b y the M aharashtrian Sants and the pure devotion (prem a-bhakti) which they advocate represents the L o rd as a loving parent rather than a lover. W hile fo r highly orthoprax Smarta H indus, lo w castes and w om en are excluded from spiritual liberation and form s o f w orship, fo r the Maharashtran Sants caste and gender are not obstacles. A lth ou gh Jnanesvara w as a Brahm an, m any other M aharashtran Sants w ere lo w caste: N am d ev was a tailor and Tukaram was a Sudra. There w ere also a number o f w om en saints in the V ark ari tradition, though generally the images o f w om en in the poetry o f E knath and Tukaram are negative,


An introduction to Hinduism
presenting w om an as the temptress and dish actor from the m ales path ol detachm ent from the w orld. N otable wom en Sants are Jnanesvara s sister M uktabai, w h o was an initiate o f Nath Yoga, and Janabai, the maid servant o f N am dev, w hose verses to Vithoba sometimes address him as a w om an, Vithabai. That Janabai could address Vithoba as a w om an demonstrates the am biguity o f the god. W hile he is generally male, he is sometimes female and referred to as a mother. W hile he is generally associated w ith Visnu or Krsna, he is som etim es associated w ith Siva, thereby blurring the distinc tion between Vaisnava and Saiva. Indeed the cult o f Vithoba goes beyond sectarian divisions and the tw o pilgrim ages each year to his temple at Pandharpur attract a w ide cross-section o f the com m unity. U p to 6,000 people are attracted to the m ore im portant o f the pilgrim ages during asadha (Ju n e-Ju ly ), though caste divisions during the pilgrim age are not entirely eradicated.28

W hile the Vaisnava Sant tradition developed in M aharashtra, focused on devotion to a saguna form o f Visnu or Krsna, further north, and especially in the Punjab, another Sant tradition developed w hich advocated devotion to a nirguna L o rd as the ineffable absolute w ithout shape or form , the source and support o f the cosm os, b y w hose grace beings are liberated from the cycle o f birth and death. This northern Sant tradition drew on Vaisnava b h a k ti, Sufism and N ath Yoga, w hose term inologies can be found w ithin Sant literature, but rejected external ritual, em phasizing, rather, the personal experience o f a transcendent L o rd , beyond form . Like the M aharashtrian Sants, these northern Sants com posed devotional songs in vernacular languages, nam ely form s o f H in di and Punjabi. A m o n g the m ost fam ous Sants are Kabir, N anak, M irabai, Raidas and D adu. M an y o f these w ere low -caste, such as Raidas w ho was an untouchable leatherw ork er (cham ar)29 and K ab ir w h o was a w eaver.30 H ow ever, not all wT ere o f low status: N an ak was a w arrio r (kh atri) and M irabai a princess. Som e o f the Sants spawned traditions w hich continue to the present, m ost notable, o f course, being Sikhism from G u ru N an ak, but there are also Raidasis, D adupanthis and Kabirpanthis. The teachings o f the Sants are preserved in collections o f poetry in their respective languages and in the sacred scripture o f the Sikhs, the A d i G ranth. The songs o f these Sants w ou ld have circulated around north 144

ih e love o f Visnu India during the sixteenth century, being sung at various temples by wantl.itiin bards, as would probably have happened in the south with the .... ... 1 the Alvars and Nayanars. The most popular and influential of the >
*m I i was Kablr. K ablr (13 9 8 -14 4 8 ) was born into a w eaver fam ily in m M nates who had converted to Islam one or tw o generations prio r to his i Im 1 Ti adition maintains that his guru was the Vaisnava Ram ananda, w h o 11 1 * , m 1 he Ram anuja lineage, though if Ram ananda was born in 1299, as i nite lext suggests, it is highly unlikely that Kablr, born alm ost 100 years I n 1, eould have met him. H e was influenced b y N am d ev and b y the |ioeiry of the Saiva wom an saint, Lalla (fourteenth century). K a b irs (ineiry is quite distinctive. O ne o f its striking features is his use o f stark Images in upside-dow n language (ultavdm si), such as the co w is sucking it 1 lie calfs teat, used to shock his audience out o f com placency and to 1 mii vcy the idea that the L o rd is ineffable and beyon d everyday logic. H e is 111 ical of caste, maintaining that it is irrelevant to liberation, and highly 11 1 11i al o f H indu and M uslim religious practices and doctrines current at Iiis time. H e writes: The H indu says R am is the beloved, the Turk says Malum. 'Then they kill each other.31 While there are, o f course, individual differences between the northern '.amis, there are com m on themes in their teachings. The soul is trapped in l lie world governed b y D eath or Tim e (kal) and illusion (maya), and must i <111111 to the L o rd through the meditative devotion o f repeating his name

(mm simran) and b y the grace o f the guru. T h rou gh this repetition the
.nil will perceive the light o f G o d , hear the divine unstruck soun d (,inahata sab da) o f the L o rd , and rise up through the hierarchical cosm os, luck to its true abode (sach-khand). T he names fo r the L o rd used b y the Sants are generally Vaisnava, such as Ram , M adhav, K rsna and H ari, 1 hough sometimes the m ore Saiva names o f N atha or Um apati might be used and even the term A llah is sometimes referred to.

While the term Ram is used b y the Sants to refer to the transcendent L o rd , in the Ram a cults the term refers to the L o rd as he was incarnated in K in g Kama, the hero o f the Ramayana, king o f A yo d h ya. D evotion to Ram a, as well as his m on key com m ander H anum an, became widespread in north ern India during the medieval period. C entres o f Ram a w orship are found in Janakpur, the legendary birthplace o f Sita, and A yo d h ya in A n dra Pradesh, R am as legendary birthplace and capital o f his kingdom . Indeed


An introduction to Hinduism
the cult o f Rm a continues to have serious consequences in contem porary India as the dem olition in 1992 o f the Babji M asjid in A yod h ya dem on strates. O ne sect o f Rm a worship predominates in A yo d h ya, the Rm nand order, w h o are also found in N epal near the Bihar border.32 The Rm nandis, w hose main centre is at A yo d h ya, were founded by Rm nanda (fifteenth century?), w ith possible connections w ith the Sri Vaisnava tradition. T h eir literature is expressed in the medium o f H indi, though no w riting o f Rm nanda him self is preserved. A ccordin g to the tradition, he advocated devotion to Rm a and St, a devotion w hich, in contrast to G au d ya Vaisnavism , is devoid o f eroticism . In this style of bh akti the devotees attitude is as a servant to the master, rather than as a lover to the beloved, hence Hanum n is hailed as the exem plum o f devo tional service to his master Rm a. W hile there are no w ritings of Rm nanda him self, the th eology o f the sect is based on the w ritings of Tulsids ( 15 3 2 - 16 2 3 ) w h o com posed the Rm acaritm nasa (The Sacred Lake o f R am as D eed s33), a version o f a version o f V lm k is R m yan a, com posed in H in di rather than the sacred language o f Sanskrit. The Brahm ans o f Varanasi, w here the text was com posed, are said to have been shocked b y the com position o f such a text in a vernacular language. It was tested b y being placed in the Siva temple fo r one night, w ith the Vedas and Purnas placed on top o f it. In the m orning, Tulsids text was on top o f them all, w h ereb y its authority was legitim ized.34 In this text and other com positions b y Tulsids, Rm a is the suprem e L o rd and other deities, w hile being eulogized, are subordinated to him. The Rm nand order is predom inantly ascetic and renunciatory. In the past, all castes, including Untouchables, w ere initiated into it and at initia tion all previous caste duties w ere abandoned and service to Rm a insti tuted in their place. In contem porary practice, how ever, caste restrictions are im posed in Rm nand temples and o n ly Brahm ans can be priests. O rigin ally both sexes w ere initiated, though n o w there are few nuns rem aining in the order. The m ost popular festival associated w ith Rm a is Rm ll w hich occurs throughout north India, particularly at Ram nagar near Varanasi. D uring this festival Tulsids Ram acaritm nasa is recited b y priests o f the M aharja o f Varanasi, along w ith the recitation o f dramatic dialogues. The story o f Rm a and St is enacted from his birth, through the m ajor events o f his life - his m arriage, banishment, w ar against Rvana - to his tri umphant return and the establishing o f R m as kin gdom .35 146


In i Ins survey o f the Vaisnava and associated traditions we can see a jh it ess m which an exuberant and em otional form o f devotionalism , o rig inal mf, in the south, becomes associated with a more sober tradition o f *. ,|M 11ul devotion, originating in the north. The patterns o f bh akti that *t tt. ice here - such as the association o f local or regional deities w ith the i* Hies of the great Sanskritic tradition, and the establishing o f orders b y

are also follow ed b y devotional m ovem ents w ithin Saivism .

All hough Saivism has tended m ore tow ards the ideals o f yo ga and . 1 Mi lied asceticism rather than tow ards em otional devotionalism , there . Iv < nevertheless been strong devotional tendencies w ithin it, particularly in i hr south. To the developm ent o f this sim ilarly vast tradition w e n ow mi n.

i 47

7 Saiva and tantric religion

W ithin the developing H indu traditions w e can see the process o f Brahm anization o r Sanskritization, w h ereby the great brahmanical tradi tion o f vedic social values, vedic ritual form s and Sanskrit learning absorbs local popular traditions o f ritual and ideology. We have seen this, fo r exam ple, in the cult o f V ithob w h o becomes identified w ith Visnu and o f M urukan w h o becom es identified w ith Skanda. R egional traditions expressed in vernacular languages, local deities, local m ythologies, ritual form s and possession cults becom e universalized through Sanskritization. The p oetry and em otional devotion o f the lv lr s becom es a pan-southAsian phenom enon (i.e. the tradition becom es universalized) w hen their poetry is absorbed w ithin the brahmanical id eology o f the Sri Vaisnavas (i.e. it becom es Sanskritized). T h eo lo gy is thus built up from a level o f regional ritual and possession cults and in turn influences those cults. R egional ritual and possession form the basis or substratum o f brahm anical theology. A second im portant process can also be identified, nam ely the tran sfor mations o f the ascetic ideal: on the one hand its assim ilation into the higher-caste householders ideology, as in the B h a g a v a d G t , on the other its assim ilation into the low -caste possession cults o f the crem ation ground. Betw een these extremes w e have the highly revered, orth odox renouncers such as the Dasanm is. These m anifestations o f the ascetic ideal m ay be linked to the historical question regarding the vedic or nonvedic origins o f renunciation, w hich w e have discussed. Yet, w hatever its origins, there have been, and still are, am bivalent attitudes tow ards renouncers am ongst householders.1 A t the one extrem e is the h igh ly 148

Saiva and tantric religion

revered, orthodox renouncer, the ideal o f m any high-caste male house holders, yet at the other extreme there is the feared unorthodox ascetic, openly courting pollution and living in the crem ation ground. This ambivalent attitude is clearly dem onstrated in the religions o f Siva w h o is himself a god o f paradox: both the ideal householder and the ideal ascetic. Saivism refers to the traditions w hich fo llo w the teachings o f Siva (>/vasasana) and which focus on the deity Siva, or sometimes his consort and power, Sakti. Processes occur in Saivism w hich are also found in Vaisnavism: the absorption b y brahm anical orth op raxy o f non-vedic rit ual forms and ideas and the identification o f local deities w ith pan-H indu <ines. In this chapter w e w ill trace the rise o f Siva and the traditions centred oil his w orship. L ik e Vaisnavism , Saivism has absorbed w ithin it a variety ol ritual practices and theologies, though it has tended m ore tow ards asceticism or the ascetic ideal, even in its householder form s, than has Vaisnavism. Indeed, the genius o f Saivism , or its inspiration, is to be found m the renouncer traditions, in particular the renouncer traditions o f the i remation ground. The Saiva ideals o f asceticism contrast w ith those o f Vaisnavism which is strongly associated w ith the householder, w ith life in i lie w orld and w ith the id eology o f kingship. In other w ord s, Vaisnavism has tended to be m ore vedic and orthoprax than Saivism . The picture is, o f course, m ore com plex than this and Saivism did have loyal patronage, but generally ascetic, and sometimes ecstatic, tendencies predominated. W hile one needs to be cautious o f generalizations, it might he argued that R u th Benedicts distinction, derived from N ietzsche, between A pollonian cultures in w hich order, control and law are im porl ant and D ion ysian cultures w hich revere the ecstasy o f the dance, can be applied to Vaisnavism and Saivism at an ideological level.2 A lth ou gh there are undoubtedly ecstatic and antinom ian dimensions in devotion to Krsna, the ideologies o f Vaisnavism have tended towards vedic o rth o praxy and the maintaining o f vedic values. Saivism , while also having some orthoprax tendencies, unreservedly accepted the non-vedic revelation o f the Tantras and draw s its inspiration from the polluting crem ationground asceticism. Som e o f the ecstatic tendencies of Saivism are em bod ied in the m yth ology o f the deity Siva him self.

The m yth of D aksa

An im portant m yth in the corpus o f Saiva narratives is the m yth o f D aksa. 'This story is told in the M ahabharata and there are a num ber o f variants in 149

An introduction to Hinduism
the Puranas. D aksa, the son of Brahma (in the Veda his m other is Aditi), is the father o f Satl. Sati becom es the w ile of Siva who is attracted to her because o f the p o w er o f her austerities as well as her beauty, but, during the w edding, tension builds up between D aksa and his unconventional sonin-law. Siva and Sati retire to M ount Kailasa and D aksa prepares a horse sacrifice to w hich he invites all the gods except Siva. W hile Siva is not bothered b y the snub, Sati is distraught at the insult and goes in anger to her fath ers sacrifice w here she is rebuffed b y D aksa. In her rage she co m mits suicide b y burning herself through her yo gic pow er. U p o n hearing the news o f his w ife s death, Siva is enraged and attacks D ak sas sacrifice in the terrifying form o f Virabhadra w ith his hordes o f dem onic beings. A ll is destroyed and D aksa is killed, beheaded b y Siva, thereby him self becom ing the sacrificial victim . Siva then resuscitates the sacrifice as w ell as D aksa, in some versions w ith a goats head, and the sacrifice proceeds sm oothly w ith Siva included.3 In some, p o ssib ly later, versions, Siva finds the b od y o f Sati and, in a state o f grief and frenzy, picks up her corpse and dances w ild ly w ith it across the universe (see p. 192 fo r what happens next). W hile this m yth is m ulti-levelled and can be understood in a variety o f w ays, perhaps an obvious reading is that Siva w as originally excluded from the vedic sacrifice; that he is a deity perhaps origin ally from outside the vedic pantheon, but w h o came to be accepted as one o f the gods. Indeed, in destroying the sacrifice with fire, Siva is paradoxically fulfilling it and so ensuring that the sacrifice is his. We can, in fact, see in this m yth an analogue fo r the developm ent o f Saivism. A s Siva is outside the vedic fold, so are the traditions associated w ith him, and as Siva makes his presence know n so forcefu lly and is, o f necessity, absorbed w ithin the vedic pantheon, so Saiva traditions are incorporated into vedic id eo lo gy and practice.

The image of Siva

Siva is a god o f am biguity and paradox. H e has been described b y W endy D on iger O F laherty as the erotic ascetic , the ithyphallic and prom iscu ous god, w h o is also the celibate yo gin , practising austerities in the H im alayas. H e is the three-eyed god w h o has burned D esire w ith his third eye, w ho dances in the crem ation ground and yet w h o seduces the sages w ives in the pine forest. H e is the w ild m atted-haired ascetic, yet he is also the ideal fam ily man and householder w ith a w ife, Parvati, and their tw o 150

tiaiva and tantrie religion

mis ( lAncsa and Skanda. \ le contains all opposites wiihin him and is even .( h libed as half male and half female (ardh an arisvara).4 Siva is som e thin s described as the god o f destruction, part o f the 1 lindu trin ity with Muhina as creator and Visnu as sustainer, but for his devotees he is the *ti|Herne Lord w ho creates, maintains and destroys the cosm os. H e conm I*, his true nature from humanity, yet, at the same time, can reveal his it.tmi e as an act o f grace. W hile there is a ve ry strong sense o f Sivas tranii mlence in Saivism , he is nevertheless represented or installed in a num l i ol forms in temples and shrines, w hich are also represented in lit vI lulogy. H e is especially w orshipped and iconographically depicted in tli. following form s: as the Lord of Yoga meditating on M ount Kailasa or Kailash in the I limalayas. He is iconographically portrayed as covered in ashes, with a third eye with which he burned Desire (Kama), with his matted locks in a chignon, a crescent moon in his hair, the Ganges pouring from his locks, garlanded by a snake and sacred rudraksa beads, seated upon a tiger skin and holding a trident. as the family man with his wife, the goddess Parvatl, and their two sons, Skanda and the elephant-headed Ganesa, with the sacred bull Nandi, standing nearby. as Siva Nataraja, the Lord of the Dance, who, in his awe-inspiring dance which expresses his boundless energy, creates, maintains and destroys the cosmos. He is four-armed, dancing upon the dwarf of ignorance (Apasmara) within a circle of flames. in his form as the Siva linga or icon found in most Hindu temples.5 The linga represents a phallus within a vulva, symbolic of the union of Siva with his dynamic energy or sakti.

Early worship of Rudra-Siva

Apart from some speculation over an Indus valley seal as a representation ol Siva (see p. 29), the earliest references to the god are found in the R g Veda where three hym ns are addressed to him as Rudra, the roarer . Kudra is brow n, w ith a black belly and red back, clothed in a skin. H e is ferocious and destructive, the L o rd o f the storm gods, the M aruts, w h o ait acks like a ferocious w ild beast, yet he is also the benevolent healer and 1 ooler o f disease. These hym ns, R g Veda 2 .3 3 ,1.4 3 and 1 . 1 1 4 , praise R udra and ask him to leave their com m unities alone, not to take their children and grandchildren, not to kill their horses and cattle, and, having been


An introduction to Hinduism Karly worship of Rudra

Puranic Naivism

N on -P u ran ic Saivism

_____ I _____ _
Atimarga i i
Saivism Pasupata

n Mantramarga

K ap alik a Saivism

Saiva ! Siddhnta

L ak u la

K au la


K alam ukha

pop u lar w orship o f Siva

i r Lin gayat * 1
A g h o ri

Tam il Saiva Siddhnta

Figure 6 The development o f the Saiva traditions

praised, to go aw ay and strike dow n som eone else instead! In the Taittiriya

Samhitd of the black Y aju r Veda and in the Vdjasaneyi Samhitd o f the
w hite,6 is a hym n to the hundred names o f R u d ra (satarudriya) w hich further develops the am biguous nature o f the god, speaking o f his auspi cious form in contrast to his malignant form . H e is the god o f w ild, haunted places, w ho lives apart from hum an com m unities w ho are terri fied b y his feral habitations. Yet, as in the R g Veda , he is also the healer, the L o rd o f medicinal herbs, and Pasupati, the L o rd o f cattle. This hym n is an early example of enumerating the divine names o f a deity in order to make contact with him/her. B y the first few centuries c e , the recitation o f the

Satarudriya is claimed, in the Jabala Upanisad , fo r instance, to lead to im m ortality,7 and the Satarudriya is often referred to in the Siva Purdna.
The hym n is still recited in Saiva temples today.8 R udra is a peripheral deity in the vedic pantheon and the descriptions o f him as living away from the A ry an com m unities m ay indicate that his o ri gins are non-vedic, yet, nevertheless, the fact that he is included in these hym ns shows that he is still, how ever peripherally, part o f the vedic pan152

Satva and tantric religion

ihron. Ily the fifth or fourth centuries H e r, however, Rudra-Siva has risen

m i

a more prominent position and in the

Svetasvatara Upanisad has

become identified with the suprem e absolute, the efficient and material of the cosm os.

The Svetasvatara Upanisad I he Svetasvatara Upanisad , the teachings o f the sage w ith the w hite mule
( M'chisvatara), was com posed around the fifth or fourth centuries b c e , . hm nologically after the Brhadaranyaka and Chandogya Upanisads, but lief ore the Bhagavad Gita. This text is v e ry im portant fo r understanding ilie developm ent o f H indu religious thought, fo r it marks a transition Iei ween the sim pler m onism o f the earlier U panisads and the theism o f the I nci Saiva and Vaisnava traditions. The text begins b y asking a series o f juestions about the origin o f the universe and the origin o f hum anity: w hat is the cause o f all this? W ho rules over our various conditions o f pleaui e and pain? The text then attempts to answ er these queries b y p ro p o s ing a theology w hich elevates R udra to the status o f supreme being, the Lord (Isa) w h o is transcendent yet also has cosm ological functions, as docs Siva in later traditions. F o r the Svetasvatara: - the Lord is the cause of the cosmos. the Lord is a magician (mdyin) who produces the world through his power (sakti) and sustains it. - the Lord is transcendent, dwelling beyond the cosmos, yet also immanent, dwelling in the hearts of all beings. There are parallels here w ith the slightly later Vaisnava theologies o f the

Mabdnarayana Upanisad and the Bhagavad G ita , and like those texts
i here seems to be some distinction betw een the L o rd and the individual soul and, although the term bhedabheda is not used, the Svetasvatara pre sents a difference-in-identity theology. T he soul, w hich is w ithout gender, journeys from b od y to b od y according to its karm a until liberated through the efforts o f yoga and b y the grace (prasada ) o f the L o rd w ith whom it is united. Indeed the term bhakti in the context o f one having highest devotion fo r G o d and fo r ones guru as G o d , occurs here fo r the first tim e.9 H ow ever, as this is the last stanza o f the text it is p ro b ab ly a later interpolation, for, w hile the seeds o f bhakti are here, they have not yet developed.


An introduction to / /induism

The form ation of Saivism

W hile R u d ra-Siva is eulogized in the Rg Veda and identified with a theistic absolute in the vets'vatara Upanisad , there are other early references to Siva and Saiva w orsh ip. In the gramm arian Patanjalis G reat C o m m entary (Mahbhsya) on Pninis fam ous Sanskrit gramm ar (second century b c e ) , he describes a devotee o f Siva, a Siva-bhgavata , as clad in animal skins and carryin g an iron lance as the sym bol o f his god, perhaps a precursor o f Sivas trident. C oins o f G reek, Ska and Parthian kings w h o ruled north India ( 2 0 0 b c e - i o o c e ) have been found bearing a bull, a sym bol o f Siva, and there are references to early Saiva ascetics in the

M ahbhrata .10 H ow ever, it is w ith the Purnas that w e see Saivism

develop as a m ajor strand o f H indu religiosity.

D urin g the G u pta dyn asty (c. 320-500

c e

) puranic

religion developed and

expanded, and the stories o f the Purnas spread rapidly, eventually throughout the subcontinent, through the singers or reciters, and indeed com posers, o f the narratives. This expansion w as accom panied b y the developm ent o f brahm anical form s o f w orsh ip, the Smrta or paurdnika, based on those texts. W ith the decline o f the G uptas, w hile this Smrta w orsh ip is w ell established, there occurs an increase o f esoteric cults, m any o f w hich, or elements o f which, becom e absorbed into brahmanical form s o f w orship. The Saiva Purnas, the most im portant o f w hich are the Linga, and the Siva Purnas , contain the usual puranic subjects o f genealogies, the duties o f different castes, D harm a Sstra material and astrology, as w ell as exclu sively Saiva elements such as the installing o f lingas in temples, descrip tions o f the various form s o f Siva, and the nature o f Siva, whose b o d y is the cosm os, as transcendent and immanent. A p art from material on the form al w orsh ip o f Siva, Purnas such as the Linga also contain inform ation on asceticism and yoga, particularly the yo ga o f the Psupatas, the earliest Saiva sect o f w hich w e know. The Purnas classify Saivas into four groups, nam ely the Psupata, Lkullsa, Saiva and K plika, w hile Rm nuja in his com m entary on the Brahma-Stra lists the Saivas, Psupatas, K plins and K lm ukhas.1 1 A ll these groups are generally outside the vedic or puranic system . Indeed all the Purnas w ere com posed w ithin the sphere o f vedic or Smrta o rth od oxy and texts such as the Krm a-Purna condem n the


tittiva and tantric religion system,1 - favouring instead the authority of th eSataru driya and i late Upanisad containing Saiva material, the Atharvasiras Upanisad. Although the Purnas are pervaded by non-orthodox Saiva material, they nevertheless distance themselves from these non-orthodox or tantric sys tems which posed a threat to vedic purity and dharm a.
A Brahman householder w ho w orshipped Siva b y perform ing a pm .mic p u jd, making offerings b y using vedic mantras to orthodox form s nt Siva, was not an initiate into a specific Saiva sect, but w orshipped Siva within the general context o f vedic dom estic rites and Smrta adherence to varnasram a-dharm a. In his com m entary on the B rahm a Sutra (the same \ ri se as com mented on b y Rm nuja) Sankara refers to M ahesvaras w h o w > ship Siva, pro b ab ly meaning those w h o fo llo w thzpa u rdn ik a form o f <i worship. A s A lexis Sanderson has described, such a brahmanical Saiva within the Smrta dom ain, a M ahesvara, can be contrasted w ith an initiate, technically kn ow n as a Saiva, w h o has undergone an initiation (diksd ) and who follow s the teachings o f Siva (sivasdsana) contained in Saiva scrip tures (s d stra )P W hile the Saiva initiate hoped fo r liberation (m oksa), the Saiva householder or M ahesvara w ou ld at death be taken to Sivas heaven (Siva-loka) at the top o f the w orld egg (where vaik u n th a w ou ld be fo r the pu rnic Vaisnava). The Saiva initiates (as opposed to the lay, pau rd n ik a devotees) can be lurther classified w ithin a m ore general distinction, again clearly expli cated b y A lexis Sanderson, between on the one hand the O uter Path (atimdrga) and on the other the Path o f M antras (m a n tra m drg a)}AThese are tw o m ain branches described in Saiva texts, the gam as or Tantras. The form er, open to ascetics only, is a path exclusively for the purpose o f salvation fro m samsdra, w hile the latter, open to ascetics and household ers, is a path w hich leads to eventual salvation, but also to the attainment o f supernatural or magical pow ers (siddhi) and pleasure (bh oga ) in higher worlds along the w ay. The path o f the atim drga might also be rendered as the higher path - the path w hich has transcended the orthodox system o f four stages o f life (< sram a), going even higher than the orthodox stage o f renunciation according to the A tim rgins.

Within the higher path (atimdrga) tw o im portant orders existed, the Psupata and a sub-branch, the Lkula, part o f w hich was the K lm ukha order. T h e Psupatas are the oldest Saiva sect, pro b ab ly from the second

An introduction to Hinduism
c e

referred to in the N iran iya section o f the Mahbhrata , 15

though no ancient texts belonging to them have survived. The only Pasupata scripture which we have is the com paratively late, though pretenth-century, Pasupata Stra with a com m entary by K au n d in ya.16 A ccordin g to tradition, this text is the revelation o f R udra w ho became the possib ly historical sage, Lakulsa, b y entering and reanim ating the corpse o f a Brahm an in a crem ation ground. This form is also regarded as the last o f Sivas incarnations {avatara) m entioned in the Krma P u r n a }7 In this form he gave out the teachings contained in the Pasupata Stra. The Pasupata ascetic had to be a Brahm an male, w h o had undergone the high-caste initiation cerem ony. A lth ough he could becom e a Pasupata from any stage o f life, his high-caste status was still im portant in his reli gious practice in so far as he should not speak w ith lo w castes nor w ith w om en. Indeed one passage o f K aun d in yas com m entary on the Pasupata

Stra 18 speaks in m isogynistic terms o f w om en as the temptresses o f the

ascetic, w h o creates madness in him, and w hose sexuality cannot be con trolled b y scripture. The Pasupata ascetic had to be a Brahm an and had to be celibate (brahmacrya ), though he was nevertheless disapproved o f and rebuked b y some vedic, Smrta texts such as the Krm a-Purna .19 The Psupatas seem to have been very much on the edges o f orthodox house holder society, going beyond the four stages (srama) to a fifth, perfected stage (siddha srama) and spurning vedic householder injunctions on pu rity and fam ily life. Yet, unlike m any other Saiva groups, the Pasupata never com pletely abandoned or explicitly rejected vedic values, w ishing to see his tradition as in some sense the culm ination and fulfilm ent o f vedic life rather than its rejection. Liberation from karm a and rebirth occurred at death: a liberation w hich was conceptualized as acquiring the qualities o f omniscience and om nipotence. A lth ough ultim ately this liberation was through the grace o f R udra, some effort on the part o f the Pasupata was needed. This took the form o f a vo w or observance (vrata) w hich involved a spiritual practice (sdhana) in three developm ental stages. The first involved the ascetic living b y a Saiva temple, covering him self in ashes w hile avoiding bathing in water, and w orsh ippin g the deity through dancing and singing, meditation on five mantras sacred to Siva, laughter and temple circum am bulation. The second stage was to leave the temple, rem ove external signs o f his cultic affiliation, and behave in public places in anti-social w ays such as acting as if deranged, m aking lew d ges tures to you ng w om en, snoring loud ly w hile not being asleep, and even 156

Sarva and tantric religion

u imp, as il crippled. This behaviour was to invite the abuse o f passers-by in older that their merit o r good karma would be transferred to the ascetic, ss 1111c* his bad karma would be transferred to those who had abused him. I In* third and final stage was to w ithdraw to a remote place, such as a cave ni deserted house, in order to meditate upon the five sacred mantras and out he syllable om. W hen this meditation could be achieved effortlessly, he finally withdrew to a crem ation ground w here he lived from w hatever he imid find and ultim ately died gaining union w ith R udra (rudrasayu-

I yam).20

Chore were various sub-divisions am ong the Pasupatas, the m ost im p or

tant of which was the Lakula. These w ere ascetics w ho accepted the docIlines of the Pasupata Sutra, though they w ere m ore extreme in their ascetic practices and rejection or transcendence o f vedic injunctions than i lie other Pasupatas. Sanderson quotes one surviving m anuscript o f the .ci t which describes them as w andering, carrying a skull-topped staff (k'hatvanga), w ith a skull begging b ow l, a garland o f human bone, and t overed in ashes, w ith matted hair or shaven head in im itation o f their l o rd R udra.21 H ere the ascetic takes his im itation o f R udra to the extreme, as one w ho has taken the great v o w (m ah avrata) required o f someone for killing a Brahm an. The D harm a Sastras state that one w ho lias killed a Brahm an should perform penance b y living outside vedic soci ety, in a hut in a forest, carrying the skull o f the person slain like a flag, fo r a tw elve-year period, in order to expiate the crim e.22 'This idea is further reinforced b y a m yth told in a num ber o f variants in the Puranas. The essential story is that the god Brahm a feels passion fo r his daughter and attempts to sleep w ith her. A s a consequence, Siva, in the lorm o f the terrible Bhairava, cuts o ff B rah m as fifth head w ith his thumb nail. The head does not leave Bhairavas hand, so he wanders around vari ous pilgrim age sites (tirtha) until he reaches Varanasi w here the skull falls at the Kapalam ocana (freeing the skull ) tirtha; Siva is then freed from the sin o f Brahm anicide. A s the w anderer w ith the Brahm ans (i.e. Brah m as) skull, Siva is also kn ow n as the beggar Bhiksayatana and the skull-bearer Kapalin. There are a num ber o f versions o f this m yth,23 but the main point here is that the narrative serves to reinforce the identification o f the Lakula ascetic w ith the skull-carrying form o f Siva. Part o f the Lakula order w ere the Kalam ukhas w h o flourished from the

1 57

An introduction to Hinduism
ninth to thirteenth centurics and about whom we gain inform ation mainly from south Indian epigraphic evidence. T h ey were prevalent in Karnataka w here they w ere superseded by the Lirigayat sect in the thirteenth century. The K alam ukhas had their ow n temples and, in spite o f strongly hetero dox elements in their practices, such as w orshipping Rudra in a pot filled w ith alchohol and covering themselves in the ashes o f corpses rather than cow -dung, th ey regarded themselves as being w ithin the vedic fold. In contrast to the higher path (atim drga) w hich was thought to lead straight to liberation, the path o f mantras (m antram drga) leads to libera tion via the acquisition o f magical pow ers and experiencing pleasure in higher w orld s fo r initiates. W ithin this general category are a num ber o f traditions and ritual system s which, Sanderson has show n, can be divided into tw o broad categories, the Saiva Siddhanta and non-Siddhanta system s w hich incorporate a num ber of other groups and texts.24 A ll o f these tra ditions w ithin the path o f mantras revered as authoritative revelation a vast b o d y o f texts know n as the Agam as and Tantras, texts w hich w ere regarded as heterodox b y the strictly orth odox vedic tradition. E ven so, m any o f these texts came to infiltrate o rth od o xy and came to be revered as authoritative even w ithin Smarta circles. T he traditions o f the path o f mantras are know n as the tantric traditions, fo r their revelation com prises the Saiva tantric texts. B efore going on to examine the traditions o f the m antram drga, w e need first to make some general points about the tantric revelation, the Agam as and Tantras.

The tantric revelation

The Tantras cannot be dated before 600

at the v e ry earliest, m ost w ere

p rob ab ly com posed from the eighth century onw ards and b y the tenth century a vast b o d y o f Sanskrit texts had developed, generally called Tantra, though the term A gam a is also used and Sam hita fo r Vaisnava texts o f the Pancaratra (see p. 122). There is a large corpus o f Buddhist Tantras w hich form the textual basis o f the V ajrayana w hich, though little remains in Sanskrit, are preserved in Tibetan translations. The religious culture o f the Tantras is essentially H indu and the Buddhist tantric m ater ial can be show n to have been derived from Saiva sources.25 There is a sub stantial b o d y o f Ja in Tantras and there was a corpus o f Tantras to the Sun (Surya) in the Saura tradition, none o f w hich have survived. The tantric texts are regarded as revelation, superior to the Veda, b y the traditions w hich revere them: the Saiva Tantras are thought to have been revealed b y 158

Satva and tantric religion

Siva, the Vaisnava Tantras by Visnu and the Salua Tantras by the G oddess, and transmitted to the human world via a series of intermediate sages. While being rejected by vedic orthodoxy, the follow ers o f the Tantras, the itintrikas, included the orthodox system w ithin their ow n as a lo w er level *1 attainment and understanding. Revelation was, in some sense, p rogres sive, the Tntrikas placing their ow n system s at the top o f a hierarchy. I a ill ric Saiva groups w ou ld regard their revelations as the esoteric culm i nation o f Vedic orthodoxy, w hile Buddhist Vajraynists w ou ld sim ilarly i ej;ard their Tantras as the culm ination o f M ahyana Buddhism . 'The main geographical areas fo r the early medieval explosion o f tantric ieligion w ere K ashm ir and N epal, areas in w hich im portant manuscripts have been preserved. Bengal and A ssam w ere also im portant and the Tantras penetrated to the far south. Indeed, the tantric orders and practices <> w hich the texts speak w ere prob ab ly pan-Indian b y the tenth or eleventh 1 i cnturies. M an y Tantras have been translated into Tamil and are used as the Iusis fo r liturgies in south Indian temples. Tantrism has been so pervasive i hat all o f H induism after the eleventh century, perhaps w ith the exception of the vedic Srauta tradition, is influenced b y it. A 1 form s o f Saiva, J Vaisnava and Smrta religion, even those form s w hich wanted to distance themselves from Tantrism, absorbed elements derived from the Tantras. The Tantras generally take the form o f a dialogue between Siva and the G oddess (D evi, Prvat, Um ). The G odd ess, as the disciple, asks the questions and Siva, as the master, answers. In the Vaisnava Tantras (i.e. Pncartra Samhits) the dialogue is betw een the L o rd (Bhagavn) and the G oddess Sri or Laksm l. In some Tantras focused on the G oddess - those o f the Skta tradition - it is Siva w h o does the asking and the G oddess w h o replies. This narrative structure reflects the im portance and centrality o f the guru in Tantrism. A s the G oddess receives w isdom from Siva, or in some cases vice versa, so the disciple receives w isd om from his or her m as ter. The meanings o f the Tantras are often obscure and it must be rem em bered that they w ere com piled w ithin the context o f a living, oral tradition and teachings given b y the guru. The Tantras often regard themselves as secret, to be revealed b y the guru o n ly w ith the appropriate initiation which wipes aw ay the pow er o f past actions.26 W hile the Tantras are notorious fo r their erotic and antinomian elements - ritual sex and the consum ption o f alcohol and meat offered to ferocious deities - m ost o f their contents are o f a more sober nature and they contain material on a w ide range o f topics. A lth ough they are


An introduction to Hinduism
prim arily ritual texts, the Tantras also explain the form ation o f m antras, hierarchical cosm ologies, initiations, the evolution o f sound from subtle to gross levels, yoga, doctrine, appropriate behaviour and temple architec ture. Traditionally the Tantras should cover four topics or stand on four feet or su pports (pada), nam ely doctrine (v id y a - or jn a n a -p a d a ), ritual (ik riya-p ad a ), yo ga (yoga-pada) and discipline or correct behaviour (carya-pada), though on ly exceptionally do the texts fo llo w this scheme.27 W hile there is divergence over doctrine and each tantric system regards itself as superior to the others, there are nevertheless com m on elements, particularly in respect o f spiritual practice (sadhana) and ritual: practice cuts across doctrinal distinctions.28 The m ost com m on features contained in the Tantras are the follow ing, though some o f these are not unique to the Tantras and not all Tantras contain all these elements: - the Tantras are concerned with practice or sadhana, which involves initiation (diksa), ritual and yoga. - there is a common ritual structure in the Tantras, though variation with regard to deities and mantras. This structure can be summarized as the purification of the body through its symbolic destruction; the creation of a divine body/self through mantra; internal worship or visualization; followed by external worship or puja. This process involves the use of hand gestures (m udra), mantra repetition and the construction of sacred diagrams (yantra, mandala). - the Tantras present elaborate hierarchical cosmologies which absorb the cosmic hierarchies of earlier traditions. For example the highest world of the Saiva Siddhanta is transcended by further worlds within Kashmir Saiva traditions. - the body is divine and contains the cosmic hierarchy within it, and the cosmic polarity of the male deity and his consort, the female energy. The male deity is often Siva and his Sakti is the Goddess Kundalinl. Their union within the body is the symbolic expression of liberation. - the Tantras are concerned with the attaining of magical powers (siddhi) and the experience of bliss in higher worlds (bhoga) as part of the practitioners spiritual journey, which is also conceptualized, and experienced, as a journey of the Kundalinl through the body. - the Tantras are concerned with possession (dves'a) and exorcism. A lthough these are com m on features, the tantric orders tended to be sectarian, regarding their ow n revelations as going beyond those o f other 1 60

tiiiiva and tantric religion thereby recapitulate a general feature of Hindu traInions: they incorporate previous religious lorms and texts within them .ii a lower level.
ii'ftditions. TheTantras

The social basis of the Tantras

I here is very little know n about the social status o f the Tantrikas. The I .ultras seem to have originated am ong ascetic groups living in crem ation grounds, w ho w ere prob ab ly not o f brahm anical origin, but w h o w ere above low-caste groups. Such crem ation-ground asceticism goes back a long w ay in Indian religion and the Pali canon o f Theravada Buddhism hears witness to it.29 These ascetics are beyond the pale o f vedic o rth o doxy: the ascetic ideal is here expressed at a low er social level. B y the early medieval period, groups o f ecstatic ascetics w ou ld imitate their terrible deities such as Bhairava and the goddess K ali, w h om they w o u ld appease with non-vegetarian offerings, alcohol and sexual substances. C o n trolled Ih>ssession w ou ld have been a feature o f their practice, in w hich the practilioner w ou ld invite the deity to possess him (avesa m am , enter m e) but would attempt to control the deity and so gain power. Texts such as the Netra Tantra bear witness to cults o f possession and exorcism .30 These ascetic groups w ou ld have been supported b y lo w castes w ho lived b y the cremation grounds. The ideologies o f these groups began to influence not on ly popular reli gion, but also brahmanical circles, as w e see in eleventh-century Kashm ir. I lere the popular cult o f the deity Svacchanda-Bhairava, a form o f Siva, is influenced b y tantric asceticism, but m ore significantly so are the higher social levels o f the Brahm ans and the court. Indeed the learned Brahm an elite, o f w h om the Saiva theologian A bhinavagupta was a part, began to transform extreme tantric id eology into a m ore respectable religion o f the higher castes. Tantric influence was a real social concern and its infiltration into co u rtly circles in K ashm ir was caricatured b y dramatists such as Ksem endra.31 H ow ever, after the tw elfth century, Tantrism rapidly declined in northern and central India, largely due to M uslim onslaughts and the establishing o f the D elhi Sultanate (12 0 6 -15 2 6 ). K ashm ir was plundered b y M ahm ud o f G h azni in 10 14 , though remained free from M uslim dom ination until the tw elfth century. In the south, beyond the region o f M uslim dom ination, Tantrism has survived and been absorbed into the social matrix. The Tantras are used as temple texts and are quite respectable in Tamilnadu and Kerala w here Tantris are high-caste 161

An introduction to Hinduism Nambudri Brahmans who install icons in temples; a long way from Tantrisms cremation-ground origins.

The path of m antras

A lth ou gh the outer or higher path (atimrga) does have the Pdsupata Sutra , it m ay be the case that it did not have its ow n distinctive revelation, relying, rather, on the scriptures o f other traditions w hile regarding itself as transcending all scriptures.32 The revelation o f the path o f mantras

(;mantramrga ), on the other hand, com prises all the Saiva Tantras; a vast
b o d y o f texts belonging to a num ber o f groups. The m ost im portant dis tinction w ith the path o f mantras is between the tradition know n as the Saiva Siddhnta on the one hand, and non-Siddhnta groups, or the teach ings o f Bhairava (Bhairava-sstra ), on the other. These are themselves subdivided into a num ber o f traditions. There are tw enty-eight Tantras o f the Saiva Siddhnta (divided into ten Siva gamas and eighteen Rudra

gamas) and num erous Bhairava Tantras.33 It is to the Saiva Siddhnta

that w e turn first.

The Saiva Siddhnta provides the basic ritual and doctrinal system o f the Path o f M antras, w hich is presupposed b y all the non-Siddhnta tradi tions. W hile the Saiva Siddhnta is the m ost im portant, norm ative form o f Saivism in south India, using Tamil scriptures, it origin ally developed in the north, particularly in Kashmir. In Tamilnadu the tradition com es to incorporate an em otional devotion (bhakti) expressed in the hym ns o f the Tamil saints, as did the parallel Sri Vaisnava tradition. O rigin ally it was not concerned w ith bhakti but w ith ritual. The Saiva Siddhnta is a dualist system , maintaining that there is an eternal distinction between the L o rd and the soul, in contrast to the m onistic K ash m ir Saivism w hich view ed the L ord and the soul as one. M onistic Saivism replaced the aiva Siddhnta in Kashm ir, w hich then established itself after the eleventh or tw elfth century in the south. There w ere a num ber o f eminent Saiva Siddhnta theologians w h o w rote com mentaries on tantric texts and com posed independent w orks on ritual and theology, the m ost significant amongst them being Sadyojoti (eighth century) in Kashm ir, and Bhojadeva (eleventh century) and A ghorasiva (twelfth century) in the south. A ccording to Saiva Siddhnta theology there are three distinct cate162

Savva ami tantrie religion

ju ries o f existence: the Lord (j)ati), souls (j>asn)% and the mental and m ater ial universe which binds them (pasa). T h e Lord, in an aspect called Sadasiva, perform s five actions: the em ission o f the cosm os, its m ainte nance, its re-absorption, the concealing o f himself, and the revealing o f himself through grace. H e is w h o lly transcendent and distinct from the eternal substance o f m aya, from w hich the material and mental universe is generated. The L ord is the efficient cause o f the cosm os, creating it via a regent, the L o rd Ananta, w ho activates m aya, the material cause and sub stance o f w hich the universe is a transform ation. H avin g been manifested, the cosm os eventually dissolves back again into m aya in an endless process o f emanation and re-absorption. B ou n d souls are beings w ith con sciousness w h o are entangled in the unconscious material universe, b y im purity (mala), b y action and its consequences (karm a), b y m aya, and b y the L o rd s pow er o f w ill. The soul is eventually liberated from this entan glement b y ritual action and b y Sivas grace. The three ontological cate gories can be sum m arized as follow s: Pati ( L ord ) Siva, efficient cause of the cosmos. As Sadasiva, he performs the five acts of emission, maintenance, re-absorption, concealment and bestowing grace.

pasu (Soul, lit. beast) The individual soul, distinct from iva, bound in the cosmos because of impurity, action, the material substratum (maya) and Sivas will. pasa (bond) The universe which comprises all mental and material phenomena. The universe, comprising many different worlds, is manifested from maya, its material substratum.

The soteriological goal o f the Saiva Siddhanta, as o f m ost other Indian religions, is liberation from the cycle o f reincarnation, conceived as becom ing equal to Siva. Liberation is thought to occur fo r the initiated Saiva Siddhantin at death, w hich means that he becomes om niscient and om nipotent, like Siva, but on tologically distinct from him. The soul could never becom e one w ith Siva, but could becom e a Siva. To achieve this end the practitioner (sadloaka) undergoes initiation b y a consecrated teacher (acarya) and undertakes a process o f d aily and occasional rituals w hich


An introduction to Hinduism
gradually rem ove im purity from tlu* soul. There are two initiations which he must undertake?the lesser initiation into the shared scriptures and ritu als o f the cult (the sam aya-diksa) and the liberating initiation (n irva n a diksa) w hich ensures the souls final release. F o r the Saiva Siddhanta, the sou ls freedom could on ly be attained b y ritual after initiation, because the so uls bondage is ultim ately caused b y im purity (mala) w hich is a su b stance. A substance cannot be rem oved b y thought or cognition, but o n ly through action: thought cannot affect the w o rld , but action can. The logic o f this effort-oriented doctrine is, however, counterbalanced b y a doctrine o f grace, in that liberation is not a mechanical process, but is finally attained on ly due to the pow er o f the Lord. W hile this path o f ritual is open to all classes, it is not open to w om en, w h o are categorized as ineligible fo r the com m on initiation, along w ith children, the old, the mad and the disabled. W omen can participate in the w orsh ip o f Siva but on ly vicariou sly through their husbands w h o perform the Saiva liturgies. H ow ever, a wom an can rise up to Sivas abode through the merit o f her husbands practice. The dualist A gam as and Tantras contain details o f the dom estic and temple w orsh ip necessary fo r salvation. These texts are still used today in the south, and there are ritual manuals (paddhati) com posed sum m arizing the procedures, such as that b y Som asam bhu (twelfth century) describing a ritual structure, the basics o f w hich are found in all tantric traditions.34 E ssentially Siva is treated as an honoured guest, and after a process o f purification is invited or brought dow n into the icon or lihga before w hich the devotee w orships and offers his services to the god. Siva then leaves the linga concluding the daily ritual. O ne o f the essential practices w ithin this and all tantric ritual is the divinization o f the w orshipper, fo r according to the Tantras o n ly a god can w orship a god: having becom e Siva one should w orsh ip Siva .35 This practice o f identification w ith the deity could be seen as the ritual expression o f a m onistic m etaphysics, in w hich the soul and the absolute are ultim ately one. This w o u ld certainly be true o f m any tantric system s, but not so w ith the Saiva Siddhanta. R ather it means that the practitioner (sadhaka) becomes equal to Siva w hile rem aining ontologically distinct.

The Saiva Siddhanta form s the basic ritual and theological system o f the Path o f M antras. The other main branch w ithin this division com prises the 164

Suiva and tuntrie religion

non Siddhnta system s. The classification ol Tan tras and groups within iliis category is highly com plex. These Tantras, distinct from the tw entyri|ht Agam as o f Saiva Siddhnta, are called the Bhairava Tantras. This cat|,Kry includes a num ber o f sub-divisions, but they are all characterized b y

emphasis on the worship o f ferocious form s o f Siva, such as the god

Bhairava, and the ferocious G oddess K ali.36 The practitioners w h o com posed these texts and w ho practised asceticism in the cremation ground where they originated, w ere called Kplikas, the skull-m en5, so called because, like the Lkula ascetic o f the higher path, they carried a skulllopped staff (khatvariga) and carried a cranium begging bow l; that is, they had undertaken the great vow (m ah dvrata), the penance fo r Bi ahmanicide. The Kplika ascetic was quite the opposite o f the respectable Smrta Brahman householder or even Saiva Siddhntin. Yet his doctrines and practices w ere developed on the basis o f Saiva Siddhnta id eology w hich lie radically reinterpreted. The K plika ascetic lived in the crem ation \\rounds, im itating his fierce deities and appeasing these deities w ith o ffer ings o f blood, meat, alcohol and sexual fluids from ritual intercourse unconstrained b y caste restrictions. These w ere h igh ly polluting activities lor an orthodox Brahm an and even the sight o f such an ascetic w ou ld p o l lute him. W hile meat and w ine w ere com m on enough among the low er castes, they w ere im pure for a Brahm an. A n orthodox Brahm an w o u ld make on ly pure, vegetarian offerings to his gods and sexual activity w ou ld be constrained b y the code o f varn dsram a-dh arm a, and excluded from the world o f p u ja. In place o f vegetarian food the K plika offered meat, in place o f m ilk the K plika offered w ine. The goal o f the K plika was pow er (.siddhi) which he thought he could achieve through breaking social taboos, appeasing his deities w ith offerings w hich w ou ld be anathema to the vedic practitioner, and harnessing the p ow er o f his deities through controlled possession. W ithin the Bhairava Tantras, there is further division into texts belong ing to the Seat o f M antras (m antrapitha) and those belonging to the Seat of V id y s (vid y p ith a ). W ithin the Seat o f M antras w ere texts belonging to the cult of Siva in the form of Svacchanda, such as the Svacch an dabhairava-T an tra, very popular in the Kashm ir valley, w hile the Seat o f V idys contained texts belonging to extreme cults o f the G oddess, the pow er (sakti) o f Siva, the m ost im portant o f w hich are the K aula or K u la, a name which comes to refer to a num ber o f groups as w ell 165

An introduction to Hinduism
as a general orientation towards tannic worship o f female deities. K apalika asceticism has all but died out in I ndia, with the exception o f the A gh o ris particularly in Varanasi, who preserve the Kapalika ethos, eating from skulls, m editating in the cremation grounds, using bodily products to appease their god and, in theory if not practice, perform ing a corpseeating ritual.37

The K aula or K u la tradition developed w ithin the context o f the K apalika crem ation-ground asceticism. The term k u la , m eaning fam ily, refers to the families o f goddesses (yogini) w h o are the retinues o f a num ber o f tantric deities and their consorts. The K aula divides itself into four trans m issions named after the directions, though it is unclear precisely h ow this self-classification relates to the sociohistorical reality o f these groups. The eastern transm ission in this model w orships Siva and Sakti as K ulesvara and Kulesvari, surrounded b y their retinue o f goddesses. The Trika o f K ashm ir Saivism develops from this transm ission. The northern transm is sion w orships the terrible G oddess G u h yak ali and form s the basis o f the Kram a system w hich w orships a series o f ferocious deities in a sequence (k ram a). The w estern transm ission focuses on the hunch-backed crone K u b jika and the southern transm ission w orships the beautiful, erotic, Kam esvari or Tripurasundarl. This form s the basis o f the Sri V id ya tradi tion in the south (see pp. i A lth ough the developm ent o f these tantric groups and their texts is com plex, a clear picture emerges o f mild cults on the one hand, particu larly Saiva Siddhanta, w orshipping Siva as Sadasiva, and extreme, G oddess-oriented cults on the other, w h o w orsh ipped ferocious deities (particularly the goddesses) w h o demand appeasement w ith blood, alco hol and erotic offerings. The Saiva Siddhanta, as the norm ative system , established itself as a householders religion, w hich it remains in the south to this day. The id eology and some o f the practices o f the extreme K aula cults w ere adapted to be palatable to a w ider audience. This developm ent has come to be know n as K ash m ir Saivism.

K ashm ir Saivism refers to the developm ent o f the eastern K aula transm is sion know n as the Trika (T h reefo ld) into a householder religion akin to the Saiva Siddhanta. U n like the Saiva Siddhanta, how ever, the Trika was 166

Saiva and tantric religion

monistic, maintaining a theology of the identity ol the Lord, the individ ual soul and the universe or bond. These arc not separate ontologies but i v.m tially a single reality w hose nature is consciousness (sam vit, cit). The n Ninos is an emanation or vibration o f consciousness and individual In mgs are but manifestations o f the absolute G reat Siva (M ahesvara or 1*41 amesvara) w hose nature is pure consciousness. The soteriological goal nj the Trika initiate is to merge his individual consciousness back into a lusher, universal consciousness, m anifested at a cult level in the form s o f Siva and also the G oddess Kali. W hile the Trika originated as a crem ationi.mund cult, the m onistic ideology and practice came to influence and appeal to Brahm an householders w h o appropriated Trika teachings, absorbing them m ore into the mainstream o f H indu traditions and articulai ing a theology distinct from the Saiva dualists. Alongside the tantric revelation, a sage called Vasugupta (c. 875-925) bad a dream in w hich Siva told him to go to the M ahadeva m ountain in k ashmir. O n this mountain he is said to have found verses inscribed upon

rock, the S iva Sutras, w hich outline the teaching o f Saiva monism: a text

which form s one o f the k ey sources o f the tradition. A part from this divine 1 evelation, there w ere authors w h o gave theological articulation to m onis1 ic Saiva texts o f human authorship, particu larly Somananda (c. 900-50), who first gave theological articulation to m onistic Saivism in his V ision o f Siva (Sivadrsti), and his disciple U tpaladeva (c. 9 25-75), w h o was the grand-teacher o f the greatest Saiva theologian A bhinavagupta (c. 9 75 -10 25). W hile the ritual system or basis o f K ashm ir Saivism is the I rika, its theological articulation in the w o rk s o f these authors is called the Recognition school (Pratyabhijna). T h e aim o f life is to recognize ones identity w ith the absolute consciousness o f Siva w h o, however, becom es Kali at the Trikas esoteric heart. Trika practice (.sadhana), described in A bhinavaguptas com pendium the Light on the Tantra (Tantraloka), involved a daily, tim e-consum ing ritual w hich follow ed the pattern o f Saiva Siddhanta, as w ell as form s o f yogic practice called the m ethods (u paya) w hich included the practice o f Kundalini yo ga (see p. 99). The initiate w o u ld p u rify his b o d y through its sym bolic destruction, re-create it w ith the im position o f mantras (nyasa), perform mental or inner w orship w hich involved the visualization o f the sym bol o f Sivas trident pervading the body, and finally perform an exter nal w orsh ip w ith an external sym bolic diagram (m andala). The visualized trident is significant fo r Trika th eology in that each prong represents one 167

An introduction to Hinduism
o f three goddesses, from which the name 'T rika is derived, namely Para ( the Suprem e), Prvrapara ( the Suprem e N on Suprem e) and A para (the N on-Suprem e). These in turn represent m anifestations o f pure conscious ness expressed as the goddess Kalasam karsini. A t a deeper layer o f Trika liturgy, fo r the spiritually elect, lies the secret ritual (the kulayaga) which involves offering the G oddess meat and alcohol, and ritual sex between the practitioner and his female partner. This ritual act recapitulates the union (yam ala) o f Siva and his energy, Sakti, and the aesthetic pleasure (rasa) arising from this ritualized sexual congress recapitulates the jo y (ananda) and w on d er (cam atkara) o f pure consciousness.39 The Trika theologians, particularly A bhinavagupta and his disciple Ksem araja (c. 10 00 -50), successfully defeated the dualist interpretation o f scripture in Kashm ir. The dualist doctrine, how ever, w hile vanishing from Kashm ir, took root in the south where it fused w ith Tamil devotionalism . Th ough p ro b ab ly never popular among lo w er strata o f society, Trika ide o lo gy was v e ry influential at a courtly level and m any o f its ideas and prac tices w ere absorbed into orthodox Smarta Brahm anism . W ith the subjugation o f K ash m ir b y the M uslim s in the eleventh century, K ashm ir Saivism all but died out, leaving o n ly an echo o f the tradition in m odern times.40 W ith the Saiva Siddhanta the sto ry is different, fo r w ith its m ove to the south aw ay from direct M uslim rule, it established thriving temple cultures, sometimes w ith royal patronage, w hich still survive today.

A s Saiva Siddhanta faded in K ashm ir it developed in Tamilnadu. The the o lo gy o f the tradition maintained the three categories o f the L o rd , the soul and the bond, and the litu rgy maintained the pattern o f the dualist A gamas. H ow ever, the significant feature w hich p ro fo u n d ly affected the tra dition in the south was that it merged w ith the Tamil Saiva cult expressed in the Tamil b h akti p oetry o f the sixty-three Tamil Saiva saints, the N ayan ars, the Saiva equivalent o f the A lvars. The Saiva Siddhanta absorbed bh akti and became a Tamil religion, pervaded b y Tamil cultural values and form s, as occurred to Vaisnavism in the south. The cultural context o f the Tamil love o f poetry, love o f the land, and love o f life gener ally, expressed in the early C ankam literature o f the classical Tamil age p rior to the third century
c e

transform ed the Saiva Siddhanta into a

Tamil, devotional religion. The Saiva Siddhanta remains strong in Tamilnadu today, and a group o f original Saiva priests, the A disaivas, 168

Saiva ami tantrie religion Irom five Brahman families, arc still qualified to perform worship in Saiva Siddhanta temples. As with Vaisnava bhakti , Saiva bhakti stresses the loss o f the limited self
and ephemeral w o rld ly interests, in favou r o f an em otional, outpouring

1>ve for an eternal transcendent Lord. Bhakti tends to reject caste and gen
der restrictions as having any consequence fo r salvation; all that is needed is love and the grace o f the Lord. Th e devotional traditions o f Saiva Siddhanta and the Lingayats (see pp. 1 7 1 - 2 ) have expressed, though not exclusively, the needs o f non-brahm anical social groups. Yet devotionalism within these traditions has in turn been absorbed into m ore form al structures w hich the founders o f bhakti m ovem ents m ay have originally been against. In the vision o f bhakti presented in the Tamil sources, what is forem ost is the direct relationship between the devotee and the Lo rd . There is almost a sense o f anti-structure in these hym ns and a reversal o f received social norm s: in M anikkavacakars Tiruvacakam ( Sacred Verses), for example, w e read o f devotees as being m ad (piccu, unmatta) w ith the love o f G o d and straying from accepted social and personal behaviour. Yet, perhaps ironically, bhakti and the hym ns o f the Tamil saints became part of the Saiva canon and an integral part o f structured temple w orsh ip, which had the blessing o f the C h o la kings. H indu orthodoxy, that is the Brahmans w ith royal support, did not generally actively repress m ove ments w hich could be seen as antithetical to orth od ox interests, but rather encompassed them w ithin their ideological structures. Indeed, devotion to a tem ple deity might be seen as an analogue o f the subjects devotion to the king, though, unlike a subjects devotion, there is alw ays the possib il ity that bhakti could be w ild, uncontrolled and ecstatic. The texts revered b y the southern Saiva Siddhanta are the Vedas; the tw enty-eight dualist Agam as w hich form the ritual basis o f the tradition; the tw elve books o f the Tamil Saiva canon called the Tirumurai, w hich con tains the p oetry o f the N ayanars; and the Saiva Siddhanta Sastras. The

Tirumurai contains a vast b od y o f material w hose dates span a 600-year

period from about the sixth to the tw elfth centuries. A m on g the poets w hose w o rk appears in the Saiva canon are A ppar, C am pantar and C untarar (sixth-eighth centuries

c e ) w hose p oetry form s the Tevaram , a

collection com piled and classified on the basis o f music in the tenth century b y N am p i A ntar N am pi. These three poets, along w ith the later ninth-cen tu ry saint, M anikkavacakar, the author o f the Tiruvacakam , are regarded as 169

An introduction to Hinduism the founding fathers o f the Saiva Siddhania in the south. These poets praise Siva and the tem ples o f south India where he lives, form ing a netw ork ol pilgrim age sites and creating a sacred geography which also became a sacred political geography with the dyn asty o f the C hola kings (c. 8701 280).41 U n d er the C holas, Saivism enjoyed patronage with the great tem ple at Cidam baram becom ing an im portant political and religious centre. D urin g the period from 600 c e to the rise o f the C holas, the period du ring w hich the N ayan ars w ere com posing their hym ns, the Pallavas w ho ruled northern Tam ilnadu and the Pandeyas w h o ruled the south, devel oped a strong social structure akin to feudalism - an embedded hierarchy o f patronage w hich w ou ld have involved a sophisticated bureaucracy.42 There w as constant political and m ilitary conflict between these k in g dom s, as w ell as w ith the C h alu k ya kingdom to the north, as they jostled fo r territory and power. The bhakti m ovem ent, both Saiva and Vaisnava, w hich stressed the equality o f devotees, can be seen in part as a reaction against a system w hich oppressed the lo w er social strata and im posed heavy tax burdens in order to finance m ilitary struggles. W hile the bhakti m ovem ent should not be exaggerated as an articulation o f a class strug gle , there is nevertheless a strong sense in w hich bhakti is opposed to rigid structures and rationalized systems: all devotees o f Siva are his slaves

(atiyar) and each has a personal relationship w ith him outside any institu
tionalized religion.43 W ritings against caste can also be found am ongst the adepts (Tamil cittar , Sanskrit siddha ), Tamil yogis w hose ideas are expressed in T irum ulars Tirumantiram. A nother im portant factor which led to the developm ent o f bhakti was popular reaction against Buddhism and Jainism , both ascetic and renunci atory traditions, w hich w ere w ell established in the south until about 1200
c e

. The

Jains particularly bore the brunt o f the devotees invective, being

accused o f know ing no Tamil or Sanskrit (but o n ly Prakrit), and o f being filthy and generally anti-social. The doctrines o f renunciation and the atheism o f these religions had little appeal to Tamil culture in the medieval period and so they died out, devotion becom ing the predom i nant ideology, and puja to perceptible deities the practice. Tamil Saiva Siddhanta is therefore a fusion o f a num ber o f elements. There is brahmanical adherence to the Veda, though practically it is neglected in favou r o f the A gam as; a strong cult o f tem ple ritual, based on the Agam as and focused on Sivas form s located in temples throughout the sacred Tamil land; and an em otional bhakti cult based on the hym ns o f the 170

Saiva and tantric religion NityauSirs. This emotional bhakli, while originating in the south with the l*i mi ry of the Nayanars and Alvars, rapidly spread north and the Lingayat * ti.idition in neighbouring Karnataka soon became infected by Tamil ilrvolionalism.

l.mtrism also took root in Kerala, the extrem e south-w est o f India, where 11 has become one o f the predom inant traditions o f the N am b u dri lit limans. In Kerala, as indeed inTam ilnadu, w e can see the im portance o f I intrism in the general temple culture and the w a y in w hich tantric form s 1 worship are integral to daily ritual practices. Yet, whereas in Tamilnadu > i an trie traditions are clearly either Saiva or Vaisnava, in K erala these dislinctions are not maintained and Kerala Tantrism cannot be classified in l his way, incorporating in its w orsh ip a num ber o f brahmanical Saiva and Vaisnava deities, such as Siva, Visnu, G anesa, and low -caste regional deities, particularly goddesses. The Tantrism o f K erala appears to be far Irom the crem ation-ground traditions o f northern Tantrism and has become com pletely em bedded w ithin orthoprax vaidika traditions. In Kerala a Tantri is a N am bu dri Brahm an belonging to one o f a group o f families ranked in a status hierarchy. The main function o f these Tantris is to install icons in temples, w hile the daily ritual observances are per formed b y piijdr is o f different families. There is a, generally low -caste, tradition o f ritual magic to cure sickness and w ard o ff m isfortune, the

mantravadam , and a Tantri might w ell perform the functions o f both tem ple priest and m agician (mantravadin ).
The precise origins o f Tantrism in K erala are unclear, though the tradi tion m ay have com e from Kashmir. The tw o k ey texts used in temple ritual are the Tantrasamuccaya b y C enasnam budri (fifteenth century c e ) and the Isanasivagurudeva-paddhati w hich dates back to the twelfth century.44 W hile these texts are used in the temple tantric cults o f the respectable householder religion, they still reflect an archaic tantric w o rld view and reflect the roots o f Tantrism in crem ation-ground asceti cism. A n oth er im portant regional tradition, a fusion o f bloakti w ith Tantrism, w hich developed in A ndh ra Pradesh, w as that o f the Lingayats.

The Lingayats, wearers o f the linga\ or V irasaivas, heroes fo r Siva , w ere founded b y Basava (twelfth century c e ) , though seem to have had some


An introduction to Hinduism
connections with the Kalam ukha order. U nlike the Kalam ukhas, h o w ever, they lay emphasis on devotion rather than asceticism and reject tem ple w orsh ip and icon w orship, except for a liriga worn around the neck, w hich is w orsh ipped daily. The Lirigayat devotee believes that upon death he w ill go straight to union w ith Siva and that there w ill be no return to the w orld . The Lin gayats therefore need no orthoprax funereal rites and bury their dead, as is done w ith h o ly men. There is still a large Lirigayat com m u n ity in Karnataka. Basava (c. 110 6 -6 7 ) was a Saiva Brahm an at the court o f K in g Bijjala, the king o f K alyan a. H e was a social and religious reform er, a devotee o f Siva as the L o rd o f the M eeting o f R iv ers, w h o expressed his devotion in p o etry and founded a new com munity. A n oth er notable poet am ong the Lin gayat com m unity was a you nger contem porary o f Basava, M ahadevyakka. She became a wandering, naked ascetic and is iconographically depicted clothed only in her hair. In her poetry she writes o f her longing fo r Siva and she scorns w o rld ly love as impermanent and unsatisfactory: I love the Beautiful One with no bond nor fear no clan no land no landmarks for his beau ty... Take these husbands who die, decay, and feed them to your kitchen fires!45 Basava was vehem ently against the caste system and ritualistic religion. H e began a com m unity at K alyan a w hich em phasized egalitarianism, including caste-free marriage, and developed an ethos o f w hat V ictor Turner has called com munitas or com m union .46 Indeed, according to B asavas biographer, a w edding occurred betw een the son o f an outcaste and the daughter o f a Brahm an. This flouting o f social convention led to K in g B ijjala condem ning the couples fathers to death, an act w hich, rather than repressing the com m unity, caused a riot against the king w h o was assassinated. This in turn led to repression o f the Lirigayat com m unity, w hich nevertheless survived. Basava, w h o w as opposed to the com m u n ity s violence against the king, lived out his days aw ay from the co m m unity he founded.47


Stiivd twd tantric religion

Sum m ary
As with Vaisnavism, Saivism is a com plex and rich tradition, reaching a * articulation in the post-G u pta period, though its roots stretch back a long way, perhaps as far as the Indus valley civilization. Saivism has been generally less orthoprax than Vaisnavism , less concerned w ith locating 11 self in the tradition stem ming from the vedic revelation. It has provided its ow n revelation in the Saiva Tantras, and incorporated the vedic revelaIion within it at a low er level. A s w ith Vaisnavism , there is a w ide diversity of religious form s, ranging from the orthoprax Smarta or pauranika w o r ship o f Siva, to ecstatic bh akti, and to h igh ly esoteric and antinomian lorms o f w orship in its tantric extreme. W ithin the tantric realm, am ong the Tantras w here the G oddess predom inates, it is difficult to distinguish between Saiva and Sakta orientations. It is this m ore exclusive Sakta w in g of the tantric material and the religion o f the G oddess generally to w hich we now turn.


8 The Goddess and Sakta traditions

The traditions o f Siva and Visnu have dom inated H indu literature and have been the m ajor focus o f devotional attention. Yet there is nevertheless a vital H indu G oddess tradition and m any goddesses are w orshipped daily throughout south A sia. The innum erable goddesses o f local tradi tions are generally regarded b y H indus as m anifestations or aspects o f a single G reat G oddess or M aha D evi, w hose w orship m ay go back to p re historic times if sixth- or fifth-m illennia terracotta figurines are taken to be G oddess images. W orship o f the H in du G oddess is also im portant beyond the bounds o f H induism in contem porary western revivals o f G oddess w o rsh ip .1 The G oddess is a contradictory and am bivalent figure in H induism . O n the one hand she is the source o f life, the benevolent mother w h o is giving and overflow ing, yet on the other she is a terrible malevolent force w h o demands offerings o f blood, meat and alcohol to placate her wrath. W endy O Flaherty has referred to tw o distinct categories o f Indian goddesses w hich reflect these tw o natures: on the one hand are goddesses o f tooth w h o are erotic, ferocious and dangerous, on the other are goddesses o f breast w ho are auspicious, bountiful and fertile.2 The goddesses o f breast are generally role models o f H indu w om en w h o em body maternal quali ties o f generosity and graciousness, subservient to their divine husbands, w hile the goddesses o f tooth are independent, low -ranking and dom inate their consorts if they have any. The high-ranking goddesses o f breast are sexually controlled w ithin a brahmanical fram ew ork, the low -ran kin g goddesses o f tooth are free, as W endy O F laherty observes, to attack


The (iodilrss and Sakta traditions M ' There are some exceptions to this distinction and some goddesses, ini in h as Tripurasundari, are both beautiful and independent. Devi, the I ii cAt (ioddess, embraces both of these images and her cults express this ambivalence.
I >evotees o f the G oddess are generally called Sktas: the follow ers o f * ilui, a name fo r the G oddess denoting the female p o w e r or en ergy5 o f . ihe universe. The Skta tradition is, how ever, less clearly defined than
V i ivism

or Vaisnavism . Indeed it w ou ld be greatly misleading to assume only Sktas w orship the G oddess. A lm o st all H indus w ill revere her in some capacity, particularly at village level w here her demands are ve ry immediate as are her boons. B oth Vaisnavism and Saivism have incorpo14led the G oddess w ithin them as the consorts or energies (sakti) o f their in.ile deities. Yet, as w e have seen, at its tantric heart Saivism is pervaded b y feminized images o f divinity and practice. W ith Skta texts this fem inized irligion becomes overt in both puranic and tantric manifestations. The < ioddess, on the edges o f the brahm anical w orld , is incorporated into m thoprax, puranic w orsh ip and her tantric w orsh ip becomes brahm anj/.ed in the later medieval tradition o f the Sri V id y. H indu o rth op raxy contains the G oddess w ithin a brahm anical structure. H ow ever, on the edges o f brahmanical authority am ongst the low er castes, the tribals, and m the tantric m iddle ground between the high and lo w castes, she maini.iins a w ild independence as a sym bol o f the reversal o f brahmanical values. In this chapter I w ill first describe images o f the G oddess in m yth and iconography w hich developed during the first m illennium
c e

and w hich

.ire still im portant in contem porary H induism . We w ill then go on to trace developments in the h istory o f G oddess w orsh ip am ong the orthoprax Brahmans, among the tantric traditions, and at village level.

The m yth of Devi

There are a num ber o f narrative traditions about the G oddess and m inor goddesses in the Purnas and Tantras. T he m ost im portant m anifestation of D evi is D urg, the w arrior goddess w h o slays the buffalo dem on Mahisa. This m yth is central to the cult o f D evi and provides the inspira tion fo r her main iconographic representation w hich show s her as M ahisamardinl, the slayer o f the buffalo demon. The m yth is told in a num ber o f variants in the Purnas, especially the D evib h g a va ta Purna and the D evim h tm ya , a part o f the M rkan deya Purna. The latter text, the


An introduction to Hinduism
earliest w ork g lo rifyin g the ( foddcss, elates Irom the fifth to seventh ceil* turies
c e

This version in the D evim ahdtm ya is the simplest and the fo l

low in g account is based on that earlier version. The buffalo dem on, M ahisasura or sim ply M ahisa ( buffalo ), had obtained a boon from Brahm a that he could not be killed b y any male. W ith the confidence o f his invincibility, he firstly conquers the w o rld aiul then, w ish ing to conquer heaven as w ell, sends an ultim atum to Indra, the king o f the gods. Indra scorns M ahisa and a terrible battle ensues in which Indra is defeated and flees to Brahma fo r shelter, then to Siva and finally to Visnu. F ro m the bodies and angered faces o f the gods, great energy masses emerge w h ich fo rm into the shape o f a beautiful w om an, w h o is, o f course, D evi. The gods m anifest replicas o f their w eapons and give them to her, requesting her to defeat the demon M ahisa. H er lion m ount she receives from the m ountain god Him avat and her cup o f w ine from K ubera, the god o f wealth in the north. She gives out a terrible laugh and the gods shout v ic to ry . U p o n hearing the laughter and the shouting o f the gods, M ahisa is angered and sends his troops to find out w hat is going on. T h ey return, telling him o f the beauty o f the Goddess w h o is unm arried and w h o p o s sesses all the qualities o f love, heroism, laughter, terror and wonder. Th rou gh his en vo ys, M ahisa proposes m arriage to D evi w ho refuses him, and he and his councillors are confused b y her am orous dem eanour yet her w arlike talk. T h e envoys attack the G oddess when they are rebuked by her and are slain. M ah isa himself in a handsom e hum an form goes to D evi and again p roposes marriage, but she tells him that she has been born to protect the righteous and that he must flee to hell or fight. H e attacks the G odd ess, assum ing the form s of different animals, but D evi drinks wine, pursues M ahisa on her lion, and defeats him, kicking him w ith her foot, piercing his chest w ith her trident and decapitating him w ith her discus as he emerges in hum an form from the b u ffalo s body. The rem aining dem ons flee to hell and D evi is praised b y the gods w h om she prom ises to help w henever necessary.4 A num ber o f them es and attitudes are expressed in this m yth. The m yth directly confronts brahm anical models o f w om anhood expressed in the D harm a Sastras w h ere the nature of w om an (strisvabh ava) is passive, unw arlike and w h ere a w om ans role is defined in terms o f male authority on w hich a w om an should always be dependent as daughter, w ife, or mother. M ahisa can not be killed by any male, and a w om an, so he thinks, could not possib ly b e strong enough to defeat him. M ahisas initial reac176

The ( loddess andtidkta traditions

Ihiti is to want to m arry the beautiful D evi and thereby contain and conmil her, and he is confused by her attractiveness which contrasts w ith her like speech, for the G oddess em bodies the traditional aesthetic quali ties (rasa) found in Sanskrit poetics o f both heroism (virya) and eroticism (0 flgdra). W hen M ahisa does attack, she drinks w ine before going into (title, an act indicative o f her origins as a G odd ess to w hom offerings o f il< ohol and blood w ere made. She is far m ore p ow erfu l than the gods, fo r mly she can defeat the all-conquering demon.

Images of the Goddess 1 name D evi is interchangeable w ith D urga, though D evi incorporates a he
wider conception o f deity. A com m on term fo r the G oddess is sim ply M other . Throu ghou t south A sia the G odd ess is referred to as M o th er : Mata, M ataji or M a in the H indi-speaking north, A m m a in the D ravidian I,inguages o f the south. Lik e Siva, the G odd ess em bodies paradox and ambiju ity: she is erotic yet detached: gentle yet heroic; beautiful yet terrible. These aspects are expressed in a variety o f different goddesses at local and Imu-1 ndian levels. Indeed, there is a tendency fo r local goddesses to becom e identified w ith the G reat G oddess through the process o f Sanskritization, .md sometimes for local goddesses to becom e universalized, as w ith the local goddess Santosi M a w h o became a pan-H in d u deity due to a film id lin g her story. F o r her devotees, the G odd ess is the ultimate reality, knowledge o f w h om liberates from the cycle o f birth and death, yet she is .i Iso the ensnaring veil o f the great illusion (m ahdm aya) binding all beings. As the p ow er w hich both enslaves and liberates, she is Sakti, the energy or power o f Siva. The G oddess generates all form s and so is identified w ith Visnus second w ife, the Earth (Bhu), and w ith nature or matter (prakrti). Vet she also destroys the cosm os and the hum an com m unities w h o inhabit it with terrible violence. She can be approached and w orshipped in m any forms, in natural phenom ena, or in hum an form s as a mother, a w ife, an old wom an, or a yo u ng girl. H er main representations are: - as Durga, slayer of the buffalo-demon (Mahisasura), seated on or attended by a lion or tiger (when she is called Ambika). Durga, the difficult to access, has ten arms and weapons, kicks and pierces Mahisa with her trident and beheads him, while yet maintaining a calm and detached demeanour. - as Kali and other terrible manifestations, such as Camunda. They are emaciated, blood-drinking and violent forms who haunt the


An introduction to Hinduism
cremation grounds. Kali is hl.u k or 'blue, garlanded with severed heads, girdled with severed arms, with rolling, intoxicated eyes and .t lolling tongue. She dances on the corpse of her husband Siva. - as consorts or energies (s'akti) of the gods, particularly Sarasvatl, Parvatl and LaksmI, the consorts of Brahma, Siva and Visnu, who arc beautiful models of wifely and maternal devotion (though not devoid of righteous anger). In this category we can also include Radha, the consort of Krsna, and Slta, the wife of Rama. - as groups of generally ferocious female deities, notably the seven mothers (Saptamatrkas) whose natures are ambiguous, preying on children yet also destroying demons. In esoteric tantric literature they are associated with letters of the Sanskrit alphabet and the Goddess M atrka is the deity of the complete alphabet. - as local or regional icons in village or family shrines and temples. Local goddesses are often goddesses of smallpox and other pustular diseases, such as Sltala in the north and Mariyamman in the south. - as aniconic forms such as stones, poles, weapons, magical diagrams (yantra) and stylized female genitals (yoni). - as natural phenomena, particularly rivers (such as the rivers Gariga, the sacred Ganges and the Kaveri), lakes, trees and groves. - as male and female mediums possessed by a goddess, particularly during festivals.

Early worship of the Goddess

W orship o f goddesses m ay be extrem ely ancient in south Asia. Fem ale fig urines o f baked clay have been found in the north-w est at M ergarh and Sheri K han Tarakai, dated to the sixth or fifth millennium , and terracotta figurines have been found at M o h en jo -D aro (c. 2500-2000
b c e



m ajor city o f the Indus valley civilization. We do not k n o w the purpose o f these figures. It is possible that they served a ritual function, perhaps as offerings or talismans, or sim ply as gifts. U n fortu n ately the archaeological record is incom plete, though figurines from the north-w est region have been dated to the third and fourth centuries valley cities. In early vedic religion, goddesses (d e v i) are insignificant in that they p lay no role in the sacrifice at this early date, though several are m entioned in the R g Veda, the earliest textual record w e have. M ost notable am ongst 178

w hich m ay represent a

continuity o f tradition from ancient times, after the collapse o f the Indus

The ( oddess artdSakta traditions

lit hi arc Prthivi (the Earth), Aditi (the unbound*), Usas (the dawn), Nil 11i (destruction) and Vac (speech). Prthivi is M other Earth w hose coniiii i is D yaus, Father Sky. Aditi is a goddess o f som e significance as the
Mini her

o f the A dityas, a group o f seven or eight deities including D aksa,

,i s later father-in-law.5 She provides safety and wealth and is associated Hith the cow w hose m ilk nourishes hum anity. In the Brahm anas she is identified with the Earth, Prthivi.6 U sas is a yo u ng girl w h o brings light to ill' world each m orning b y going before the Sun (Surya). She is bestow er m prosperity and long life, yet conversely, because she announces the I p.rising o f the days, she also wears aw ay peop les lives. N irrti is a goddess i * destruction; an early representation o f destructive female p o w er found 1 hi Liter H induism in local and pan-H ind u goddesses such as K ali. The

1 m ns of the R g Veda im plore her to go aw ay and ask the gods fo r protec1V

i ion from her.7 In the Brahm anas she is described as dark and living in the

the direction o f death.8 In contrast V ac (speech) is a creative p o w er

who inspires the sages, reveals the meaning o f language and is identified with truth. Speech plays an im portant part in later H indu ph ilosoph y and

yogic and tantric traditions as the p o w er behind w ords, particularly

mantras. O ther goddesses are mentioned in early vedic literature, such as i lie river Sarasvatl, N igh t, the Forest, and D iti, the m other o f the dem ons, Imi their role is subordinated to that o f the gods. As the early texts are all the evidence w e have regarding vedic religion, we can conclude from this evidence the follow in g points: - goddesses have a subordinate position in early vedic religion, male deities being predominant. - there is no evidence of a Great Goddess in the Vedas, an idea for which there is textual evidence only from the medieval period. - some of the goddesses in the Veda, notably Prthivi and Sarasvatl, survived into later Hindu times. Sarasvatl becomes the Goddess of learning and music and wife of Brahma; Prthivi or Bhu (the Earth) becomes the second wife of Visnu. - the evidence of goddess worship from the archaeological record and from references in the Veda, suggests that worship of goddesses has non-vedic, and probably non-Aryan, origins.

The form ation of Goddess worship

Between the com position o f the Vedas and the Puranas there is little liter ary evidence o f G oddess w orsh ip, though there are Jain and Buddhist


An introduction to Hinduism

Worship of the Goddess in the Veda

(Indus Valley ?) (Dravidian worship)



K lku la

brahm anical G odd ess w orsh ip
Figure 7 The development of traditions of Goddess worship

U K ali cults village goddess w orship

Sri V id ya

sculptures depicting divine female beings, such as on the first-century


B uddhist m onum ent (stupa) at Sanchi. A general picture is suggested of low -caste, local goddesses becom ing absorbed into, and resisted by, brah manical tradition. Som e o f these goddesses w ere o f D ravidian, rather than A ry an , origin. The M ah abh arata, com posed b y Brahm ans, presents vari ous images o f fem ale destructive pow er in the form o f the seven or eight M atrkas, the M others and a num ber o f other demonesses. The M atrkas are described as dark, living on the periph ery o f society, and bringing m is fortune, particularly upon children w h o must be protected from their unwanted attentions. The ferocious K ali is m entioned in the E pic as being generated from the anger o f Sivas consort, the G odd ess U m a or Parvati, and D urga is praised in tw o laudations b y A rju n a in order to defeat his enemies.9 In south India there is evidence o f early w orsh ip o f goddesses. The Virgin G oddess K an ya Kum ari, w hose tem ple is situated at the tip o f India, existed in the early centuries o f the com m on era, and the Tamil C ankam literature m entions K orravai, goddess o f victory, to w h om b u ffa los w ere sacrificed and for w hom forest w arriors, the M arvars, w ere exhorted to ritual suicide.10 H ow ever, it is not until the Puranas that w e find a m ore developed Sakta theology and m yth ology, and the idea o f a single, all-em bracing G reat G o d d ess (M ahadevi) w h o encompasses all other deities. A picture emerges therefore o f the gradual incorporation o f the G oddess into the brahmanical sphere. This process o f assim ilation might 180

I I The

ihc ( <nlJew and tidkta traditions

In mtii as the upwards* movement of local goddesses; the transform ation *

h! probably aniconic entities (that is, deities represented by stones, h i ipons, poles and natural phenomena) into iconic representations w hich

D * eventually assimilated into the brahmanical pantheon as the w ives o f M

i hr Kods. The solitary G oddess is herself incorporated into Smarta w o rihip as one o f the five deities o f th epancayatana p u ja and universalized in pin inic m ythology.

t he earliest w o rk glorifyin g the G oddess in India is the D evim a h a tm ya

c e

(The G lo ry o f the G o d d ess), part o f the M arkan deya P uran a, an early I'urana which is dated to between the fifth and seventh centuries


Iext is extrem ely popular and is still recited in D urga temples and through out I ndia during the D urga Puja, the great autum n festival to the G oddess. The text presents a picture o f the ultimate reality as the G oddess, w h o is idho M ahamaya, the great illusion. The text demonstrates her salvific power b y recounting three m yths o f h ow she defeated a num ber o f demons, nam ely M adhu, and Kaitabha, M ahisasura, and Sum bha and Nisumbha. In Vaisnava m ythology, M adhu and Kaitabha w ere tw o demons w h o attacked Brahm a w hilst Visnu slept. Brahm a managed to wake Visnu and he destroyed the dem ons. This story is retold in the D evim ahatm ya, but here the G oddess is made superior to Visnu b y being identified w ith his yogic sleep (yoganidra). Visnu 5 sleep becomes a manis Iestation o f the G oddess w h o thereby has him under her spell and is made superior to him. Brahm a im plores her to release Visnu from sleep and she does. H e then defeats the demons as in the Vaisnava versions o f the m yth. I 'he account o f the defeat o f M ahisasura follow s and the third m yth relates how K ali sprang from D u rgas forehead, personifyin g her anger, and defeated the demons Sum bha and N isum bha. later D evib h a g a va ta Purana continues the vision o f the D evim ahatm ya in placing the G oddess as the absolute source o f the cos mos. This text is related to the B hagavata P u ran a, though, whereas in that i ext K rsna is presented as the highest m anifestation o f the divine, here it is Devi, w h o, as it w ere, retrieves female p o w er (sakti) from male authority and makes it her ow n. The G oddess is not subject to the authority o f the gods and, indeed, is superior to them, controlling Visnu through her pow er o f sleep and not w ishing to be m arried to any o f them. The G oddess is her ow n m aster5.1 1

An introduction to Hinduism


Puranic, Smarta id eology dom inated the early medieval period and became pan-Indian. W ith the Puranas the G oddess was assimilated by brahm anical religion and a theology o f the G oddess was articulated in puranic narrative traditions. These traditions spread, and archaeological evidence attests to the w orship o f the G oddess throughout the subconti nent. A t M am m alapuram (also kn ow n as M ahabalipuram ) on the south east Tam ilnadu coast, a seventh-century tem ple depicts D urga slaying the buffalo dem on and she is also depicted in the cave sculptures at Ellora (sixth-eighth century). The cult o f D urga was therefore very widespread b y the early m edieval period and the standard m yth and icon o f her slaying the buffalo dem on w as w ell established. N o t on ly w orsh ip o f D urga, but also o f K ali, the personified anger of D urga, became w idespread w ith the developm ent o f puranic H induism . A lth ou gh alw ays on the edges o f the controlled, respectable brahmanical w orld , K ali nevertheless enjoyed, and still enjoys, great popularity. She is treated w ith am bivalence b y brahmanical orthopraxy, as she dw ells on the social periphery, haunting polluting crem ation grounds and appealing to untouchable castes and tribals. She has nevertheless attracted brahmanical attention and devotion, particularly in Bengal. B oth Ram prasad Sen, a nineteenth-century Bengali poet w ho w rote devotional verses to her as the M other5, and the fam ous saint Ram akrishna had visions o f her. K ali demands blood sacrifice and goats are sacrificed to her daily at the fam ous Kalighat temple in Calcutta. A noth er popular ferocious G oddess is Cam unda w h o in the M arkan deya Purana sprang from the furro w ed b ro w o f D urga. In one m yth in the D evim d h a tm ya , the little M others (M atrkas) m anifest from the G oddess, upon w hich the dem on R aktabija (B lo o d y -S e ed 5) appears to challenge them. T h ey attack him, but each drop o f blood w hich falls to the ground gives birth to a replica dem on, w h ose fallen blood in turn gives rise to further demons. The day is saved b y C am unda w h o drinks up the blood o f the dem on before it touches the ground and so he is eventually defeated. O ther goddesses w hich have independent cults are less violent than D urga, K ali and Cam unda. Sarasvati, the ancient G odd ess o f the Sarasvati river in the Veda, is benign. She is identified w ith the goddess o f speech (Vac) and is, like the muse, the inspirer o f poetry, m usic and learning. 182

The Goddess andSakta traditions

Although she is married to Brahm a, he docs not play an important role in Itrr worship and she is iconographically depicted independently o f him, rated upon a lotus and playing a musical instrument, the vin a. M an y i lassrooms in Indian schools bear her image upon the wall. Sri or Laksm i, i Ik* spouse o f Visnu also has an independent cult which had developed b y i he time o f the Puranas. She is the goddess o f financial reward and good lortune, associated w ith royal p ow er and iconographically depicted .r.ited upon a lotus and being sprinkled w ith w ater b y elephants - an act i cminiscent o f royal consecration. A lo n g w ith D urga she is strongly asso11.1ted w ith royal power, as can be seen b y the V ijayanagara kin gs ritual identification w ith the G oddess. A p art from the pan-H in du goddesses such as these, there are innumerable village or local goddesses, such as the northern and eastern snake goddess M anasa, some w ithout iconographic i epresentation.

Sacrifice and the Goddess

( )ne o f the m ost striking things about the independent G oddess is that she accepts, and demands, blood sacrifice. Sacrifice is part o f her cult and central to her m yth ology in w hich the slaying o f the buffalo dem on can be read as the sacrifice o f the buffalo. The G odd ess drinks wine from a cup as she slays the buffalo demon, w hich reflects in m yth o lo gy the idea o f her thinking the blood o f the sacrificed victim in ritual. Indeed drinking the blood o f the victim has been a feature o f G odd ess w orship, particularly in its medieval tantric manifestation. The drinking o f blood is an im portant sym bolic element in the m yth olo gy o f the G odd ess; present w ith the high Hindu deity D urga, w ith tantric m anifestations o f the G oddess, and at local level am ong the village goddesses. W hile in the pu rified brahm anical form s o f H induism the idea o f sacrifice is extracted out o f ritual and confined to sym bolism or the realms o f m yth ology, in the popular religion o f the villages, b lo o d y sacrifice is an integral element in the w orsh ip o f local goddesses. F o r example, the N am b u d ri Brahm ans o f K erala w ou ld not practise b lo o d y sacrifice as this w o u ld be too polluting, yet they make offerings o f blood substitute to local or fam ily G oddesses such as Raktesvari, the G oddess o f B lo o d (see pp. 2 1 0 - 1 1 ) . N o n -violen ce (ahimsa) is an im portant element in H induism , particu larly am ong Brahm ans and renouncers, yet this ideal contrasts starkly with the eruptive and b lo o d y violence o f the goddess. Because the G oddess is all-giving and fecund, she m ust also be renewed w ith blood, 183

An introduction to Hinduism
the pow er o f life, if her bounty is to continue. This renewing blood can be related to the G o d d e ss menstrual cycles, but is particularly the blood of sacrificial victim s w hich can be seen as substituting for the devotee him or herself. Indeed, if non-violence is an essential element in the B rahm ans w orld in order to m aintain ritual purity, then violence might be seen as an essential element in the w orld o f the K satriya. The connection between the G oddess and royal p o w er can be related to sacrifice in so far as one o f the ideals o f kingship was to w age w ar upon neighbouring kingdom s. The battlefield thereby can be read as a sacrifice, the killing o f the enemies, the killing o f sacrificial victim s. Indeed the hum an sacrifice, the sacrifice o f the great beast (m ahapasu), is regarded in the Veda as the highest sacrifice, even though hum an sacrifices m ay never have actually taken place. There is, then, a correspondence between the king w h o accepts the sacrifice o f both the enem y and his ow n army, and the G odd ess w h o accepts the sacri fice o f animals. This idea o f sacrifice becomes filtered through the layers o f H indu cu l ture in a num ber o f w ays. A t the level o f village goddesses, generally asso ciated w ith low er castes, the actual sacrifice o f animals is com m onplace. A m on gst Brahm an com m unities the sacrifice o f animals and offering o f blood w ill not actually be practised, but w ill remain present as a sym bolic element, w hile at the level o f pan-H indu m ythology, the sacrificial victim becom es a demon. A t this level, the ritual practice o f sacrifice becom es ethicized: the destruction o f the victim becom ing the destruction o f evil, the destruction o f the buffalo becom ing the destruction o f the buffalo demon, the appeasing o f a w rathful deity becom ing the stabilizing or re balancing o f the cosm os. The idea o f sacrifice to the G oddess is also given esoteric interpretation, as is the idea o f vedic sacrifice in the U panisads, b y some Tantras in w hich the sacrifice becom es the sacrifice o f the limited, particularized self into the all-pervading K a li self: the G oddess as absolute, uncontam inated consciousness.

Tantric worship of the Goddess

W hile the G oddess tradition developing from the Puranas was o f great im portance, an allied tradition o f G oddess w orsh ip developed from the Tantras. The tantric w orsh ip o f the G oddess, or Sakta Tantrism, is found in a num ber o f early Tantras o f the southern K aula transm ission (see p. 1 66), com posed before the eleventh century. These texts, traditionally counted as sixty-four, can be divided into those w hose focus is the benevo-

/he ( oddvss ami Sakta traditions

(mi and gentle Goddess, the Tantras of the Srlkula, the family of the Auspicious Goddess*, and those whose focus is the ferocious Goddess, the
I mtras o f the K alikula, the fam ily o f the Black G o d d ess . The tradition v Inch developed from the Srikula texts came to be know n as the Sri V idya, \ which worshipped the benevolent and beautiful Lalita Tripurasundarl. Hie Sri V idya aligned itself w ith orthoprax brahmanical values, even i In nigh some adherents w orshipped the G odd ess using im pure subII .mces\ The tradition in the south became aligned with orthodox Vedanta iin I with the Sarikaracarya o f Srngeri and Kanchipuram . The K ali tradi tions, in contrast, w ere less concerned w ith orthopraxy, and m ore concrned w ith the p ow er gained through im p urity and going against social ,md religious norms. A com m on feature o f tantric id eology is that w om en represent or manilest the G oddess in a ritual context. A s the male w orsh ipper becom es the male deity, especially Siva, fo r only a god can w orsh ip a god, so his female partner becomes the G oddess. Indeed the G oddess is manifested in all women in varying degrees. A prom inent part o f tantric practice is the rit ual w orship o f w om an or you ng girl b y both male and female devotees. A n i mportant cerem ony, practised m ainly in Bengal and N epal, is the w orsh ip (> a you ng w om an (the kum ari-puja) in w hich a virgin girl o f about tw elve f is placed upon a throne . The G oddess is installed or brought dow n into her, as w ou ld occur w ith an icon, and she is w orshipped. The ritual deification o f the you ng girl is an im portant annual festival in N epal. Yet, w hile the G oddess is w orshipped as a you th ful girl, she can also be w orshipped in a terrible form as the b lood-drinking K ali or the old and crooked Kubjika.

C ults o f K ali or her manifestations are in evidence from among the earliest tantric texts w e have, possib ly dating to as early as the seventh or eighth centuries. The w orship o f K ali is found at the heart o f K ashm ir Saivism , traditions w hose origins can be found in the crem ation-ground cults. While the Sri V id ya, according to its self-classification, develops from the southern transm ission in the Kaula system , the cults o f K ali are w ithin the northern and eastern transm issions. The Ja y a d ra th a ya m a la , a text o f the northern transm ission, describes form s o f K ali, w hich the devotee w ou ld visualize, as transcending the male form o f Siva, Bhairava, on w hose corpse she stands. H ere K ali is the absolute, identified w ith light at the 185

An introduction to Hinduis
heart o f pure

The ( oddcssan dSakta traditions

i ilie universe manifests and t< w hich it returns. T h e devotee she .............. .. upun 1 projection and w ithdraw al o f consciousness, identified with twelve Kalis, and realize the final, liberating im plosion o f consciousness into itsell, sym b olized b y the thirteenth Kali, K alasam karsini.12 These esoteric tra ditions, id entifyin g K a li w ith states o f consciousness, later became co n cretely expressed in external ritual from the tenth century, focused on the goddess G u h yakali, visualized as having anim al and human heads with eight arms bearing weapons. She is w orsh ipped at an exoteric, popular level in N e p al as G u h yesvari and associated w ith the G oddess Kubjik.i (see below). The texts o f the K aliku la describe m acabre rites in the cremation grounds to evoke a goddess and allow the practitioner to achieve salvation through confronting gruesom e (ghora) experience. In a fam ous rite, the offering to the jackals, jackals are revered as m anifestations o f K a li and offerings are made to them at an inauspicious, though po w erful, location such as a crossroads, a w o o d o r a crem ation gro u n d .13 A n oth er tantric goddess w h o is the focus o f a group o f Tantras o f the w estern K aula transm ission is K u b jika, the C ro o k ed O n e. Th is school j originated in the w estern H im alayas, p o ssib ly in Kashm ir, is know n to 1 have existed in N ep al b y the tw elfth century, and, according to its texts, i spread throughout India. The principle text o f the school is the Tantra o f 1 the Teachings o f the C ro o k ed G o d d ess, the Kubjikamata Tantra, which explains the m ythology, doctrines and ritual associated w ith h e r .H ritual 1~ 1 A lth ou gh the text and tradition takes its name fro m the G oddess w o r shipped in the form o f an old, crooked w om an, she is identified w ith the Suprem e G odd ess (Para D evi) and also w orsh ipped in the form s o f a girl and a yo u n g w om an. T h e school had an esoteric dim ension and show s its close links to K ash m ir Saivism b y identifying the G o dd ess w ith pure con sciousness.14 The G odd ess is also associated w ith the co iled goddess Kundalini, the p o w e r lyin g dorm ant at the base o f the b o d y until aw ak ened b y yo g a to pierce the centres o f subtle anatom y and unite w ith Siva at the crow n o f the head. T he K u b jik a school is significant because it is in the

consciousness from whic

ould meditate upon this process of the


flic Sri V idya is the cult o f Lalita Tripurasundari or sim ply Tripurasundari ( Beautiful G oddess o f the Three C ities), a tantric form o f Sri/Laksm i, who is worshipped in the form o f a sacred diagram or yantra o f nine inter im ting triangles, called the sricakra, and in the form o f a fifteen-syllable m,in tra called the srivid ya , whence the tradition takes its name. The II ipurasundari cult can be classified, in its earliest phase, as the latest level *11 he M antram arga, the Path o f M antra (see p. 162). The earliest sources III the Sri V id ya w ithin classifies this category are tw o texts, and the the Nityasodasikarnava (The O cean o f the Tradition o f the Sixteen N ity a ( ioddesses) w hich itself in the M antram arga, Yoginihrdaya (The H eart o f the Y o g in i ) w hich are said to form together the Vam akesvara Tantra . 1 6 The N ityasodasikarn ava is concerned w ith external rituals and their magical effects, w hile the Yoginihrdaya is m ore esoteric, interpreting the sricakra as the expansion and contraction o f the osmos. A later text, the Tantraraja Tantra (the K in g o f Tantras), gives a more detailed exposition o f these subjects.17 A p art from these early I antras, a num ber o f later texts praise the G oddess Tripurasundari, particnlarly the extrem ely popular S aun da ryala h ari (The O cean o f B ea u ty ), 1 he Lalitasaharanam a (The Thousand N am es o f Lalita ), and the Tripura l/panisad (The Secret o f Tripura ).18 The S aun daryalahari and I alitdsaharanam a are traditionally said to have been com posed b y the Ad vaita Vedanta philosopher Sankara. Indeed, as Bharati has observed, no indigenous Sri V id ya scholar w ou ld doubt his authorship o f these texts. While in principle it is not im possible that Sankara w ou ld com pose devolional hym ns to the G oddess - this w o u ld not be incom patible w ith the com position o f philosophical w orks in the Indian context19 - these texts owe m ore to the non-dualism o f K ash m ir Saivism than to Sankaras Vedanta. This can be seen by the Trika id eo lo gy w hich pervades these texts and their term inologies derived from K ash m ir Saivism , such as the idea o f 1 he cosm os as the m anifestation o f sound. Indeed the K ashm iri Trika go d dess, Para, is regarded in some literature o f this school to be the inner essence o f Tripurasundari.20 H ow ever, the Sri V id ya w hich developed in south India became dis tanced from its Kashm iri tantric roots and the cult o f Tripurasundari was adopted b y the southern Vedanta m onastic order o f the D asanam is at Srrigeri and Kanchipuram , traditionally founded b y Sankara. The Sri

Kubjikamata Tantra that w e first have m ention o f the classical six centres
(icakra) o f esoteric anatom y w hich have becom e pan -H in d u and have been popularized in the W est.15 Earlier Tantras m ention varyin g num bers at various locations. These six centres also becam e adopted b y the Sri V id y tradition. 1 86


An introduction to Hinduism
V id ya tradition became popular in the south and the cult o f T ri purasundari penetrated the Saiva Smarta com m unity as well as the highly orth odox m onastic tradition o f the Sarikaracaryas. In the th eology o f the Sri V idya the G oddess is supreme, transcending the cosm os w hich is yet a manifestation o f her. A lthough visualized and praised in personal terms, the G oddess is also an im personal force or power. She unfolds the cosm os and contracts it once again in endless cycles o f emanation and re-absorption. This process is conceptualized as the m anifestation and contraction o f the W ord, the absolute as primal sound (sabda, nada), or the syllable ora, identified w ith energy, light and consciousness. E v e ry d a y speech is but a gross m anifestation o f this subtle, all-pervading sound w hich manifests the cosm os through a series oi graded stages from the m ost subtle, non-m aterial realms, to the gross material w o rld w hich humans inhabit. This subtle sound is expressed as a point5 or d ro p 5 (bindu) o f energy, p rio r to extension, w hich then p ro ceeds to generate the m anifold cosm os. The bindu, an extrem ely im p or tant term in tantric theology, is associated w ith the fifteenth phonem e of the Sanskrit alphabet, the nasalized do t5 (,anusvara), w hich sym bolizes concentrated, potential energy, ready to burst forth as manifestation. The details o f cosm ological schemes vary in different texts, but the principles are identical in Sri V id ya texts to those in K ash m ir Saiva Tantras.21 This cosm o logy is sym bolized b y the cosm ogram o f the sricakra, the central icon o f the tradition, used as a focus o f w orsh ip and installed in temples. This diagram or ritual instrum ent (yantra) is both the deity and a representation o f the cosm os. The fo u r upw ard-poin tin g triangles sy m bolize the male principle in the universe, nam ely Siva, the five do w n w ardpointing triangles represent the female principle, nam ely Sakti. A ll these triangles emanate out from the central point or bindu. T h eir interpenetra tion represents the union o f Siva and the G odd ess, w hich the aspirant or sadhaka realizes w ithin his ow n b o d y through the ritual identification o f the sricakra w ith his ow n body. Integral to the m ore esoteric practices o f the Sri V id ya tradition, and closely related to cosm ological speculation, is the idea that the material human b o d y is a gross m anifestation o f a subtle body, w hich in turn is a manifestation o f a suprem e or causal body. A s the material w o rld is the m ost solidified coagulation o f the subtle w o rld s, so the b o d y is the m ost coagulated form o f the subtle body, w h ich in turn is a m anifestation o f a higher form . Salvation or liberation is release from the cycle o f birth and

ihv ( oddtw andtiakta traditions

death, conceived as a journey which retraces the stages of m anifestation luck to its source, which is the G odd ess. T h is yogic jou rn ey through the i osmos is also conceived as a journey through the body, and the levels o f cosm ological m anifestation are identified with levels along the vertical axis o f the body. The Sri V id ya yogin will attempt to awaken the dorm ant power o f the G oddess KundalinI, w h o rises up from the root centre , at I he base o f the central channel w hich pervades the body, to unite w ith Siva it the crow n o f the head, piercing various centres or wheels o f energy as she rises (see pp. 98-9). The model used here b y the Sri V id ya is the stan dard Hatha yogic one w hich went beyond the boundaries o f any particu lar tradition. Ideas about the universe as a hierarchy o f levels and the h om ology or esoteric correspondences between the b o d y and the cosm os are central to 1 he practice and theology o f the Sri V id ya, as they are to all other tantric traditions. This is illustrated b y the Tantraraja Tantra w hich describes three aspects or form s (rupa) o f Tripurasundarl, the supreme, subtle and gross, which correspond to three w ays o f w orsh ippin g her, w ith the m ind, with speech and w ith the body. These refer to meditation upon her, or visualization o f her form , repeating m antras, and perform ing external worship b y offering flow ers, incense and vegetarian offerings. Initiation is, o f course, a prerequisite fo r access to Sri V id ya daily and occasional rit uals, qualification fo r w hich must be determ ined b y a guru, though it is not based on caste as is vedic initiation.

Perhaps the m ost fam ous controversy w h ich surrounds Tantrism gener ally, and w hich is o f concern to the Sri V id ya in particular, is the ritual use of substances prohibited w ithin Brahm anism . These ritual substances came to be kn ow n as the five M s (pancamakara) - the initial Sanskrit let ter o f each being the letter M - or five realities (pancatattva). These are the ritual use o f w ine (madya), fish (;matsya), meat (mamsa), parched grain

(mudra) and sexual union (maithuna). T h e consum ption o f alcohol, meat

and fish is expressly forbidden to Brahm ans according to the Law s o f M anu,22 so to ritually use these substances is, fo r a Brahm an, to con sciously pollute him self. We have seen that in the K aula rites o f early Saivism , ferocious female deities w ere appeased w ith offerings o f blood, alcohol and sexual substances (p. 165). A bhinavagupta speaks about the three M s o f alcohol, meat and copulation, referring to their use as true 189

An introduction to Hinduism
holiness* or celibacy* (brahm acarya).2 s The live Ms later developed and their use became know n as left-handed practice* (vam acdra), that is, transgressive practices using impurity, as opposed to the right-handed practice* (daksinacara), based on purity. The use o f parched grain (m udra) is sometimes said to be an aphrodisiac, yet m ay sim ply represent the kind o f offerings to deities made amongst lower-caste groups. There is a distinction w ithin the Sri V id ya between those w h o reject the use o f the five Ms* and those w ho incorporate them, yet, generally, the Sri V id ya tends to distance itself from extreme antinom ian tantric groups. Left-handed Tantrism throw s up challenging ethical questions fo r orthoprax H induism . The left-hand or Kaula division flouts brahmanical p u rity law s and conventions in order to gain magical p o w er (.siddhi), w hile the right-hand, the Conventional* or Sam aya division, rejects the literal use of the five Ms*, or uses sym bolic substitutes (pratinidhi) instead, such as m ilk fo r wine, sesamum fo r meat or fish, and offerings o f flow ers fo r sex. The use o f the five Ms* in the Sri V id ya has been controversial. Laksm idhara (sixteenth century) was a theologian o f the conventional way* (samayacdra) w h o vehem ently rejected the non-vedic and im pure practice o f the five Ms*. O thers, how ever, such as B haskararaya (17 2 8 -5 0 ), w ere h appy to advocate the secret use o f prohibited sub stances.24 Indeed, it is quite usual fo r the tantric Brahm an householder to maintain brahm anical social values alongside a tantric soteriology w hich involves the use o f otherw ise prohibited substances. There is an oftquoted saying that the tantric Brahm an should be secretly a K aula (i.e. a left-hand tantric practitioner), externally a Saiva, w hile rem aining vedic in his social practice.25 Sex in a ritual setting and the transform ation o f desire fo r a spiritual purpose is an ancient practice in Indian religion, stretching back at least to the time o f the B uddha,26 and m ystical union w ith the absolute has been com pared, in the B rhaddran yaka U panisad to the jo y o f sexual union.27 Sexual union (m aithuna) becomes im portant in Tantrism as both sym bol and event. The earlier tantric literature seems to em phasize sexual rites as offerings to the deity, whereas later texts indicate that semen should be held back in order to facilitate a yogic transform ation to a higher state o f awareness. Sakta Tantras even classify people according to three natures or dispositions (b h a v a ) - o f being an animal (pasu), a hero (v lra ) or divine (1d iv y a ) - though the classification is not found in Saiva texts. O n ly heroes and the divine* should perform erotic w orsh ip, fo r those o f animal nature 190

/hr ( oddcs ' itml .SV */a traditions /A arc driven by desire which would lead to their destruction.28 Indeed, whether sexual congress is perform ed, as in left-handed ritual, or is substi tuted, as in right-handed ritual, erotic w orsh ip taps into a rich and pow erIul sym bolism . The actual or represented union o f the tantric practitioners sym bolizes the union o f Siva and Sakti, o f the male and female polarity in the cosm os, and their jo y reflects the jo y (ananda) o f that ultimate con d i tion. There are also strings o f sym bolic associations in the Tantras between Siva, w hite semen, the m oon, passivity and consciousness, on the one hand, and Sakti, red blood, the sun, activity and nature (prakrti), on the other. Because w om en are filled w ith sakti in tantric ideology, they are consid ered to be m ore pow erful than men, yet this p o w er is generally not reflected in social realities where w om en have remained subordinate.29 Tantric texts w ere written b y men - u sually Brahm ans - prim arily, though not exclusively, fo r men. T h ey reflect the concerns o f the male practitioner rather than his female partner, regarded as his m essenger or d oor to the divine realm, though some texts make it clear that the ensuing liberation is for both partners. Yet w om en have a higher ideological status in Tantrism than in strictly orthoprax Brahm anism , even though this might not be reflected in social institutions. The w om en in these rites w ere generally from lower-caste groups such as washers, and w hile these w om en s social realities w ere much m ore restricted than those o f their male consorts, the tantric m odel o f the strong, intelligent and beautiful w om an contrasts w ith the brahmanical m odel o f passivity and docile dependence.30 There were also female tantric renouncers w h o w ere greatly revered and w h o dw elled at sites sacred to the G oddess (pitha), where tantric yogis w ou ld hope to meet them and obtain magical pow ers through their acquain tance.31 A p art from the transgressive K aula w in g o f the Sri V idya, other tantric groups w hich adopted the five M s arose during the later medieval period. O f particular note is the Vaisnava tradition o f the Sahajiyas, w hich devel oped from the tantric Buddhist Sahajiyas, adopting a Vaisnava theology.32 F o r them, man and w om an are physical representations o f K rsn a and Radha, and, through erotic ritual, higher states o f consciousness, or sam adhi, can be achieved. The Bauls o f Bengal have inherited the Sahajiya id eo logy and erotic ritual continues to be used b y them .33 M an y o f the elements o f brahm anical tantric w orship are derived from low -caste propitiation o f ferocious deities w ith alcohol and blood 191

An introduction to Hinduism
offerings, and from the cremation ground asccticism of the Kapalikas. Yet these becom e transform ed in the context ol the Brahman householder, such as the Sri V id ya devotee, into a so teriology in which the tantric Brahm an maintains his social status w hile follow in g the tantric path. W hile m aintaining social status, the tantric Brahm an can pursue his soteriological quest fo r p o w er and liberation, through transcending his social inhibition in a controlled ritual context. It is one thing to perform erotic w orsh ip w ith a low -caste wom an in a ritual setting, but quite another to interact w ith her outside that context. The theological split w ithin the Sri V id ya, between the Sam ayacara/right-hand path and the Kaula/left-hand path, highlights a tension between the dom inant id eo lo gy o f Brahm anism and an id eology infiltrated b y ideas and practices from crem ation-ground asceticism and from low er castes, yet w hich, fo r the Sri V idya, is con trolled b y or contained w ithin brahmanical structures and ideology.

There are various im portant locations o f G oddess w orsh ip in both north and south India, such as the temple to the V irgin G odd ess, K an ya K um ari, at C ape C om orin , the M inaksi temple at M adurai, and the K ali temple in Calcutta. The G oddess is not only located at specific sites but is identified w ith the Earth and the landscape, so in one sense the w hole o f India is the G oddess, to the fo u r corners o f w hich a pilgrim can jo u rn ey and receive great blessing. Y et tantric literature refers specifically to seats (pitha) o f the G oddess w hich are distinct from these other pilgrim age centres. The locations o f these seats are given justification in the m yth o f Sivas first w ife Satl. I have already recounted the m yth o f D ak sas sacrifice: h ow Sivas father-in-law D aksa had not invited him to the sacrifice, h ow his daughter Sati was so upset that she burned herself to death in the fire o f her ow n yoga, and h ow Siva destroyed the sacrifice in the ferocious form o f V lrabhadra (see pp. 149 -50 ). Later versions o f the m yth, in the D e vib h a g a va ta Purana and the K a lik a P u ran a, continue the story. Siva is so upset at the death o f his w ife that he picks up her corpse in the crem ation ground and dances w ith it on his shoulders in a distraught state. The other gods becom e w orried, fearing the destruction o f the universe due to this dance o f death, so Visnu hacks at the b od y o f Satl, cutting it aw ay piece b y piece, until Siva returns to a more com posed state.34 W hile this is a m yth behind the im m olation o f w id o w s upon their hus 192

The ( oddest andSahta traditions

bands funeral pyres (sati, suttee), it is also an explanation o f the pithas, which are located where the different parts of Satis body fell. In the Tantras and Puranas there are four principal sites listed, though other texts list more, and the K ubjikam ata Tantra says that all w om en s homes should be w orshipped as pith as.35 T he standard fou r G reat Seats (m ahapitha) are at Jalandhara (possibly Ju llu n d u r in the Punjab), O ddiyana or U ddayana (the Swat valley in the far north-w est), Purnagiri (of unknow n location) and K am arupa in A ssam . A t these places the G odd ess tongue, nipples and vulva (y o n i) are said to have fallen. The m ost important o f these seats as a living place o f pilgrim age is K am arupa or Kam agiri in A ssam w here Satis y o n i fell. H ere the G oddess is w orshipped in the form o f a vulva and her menstrual cycles celebrated b y adorning the icon w ith red powder. This form o f the y o n i is not com m on, but its h istory as an icon is w ell attested.

Regional and local traditions

While esoteric form s o f Tantrism are o f central im portance in the h istory of H induism and have had impact on all its m anifestations, they are not directly relevant to the m ajority o f H indus. The m ajority o f H indus in India live in villages and most devotees o f the G oddess at regional and local levels express their devotion through external w orsh ip (puja) o f local goddesses and in pilgrim age to places particularly sacred to the G oddess. W hile the brahmanical id eology o f the G reat G oddess spread throughout south A sia, there have been innum erable local goddesses, m any w ithout iconic representations, w orshipped b y local villagers usually belonging to low er castes.

A distinction can be draw n between h ot and co o l deities. H o t deities are associated w ith passion, hot diseases such as sm allpox w hich need to be cooled, pollution and low er social layers. C o o l deities are associated w ith detachment, the cooling o f passion, p u rity and higher social levels. The village goddesses, as w ell as ferocious goddesses such as Kali, are classified as hot deities in contrast to the cool, m ostly male, deities o f the H indu pan theon, such as Visnu and Siva. Village deities, the gram adevatas, usually fall w ithin the hot classification. T h ey are alm ost alw ays female, called m others (m ata), associated with a particular village or locality and repre sented b y a simple signifier such as a rock, a pile o f stones, a stick, a couple


An introduction to Hinduism
o f bricks, a thorn bush with pieces of cloth tied to it as offerings, or in the form o f a pot.36 These aniconic hot goddesses not only accept vegetarian offerings but also demand blood sacrifice (bali), o f chickens, goats and sometimes buffalos, and need to be appeased with offerings o f alcohol. In contrast the cool pan-H indu deities, present in iconic representations, accept on ly vegetarian offerings. The G reat G oddess shares both cate gories. She can be hot and ferocious, dem anding blood and alcohol, yet also cool and benevolent, accepting o n ly vegetarian offerings, as with Tripurasundari and Laksm L A particular goddess might o f course have tw o form s, an iconic cool form w ithin a shrine or temple, and an aniconic hot form outside the shrine, perhaps manifested on ly during certain festivals. F o r example, the Tamil goddess M ariyam m an might have an im m ovable icon w ithin her temple, yet accept blood offerings on ly in a second form such as a pot of water, aw ay from the central shrine. The goddess is thus split into high and lo w form s, as F u ller describes.37 These offerings reflect caste ranking to a degree, w ith low er-caste priests, perhaps possessed b y the goddess, m ak ing offerings o f meat to the low er form . W hile it is true that some deities are affiliated to particular castes - fo r example Laksm I, the goddess o f wealth, is revered b y trading castes - it w o u ld be an oversim plification to regard the ranking o f deities as sim ply a reflection o f caste society. W hile certain village goddesses might not be w orshipped b y Brahm ans or, even w ithin the same caste, the goddess o f a particular fam ily (kula mata) w ou ld not be w orshipped b y a different fam ily, other deities have appeal across the social spectrum. A lth ough sometimes barely distinguishable, the ferocious village go d desses have a name and specific location. T h ey tend to be associated w ith disease, particularly pustular diseases such as sm allpox, and accidental death, and need to be appeased, usually w ith blood and meat. A lth ou gh they are unpredictable, they are also protectors o f a village or locality. These goddesses have no form al links w ith the pan -H in du goddesses, though often villagers might identify the local goddess w ith the panH indu G reat G oddess, even though there m ay be no iconographic or m ythological resemblance. Sometimes the village goddess w ill have a m yth about h ow she came to be in that particular location. For example, in Kerala the particularly terrible goddess M uvalam kulicam undl is w orshipped in a num ber o f local shrines, the teyyam shrines, and along w ith other deities is celebrated in local, annual, 194

The ( ioddcss and Sakt a traditions

dance-possession festivals. D uring these festivals the dancer becom es the goddess and relates her myth. A Brahm an, who was perform ing sorcery upon one o f these devotees, attempted to capture the goddess w ith m,mtras and confine her in a copper vessel with a lid which he then buried in a hole (kuli) to the depth of three men (m uvalam ). She burst out o f the ground in a terrible form and pursued the Brahm an to a temple o f Siva where she agreed to settle dow n on ly if she could be installed there beside Siva, which du ly happened. The goddess is therefore w orshipped as the consort o f Siva in the Trikanyalapan tem ple as w ell as in the teyyam shrines. This m yth indicates that, although a hot low -caste deity (her teyyam dance is perform ed b y the lo w M alayan caste o f professional sorcerers), she is yet contained within the p o w er o f the high-caste pan -H in du 11 city Siva. H er pow er is contained and kept in place b y the male deity, and absorbed into a brahmanical structure. Am ong goddesses w h o have a regional rather than p u rely village appeal, yet w h o are not identified w ith p an-H ind u deities w ith large tem ples, are the sm allpox goddesses Sitala, in the north, and M ariyam m an, in the south. A lth ough n ow eradicated, sm allpox has been particularly viru lent in some parts of India during the hot season and has been regarded as a visitation or possession b y the sm allpox goddess. M ariyam m an has a couple o f m yths relating her origin. In one she w as a Brahm an girl w h o was deceived into marriage b y an U ntouchable disguised as a Brahm an. Upon realizing what had happened she killed herself and was transform ed into the goddess M ariyam m an w h o then burned the U ntouchable to ashes. The second m yth tells o f a pure but po w erfu l w ife o f a h o ly man, who could perform miracles, but w h o one day saw tw o divine beings m ak ing love. She felt jealou sy and as a consequence lost her pow ers, w h ere upon her husband suspected her fidelity and ordered their son to kill her. The son obediently cut o ff her head. E ven tu ally she is restored to life as M ariyam m an, but instead o f upon her o w n body, her head was placed upon an U ntou chables body, w hich expresses her ambivalent and angry nature as both Brahm an and U ntouchable. Sitala is a hot goddess w h o is dorm ant m ost o f the year but w h o tradi tionally erupts w ith terrific violence during the hot season, spreading her grace in the form o f epidemics through villages and needing to be pla cated. Sometim es these diseases are seen to be the w o rk o f demons w h om the goddess must defeat, at other times they are the w o rk o f the goddess herself. Sm allpox victim s were seen to be possessed b y the goddess and


An introduction to Hinduism were cooled with water and milk, which are in effect offerings to appease her wrath, though the most effective offering to soften her anger is blood sacrifice.
These hot village goddesses and, indeed, the G reat G oddess herself, are intim ately associated w ith the cyclic pattern o f the year, particularly the cycle o f agricultural activity. The G oddess is associated with the earth, and the changing seasons might be regarded as changing modes o f the G oddess. In northern and central India the seasons can be divided into three: the hot season (approxim ately from M arch to June), the wet season (approxim ately Ju n e to O ctober) and the d ry or w inter season (the rest o f the year particularly D ecem ber to Jan uary). The ritual cycles o f the v il lages are closely associated w ith the seasonal changes and w orship o f the G oddess, identified w ith the earth, is im portant during these times. In terms o f ritual cycles, the hot season is im portant fo r village and regional goddesses, w hose festivals occur at that time (the hot goddess w orshipped during the hot season), as do m any marriages, w hich allow expression to the heat5o f passion.38 A p art from local festivals during the hot season, the m ost im portant festival fo r the G oddess as a pan -H in d u deity is the D urg-p j in O ctober, culm inating in the day o f dassera, the tenth day follow in g the com m encem ent o f the nine night (navartr) festival. It is possible to view the village goddesses in terms o f distinctions between popular/brahm anic culture, lo w caste/high caste, regional/panH indu, little tradition/great tradition, and even D ravidian /A ryan. W hile these distinctions m ight be useful in understanding the structural o p p o si tions between village goddesses and pan -H in du deities, the situation is m ore com plex and m any regional goddesses participate in both lo w and high cultural spheres. The goddess D raupad, fo r example, as A lf HiltebeitePs im portant study has show n, participates in both realms as pan-H indu goddess - the w ife o f the Pndavas in the epic M ahbhrata and as local or regional deity in Tam ilnadu.39 S u m m a ry H induism cannot be understood w ithout the G odd ess, fo r the G oddess pervades it at all levels, from aniconic village deities to high-caste panH indu goddesses, such as D urg, or the w ives o f the male gods, such as Laksm l. This chapter has presented central ideas, m yth o lo gy and icon o graphie representations o f the G oddess in brahm anical H induism , in tantric H induism and in village H induism . We have seen that, w hile there 196

The (oddvss and Saltta traditions

> v innumerable goddesses, each one being unique to a particular place, 11 there are essentially tw o kinds o f G odd ess representations: a ferocious lorm such as Kali, and a gentle benevolent form such as Tripurasundari or I .iksmi. W hile some goddesses are independent - these tend to be the ferocious form s - others are perfect w ives to their divine husbands w h om they energize. Indeed, w ithout the G odd ess a god such as Siva is a corpse.


9 Hindu ritual

There are m any styles o f worship within H indu traditions and vegetarian and non-vegetarian offerings are made to innumerable deities throughout south A sia. H indu ritual occurs in the home, in the temple, at w ayside shrines, at places o f pilgrim age such as the confluence o f sacred rivers, and in specially constructed pavilions. Rituals occur to m ark special occasions, to ask fo r blessings or to propitiate gods. Ritual patterns constrain life from birth, through childhood, to marriage and finally death. W hile ritual behaviour can be extrem ely diverse, it is nevertheless ritual, encoded in manuals and in behaviour patterns passed through the generations from teacher to student and from parent to child, which gives shape and a degree o f unity to H indu traditions. A longside ritual, and sometimes intim ately connected w ith it, m yths, the narrative traditions o f India, also serve to give coherence. W hile narrative traditions provide people w ith meaning and understanding o f w h o they are and how they came to be as they are, it is rit ual action w hich anchors people in a sense o f deeper identity and belong ing. W hile H indus have questioned the meanings o f ritual and interpreted rituals in a variety o f w ays, ritual has seldom been abandoned within H indu traditions. Ritual patterns recur over vast geographical areas in south A sia and have been repeated and handed dow n from ancient times; m any ritual elements, and indeed actual rituals, can be traced to very early H indu texts.

Ritual and H indu identity

This ritual continuity m ay at first suggest a stability o f H indu social rela tions, yet it cannot be reduced to this or explained in these terms. The 198

I l indu ritual
social and political contexts in which I lindu rituals have existed have been diverse, from Hindu kingdom s to colonial rule; they have been trans ported overseas to other countries, such as south-east A sia, and even, in I he last hundred years or so, to the other continents o f E urope, A frica and A merica. O f the kinds o f ritual described in this chapter, all have been perlormed w ithin H induism for significant periods o f time, some p ro b ab ly since the second millennium
b c e

others having m ore recent origin in the

medieval period. O f course, rituals change, die out, and new rituals arise, hut they change at a far slow er rate than the societies in w hich they are periormed: fo r example, rituals associated w ith kingship still continue in India. Rituals have a persistence w hich survives great political upheavals, ecological catastrophes and colonial repression. The question o f the degree to w hich ritual is affected b y h istory or reflects social and political structures is a difficult one. O n the one hand, it is clear that some ritual form s originated during specific historical periods and reflect cultural and political elements present during those times. Yet on the other hand, some ritual structures, m ost notably those o f the vedic solemn (srauta) rituals, seem com paratively unaffected b y social, political and econom ic changes. Because ritual has persisted in the face o f great political and econom ic shifts in south A sia, it cannot be contingent upon econom ic structures: the realm o f ritual and the realm o f politics and eco nomics must be distinct. This is not to say that they never coincide, they do, but rather that ritual and the politico-econom ic are distinct levels or realms w ithin H in du culture. The ritual realm, and therefore the religious, cannot be reduced to the political. Indeed, ritual m ight be seen as a com paratively stable and invariant event in contradistinction to a changing, and often unstable, political and econom ic history. In some sense ritual defies history. R itual also cuts across theological distinctions. If it is possible to define H induism , it is certainly not possible to do so in terms o f doctrine and the ological beliefs. Ritual is prior to theology, both historically and concep tually, and various theologies in India have been built upon a ritual basis and make sense only in the context o f ritual traditions. The M im am sa, fo r example, is based upon the interpretation o f vedic rites. In the rich variety o f H in du ritual, w e find cultural form s w hich do not demand belief in any particular doctrine, but rather demand action. It is the persistence o f ritual in H induism , the patterning o f action in certain w ays, and its understand ing b y those w h o perform it, w hich provides, and expresses, a sense o f 199

An introduction to Ilinduisrn identity for Hindu communities: an identity which goes beyond social and political changes and provides I lindus with a sense of belonging in the face of sometimes rapid social change.
W hile ritual behaviour w ould seem to provide a sense o f continuity and belonging, an argum ent has recently been put forw ard b y Frits Staal that any meanings attributed to ritual are random . Ritual has often been conv pared to language as a system o f com m unication. H ow ever, w ith specific and detailed reference to vedic solemn rites, Staal has argued that, while ritual is like language in that it has a structure, a syntax, it is unlike lan guage in that it has no meaning, no semantics. Vedic ritual has a structure w hich has been transferred through the generations from ancient times, but any meanings attributed to it, b y the Brahm ana literature for example, are secondary. Because the interpretations o f ritual have changed over time, w hile its structure has remained constant, these meanings must be arbitrary or at least secondary to the m ost dom inant feature o f ritual, its structure and invariant transm ission.1 Staals argum ent is im portant and needs to be carefully considered, not on ly fo r the understanding o f vedic ritual, but fo r ritual studies gen erally. The issue cannot be considered here, but, w hile it might be the case that the srauta rites have no meaning in a form al sense, it is far less clear that dom estic rituals, the grloya rites, involving birth, m arriage and death, are meaningless activities. Indeed, in such rituals human life expe riences are o f vital significance and arguably such rites o f transition express deep-felt hum an anxieties and attempt to resolve conflicts. In H induism rites o f passage form an im portant part o f ritual activity and constrain a p e rso n s passage through time from birth to death. A H in d u s sense o f identity and belonging is given expression particularly through rites o f passage, but not o n ly thus - also in pilgrim age. Pilgrim age, p ar ticularly in m odern times, has become a central feature o f H induism , w hich serves to give coherence to its diversity. I shall here give an account o f im portant ritual processes in H induism w hich give it coher ence, nam ely rites o f passage, personal and temple w orsh ip (puja), festi vals, sacrifice and pilgrim age.

Rites of passage
There are traditionally tw o sources fo r H indu rites o f passage: on the one hand the texts o f tradition (.sm rti), specifically the G rh y a Sutras and the D harm a Sutras and Sastras; on the other, the regional oral traditions 200

Hindu ritual
whose legitim acy was recognized in the 1)harma Sastras. In the G rh y a and I )harma literature, rites o f passage are classified as occasional ritual* (naimittika-karma), rites occasioned by a special occurrence/^ in coni rast to daily rites (nitya-karma) and rites fo r a desired purpose or object (hamya-karma). Rites o f passage are also classified as bo dily rites because o f their central concern w ith the b o d y - the im position oTcuItural meanings upon the biological b o d y and its transitions from conception to death. Rites o f passage are expressive of, and transform , a person s iden tity, an identity w hich is personally or p sych ologically im portant and which is recognized b y the w ider com m unity: they are the form al im position o f an identity and its recognition b y a social group. As w e have seen, there is a fundam ental distinction in H induism Jun. ........---------------- ---------------------------------------------- between w o rld ly life and soteriology, the form er being the concern o f the householder, the latter being the concern o f the renouncer. Rites o f pas sage are w ithin the realm o f the householders life and are not concerned with liberation. The ritual o f renunciation and initiation into various sects, rituals w hich are concerned w ith liberation, are not included in the classi fication o f rites o f passage. W hile Manu does say that the perform ance o f dharma w hich encompasses rites o f passage leads to happiness in the next life,3 this is distinct from liberation w hich cannot be attained b y rites con cerned w ith social transform ation. Rites o f passage m ould and help construct social identities. Indeed, the Sanskrit term fo r such rites is samskra, constructed or put together , im plying the putting together o f a person as a social actor and even, to some extent, defining ontological status. B y undergoing the various

samskras a H indu gains access to resources w ithin the tradition w hich

were p reviou sly closed to him or her and enters a new realm or state. The anthropologist V ictor Turner has made a distinction between state and process .4 State refers to a relatively fixed social condition, w hile process refers to an unfixed, liminal, period o f transition between states. Rites o f passage are therefore transform ative processes linking different states. W hile state is associated w ith structure and hierarchy, process is associated w ith anti-structure, lim in ality and equality. Yet it is im p or tant to rem em ber that the tem porary anti-structure o f process serves to reinforce the structure o f state. The samskdras are rites o f passage w hich serve to legitim ize social order and to uphold social institutions. T h ey are im portant not on ly fo r w h o they include, but also, as Pierre Bourdieu has pointed out, fo r w h o they exclude and fo r the ordering o f social groups; 201

An introduction to Hinduism for separating those who have undergone the ritual from those who have not and from those who will never undergo it.5
The D harm a Sastras deal only with male rites o f passage, but through out India w om en have undergone rites o f passage based on oral fo lk tradi tions.6 F o r high-caste or tw ice-born H indu males - those belonging to the top three classes o f Brahm ans, K satriyas and Vaisyas - the theoretical m odel o f the as'rama system , the H indu stages o f life, maintains that there are fou r stages or states through w hich a man m ay pass: the student (brah-

macarya), the householder (grhastha), the herm it or forest-dw eller (vanaprastha) and the renouncer (samnyasa) stages. A s w e have seen, the
first tw o are concerned w ith w o rld ly life, the third w ith a life retired from household duties and the fourth w ith the transcendence o f the social w orld . M ost H indus remain householders and the samskaras are con cerned w h o lly w ith life as a social being, that is, w ith the first tw o stages or states. W hile there are a varyin g num ber o f samskaras recorded in different texts, the im portant point is that they form a ritual sequence or com plete system w hich expresses the H indu social order, or dharma. The undergo ing o f any o f them implies an acceptance o f orthoprax brahmanical values and underlines differences in gender roles and castes. The high-caste b o y w h o undergoes vedic initiation is separated from his yo u nger contem po raries, from low er castes and from w om en, w h o are not eligible to undergo the rite. Rites o f passage are also rites o f exclusion and underline the differ ence between the high-caste b o y and others w ithin the com m unity. The num ber o f samskaras varies. F o rty are recorded in the Gautama

Dharma Sdstra, though the standard num ber in the G rh y a Sutras is between twelve and eighteen. The Manu Smrti mentions thirteen, though
sixteen tends to be the standard number.7 T h ey can be divided into prena tal rites, birth, childhood and educational rites, then marriage and death rites. The standard sixteen are: 1 garbhadhana, the rite of the conception of the embryo or the infusion of semen performed at the time of conception. 2 pumsavana, the rite of bringing forth a b o y to ensure the birth of a male child. 3 simantonnayana, the parting the hair rite of the woman during pregnancy. 4 jatkarman, the birth rite.

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5 namakarana, the naming ceremony on the tenth or twelfth day after birth. 6 niskramana, the childs first outing. 7 annaprasana, the childs first feeding with solid food. S ehudakarana, the tonsure ceremony during the first or third year. 9 karnavedha, the ear-piercing ceremony around the age of three to five. i o vidyarambha, the beginning of knowledge when the child learns the alphabet between the ages of five and seven. 11 upanayana, the rite of initiation and investiture of the sacred thread, occurring from the age of eight up to about twenty-four. 12 vedarambha, the ritual of beginning the study of the Veda. 1 3 kesanta, the first shaving of the beard. 14 samavartana, the ritual ending of student life. 15 vivaha, marriage. 16 antyesti, the funeral ritual. The m ost im portant o f these are birth, the initiation cerem ony (upanayana), marriage (vivah a) w hich m arks the beginning o f the house holders life, and the funeral rites (antyesti) w hich end it, though in con tem porary H induism the initiation rite and m arriage are often conflated for reasons o f convenience and econom y.

Birth, especially o f a boy, is a jo yo u s and auspicious occasion fo r H indus, but it is also hedged about w ith uncertainty and im purity, fo r all biological processes are considered to be polluting and so necessitate ritual control. D uring a w o m an s first pregnancy, after the hair-parting rite, she w ill go to the hom e o f her parents fo r the birth and remain there fo r some time before being re-incorporated back into her marriage hom e w ith a new and higher status o f mother, particularly higher if the child is male. The birth of a boy, especially the first child, is considered to be m ore auspicious than that o f a girl, though the birth o f a girl is not necessarily regarded as inaus picious. W ith the birth o f a son a man has repaid his debt to the ancestors and has enabled his forefathers to attain the w o rld o f heaven. A m o n g the A iy ars, the Tam il-speaking Smarta Brahm ans, it is said that the birth o f a son enables a generation o f ancestors to pass over from the intermediate realm into the w o rld o f heaven (svarga lo ka )?


An introduction to Hinduism


Betw een the ages o f eight and tw enty-four, a high-caste boy w ill undergo the vedic initiation or upanayana cerem ony at which he will be given the sacred thread, the sym bol o f high-caste males. W hile the ritual texts have strict age limits on initiation - the Asvalayana Grhya Sutra states that a Brahm an b o y should be between eight and sixteen, a K satriya between eleven and tw en ty-tw o and a Vaisya between tw elve and tw en ty-fo u r9 contem porary H in du life is less strict and it is com m on practice to hold the

upanayana on the day before the you ng m ans wedding. Th rough the upanayana the high-caste b o y gains entry to high-caste society, which
excludes him from other spheres o f social activity. H e is separated o ff from the w o rld o f w om en and the sphere o f the mother, and from low er impure castes, thereby legitim izing social structure and gender roles. The actual cerem ony takes about a day, though there are regional varia tions w ith regard to the content o f the rite. A com m on pattern might be fo r the b o y s head to be shaved except fo r the tuft on the crow n, fo r him to be bathed and dressed in a loin-cloth, girdle and antelope-skin over his shoulder. O blations are offered into the sacred fire, the b o y vow s celibacy and is invested w ith the sacred thread, com prising three times three single strands, the sym bol o f tw ice-born status, w o rn over the left shoulder and annually renewed until either death or renunciation. The b o y is taught the fam ous root m antra, the gayatri, w hich he should recite daily thereafter, is given a secret name and is taught h ow to make oblations into the fire. The cerem ony ends w ith the departure fo r K a si , the sym bolic gesture o f leaving to go to the sacred city o f Varanasi in order to study the Veda. The b o y is persuaded b y his maternal uncle, w ith some mirth, not to go. A feast follow s this and gifts are given to the boy. A ccord in g to the classical m odel, after initiation the b o y w ould enter the student stage o f life and study the Veda w ith a teacher. W hile vedic initiation is fo r high-caste males, this does not mean, o f course, that w om en are excluded from m em bership o f high-caste com m u nities. A lthough, according to Manu, m arriage is a w o m an s upanayana, serving her husband is equivalent to vedic study, and h ou sew ork equiva lent to the fire oblations,10 there are nevertheless w o m en s rites o f passage. Such w om ens rites are not based upon Sanskrit treatises, but upon oral fo lk (laukika) traditions, and it is im portant, as Ju lia Leslie has pointed out, not to see w om en in south A sia as the passive victim s o f an oppressive 204

! indu ritual ideology but also (perhaps primarily) as i he activc agents of their own pos itive constructs.11While this is an important point, the power of the ideo logical, brahmanical framework or model should not be underestimated.
In her study o f A iy a r wom en, the Smarta Brahm ans o f Tam ilnadu, I )uvvury has show n that they can be seen both as active agents and as co n strained w ithin brahmanical orthopraxy. She show s that A iy a r w om en have their ow n rites o f passage, including a rite during a g irls first m en struation akin to the upanayana cerem ony. This rite involves the g irls being separated and isolated in a darkened room fo r three days (though not excluded from the com pany o f friends). O n the fourth day a ritual bath is taken and a feast held. The girl is brought to the temple b y her mother and to visit other households w here older w om en perform cere monies o f offering lights (arati) to her. A lternative rites fo r w om en have probably alw ays been a part o f south A sian religions, but have not been recorded in Sanskrit treatises, being regarded as fo lk traditions. W hile these rites give expression to w om en s aspirations and express a sense o f belonging to a com m unity, they m ust be understood w ithin the context o f the broader fram ew ork o f brahmanical orthopraxy. D u v vu ry claims that such rites, w hile expressing w om en s hopes, must also be seen w ithin a cu l tural context w hich defines w om en largely in terms o f their functions as mothers and w ives .12 In the broader brahm anical fram ew ork the fo lk tra ditions (la u k ik a ) are subordinated to the dharm ic tradition (.sastra), v e r nacular languages subordinated to Sanskrit, human conventions subordinated to universal law (dharm a) and wom en subordinated to men.

M arriage (v iv a h a ) is and has been the expected norm o f H indu societies unless a person becom es a world-renouncer. W ith the m arriage sam skara a y o u n g high-caste man enters fu lly into the householders life in w hich he can pursue the goals o f du ty (dharm a), gaining w ealth and w o rld ly success (artha), and experiencing pleasure, particularly sexual pleasure (kam a). F o r a w om an, marriage marks the end o f her childhood life w ith her fam ily and friends and the beginning o f a new life w ith her husband, p ro b ab ly in his village, w ith a new set o f social relationships to negotiate. M arriages are, o f course, arranged. In D ravidian south India cross-cousin m arriage tends to be practised, in w hich case the you ng couple m ay already k n o w each other, whereas in the north the couple w ill be strangers. M arriage can therefore be em otionally stressful and a you ng w om an is culturally 205

An introduction to Hinduism
expected to show signs o f sorrow at leaving her old home and w ay o f life. Yet most you n g wom en will desire marriage as a necessary transition to com plete w om anhood and integration into the w orld o f mature wom en. C aste com patibility is the most im portant factor in a H indu marriage, though other factors o f wealth, occupation and astrological com patibility are taken into account. W ithin caste (jati), marriage is generally endogam ous, yet exogam ous w ith regard to kin group (gotra), as is specified in M a n u P Yet the social realities o f marriage in south A sia are m ore co m plex than M a n u s prescriptions, w ith regional differences w ith regard to marriage and kinship patterns. F o r example, a notable exception to caste endogam y has been am ong the N am bu dri Brahm ans o f K erala, w here the eldest son w ou ld m arry a N am bu dri w om an, but the rem aining sons w ou ld maintain alliances w ith low -caste N a y a r w om en. C hildren from these alliances w ou ld belong to the N a y a r caste and live in their m others house or the house o f their m other and her brother. The N am b u dri father w ou ld visit the house, bringing his ow n food and utensils in order to avoid becom ing polluted, even from his ow n fam ily.14 F o r a H indu, m arriage is p rob ab ly the m ost im portant sam skara. The marriage o f daughters involves a fam ily in great expense as it is an occasion fo r giving gifts to the b rid egro om s fam ily and fo r arranging an elaborate w edding celebration. Indeed, marriage is, according to D um ont, the main cause o f debt in rural com m unities,15 as this is an o pportu n ity to dem on strate a fam ilys wealth and status. W hile there are regional variations in marriage cerem onies, a com m on pattern is fo r the b rides father to give her to the groom and his father. O blations are then offered into the fire. The brides w rist is tied w ith a thread and she steps three times upon the groom s fam ily grinding-stone, a gesture sym bolic o f her intended fidelity. The couple then take seven steps around the sacred fire, the essential part o f a H indu w edding, and the groom offers oblations into the fire, a rite w hich he has learned during his upanayana. I f the celebrations occur d u r ing the evening, the couple might go outside to see the pole-star and the bride w ill vo w to be constant like that star. A fte r the celebrations, w hich m ay go on for a couple o f days, the bride w ill return w ith the groom to his fam ily home where they w ill begin treading the path o f the householder.

Death, as in m ost cultures, is inauspicious in H in duism and fraught w ith the danger o f pollution fo r the bereaved and the danger o f being haunted 20 6

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hy a malevolent ghost. The last $amskara% called the last sacrifice*

(tntyesti) - for indeed, as Parry show s, crem ation is akin to sacrifice16 . nntrols the pollution o f death and re-iintegrates the fam ily back into n o r mal social life from which they have been separated by death, and allow s I he spirit o f the deceased to travel on its w ay. These tw o concerns are panII indu, though funerary practices vary to some extent in different regions. While crem ation is the usual w a y o f disposing o f bodies, inhum ation is practised am ong low castes and h oly men and children are generally Iuried. A h oly man might be buried in a tom b called a sam adhi or sam adh, indicative o f the belief that, although he has left his body, he has becom e absorbed into a higher state o f consciousness. A renouncer, having under gone his ow n funeral during his rite o f renunciation, and so transcending his social identity, might sim ply be placed in a river. A person is cremated on the day o f death if possible. The corpse is bathed, anointed w ith sandalw ood paste, shaved if male, w rapped in a cloth and carried to the crem ation ground b y male relatives w h o m ove as quickly as possible chanting the name o f G o d (R a m ). O n the funeral p yre the co rp ses feet point south tow ards the realm o f Yam a, the god o f death, with the head pointing north to the realm o f K ubera, the god o f wealth. The funeral p yre is lit, theoretically w ith the dom estic fire o f the deceased if he is tw ice-born, and the remains are gathered up between three and ten days after the funeral and buried, placed in a special area o f ground or immersed in a river, preferably the h oly G anges. D urin g the days im m edi ately follow in g the funeral, the fam ily are h igh ly polluted and remain p o l luted until the final rites (sraddha) are perform ed. These sraddloa rites are offerings to the deceased o f rice balls (pinda) w hich construct a b o d y fo r him in the next w orld , the w o rld o f the ghosts (preta-loka). These daily offerings continue fo r ten days, recapitulating the ten lunar months o f the em b ryo s gestation,17 at w hich time the gh ostly b od y is com plete and, w ith the rite know n as sapindikarana, m oves into the realm o f the ances tors (pitr-loka). In south India the offering o fpindas to the deceased m ight take place at the confluence o f a sacred river and a ritual to determ ine w hether the ghost still lingers involves offering pin das to crow s. If the crow s eat the offerings then the deceased is happy. This marks the end o f the life-cycle rituals, the last ritual reflecting the birth rite at lifes beginning. W hile the official id eo logy o f brahm anical H induism is reincarnation and this is the m odel generally assumed b y renouncer traditions, the 207

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funeral rites dem onstrate another model of the afterlife operating along side the reincarnation model. 1 lere the dead go to an intermediate realm, the w orld o f the gh osts (preta-loka) and, once they have a com plete body constructed through the p in d a offerings, go into the realm o f the ancestors o r fathers (pitr-loka). A t village level there are often no coherent beliefs Vs about the afterlife. G enerally, a person is regarded as a com posite being, after w hose death the different elements or pow ers w hich constituted the person go to different places. F o r example, in K erala a com m on fo lk beliel is that a person has at least tw o pow ers (sakti) w hich separate at death: the soul (jiva) or life principle (ayus) goes o ff to the L o rd or to heaven (,svargam , even called m oksam , liberation), w hile the other power, con nected w ith the body, remains on earth as a ghost (preta,pisaca). This part o f the person connected w ith the earth is sometimes thought to becom e a crow .18 W hile m any non-Brahm ans do not claim to believe in reincarna tion, there is no cognitive dissonance experienced b y H indus w ho do, yet w h o nevertheless perform the correct funeral procedures. This indicates the autonom y o f the ritual realm, the ritual pattern o f the funeral follow ed b y the creation o f the deceaseds b o d y in the next w o rld going back to the time o f the Vedas, before the id eology o f reincarnation made its entrance.19 Rites o f passage are occasional rituals perform ed at different junctures o f a person s life. There are also rituals perform ed on a daily basis, not only b y Brahm ans, but b y all H indus. These constitute the daily w orsh ip of deities - m aking offerings to them and in turn receiving blessings from them.



v'e-C, / C 0 ^ ,

In contrast to animal sacrifice, p u ja is the offerin g o f vegetarian food, flow ers and incense to a deity. A ll deities accept these offerings and are the focuses o f p u ja, though some accept blood-sacrifice (ball) as well. P u ja , a Sanskrit w ord w hich can be loosely translated as w o rsh ip , is perform ed in private hom es and in public temples throughout H indu south A sia. M in im ally it might involve m aking a small offering o f a coin to the icon o f a deity and receiving the d eitys blessing in the form o f a m ark (tilak) o f sandalw ood paste (candana) or red turm eric p o w d er (kunkum a) on the forehead. In private hom es, p u ja w ould be perform ed before the icon o f the deity installed either in a separate room , in the houses o f the better-off,

j or in the purest room in the house, the kitchen. In the tem ple a p u ja might J

Hindu ritual
become very elaborate, with sacred verses (m antra) being uttered by the icmple priest (pujari/pucari) while the icon is bathed and dressed, and a variety o f foods are offered, accom panied by the strong smell o f incense and the loud ringing o f bells and banging o f drum s. M any people m ight be present at such pujas to gaze upon the deity - to have its darsana - and to receive back the offered food blessed b y the god {prasada).

Puja follow s a sim ilar pattern and contains the same elements in different temples throughout India. In south Indian tem ples, p u ja generally conform s to accounts given in sacred texts, the A gam as and Tantras com posed during the medieval period, and in ritual manuals (paddhati). Temples w ill adopt the rites and mantras prescribed in a specific text, such as the K am ikagam a used in m any tem ples in Tamilnadu, or the Tantrasamuccaya used in m ost K erala temples today. In t e m p le s / ? ^ usually com prises a rite o f bathing the icon (abhiseka), during w hich various substances are rubbed on the d eitys b o d y , such as sesame seed oil and curd. The deity is then dressed and decorated in new clothes, given a new sacred thread (the sym b ol o f high-caste birth), and adorned w ith gold, jew els and perfum es, often receiving a dot o f red turmeric on the forehead or bridge o f the nose. Plates o f boiled rice and sweets are offered to the deity (naivedya) to the accom panim ent o f ringing bells. The rice is later consum ed b y the priests and temple officiants. A fte r the d eitys meal, a curtain is draw n back and the devotees can have the visio n (darsana) o f the deity and see the final stage o f the ritual, the dis p lay o f lamps (diparadhana), during w hich the priest w aves a variety o f cam phor lamps in a circular m otion before the icon. The rite is n ow approaching its culm ination and m ight be accom panied b y loud drum ming, pipes and the blow in g o f conches. A priest w ill then take a lamp to the devotees w h o cup their hands over the flames and touch their eyes and faces, bringing the light and w arm th o f the deity to themselves. The devo tees accept turm eric pow d er or w hite ash from the priest to m ark their foreheads and the p u ja is over. D evotees w ill take aw ay blessed food (prasada) to be eaten later. The circling lam p, bringing the deitys light and w arm th to his or her devotees, is kn ow n as the arati lamp - a term w hich is used syn on ym ou sly w ith p u ja. C h ris F u ller notes that, in the M inakshi temple at M adurai, the p u ja should ideally be preceded b y a preparatory ritual and should end w ith a fire ritual (h om a), but this is o n ly perform ed 209

An introduction to Hinduism
on im portant occasions.20 Many temples, such as the fam ous Jagannatli temple at Puri, w ould have had devada si dancers, the temple prostitutes' m arried to the deity, to perform sacred dances before the shrine. In temples such as the famous temple o f G u ru v a yu r on the Kerala coast, w hich attracts m any thousands o f pilgrim s, five daily pujas arc celebrated. These occur at the junctures o f the d ay (dawn, midday, sunset), and tw o betw een daw n and midday. The presiding deity o f the temple*, G uru vayu rappan , L o rd o f G u ru v a yu r, is regarded as a manifestation ol Krsna. The icon is in a standing posture located in the inner sanctum of the temple where the daily rituals are perform ed. W hile the day is techni cally divided into five p u jas, in some sense the entire daily ritual cycle can be seen as a single p u ja , the deity being awakened, bathed, paraded around the tem ple, fed, and offered lights, w hile blessings are received b y his devotees in the form o f his vision (darsanam ), food and coloured pow d ers.21 The pattern o f w orsh ip that w e see here in the G u ru va yu r temple - m in im ally the m aking o f an offering and the receiving o f a blessing - is found, w ith variations, throughout H induism . O ne further example w ill illus trate this. A d a y s jou rn ey north o f G u ru va yu r is the small tow n of Payyanur. H ere, along w ith m any other fam ilies throughout K erala, a N am b u dri Brahm an fam ily perform s an annual ritual, the puja to the fam ily deity Raktesvari. Traditionally each N am b u dri fam ily group has an ancestral hom estead (illam) to w hich fam ily members return on special ritual occasions. In this particular p u ja , the fam ily deity, Raktesvari, is appeased through receiving offerings and in turn conveys blessing (anugraham ) on the family. Preparations fo r the p u ja are begun on the evening before the ritual itself, during w hich a fram e or m an dalam , made out o f split layers o f banana tree stalks, is prepared as an altar. O n the day o f the ritual, w hich lasts fo r a couple o f hours, the extended fam ily o f parents, children, uncles and aunts, gather at the shrine b y the fam ily hom e in the m orning. The G oddess is addressed b y a respected elder behind the closed door o f the shrines inner sanctum where she lives. The shrine is lit b y a num ber o f lamps and he utters mantras, touching parts o f the G o d d ess body, thereby em pow ering them (nyasa). The priest then w ithdraw s from the inner shrine, and lamps are lit on the m andalam w hich functions as the locus fo r the invocation o f the deity w h o receives offerings. These offerings include three bow ls o f substitute blood (gurusi), coloured black and red, w hich 210

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I he priest pours over the mandalam. The fam ily then circumambulate the shrine. Fin ally the arati lamp is brought around to the fam ily members fo r Ihem to take the flame and heat o f the G oddess. Red powder, p reviou sly offered, is given out to make a mark called a tilak on the forehead. The rit ual over, the fam ily members partake o f a feast w hich includes a dessert item (payasam) made from food offered during th epuja and called prasa-

In this puja w e see the basic elements o f H indu ritual: the offerings to the deity, the repetition o f sacred form ulae, the closing o f the doors o f the inner shrine, the offering o f light and the receiving o f the G o d d ess grace in the form o f fire. This structure is directly paralleled b y the rituals at G uruvayur, and is a pattern, with regional variations, w hich can be located throughout the subcontinent, and indeed in other countries w here Hinduism has journeyed. W hat is interesting about this puja is that the offerings o f coloured water are sym bolic representations o f blood. Indeed Kaktesvari means G oddess o f b lo o d . So w hat are literal offerings o f blood to the G oddess amongst lower, m ore im pure, social groups, become, with the N am budris, substitute or sym bolic offerings. The use o f actual blood to propitiate the G odd ess w ou ld be polluting fo r the N am budri, so he must use substitutes. Indeed, the N am budris say that, whereas lower-caste groups use substances, the N am b u dri uses mantras.

The H indu year, using the lunar calendar, is punctuated b y a num ber o f religious festivals (utsava), some o f w h ich are pan-Indian, others o f w hich are local. D urin g festivals, w hich are often particular to specific tem ples, thousands o f people line the streets to w itness the procession o f the tem ple icon (m urti) on a carriage (ratha) pulled through the tow n b y som e times hundreds o f men. There is a fam ous festival at the Jagannatha temple in Puri, during w hich an enorm ous cart and icon is pulled through the processional street (the English w o rd juggernaut comes from this cart). The icon is often accom panied b y a procession o f decorated elephants, horses and h oly men (sadhu) often in a carnival atmosphere. To witness the icon is to have the auspicious visio n (darsana) o f the deity and so to receive its blessing. The processed icon is sometimes distinct from the cen tral icon installed in the temple, and used on ly on festival occasions or w hen the deity circum am bulates the temple. The principal, pan -H in du festivals are:

An introduction to Hinduism - Krsna Jaynti. This falls in the month of Sravana (July-August) and celebrates Krsnas birthday.
- Rakhi Bandhan. The full moon day of Sravana during which girls tie coloured threads around their brothers wrists. - Ganesa Catrthi. The festival during Bhadrapada (August-September), sacred to elephant-headed Ganesa, Lord of Beginnings and Obstacles. - Dassera. This is a holiday during Asvina (September-October) which marks the end of the monsoon. The first nine days are called navardtri (nine nights) at the end of which time the festival to the Goddess, the Durg-pj, occurs, especially in Bengal. The tenth day of the festival also celebrates the victory of Rma and his monkey army over the demon Rvana. - D ivl or Dipval. The festival of light during Asvina, celebrated throughout the Hindu world with lamps placed in windows and around doors or floated down rivers, and gifts exchanged. - Siva Rtri. The festival sacred to Siva during Marga (Novem ber-Decem ber), celebrated especially by Saivas. - Holi. The spring festival in Phlguna (February-M arch), characterized by often robustious behaviour, during which people drench each other in water and coloured powder. O ther festivals, though not as popular as the above, are nevertheless celebrated b y large num bers o f people. O f these the N ga Pancam I in south India is popular, during w hich snakes are fed and w orshipped, and the spring festival, Vasant, in the north, w hen w om en and girls w ear bright yello w dresses. M ore local festivals also occur such as the dancepossession festivals o f the teyyam deities in Kerala.

Pilgrim age is integral to H induism and in m odern times, w ith the develop ment o f good com m unication system s across the vast expanse o f India, has becom e ve ry popular. A pilgrim age is a tirtha yatra, a jo u rn ey to a h oly place, referred to as a fo rd (tirtha), a place fo r crossing o ver , where the divine w orld touches or meets the human w orld . T he tirtha is a place where the transcendent com es to earth, w here the higher realms meet the low^er, the sacred meets the everyday. A tirtha is therefore a point o f m edi ation between tw o realms. Pilgrim ages are especially auspicious w hen undertaken during a temple festival, such as the annual procession o f the

Hindu ritual
Lo rdjagan nth aat Puri. A t such places 11indus can rid themselves o f ($in* (papa) or accumulated karma, fulfil a vow (v ra ta ), or sim ply enjoy the transforming experience o f the pilgrim age. D uring the period o f the p il grimage there is a tendency fo r caste restrictions to fall aw ay (though p er haps never w h olly) and for people to relate to a collective identity characterized b y ideals o f equality and com m union.22 There are m any pilgrim age centres in India, some are pan-H indu, such as the city o f Varanasi or the temple o f K an ya K u m r at Indias southern tip, while others have m ore local or regional interest, such as the temple o f G u ru vayu r in Kerala m entioned above. Tow ns and cities sacred to a par ticular deity - such as A yod h ya, the birthplace and capital o f Rm a - or which have arisen at the confluence o f sacred rivers - such as A llahabad at the confluence o f the G anges, the Y am una and the m ythical Sarasvat - are extrem ely popular pilgrim age centres. Traditionally there are seven sacred cities w hich are the object o f pilgrim age, A yo d h ya, M athura, H ardw ar, Varanasi, U jjain, D w arka and Kanchipuram . Sacred rivers are themselves places o f pilgrim age, particularly the G anges, rising in the H im alayas and flow ing dow n to the sea in West Bengal; the Yam una, also rising in the H im alayas and joining the G anges; the G od avari rising in M aharashtra and flow ing through A ndh ra Pradesh; and the K averi, flow in g from Karnataka through Tamilnadu. Tow ns located along the banks o f these rivers tend to attract pilgrim s, particularly the h oly cities, along the Ganges, o f Varanasi, A llahabad (or Prayaga), H ard w ar and, further up the river, Badrinath and Kedarnath. The actual source o f the Ganges, a little further than Kedarnath at G om ukha, attracts m any pilgrim s in spite o f its inaccessibility. O ther im portant pilgrim age centres are M athura (K rsn as birthplace), Vrndavana (K rsn as forest home) and, in the south, Kanchipuram . There are also traditionally fo u r sacred abodes (dh am a) at the fo u r com pass points o f India: Badrinath in the north, Puri on the east coast, Ram eshw aram in the south and D w ark a on the west coast. It is v e ry auspicious to perform the dham a y a tra, the pilgrim age to all four centres in a clockw ise direction, and so, according to some H indus, attain salvation.

Varanasi or Benares is perhaps the m ost im portant and fam ous city fo r H indus, fam ous fo r its ghats, the steps going dow n into the G anges, along w hich pilgrim s bathe and along w h ich bodies are cremated. Indeed


An introduction to Hinduism
to die in Kasi, another name for this city sacred to Siva, is to attain libera tion (m oksa) upon death. O f all pilgrim age centres, Varanasi is perhaps the m ost popular. Varanasi is regarded as the centre, not on ly o f India, but o f the cosm os. A ll the gods are gathered there and all pilgrim age places united in the one. H ere is a city w hich is m ore than just an urban centre; a place w hich embraces all places, w hich is a sym bol o f a L o rd w h o em braces all phenomena. Varanasi is the great cremation ground (m ahasm asana) w hich reflects the crem ation ground w hich is the universe.23

K u m b h a M elas are festivals, especially sacred to h o ly men and w om en, held at A llahabad, U jjain , H ard w ar and N asik . The most im portant is held at A llahabad every tw elve years, a cycle that is related to the m ovem ent o f the planet Jupiter. D urin g the festival, pilgrim s and renouncers process into the river G anges to bathe. The naked naga sadhus, covered in ashes and w ith matted hair, lead the procession, fo llo w ed b y other orders o f ascetics, and fin ally b y ordinary householders.24 These pilgrim ages attract huge crow ds and during the Allahabad K u m bha M ela in 1989 an estimated 15 m illion pilgrim s came to bathe in the river.

L et us look at one last example from Sabarim alai in the western G hats o f Kerala. H ere there is a temple to the god A iyap p an , the son o f Siva and M ohini, a female form o f Visnu. This pilgrim age occurs during M argali (D ecem ber-Janu ary) and traditionally takes fo rty-o n e days. The A iyap p an cult is predom inantly male, m ainly yo u n g men, though prepubescent girls and post-m enopausal w om en are allow ed to undertake the pilgrim age. The pilgrim s w ear black - though some w ear ochre - and fo l lo w a strict regime o f abstention from sex, alcohol, and the eating o f meat and eggs fo r the fo rty-o n e-d ay period o f the festival. F o r the duration o f the festival, the pilgrim becomes a renouncer, undergoing a sym bolic funeral at his initiation b y a guru on the eve o f the pilgrim age. U p o n reach ing the temple, the pilgrim smashes a coconut upon one o f the eighteen steps o f the temple, a sym bol o f the dissolution o f him self into A iyap p an .25 The pilgrim should undertake the pilgrim age each year, smashing a coconut on each successive step until all eighteen have been covered. 214

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A stro lo g y There is a deep belief in H induism that human life is influenced b y the movements o f the planets and astrology is o f vital importance in determining an auspicious time, even dow n to the correct hour, to undertake rituals. It is im portant in determ ining the times o f pilgrim age, festivals, marriage, and in determ ining marriage partners. The science o f astrology (jyotisa) com prises one o f the Vedrigas,26 the texts developing various aspects o f vedic know ledge, designed or used at first to determine the co r rect time fo r sacrificing. The astrologer (jyotisi) is a v e ry significant figure in the lives o f H indus w h o make m ajor decisions guided b y his advice. Pilgrim s to Varanasi, fo r example, w ill consult astrologers seated on the steps leading into the G anges, and the parents o f m any children w ill have their infants horoscope draw n up shortly after birth. These w ill be con sulted at all im portant occasions in the ch ilds life to help determine auspi cious times fo r rites o f passage. jv-vS s - b ,

Private ritual
The kinds o fp j w e have so far described occur w ithin the public realm o f the temple or fam ily shrine, notw ithstanding the element o f privacy in the w orship o f the deity b y the priest behind a screen. These rituals are p ro p i tiatory and in return the com m unity receives the blessing o f the deity in the form o f its darsana, pra sda, and the hope that the deity w ill protect and guide them. Some H indus, how ever, perform rituals fo r the sake o f spiritual salvation, w hich is conceptualized in a variety o f w ays. These seekers after w isdom and liberation from the material w orld o f suffering m ight be initiated into one o f the great traditions o f H induism , such as a Saiva tradition w hose w orsh ip is focused on the god Siva, a Vaisnava tradi tion w hose w orsh ip is focused on Visnu or one o f his incarnations, or a Skta tradition w hose focus is the G odd ess in one o f her manifestations. T he genre o f texts w hich form the scriptural basis o f m any o f these tradi tions are the Agam as and Tantras already discussed. A devotee w ithin such a tradition, the Saiva Siddhnta devotee described b y Richard D avis fo r exam ple,27 w ou ld o ffer privatepjs to his chosen deity (,ista-devat), perform ed alone before the deitys icon each day, w hile at the same time maintaining a public ritual life, attending the temple and fam ily shrine, and generally fulfilling his household obliga tions. Such devotees are generally male, though w om en are not necessarily

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An introduction to Hinduism
excluded from initiation into these traditions. The private rituals incum bent upon the initiate for the purposes o f spiritual salvation an su pererogatory and do not replace his public ritual obligations. Having perform ed the correct private rituals, the devotee hopes to attain spiritual salvation either during his lifetime or upon death, depending upon which specific tradition he is initiated into. W hile internalized ritual has been the practice o f the few - the virtuosi dedicated to the task o f liberation and/or the gaining o f spiritual pow er the m ajority o f H indus on ly practice regularpujas, in hom e and temple, ol the kind p revio u sly described. A n ancient and im portant form o f H indu w orsh ip, w h ich has tended to be m arginalized in m ore recent years with the popularization o f ideas about non-violence and the pervasiveness o f a brahm anical id eo lo gy w hich stresses vegetarianism , is sacrifice. Sacrifice refers to a ritual in w hich an animal is killed, usually b y low -caste groups, and presented as an offering, usually to a blood-dem anding goddess. The practice is w idespread at village level, though Brahm ans w ou ld generally not perform sacrifice, unless during a special vedic srauta ritual, because of the death p ollu tion associated w ith it.

Hindu ritual
^i aphies describing them. A lt H iltebeitel cites an early ethnography b y Sir Walter E llio t in 1829 and he himself witnessed and recorded a buffalo sac1 ifice at G ingee in Tamilnadu in 1984. H ere the main recipient o f the sacri fice is the goddess K am alakkanni, Lotus M aiden , w hose small temple is half-way up a steep incline to the G ingee R o y a l Fort. She is joined in the acrifice b y tw o o f her seven sisters, K aliyam m an and M ariyam m an. The sacrifice occurs at the end o f the ten-day festival and involves the co-ordination o f the three temples and a com m ittee w h o organize it, made up m ainly o f a caste called Vanniyars, w h o are Sudras but w h o claim ksatriya origins. D urin g the celebrations, tw o buffalos are sacrificed to the goddess in the public cult and a num ber o f cocks and male goats are sacrificed in private cults, b y individuals or individual fam ilies. T h e actual sacrifice is perform ed b y the P araiyar caste, U ntouchables or H arijans. The goddesses Kam alakkanni and K aliyam m an are brought in the form o f their em blems, a trident and a pot respectively. T h e y w ill meet their sister M ariyam m an later, but in the meantime they are accom panied b y the fierce male d eity V irappan: one o f the P araiyars w h o is possessed b y the god. The first buffalo is led to a clearing b y a tree outside the R o y a l F o rt, sprinkled w ith w ater and its head daubed w ith red and yello w turm eric powder. T h e buffalo is th row n to its side, its legs tied above the h oof, and it is beheaded b y a num ber o f strokes o f a large knife. B u ffalos have tradi tionally been beheaded, though B errem an records a buffalo sacrifice in N epal during w hich the victim was hacked to death w ith sw ords and knives.28 In E llio ts 1829 record, reported b y H iltebeitel, a leg o f the b u f falo is cut o ff and placed in its m outh. Such ritual hum iliation o f the victim is a com m on theme in sacrifice in w hich am bivalent attitudes are displayed tow ards the victim w h o, on the one hand, is sacred and so should be treated w ith reverence, yet, on the other hand, is the victim o f m assive violence and is sacred o n ly because it is to be killed.29 A t G ingee, the head is first rem oved from the sacrificial scene and then head and b o d y taken to the H arijan colony. Villagers w h o have becom e possessed b y the goddess jum p upon the bloodstained ground and w om en smear the b u ffalo s blood on their foreheads as a tilak m ark. Th e representatives o f the goddesses and V irappan (those bearing their em blems) dance, intoxicated, on the place o f the sacrifice, reflecting, suggests H iltebeitel, the intoxication o f the G o dd ess upon slaying the buffalo dem on. A second buffalo sacrifice occurs at a different location en route to the H arijan co lo n y and the b o d y 217

A s w e have seen, there are tw o kinds o f offerings made to deities, vegetar ian offerings o f fruit, vegetables, rice and so on, w h ich all deities accept, and, in contrast, non-vegetarian offerings or the sacrifice o f animals (ball), I I w h ich o n ly som e hot deities accept. A nim al sacrifice has alw ays been an | im portant dim ension in the history o f H indu traditions. T h ough often fro w n ed upon w ithin m odern H induism , the sacrifice o f fo w ls, goats and som etim es buffalos is an integral part o f the w orsh ip and appeasement o f certain deities, n otably the ferocious, violent o r hot goddesses such as M ariyam m an and K ali. Indeed sacrifice o f buffalos is connected w ith ro y al p o w e r and the village buffalo sacrifice can be seen to reflect the grand, ro yal sacrifices to the G oddess during her ten d a y festival (das sera). W hile fo w ls, goats and sheep are frequently offered (m ostly fow ls) to ferocious male and female deities, buffalo sacrifice o n ly v e ry rarely occurs, due largely to its prohibition b y the Indian governm ent since 1947. H ow ever, on occasion, buffalo sacrifices to the G odd ess do occur during the autum n ten d a y festival or D urga Puja, w hich celebrates her v icto ry over the b uffalo dem on. Because buffalo sacrifices are rare, so are ethno216

An introduction to Hinduism
is taken aw ay as before to where the meat will be divided. In the meantime the tw o goddesses, Kam alakkanni and Kaliyam m an, meet their sistei M ariyam m an, w h o is carried from her temple in the form o f a pot. Here there is jo y fu l celebration, for the sisters have not been together since the previous y e a rs festival.30 O n ly the G odd ess or one o f her form s accepts buffalo sacrifices. Such sacrifices are a w a y in w hich the village or com m unity can contact the G odd ess and, furtherm ore, they reflect the social hierarchy. The sacrifice at one level represents the com m unity itself w ith the G oddess at the top. This social stratification is reflected in the offerings to the G oddess during the festival. W ithin the private cults o f individual families, vegetarian offerings are offered to the G oddess and consum ed as blessed food (prasada) b y the Brahm ans. F o w ls and goats offered to her b y meat-eating castes, the Sudras, are sim ilarly consum ed as blessed food, w hile the untouchable castes consum e the buffalos meat in their village. Its offal and blood are offered to the dem onic beings on the village boundary.31 The buffalo sacrifice reflects the H indu cosm os w ith the divine being at the top o f the scale, in this case the G oddess w h o can absorb the im purity of blood-sacrifice; the Brahm ans offering and consum ing o n ly vegetarian fo od next; the low er-ranking meat-eating castes b elow them; w ith the h igh ly polluting H arijans below them. The dem ons are classified here even below the H arijans.

M yth and sacrifice

The violence dem onstrated towards the buffalo victim reflects the v io lence o f the G oddess tow ards the buffalo dem on, a violence w hich is, at the same time, a p u rifyin g power. T h rou gh perform ing sacrifice, the don or or com m unity is purified: the sacrificial victim becom es a substitute fo r the donor or com m unity and, as it w ere, transform s the sins o f the com m unity or donor into the blessing o f the G oddess. The sacrificial v ic tim is, at a deeper level, a substitute fo r the hum an don or or sacrificer, or perhaps the com m unity as a w hole. We do possess texts w hich refer to a human sacrifice in the Indian traditions, but such a practice m ay never have actually occurred, existing on ly as an ideal or possibility.32 This iden tification o f sacrificial victim w ith sacrificer is reflected in a num ber o f H indu m yths, m ost notably in the m yth, recorded in the D evim d h d tm y a , o f D urga slaying and decapitating M ahisasura, w h o is depicted iconographically as both buffalo and human form in one. The other notable

Hindu ritual
myth which suggests this identification is i lit* myth of 1 )aksa in which Siva beheads him. It is clear that D aksa, the instigator of the sacrifice, is identi fied w ith the sacrificial victim, and, as O T la h e rty observes, through destroying the sacrifice, Siva, as V lrabhadra, is in fact com pleting the sacri fice b y killing D aksa, w ho has becom e the sacrificial victim .33

Ritual purity
C entral to H indu rituals is the idea o f purity. A n yo n e undertaking a ritual, or having a ritual perform ed on their behalf, should be as free from p o llu tion as possible. The natural functions o f the b o d y and b o dily products (all bodily fluids, hair and nail clippings) are polluting fo r the H indu, w h o needs to p u rify him self each day in the ritual m orning ablution. There are also graver form s o f pollution caused b y death and grieving, menstruation and birth and during these times a person w o u ld be polluted and so excluded from certain activities such as entering a temple. Indeed, tradi tionally w om en were excluded from cooking during m enstruation to p re vent pollution being spread to the rest o f the family. In the presence o f the divine at a temple or before the household shrine, the H indu must be in a state o f ritual purity, w hich means that pollution (mala) has been eradi cated as far as possible. There are limits to w hich this is possible o f course, and certain classes o f people might never be able to be rid o f the pollution w hich accrues to their bodies due to their social group; a low -caste person w ou ld not be allow ed w ithin the household shrine during the N am b u d ris p iijd to Raktesvarl. Sim ilarly, on ly the Brahm an priest is allowed into the inner sanctum o f the deity in the temple. The scale o f p u rity and pollution differentiates individuals from each other, men from w om en and high caste from lo w caste. A part from every day pollution caused through the b o d y and inadvertent contact w ith p o l luting substances, there is a deeper level o f pu rity and pollution w hich is generally regarded as a property o f the body, as a b odily substance. The highest caste, the Brahm ans, have a pure b o d ily substance w hile the lo w er castes have im pure b od ily substance, w ith the U ntouchables being the most polluted. Because o f their state o f constant pollution due to the su b stance o f the bodies they are born w ith, the U ntouchables are often fo r bidden entry to H indu temples or shrines w hich are administered b y Brahm ans, though such discrim ination is n ow illegal in India. Yet, despite this legislation, low -caste H indus and foreigners are frequently excluded from temples because o f their polluting properties w hich w ou ld anger the 219

An introduction to Hinduism
deity. The scale of purity and pollution is an organizing principle and co n straint w hich controls the regulation o f bodies in social space in H induism . H indu ritual not only expresses w orship to a deity (or asks for protection or appeases the deity), it also makes statements about group identity, b y stating, im plicitly and explicitly, not o n ly w h o can be included in any particular rite, but also, as w e have seen w ith rites o f passage, w ho is excluded from those rites.34

Ritual and possession

A n im portant aspect o f public ritual during festivals is possession (avesa) b y the deities o f the temples w hich are the focus o f celebration. This usu ally occurs am ong lower-caste groups and is often integral to the ritual process. A s the divine presence occupies and possesses the icon (murti) in the temple, so the divine can occupy and enter the b o d y o f his or her devo tee. The possessed person becomes a m anifestation o f the divine, their b o d y paralleling the d eitys icon (vig ra h a , m urti). Possession in a ritual context b y the deity should be regarded as a blessing and auspicious, though, o f course, possession b y a ghost or dem onic presence w ou ld be inauspicious and require exorcism b y a ritual specialist. A person might becom e possessed b y the deity regularly on the occasion o f the festival and might even becom e a priest or priestess o f the god.35 Ritual possession occurs m ost strikingly in festivals, such as those o f the teyyam deities o f Kerala. These lower-caste festivals occur throughout the M alabar region at innum erable shrines w hich house the teyyam deities in the form o f icons or sw ords. D urin g the festival the deity w ill possess a teyyam dancer w h o is beautifully adorned as the god, elaborately decora ted w ith headdress and face paint (see plates 19 and 20), w ho dances around the shrine com pound, giving darsanam to the onlookers. There is an electric atm osphere during these festivals, as the teyyam dances accom panied b y the intense, rapid drum -beats o f his associates. The festival lasts for about tw o days, w ith each deity being perform ed in turn b y a dancer specifically designated to perform that particular deity on the occasion o f the festival. H e begins his dance b y an altar, w here chickens w ill be sacri ficed and alcohol offered, and a m irror is held up to him. U p o n seeing his reflection he becom es possessed b y the deity he is enacting. B efore the teyyam shrine he sings or chants in M alayalam , a series o f laudations to the deity, praising the deity first in the third person, then in the second person and finally the first person, indicating that the possession is com plete. The 220

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teyyam dances with sw ords and shields taken from the shrine, sym b o li cally attacking the high-spirited crow d. Th e teyyam sometimes marches out o f the com pound through the streets o f the tow n to the local temple, paralleling the processional march o f a tem ple icon, w here he demands the attention o f the higher-caste officiant inside. T he teyyam is refused entry, though sometimes there is an exchange o f ritual offerings, and returns to the teyyam shrine giving darsanam to people on the w a y and entering some houses and so blessing them. This pattern o f knocking at the temple door and being refused entry expresses a hierarchical relationship between the high-caste, pan-H indu, cool deity installed in the temple and the low -caste, local, hot, teyyam . A lth ou gh there is a clear distinction between the high deity and the teyyam , the teyyam s, w hile never losing their fierce nature, are nevertheless often identified w ith the high deities. F o r example, the teyyam Visnum urti, at a shrine in the small tow n o f N ileshw aram , is identified w ith N arasim ha, the ferocious incarnation o f Visnu. The example o f the teyyam illustrates h ow possession, as R ich Freem ans extensive study has show n, is a socially and culturally defined phenom enon. The possessed ritual dancer acts in a ritually determ ined way. The im portant point is that possession is culturally determ ined and is not prim arily about the inner state o f consciousness o f the perform er. A lth ough the perform er m ay im provise to som e extent, the ritual songs he perform s about the teyyam fo llo w a standard pattern. Freem an observes: possession in T eyyam is a fundam entally ritual activity, that is, it is char acterized b y a highly form alized set o f behaviours and beliefs w hich ow e little to individual m otivations and dispositions .36

R itual and m antra

O ne o f the m ost striking features o f all H indu ritual is the repetition o f sacred form ulae, usually in Sanskrit, w h ich accom pany ritual acts. These are mantras. M antra has been n otoriou sly difficult to define, but ve ry b road ly refers to sentences, phrases, or w ord s, m ostly though not exclu sively in Sanskrit, in verse and in prose, w h ich are recited or chanted fo r ritual and soteriological purposes.37 In the orth od ox vedic tradition they have been used to evoke deities, fo r protection, and to m agically affect the w o rld , and in tantric traditions they are themselves regarded as deities, or as em bodying the p ow er or energy (sakti) o f a deity. M antras can be uttered audibly and loudly,38 they can be w hispered (a level w hich is often 221

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regarded as higher than the clearly vocalized mantra) and they can he uttered p u rely m entally, or in silence regarded as the highest level.39 Of particular im portance is the idea that a mantra is given orally b y the teacher or guru, the master o f m antra-know ledge, to the student; the guru em pow ers the mantra, gives the w ords force or energy, in a w a y which parallels the icon o f a deity in a temple being em pow ered or brought to life. M antras are central to the ritual traditions o f H induism and, indeed, H indu traditions can sometimes be defined or delineated b y the mantras they use: mantras fo r Visnu or his incarnations w ill be repeated by Vaisnavas, mantras fo r Siva w ill be repeated b y Saivas and so on. The most fam ous vedic mantra is the G ayatri: O m bhur, bhuva, sva,/tat savitur varenyam /bhargo devasya dhlm ahi/dhiyo y o nah pracod ayat , w hich can be loo sely translated as (O ra, earth, atmosphere, and sky. M ay w e contem plate the desirable radiance o f the god Savitr; m ay he impel our th ou gh ts/40 This is taught to you ng Brahm ans during their sacred thread cerem ony (upanayana) and is thereafter uttered every m orning at sunrise b y orth odox Brahm ans. M antras often com bine seed syllables (bija), sound units based on Sanskrit p h o nolo gy but w hich are not m eaningful, w ith meaningful phrases. F o r example, O m namah sivaya hum contains a m eaningful ele ment, hom age to Siva (namah sivaya), and the bijas om and hum w hich are sem antically empty. The m ost fam ous seed mantra is om. First appear ing in the Atharva Veda Samhita, O m becom es identified w ith absolute reality (brahman) in the Taittiriya Upanisad,41 w ith the structure o f the cosm os in the Mandukya Upanisad,42 and finds a place in all o f H indu rit ual, from vedic sacrifice to daily puja in the temple. It is regarded as the m ost sacred sound in the Veda and, as D erm ot K illin g ly has observed, rep resents or encapsulates the entire vedic corpus, being accepted as sacred even outside the H indu fold in Buddhism and Sikhism .43 W hile om is not sem antically m eaningful, it is revered as the sound o f the absolute w hich manifests the cosm os, the essence o f the Veda.

F rom the examples that have been given, w e can see that within H induism there is a w ide range o f ritual practices w hich focus on deities, each distinct to its tradition and region, yet at the same time displaying features w hich can be found throughout H induism from K erala to the U S A . H indus per-

Hindu ritual
I form rituals o f sacrifice and puja to propitiate deities and receive blessings, and some H indus perform private rituals for the purposes o f salvation (mukti) and to experience the pleasures o f higher w orlds or heavens (bh u kti). Ritual provides continuity o f tradition through the generations, arguably conveys im plicit H indu values, and sets the parameters fo r the H indus sense o f identity.


io H indu theology and philosophy

Fro m the earliest times, alongside system s o f ritual and soteriologies using yo ga and meditation, elaborate and often h igh ly sophisticated doctrinal schemes and m etaphysical speculation developed w ithin H induism . The term p h iloso p h y has often been used to describe these system s. W hile there are undoubted sim ilarities between traditional H indu thinking and m odern western philosophy, what traditional H in du thinkers do w ould on ly be partially recognized in contem porary departm ents o f ph ilosoph y in western universities. Alternatively, w hile the term th eo lo g y conveys not o n ly the system atic and transcendent aspects o f H in du thought, but also emphasizes its exegetical nature, some schools are atheistic and not concerned w ith a theos . B oth terms w ill be used in the fo llo w in g exposi tion as appropriate. The Sanskrit terms generally translated as ph iloso p h y or th eology are darsana, a system o f thought expressed through a tradition o f com mentaries upon fundam ental texts, and anviksiki, analysis or investigative science w ithin the field o f vedic know ledge, particularly used w ith reference to logic (nyaya)} The term darsana, derived from a verb root drs\ to see , has the im plication o f v ie w or even v isio n o f the w o rld and is used not on ly to refer to orthodox (astika) system s o f H indu belief, system s acknow ledging the Veda as revelation, but also to the het erodox (;nastika) view s o f Jainism , Buddhism and M aterialism (Lokayata). The term darsana is also used in a quite different sense to refer to the reli gious act o f gazing upon a temple icon or a living saint. Th e orthodox darsanas have codified their teachings into aphorism s called sutras ( threads) w hich are often too condensed to be understood 224

/ 1indu theology and philosophy

w ithout the use o f a com m entary (bhasya). These com mentaries form the exegetical expression o f the tradition and in turn have sub-com m entaries and glosses written on them. It is in the com m entarial literature that refined debates and technical refutations o f rival schools are to be found. These debates have often been sharp and intellectually rigorous and resist some m odern H indu attempts to collapse the real differences between the various darsanas, or to see them as com plem entary aspects o f a single sy s tem. G eneral features o f orthodox H indu darsanas can be sum m arized as follow s. T hey: - assume the revelation of the Veda; - claim to have liberation (moksa) as their purpose; - are exegetical in nature, being expressed prim arily through commentaries and sub-commentaries on revelation (the Upanisads) and on prim ary texts called Stras, which form the scriptural source of philosophical/theological schools; - assume a transcendent reality beyond the contingencies of the human condition; - offer systematic explanations and interpretations; - are concerned with ideas about the structure of the body, the nature of matter and the functioning of consciousness. These general features can be seen in relation to the central questions and concerns o f H indu thought, particularly on tology or the nature o f being, and epistem ology, the theory o f know ledge. Q uestions o f on to lo gy have been intim ately connected w ith the ph ilosoph y or theology o f lan guage, particularly the relation between language, consciousness and being, w hile epistem ological questions have been concerned w ith valid means o f cognition and methods o f logic and inference. In debating these issues the darsanas develop a com m on term inology, particularly regarding the six means or methods o f valid know ledge (pram dna): nam ely percep tion (pratyaksa), inference (anum dna), verbal authority (.sab d a ), analogy (,upam dna), presum ption (,arthdpatti), and non-apprehension (a b h a v a ). The different darsanas accepted all or some o f these means o f know ledge. W hile the flow erin g o f H indu ph ilosoph y and theology occurs between the seventh and seventeenth centuries

the origins o f p h ilo

sophical speculation go back to the Veda. F o llo w in g Frauw allner and H albfass, the h istory o f Indian ph iloso ph y can be broken dow n into the fo llo w in g broad periods:


An introduction to Hinduism
- presystematic thought in the Vedas, Upanisads, Epics and early Buddhist texts; - the classical systems of speculation in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism; - the theologies of the theistic schools of the Vaisnavas and Saivas, which become important during the second millennium c e ; - modern Indian philosophy in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries which responds to western philosophy.2

Early, presystematic speculation

O ne o f the earliest texts w hich demonstrates a sense o f m etaphysical spec ulation is a hym n in the Rg Veda w hich asks a series o f questions about the origin o f things, particularly about whether in the beginning there was existence (sat) or non-existence (asat). A lth ou gh the terms sat and asat m ay not have had a technical, philosophical meaning in these early texts, the hym n displays a rem arkable sense o f w on d er and intellectual sophisti cation in considering a state prior to existence or non-existence and beyond death or im m ortality. The text concludes w ith some irony: W hence this creation has arisen - perhaps it form ed itself, or perhaps it did not - the one w h o looks dow n on it, in the highest heaven, on ly he know s - or perhaps he does not kn ow .3 M ore system atic speculation begins w ith the U panisads. O f particular note is chapter 6 o f the

Chandogya Upanisad in w hich the teacher U ddalaka A ru n i, one o f the

earliest theologians, instructs his son w h o has returned home, conceited, after studying the Veda fo r twelve years. U ddalaka tells him that existence

(sat) is identified w ith brahman as the foundation o f the cosm os and the
essence o f all beings.4 O f particular im portance are vedic speculations about the nature o f lan guage, w hich prefigure a theme and school o f thought w hich develops at a later period. The Rg Veda contains hym ns to the p o w er o f speech (vac) w hich is treated as a goddess w h o makes men w ise.5 Th rough speech, w hich is the prim e medium o f the vedic seers, truth is revealed and the truth o f speech is a power. In the Upanisads speech is identified w ith the absolute brahman from w hich appearances, names and their form s, are manifested. The relation between the unm anifest brahman and the w o rld o f m ultiplicity is through the cosmic sound o f the mantra aum.6 The text says that as all leaves are held together b y a stalk, so all sound is held together b y aum? 22 6

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theology and philosophy

Language and Hindu theology

A n y understanding of H indu theology has to begin with language and com m unication. Revelation is a com m unication to hum anity through the seers, expressed in language, specifically the perfected language o f Sanskrit. The injunctions o f the Veda are in language, and the theological com mentarial traditions are expressed through language. Language, fo r the vedic H indu, inspires, clarifies, and reveals truth and meaning and so is the starting point o f theological investigation (brahmajijnasa). Language is a fundam ental concern o f H indu th eology and assumes and uses a long tradition o f linguistic analysis. This tradition can be traced back to the limbs o f the Veda or Vedangas, the auxiliary sciences in which Brahm ans w ou ld be trained, w hich ensure the correct transm ission o f the Veda through time and the correct perform ance o f rituals. O f the six Vedangas (listed on p. 53), gram m ar (vyakarana) and etym olo gy (nirukta) are directly concerned w ith language as an abstract system , while pronuncia tion (.slksa) and p ro so d y (chandas) are concerned w ith its expression. The science o f gram m ar (vyakarana) developed into an independent tradition, itself regarded as a darsana, and provided the inspiration and analytical precision for schools m ore directly concerned w ith theological topics.

A highly sophisticated science o f language developed astonishingly early in India, from at least the fifth century
b c e

and provided the inspiration fo r

m odern linguistics through the study o f Sanskrit and the translation into European languages o f some o f its key texts during the nineteenth century. The earliest H indu linguist w e have record of, Panini (c. fifth century

), in his E igh t C hapters (Astadhyayi) produced a descriptive analyti

cal gram m ar o f Sanskrit, covering the analysis o f phonem es, suffixes, sen tences, the rules o f w o rd com bination (sandhi), and the form ation o f verbal roots. This w o rk has yet to be surpassed and a deeper understand ing o f it has on ly occurred w ith the developm ent o f m odern linguistics in the West. A lth ou gh there is little o f direct theological concern in the 4,000 Sutras o f the text, it is the standard reference w o rk against w hich later language is measured and w hich is the reference point fo r later interpreta tions o f the vedic texts. It also provides the basis fo r the grammatical school w hich did have theological, as w ell as m ore strictly philosophical, concerns. 227

An introduction to Hinduism

L A N G U A G E , C O N S f c l O U S N KSS A N D H E I N G

W ith Bhartrhari (fifth century c e ) , the leading thinker o f the Gram m arian school, gram m ar is transform ed in the service o f theology. Bhartrhari sees gram m ar as being fundam entally concerned w ith the nature o f existence and, ultim ately, about the quest for liberation. The analysis o f language becom es not m erely a task in itself, or a task to ensure the correct transm is sion o f the Veda, but a path or door leading to liberation, a means o f release from transm igration: the im m ortal brahman becom es kn ow n through the purification o f the w o rd w hich occurs through the study o f gramm ar.8 The study and use o f correct form s o f language produce a force o f success or fortune w hich m oves the student aw ay from im pure (i.e. incorrect) speech tendencies, tow ards the pure goal o f the vision o f the absolute. Th rou gh language, and specifically through its precise and deep under standing, humans are saved. This is to elevate language to a very high status indeed. Bhartrhari iden tifies absolute reality w ith purified language and relates the im pure w orld o f hum an transaction to the pure, timeless absolute through the medium o f language. A bsolu te being does not stand outside or beyond language, but its essence is language. Language is the link between being as timeless, unitary, im personal stasis and being as contingent, tim e-bound and partic ularized experience. The term Bhartrhari uses fo r the absolute identified w ith language is the sound absolute or w o rd absolute (.sabdabrahman), an o n tology w hich cannot be apprehended due to ignorance (avidya ). Ignorance clouds our vision o f the sound absolute, though this ignorance itself is a m anifestation o f that absolute, created b y the p o w er o f time. F rom a pure, non-sequential, unmanifested state w hich Bhartrhari calls the seeing (pasyanti), the sound absolute m anifests in a subtle mode in w hich the p ow er o f time begins to function, creating space, sequence, and apprehended b y humans as thought. This mental level is the m iddle realm (madhyama), characterized b y the pow ers o f time (which is p ri m ary) and space. In the final phase o f vaikhari, the sound absolute is fu lly extended and the pow er o f time manifests d iversity and causal relation ships: time is the force w hich constrains all events in the universe and is expressed in the sequence o f ordinary human language.9 Language, in its manifested modes o f mental (madhyama) and gross (vaikhari) speech, is driven and differentiated b y time, but its source is the timeless, transcen dent and purified language as pure being. 228

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theology and philosophy

This tripartite division o f language and existence is furtherm ore related by Bhartrhari to the im portant disclosure theory* o f meaning (sphota). The level o f vaikhari vac is the level o f the uttered sentence, w hich is understood in a flash o f com prehension or intuition (pratibha): meaning is apprehended as a sudden gestalt. This flash o f understanding is the disclo sure (sphota) of the meaning o f the sentence as a com plete integral unit. Those ignorant o f a particular language break a sentence up into w ords and phonem es, but for a native speaker understanding occurs in a direct unitary w ay, as a person perceives a painting as a w h ole and not as a collec tion o f lines and colo u rs.10 Sphota is the bursting forth o f the m eaning o f a sentence, or book, or poem ; a revelation, as it w ere, from a m ore subtle level w hich has its prim ary ground in the sound absolute. This absolute, know ledge o f w hich is an intuition (pratibha), is the ultimate goal, as w ell as source, o f language. Theories about language are also theories about consciousness to w hich it is intim ately connected. Various terms fo r consciousness - cit, citta, caitanya, samvit - are the focal point o f a num ber o f Indian philosophical and theological system s, m ost notably the consciousness-only (Vijnanavada) school o f Buddhism and the R ecognition (Pratyabhijna) school o f K ashm ir Saivism. Yet the question o f consciousness is present in all Indian philosophical system s to some degree, particularly its relation to language and its relation to being. Indeed m any schools, notably K ashm ir Saivism and A dvaita Vedanta, identify purified or absolute consciousness w ith being. This purified consciousness is sometimes thought to be beyond language, w hile everyday com m unicative language, w hich expresses desire, prevents consciousness from realizing its true ineffable nature. F o r the Gram m arians language is the distinguishing feature o f human con sciousness w hich, at its deepest level, is identical w ith being. W hile not agreeing w ith the G ram m arians, all schools o f Indian thought respond in some w a y to the Gram m arian school, participating in the debate about language, its relation to consciousness and being, and using a shared p h ilo sophical term inology.

The one and the many

A p art from a concern w ith language and its relation to being, H indu the ologies have been interested in the relation o f the one to the m an y . That is, H indu revelation and yogic experience refer to an absolute reality w hich is unitary and w ithou t second, yet experience o f the w orld tells us 229

An introduction to Hinduism
that existence is m anifold and diverse. What is the relation between this unique one and the diversified many? Some I lindu theologies maintain that the relation is one o f identity, the absolute is ultim ately identical with the m any and difference is m erely illusory; some say that the relation is of difference and that the one and the m any are quite ontologically distinct; w hile others maintain that both identity and difference are true o f the rela tion between the one and the m any.11 H indu theologies arrive at different positions w ith regard to this fundam ental question. The question o f being is related to the epistem ological question o f cau sation. H indu theories o f causation can be b road ly categorized into tw o. O ne theory, the satkaryavada theory, maintains that the effect is p re-exis tent in the cause, as a pot (the effect) pre-exists in the clay (the material cause) - the other, the asatkaryavada theory, that the effect does not pre exist in the cause. The satkaryavada th eory can itself be divided into a the o ry w hich maintained that the effect is a real transform ation (parinama) o f the cause, and a th eory w hich maintains that the effect is not a transform a tion, but a mere appearance o f the cause (vivarta) in a certain w ay, as a man sees silver coins in the sand but discovers that they are shells. That is, the shells are the cause o f the effect (the perception o f silver) but the effect is not a real transform ation o f substance. The Buddhists maintain that the effect is not pre-existent in the cause (and ultim ately deconstruct the idea o f causation), w hile the Sam khya school holds that effects are real trans form ations o f substance. The A dvaita tradition rejects these view s; fo r them there can on ly be an apparent transform ation o f substance, there being in reality o n ly the single substance o f brahman.

The commentarial tradition

The m ost notable feature o f Indian theology and ph iloso ph y is that it is expressed prim arily through com mentaries and sub-com m entaries on sacred texts. A lth ou gh there are some independent philosophical texts apart from the terse Sutra literature w hich stands at the beginning o f a com m entarial tradition - the traditions are p rim arily exegetical. Sutras are short condensed aphorism s w hich sum m arize the teachings o f a school. Indeed, the aim o f w riting com mentaries is to bring out the meaning o f these aphorism s, to reveal w hat is already there in the earlier text, to illu minate its truth and not to say som ething new or original (though, o f course, the com mentaries inevitably do). A com m entary (Jbhasya) is an explanation - often extensive - o f the Sutras, w hile there are also shorter


/ 11mlh theology ami philosophy

explanations or glosses (vrtti) and further explanations of commentaries (varttika). A n author might also com pose an auto-com m entary on verses which he him self has com posed. The com m entaries reveal a vibrant and living tradition w ith creative reading and interpretation at its heart; com mentaries are, in the w ords o f Francis C loon ey, not signs o f decay or decline o f the original genius o f a tradition, its reduction to w ords, mere scholasticism ; they are the blossom ing and fruition o f that original genius .12 These intellectual traditions becom e codified, b y the m edieval period, into a standard list o f six orth od ox system s, the saddarsanas, though there are im portant schools, n otably the Jain s and Buddhists, outside o f this scheme. In his C om pendium o f A ll Philosophies , the

Sarvadarsanasamgraha, M adhava (c. 134 0 c e ) does not refer to the term six darsanas but discusses the ideas o f sixteen philosophical schools,
including the im portant theological schools o f m onistic, or Kashm ir, and dualistic, or Siddhanta, Saivism . It must be rem em bered that the system o f the six darsanas is a codification and an attempt to make coherent, w ithin the sphere o f vedic orthodoxy, traditions o f rigorous philosophical debate w hich have m arked differences between them, yet w hich share a com m on term inology and a com m on com m entarial style. W hile the authors w ithin some o f the schools share m any view s in com m on, it should not be taken fo r granted that all thinkers w ithin a darsana share the same opinions. Indeed the school o f Vedanta, for example, covers a w ide range o f diver gent view s, though b y the late medieval period there is a tendency, w ithin Vedanta, to synthesize view s and integrate divergent opinions into a hier archical scheme w ith Vedanta at the apex. The six orth odox systems are: - Samkhya, the enumeration school which posited a dualism between matter (prakrti) and the self {purusa), both of which are real, though ontologically distinct; - Yoga, the school of Patarijali which assumes the metaphysics of Samkhya; - Mlmamsa, the tradition of vedic exegesis which assumes the reality of the many; - Vedanta, the tradition which develops from the Upanisads and which argues for the reality of the one and, in one of its forms, denies the reality of the many; - N yaya, the school of logic;


An introduction to Hinduism
- Vaisesika, the atomist school, associated with N yaya, which assumes the reality of the many; the constituents of existence do not arise from a shared source - rather, each phenomenon is distinct and separate. These are often coupled together into three groups, nam ely Sam khyaY oga, N yaya-V aisesika, and M lm am sa-Vedanta, fo r both historical and conceptual reasons: Sam khya is the theoretical substrate o f C lassical Yoga; Vedanta is a continuation o f M lm am sa; and N y a y a , logic, is used in the m etaphysical speculations o f Vaisesika. I w ill here describe the Sam khya and Vedanta schools as these are the m ost im portant w ith regard to the w id er religious traditions, N y a y a and Vaisesika being schools o f a m ore technical nature, concerned w ith categories o f being, language and logic.

T he Sam khya system is the oldest system atic p h iloso p h y to have emerged in the H indu tradition and is enorm ously influential on later theological schools, especially tantric Saivism and the Pancaratra. Indeed, other schools o f Indian thought, such as N y a y a and Vedanta, developed during the early centuries o f the com m on era partly due to polem ical reactions to Sam khya philosophy. T he term sam khya, w hich means enum eration or calculation , has tw o senses: one a general sense used in renouncer tradi tions, including Jain ism and Buddhism , to denote the enum eration and categorization o f elements w hich com prise the cosm os; the other a m ore specific sense to refer to the Sam khya philosophical system w hich devel oped a tradition o f com m entaries upon its k ey texts and is the backdrop to Patanjalis Yoga. These uses are chronological: the earlier, general ten dency to categorize the cosm os and human p sych ology, w hich might be called P roto-Sam kh ya, occurs very early in renouncer traditions, from at least the ninth to the third centuries b c e , w hile the system atic philosophy, K arika Sam khya, develops fairly late from about the fourth century c e .13

In the general sense o f the enum eration o f the elements or constituents o f the cosm os, Sam khya-like speculations are found in early Jain , Buddhist and H indu texts. H ow ever, rather than seeing Sam khyan speculations arising out o f Jain and Buddhist contexts, it is p ro b ab ly m ore accurate to see the Jain , Buddhist and early brahmanical speculations, including m ed ical speculation, arising out o f a com m on ideological context in w hich Sam khya-like enum eration o f the categories o f experience is central. 232

I lin d a theology an d philosophy i self (purusa) i matter (prakrti) 3 higher mind (buddhi) 4 ego (ahamkara)

5 mind (manas) senses organs of action 6 hearing 7 touching 8 seeing 9 tasting io smelling

subtle elements 1 6 sound 17 touch 18 form 19 taste 20 smell

gross elemei 21 space 22 air 23 fire 24 water 25 earth


12 grasping 13 walking 14 excreting 15 procreating

Figure 8 The tw enty-five Sam khya tattvas

There are striking parallels between the later Sam khya philosophy, m ed ical system s or A yurveda, and Buddhist system s, particularly the A bhidharm a and Yogacara Buddhism . Indeed, Isvarakrsna, an exponent o f the philosophical tradition, begins his treatise on Sam khya w ith the idea o f life as suffering (< duhkha), a theme ve ry im portant in Buddhism . Rather than one system borrow in g from the other, they m ay w ell develop from a com m on heritage. The earliest enum eration o f cosm ic principles in the brahm anical tradition comes w ith the Chandogya Upanisad w hich posits a single (eka) being or truth (sat) w hich produces fire, w hich in turn p ro duces water, w hich in turn becom es food. T he text refers to the sense o f self-identity sim ilar to the Sam khyan idea o f the ego (ahamkara) and also identifies the colours red, white and black w ith fire, w ater and earth, rem i niscent o f the later classification o f m atter (prakrti) into three qualities

(guna).14 The enum eration o f categories is also found in other U panisads,

n otably the Katha and Svetasvatara Upanisads. Presystem atic listings o f elements o f experience and w o rld are found in the Mahabharata,

2 33

An introduction to Hinduism
particularly in the section known as the Moksadharma and in the

Bhagavad Gita. F o r exam ple, the Gita describes K rsn as nature as eight fold, com prising earth, water, fire, wind, ether, mind (manas), intellect (buddhi) and ego (ahamkara),15 which are categories enumerated in latet
Sam khya literature.
S A M K H Y A OF T H E S A M K H Y A - K A R I K A S

W hile these P roto -Sam k h ya speculations can be located in early texts, a system atic p h ilosop h y does not emerge until quite late. The scheme which becom es identified w ith the philosophical school o f Sam khya is articu lated b y Isvarakrsna in his Verses on S am kh ya5, the Samkhya Karikas (350 -4 50 c e ) , w hich is a sum m ary o f topics taught w ithin an ongoing Sam khya tradition. This text posits a radical dualism between the self or pure consciousness (purusa) and matter (prakrti), w ith w hich it appears to be entangled.16 Liberation (kaivalya) is the discrim inative know ledge that pure consciousness is eternally distinct fro m prim ordial matter; there is on ly a p roxim ity betw een them, the realization o f w h ich results in the ces sation o f suffering and reincarnation.17 D iscrim in ation allow s conscious ness to distinguish the self from what is not the self, and so to perceive that the self was never actually bound to matter. T h is self is transcendent, the silent witness behind the em bodied subject o f first-person predicates. T his em pirical self, the self o f I 5 statements, is due to the evolution o f m atter from a prim ordial state, but is not itself the true subject. W hereas in w e st ern philosophical dualism there is distinction m ade between the mind and the body, in the Sam khya system the dualism is betw een the self {purusa) and matter w hich embraces w hat in traditional western ph iloso ph y has been called m ind5. The subject o f first-person predicates is w ithin the realm o f prakrti, the true self is beyond.

Prakrti, a w ider concept than the w estern category m atter5, w h ich

includes the w estern idea o f the m ind5, evolves or transform s from an unm anifested state into a m anifested state, th rough a series o f stages or lev els in w hich different categories appear. These categories, or tattvas (liter ally, that-ness5) com prise the universe o f experience. This evolution or transform ation (parinama) is governed, or kept in balance, b y three q u ali ties (guna), nam ely the qualities o f light (sattva), o f passion or energy

(rajas) and o f darkness or inertia (tamas). Th ese qualities are ve ry im p o r

tant in H indu thought and later becom e the basis fo r a num ber o f associa tions and classifications. F o r example the top three classes are associated


/1mil Htheology and philosophy

with the gunas, as are categories o f food into c o o l (sattva), hot (rajas) and dulling (tamas). W hile the self (j)urusa) appears to be entangled in matter and appears to transm igrate in a subtle body, it is o n ly the em pirical self under the sw ay o f the gunas which does this. What is interesting about the Sam khya enum eration o f the principles o f experience into tw en ty-five categories is that the structure refers both to individual p sy ch o -p h y sio lo g y and to cosm ological categories. The evolu tion o f matter is both a cosm ic and an individual process; both p h ysio lo gi cal functions and the constituents o f the physical w o rld emerge from the sense o f ego. The first transform ation from matter is translated as the intellect or higher m ind (buddhi), also called the great one (mahat), and refers to both an individuals psych ological functioning and to a higher level in a hierarchical cosm ology. F ro m buddhi the sense o f I or ego (ahamkara) develops, from w hich emerges the mind (manas), the five senses and their objects, the five organs o f action or m otor functioning, five subtle, and five gross elements (see fig. 8).

Sam khya develops in a context in w hich renunciation and the practice o f yo ga are com m on. Patanjalis yoga system , w hich was described in chap ter 2, adopts the Sam khyan dualistic m etaphysics and frames liberation w ithin these boundaries. Isvarakrsnas general scheme is assumed b y Patanjali, though w ith som e differences. Buddhi, ego and mind are sub sumed under the general category o f consciousness (citta) and, whereas Sam khya is concerned w ith ontology, establishing the existence o f the self and enum erating existents in the w orld , y o ga is concerned w ith the trans form ation o f consciousness and the m apping o f various inner states o f consciousness. Sam khya is also an atheistic system , whereas the yo ga

darsana adm its o f the idea o f G o d or the L o rd (Isvara) as a special kind o f self (purusa) w h ich has never been entangled in prakrti, and w hich can be
the focus o f m editation. These theistic tendencies are developed in the later tradition and the sixteenth-century theologian Vijnanabhiksu, w hile ackn ow ledging that the system does not need it, argues that the idea o f a L o rd is not irreconcilable w ith the earlier Sam khya view. V ijnanabhiksu represents a tendency to synthesize the view s o f Sam khya y o g a and Vedanta, w hile also draw ing on the w ider popular tra ditions o f the E pics and Puranas. T h rou gh his com mentaries he attempts to reconcile the pluralism and atheism o f Sam khya w ith the m onism o f


An introduction to Hinduism
som e form s o f Vedanta. The innumerable selves of Sam khya which are on tologically distinct from each other and I rom matter (prakrti) are never theless related to the absolute (brahman) and share in its being, as sparks share in the being o f fire or a son is related to his father. A t liberation these selves rest in their consciousness, purified o f entanglement in matter. W hile acknow ledging the independence o f souls, matter and absolute, he tries to establish, through the creative reading o f texts and com mentaries, that brahman is transcendent, changeless, pure consciousness, yet is also the efficient and material cause o f the universe.18

M imamsa
T he U panisads are referred to as the Vedanta, the end o f the Veda, a term w hich is also used fo r the theological tradition developing from them. This im m ensely rich tradition is so influential that, at a popular level in the West, Vedanta is taken to be Indian p h iloso p h y par excellence. The Vedanta tradition is, however, divided into tw o main developm ents w hich are both referred to as schools o f exegesis or en quiry (mimamsa). These are the Purva M im am sa, sometimes sim ply called M im am sa, and the U ttara M im am sa, sometimes sim ply called Vedanta. W hile the form er is concerned w ith correct action in accordance w ith dharma, the latter is concerned w ith correct know ledge (jnana) o f brahman. It is significant that even the later school is referred to as M im am sa, a term w hich em pha sizes that w e are dealing w ith an exegetical tradition o f com m entary and sub-com m entary upon sacred texts. F o r the purposes o f clarity, I shall here refer to Purva M im am sa sim ply as M im am sa and U ttara M im am sa as Vedanta, but w ou ld w ish to stress, as Francis C lo o n e y has show n, the exegetical continuity between them .19 The M im am sa traces its origin to the Purva Mimamsa Sutra o f Jaim ini


200 b c e

) w ith its com m entary, the Bhasya b y Sabara (second-fourth

centuries c e ) , though the origins o f M im am sa m ust also be sought in the auxiliary sciences (Vedariga) particularly the K alp a Sutras. Saharas com m entary in turn has sub-com m entaries w ritten on it, m ost notably b y Prabhakara and K um arila Bhatta (seventh century c e ) , w hich represent tw o distinct interpretations o f M im am sa.20 Indeed the tradition is split into the Prabhakara and Kum arila branches w hich differ over the concept o f the effects o f ritual action (apurva) and the nature o f error, though the K um arila school is the m ost im portant representative o f the tradition.21 The enterprise upon w hich Jaim ini is em barked in his text is stated in 236

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the opening verse: N o w is the investigation into dharma* (athdto dharma-jijnasa). Dharma, the order o f the universe, is revealed in the Veda and the investigation into it show s that the Veda is prim arily a series o f injunctions (vidhi) about ritual action. Ritual action, specifically sacri fice, can be traced to the Veda, and the M im am sa is rational reflection on its purposes. A ccordin g to Jaim ini, the correct perform ance o f sacrifice produces a transcendent pow er, called apurva, w hich produces the result o f the sacrifice, particularly the rew ard o f heaven (svarga) after death.

Apurva is the force postulated w hich accounts fo r h ow the result o f a sac

rifice can fo llo w its perform ance, even though there m ay be a tem poral gap between the action and its result. Each part o f a ritual, once com pleted, creates its ow n apurva w hich accumulates until the ritual sequence is com pleted, the results o f w hich w ill be experienced b y the sacrificial patron (yajamana) in heaven. H eaven rather than liberation (moksa) is the result o f sacrifice. The theory o f apurva bears some resem blance to the theory o f karma. H ow ever, unlike karma, w hich is a store o f action built up over long periods producing results in successive lifetim es, apurva is accum ulated on ly through ritual action during the present lifetim e fo r a post-m ortem reward. Indeed there is even a sense in the M im am sa that ritual action is to be done, not because it produces rewards in heaven, but because it is a vedic injunction (vidhi). Sacrifice, according to this view, is action fo r its ow n sake, because it is enjoined in vedic revelation, and any future, hum an rew ard is secondary. H um an desires and purposes are really irrelevant to the perform ance o f vedic ritual; there is w hat C lo o n e y calls a decentering o f the human. It is fo r this reason that certain classes o f people, nam ely low er castes, w om en and the deform ed, are forbidden from participating in the sacrifice. The ritual perform er is not defined b y changing personal qualities or know ledge o f ritual procedures, since even a Sudra can acquire this. Rather, the ritual perform er is defined b y his suitability, according to the Veda, w hich excludes certain classes; the Sudra is sim ply not included w ithin the structures o f vedic ritual prescribed b y the texts,22 though this exclusion in itself tells us som ething about the exclusive nature o f vedic brahm anical society. The early literature o f the M im am sa is interested exclusively in dharma and the interpretation o f vedic texts, tracing action back to texts and estab lishing the relevance o f texts in ritual. Because o f the emphasis on interpre tation in order to establish correct meanings, the M im am sa developed a

2 37

An introduction to Hinduism
theory o f language which is close to that of i he ( iram m arians. Through the analysis o f sentences they try to show how the syntactic unity o f a sen tence occurs through sentence contiguity, consistency and expectancy of the reader.23 The M im am sa concern with language is accom panied by a concern w ith know ledge. The M im am sa is realist and pluralist, accepting the reality o f the m any and rejecting any form o f idealism , such as Y ogacara Buddhism , w hich maintains the prim acy o f consciousness. The M im am sa accepts all six means o f know ledge (pram ana) as valid. These m ethods establish the reality o f the objects o f know ledge, nam ely su b stance (d ra v y a ), qu ality (guna), action (karm a), and non-existence (iabhava), and their sub-categories, w hich recapitulate those o f the Vaisesika school.

The m ost influential school o f theology in India has been the Vedanta, exerting enorm ous influence on all religious traditions and becom ing the central id eology o f the H indu Renaissance in the nineteenth century. It has becom e the philosophical paradigm o f H induism p a r excellence. Yet, w hile there are continuities in Vedanta stretching back to the Upanisads, the Vedanta is im m ensely rich, containing w ithin it a w ide variety o f theo logical and philosophical positions. The am biguity over assigning the terms th eology or p h iloso p h y to Vedanta stems from its clearly p h ilo sophical interests in epistem ology, on to lo gy and argument, yet also its exegetical nature w hich is regarded as a theological enterprise. C o n tem porary scholarly understandings o f Vedanta tend to locate it w ithin a theological system o f com m entary w hich stresses the continuities w ith the earlier tradition o f M im am sa.24 There are also strong continuities w ith the Vaisnava tradition and it can be argued that Vedanta is essentially a Vaisnava theological articulation. Indeed even Sankara, w h o is tradition ally regarded as a Saiva, m ay have been a Vaisnava, according to some scholars. A s has been noted, the term Vedanta refers to the U panisads and their teachings as w ell as to the traditions inspired b y them, w h ich fo llo w from them. A t the head o f these traditions are Sutras, intended fo r m em oriza tion, w hich sum m arize the teachings o f the Veda and U panisads. W hile Jaim in is P u rva M im am sa Sutra is the foundation text o f the Pura M im am sa, the source text o f the U ttara M im am sa or Vedanta is Badarayanas B rahm a Sutra, also called the Vedanta Sutra and Uttara 238

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M imamsa Sutra. This text was com posed around the same time as Jaim in is text (c. 2 0 0
b c e

and, indeed, the tw o texts refer to each others

authors. Yet, whereas the M im am sa Sutra is an investigation into dh arm a, the Brahm a Sutra is an investigation into brahm an. Indeed, it begins in a similar fashion: N o w is the investigation into the absolute (athato brahm a-jijnasa). These tw o texts articulate the tw o m ajor realms o f inter est w ithin H indu traditions, the realm o f dh arm a, the concern o f the Brahman householder, and the realm o f brah m an , the concern o f the renouncer seeking liberation. A num ber o f schools develop w ithin the Vedanta tradition, w hose founders and chief exponents w rite com m entaries on the B rahm a Sutra, thereby establishing an independent school (sam pradaya) o f interpreta tion. O ther texts w ere also the subject o f exegetical com mentary, m ost notably the early Upanisads and the B h a g a v a d G ita. This group o f texts the B rahm a Sutra, the Upanisads and the G ita - form s the triple basis o f Vedanta com mentarial tradition. The m ost im portant Vedanta traditions are A dvaita ( N o n -D u alist) Vedanta, Visistadvaita ( Q ualified N o n D ualist) Vedanta and D vaita (D ualist) Vedanta.

A dvaita Vedanta
A dvaita Vedanta is the m ost fam ous Indian ph ilosoph y and is often, m is takenly, taken to be the o n ly representative o f vedantic thought.25 The term advaita means N o n -D u a l and refers to the traditions absolute m onism w hich, put simply, maintains the reality o f the one over that o f the many. The m ost fam ous A dvaita thinker, and the m ost fam ous Indian philosopher ever to have lived, is Sankara or Sankaracarya.

The dates o f Sankara cannot be firm ly established but some scholars date him between 788 and 820
c e

H e certainly cannot have lived before the

middle o f the seventh century as he refers to the M im am saka theologian K um arila and the Buddhist D harm akirti w h o can be dated to that century. There are a num ber o f traditional biographies, the Sankaravijayas, written b y his follow ers. These texts agree that he was born in Kaladi, a small v il lage in Kerala, w hich is p rob ab ly true as there w ou ld be no ideological rea son fo r locating his birthplace there; it is not a royal centre or place o f religious significance (other than that it is Sankaras birthplace). H is father died w hen he was yo u ng and he was brought up b y his mother.


An introduction to Hinduism
A s a young N am bu dri Brahm an boy of about eight, Sankara is said to have vow ed to becom e a renouncer but his m other w ould not let him. Th ere is a sto ry that one day whilst bathing in a river a crocodile grabbed his leg. H e shouted out and his mother came to the river bank. The only hope was to take renunciation there and then, so his m other agreed, upon w h ich the crocodile let him go. H e became a renouncer but prom ised his m other that he w o u ld be w ith her during her last days and perform her funeral rites, w hich he did. Sankara left hom e and found a guru, G ovin da, b y the N arm ada river, w h om he eventually left, then travelled north to Varanasi. H ere he taught and gathered disciples. H e w ent on a pilgrim age to the source o f the G anges and stayed at Badrinath fo r fo u r years, where he com posed his m ajor w o rk s. H e returned to Varanasi and continued to teach and debate w ith other thinkers, including the M im am saka M andanam isra w h o converted to Advaita. There is a sto ry that M andanas w ife, Bharati, challenged Sankara to a debate about the art o f love, about w hich, being a renouncer, he was w o efu lly ignorant. So Sankara entered into the b o d y o f a king fo r a short period to experience the art o f love and returned to defeat Bharati in debate. B oth she and her husband then became A dvaitins. N o t on ly did Sankara com pose com m entaries, but also established a m onastic order, the D asanam is, w ith fo u r centres at Srrigeri, D w ark a, Badrinath and Puri, and Kanchi as a possible fifth. H e died aged th irty-tw o in the H im alayas. A lth ou gh m any philosophical texts and devotional hym ns are attrib uted to Sankara, scholars are agreed that b y Sankara5 w e mean the author o f the com m entary (bhasya) on the Brahm a Sutra. A p art from this text, three others are positively accepted as being o f his authorship: the com mentaries on the B rhad aran yaka and Taittiriya Upanisads and the inde pendent w o rk , the Thousand Teachings5 (U padesasahan).1(> H e p ro b ab ly also w rote the com m entary on G audapadas K a rik a to the M an du k ya U panisad and the com m entary on the B h a g a v a d G ita , though there is not universal agreement on this. Gaudapada is Sankara's gu ru s guru w h om Sankara calls his suprem e teacher (param aguru). G audapada was in flu enced b y Buddhism and his K arikas are even quoted b y the Buddhist philosopher Bhavaviveka. G enerally, however, the A dvaita tradition is ve ry opposed to Buddhism and Sankara is vehem ent in his attack on B uddhist heresy5w hich rejects the Veda. A part from the theological co m mentaries, Sankara is attributed b y the A dvaita and Sri V id ya traditions w ith 240 the authorship of a fam ous hym n to the G odd ess, the

/ lindu theology and philosophy

Saundaryalahari. Sankara s authorship of some of this text is accepted by its translator N orm an B row n , and it is certainly possible for a H indu the ologian to have com posed both erudite com m entaries and a devotional lit erature, as Bharati has pointed out.27
san kara s t h e o l o g y

In his com mentaries Sankara develops a th eology in w hich he tries to establish that spiritual ignorance (a v id y a ) or illusion (maya) is caused b y the superim position (adhyasa) o f w hat is not the self onto the self. A ll know ledge is distorted b y superim position or projection, w hich prevents us from seeing our true nature as the selfs (atm ans) pure subjectivity, o ntologically identical w ith the absolute (brahm an). In order to realize the truth o f the identity o f the self w ith the absolute, a person must develop discrim ination. D iscrim ination allow s fo r a person to distinguish the self from w hat is not the self, true being from objects, and know ledge ( v id y a jn a n a ) from ignorance (avidya). This is the withdraw al or disso lv ing o f projection, as w hen a man w alking on a beach sees silver coins but then discovers that they are shells, or sees a snake in the corner o f a house, but then, upon inspection, finds it to be a rope. Sankara opens his com m entary on the B rahm a Sutra w ith the follow ing: It is a matter of fact that the object and subject, whose respective spheres are the notion of the yo u and the I , and which are opposed to each other as much as darkness and light, cannot be identified, and nor can their respective attributes. Hence it follows that it is wrong to superimpose upon the subject, whose nature is awareness (cit) and which has for its sphere the notion of P, the object and its attributes whose sphere is the notion of the not-I. And vice-versa [it is wrong to] superimpose the subject and its attributes on the object.28 This opening passage sums up a central point o f Sankaras thought and gives a flavour o f his terse com m entarial style. Superim position o f the self on w hat is not the self, and w hat is not the self on the self, is the natural propensity o f ignorant consciousness. The rem oval o f superim position is the rem oval o f ignorance and the realization o f the self (atman) as the w it nessing subject identical w ith brahm an. Such know ledge is liberation (moksa). Sankaras enterprise is to show how his ad va ita interpretation o f sacred scriptures is correct. It is a method o f reading the texts and so gaining know ledge o f revelations truth: the process is one o f hearing (sravana), 241

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thinking (m an an a) and reflecting or meditating (niclhiclhyasana). While the idea o f m ystical experience (anubhava), which has been stressed in recent times in the West, is im portant for Sankara as the goal to which rev elation leads, he is p rim arily concerned with the correct interpretation o f scripture and the refutation o f what he regards as false views. There is no reference in his w o rk s to any personal religious experience nor to the experience o f the ancient sages. The Veda, o f course, is not thought to be o f hum an authorship so personal experience is here irrelevant.29 The sacred scriptures can be divided into sections dealing w ith action (ka rm aka n d a) and sections about know ledge (jn a n a k an da). The M im am sa maintains that sections about action, that is ritual action, are o f prim ary im portance because injunctions to perform dharm a are the cen tral purpose o f the Veda. Sankara, on the other hand, maintains that the know ledge sections are o f greater im portance, fo r liberation is the Vedas central message, and o n ly know ledge leads to liberation. N o action can discrim inate the self from w hat is not the self, o n ly know ledge can achieve this, as silver is suddenly seen to be shell. This liberating know ledge is referred to in the great sayings (m ahavakya) o f the Upanisads, nam ely: I am the absolute (aham brahmasmi)\ this self is the absolute (ayam atm a brah m a); everything is indeed the absolute (sarvam khalu idam b rah m a); and yo u are that (tattvamasi). To realize the existential force o f these claims is to be liberated and to distinguish between pure being and w o rld ly phenomena. This is not like the heaven o f the M im am sakas, fo r liberation is not a future state or goal w hich can be achieved; it can on ly be w oken up to. H avin g said this, Sankara does make concessions to the idea o f devotion (bhakti) to a personal L o rd (Isvara) as a lo w er level o f know ledge. B rah m a n , in its timeless essence as identical w ith the self, is beyond all predicates and qualities (nirguna), but in its tem poral m ode as the L o rd it has attributes (saguna), and so can be approached through devotion as an object o f consciousness. To see the absolute as the L o rd is to maintain a distinction between self and absolute, w hich is to retain a vestige o f ign o rance w hich must finally be transcended. If reality is one, all distinctions must be illusory.

A fte r Sankara there are a num ber o f im portant A dvaita theologians w ho com posed texts in the com mentarial tradition, w o rk in g out theological 242

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and philosophical problem s incipient in earlier Advaita texts, and responding to opponents in other schools. M andanamisra, mentioned above, is an older contem porary o f Sankara w ho is a M lmamsa theologian w ho converted to A dvaita. H e m ay or m ay not be the same as the A dvaitin Suresvara. Vacaspatim isra (tenth century) w rote com mentaries on A dvaita texts as w ell as on other darsanas, and Sri H arsa (c. 11 5 0 c e ) developed a form o f reductio a d absurdum argum ent to show the inherent contradictions in all propositions about the w o rld (particularly N y a y a propositions). T hrough this method o f argum ent he brings out the unde sirable consequences o f his opponents positions. This system o f argu mentation is essentially the same as that o f the Buddhist philosopher N agarju n a.30

Visistadvaita Vedanta
W ith the developm ent o f theism in the great tradition o f Vaisnavism , the m onistic reading o f sacred scripture is resisted. The great theologian and hierarch o f the Sri Vaisnava com m unity, Ram anuja (see pp. 13 6 -7 ), com poses a com m entary, the S ri B hasya, on the B rahm a Sutra, and a com m en tary on the G ita , to refute the m onism o f Sankara. H e also com poses a brief independent w o rk , the Vedanta Sam graha .31 In these w o rk s he argues vehem ently against Sankaras m onistic reading o f sacred scripture, expressing him self forcefu lly and asserting that the A dvaita position is against reason, against the firm understanding o f the meaning o f language, and goes against the scriptures. The A dvaitins, to hold such groundless opinions, must be plagued b y the im pressions o f beginningless sin (papa)\32 Ram anujas interpretation o f Vedanta is called Q ualified N o n D ualism (visistadvaita) and articulates a form o f Vaisnava th eology w hich came from Ram anujas grand-teacher N atham uni to his ow n teacher Yam una: a th eology w hich draw s upon the w ide textual resources o f the Epics, Puranas and even Pancaratra literature. L ik e Sankara and the M im am sakas, Ram anuja is concerned w ith exege sis, the careful reading o f scripture in order to arrive at an understanding of G o d and his relation to the plural w orld . Sankara had maintained that in reading a sacred text there are tw o levels o f truth in operation, one con cerned with the higher truth o f the u nity o f b rah m an , the other low er level representing brahm an as a personal L o rd . Ram anuja rejects this distinc tion, arguing that all passages o f sacred scripture must be taken as equal w ith each other; it is not m ethodologically sound to divide up scripture in


An introduction to Hinduism
this way. If w e reject this tw o-levels-of-truth theory with regard to sacred texts, then w e see, argues Ram anuja, that scripture testifies to a supreme soul, the brah m an , as the essence o f the universe and the inner soul o f all finite souls, w h o is yet also a personal being. A p art from the problem o f h ow to interpret scripture, the main theo logical concerns o f Ram anuja are the nature o f the absolute, or G o d , and the relations betw een the absolute, the finite self and the w o rld .33 W ith Sankara, Ram anuja agrees that brahm an is the one perfect reality w hich in itself is unchanging. H ow ever, he rejects San karas idea that the w o rld o f m anifold experience is illusion (m aya) caused through ignorance, and he rejects the idea that the L o rd as a personal being is a lo w er level o f truth than the im personal absolute. Rather, both the one and the m any are real; the m any being the ones m anifold mode o f expression. G o d fo r Ram anuja has tw o aspects or sides. O ne is the suprem e aspect o f G o d in his inner nature or essence (.svarupa), the other is his outer nature or accessibility (saulabhya). The essence o f G o d has five attributes - o f truth (satya), know ledge (jn a n a ), infinity, jo y and p u rity - w hile the accessibility o f G o d is show n in the modes o f m ercy and love, generosity, affection and parental love. The L o rd also has beauty (saundarya) in both his essence and in his w o rld ly incarnations, the avataras. H um ans com e into contact w ith G o d s nature through the accessibility o f his love - a theology w ith western parallels in G re g o ry Palam as distinction between G o d s essence and his energy. The individual self (jiva) is distinct from G o d yet participates in G o d w h o is its essence and inner controller (antaryam in) and w ithout w h om it w ou ld not exist. The relationship between the self and G o d is one o f insep arability, the self is w h o lly dependent upon G o d fo r its being. B oth the self and the w orld participate in G o d s existence, yet are distinct from , w hile w h o lly depending on, him. The relationship betw een G o d and the self and the w o rld is expressed in a fam ous analogy that the universe, com prising conscious selves (at) and unconscious matter (< acit), is the L o rd s body. A s the self is related to the body, so the L o rd is related to the self and w orld . The universe o f sentient and insentient matter as the b o d y o f G o d is there fore not illusory fo r Ram anuja, but expresses his p o w er and is called the realm o f glory (v ib h u ti). Th rou gh apprehending the glo ry o f the L o rd in the w orld , the devotee can understand the brahm an to be the supreme Person.34 A deep understanding o f the L o rd s nature is the experience o f liberation from the beginningless cycle o f reincarnation. This is not the 244

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removal o f ignorance in the A dvaita sense of realizing the selfs identity with the absolute. Indeed such a notion is nonsensical for Ram anuja. Ignorance, he says, needs to have a basis or rest on a support. This support cannot be the self, fo r the idea o f the self is the product o f ignorance, y et nor can it be brah m an , for brahm an is self-lum inous consciousness, b y definition w ithout ignorance.35 Ram anuja here astutely recognizes the A dvaita problem concerning the nature o f ignorance and to w h o m it belongs. F o r Ram anuja there is real separation o f a distinct self from the Lo rd until such a time as that self is liberated. This liberation is the rem oval o f past karma, not the rem oval o f ignorance. Indeed, even once karm a is rem oved, beings are still individuated b y their ve ry natures and not because o f extrinsic factors. Some selves are still going through the cycle o f reincarnation, some have been liberated, w hile yet others, such as V isn u s mount, the m agnificent bird Garuda, w ere never bound. The Visistadvaita tradition continued after Ram anujas death w ith sig nificant exegetes such as Pillan w h o w rote a com m entary on the Tam il Veda; Vedantadesika, the main theologian o f the northern school (the Vatakalai); and Lokacarya Pillai, the main theologian o f the southern school (Tenkalai). A num ber o f digests have also been com posed sum m a rizing the tenets o f the Visistadvaita theology.

D vaita Vedanta
Y et another developm ent in the Vedanta exegetical tradition came in the thirteenth century w ith the south Indian Vaisnava theologian M ad hva, w h o w rote com mentaries on a num ber o f U panisads, the B h a g a v a d G it a , the B rahm a Sutra, and the Bhagavata P u ra n a , as w ell as an independent treatise sum m arizing the teachings of the B rahm a Sutra, the A n u v y a k h y a n a .36 In these w ritings he establishes a new interpretation o f Vedanta, that o f dualism (dvaita). M adhva w as born near the South Kanarese village o f U d ipi, became a renouncer as a you ng man, and entered a Vaisnava order o f a m onastic renouncer tradition, called the E k sn ti Vaisnavas, where his guru, A cyu ta Preksa, w as very im pressed b y M adhvas skill in interpreting the sacred scriptures. M adhva w ent on a tour o f south India w ith his preceptor and then on a pilgrim age to the source o f the G anges in the north, disputing w ith Buddhists, Jain s and A dvaitins along the w ay. There is even a sto ry that he strongly advised a south Indian king to have thousands o f Ja in heretics impaled on stakes! M adhva eventually became the hierarch o f his monastic com m unity and 245

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established a reputation with his com m entary on the llrahma Sutra. H e established a m onastic centre at his birth place, U d ipi, which continues to this day, and installed there a fam ous icon o f K rsn a.37 In com plete contrast to the advaita o f Sankara, M adhva maintains that the correct interpretation o f sacred scripture is dualistic: that scripture maintains an eternal distinction between the individual self and the Lord. W hereas the A dvaita tradition emphasizes the non-difference (abheda) betw een the self and the absolute, M adhva insists on their com plete dis tinction. D ifference or bh eda is a cornerstone o f his theology and scrip tural interpretation. Each thing in the universe is itself and unique and cannot be reduced to som ething else (an idea w hich is not dissim ilar to W ittgensteins contention that a thing is w hat it is and not another thing). Each phenom enon in the universe is uniquely itself, made unique b y the p o w er o f particularity (visesa). W hile each thing is unique, there are never theless five categories o f difference (bheda): between the L o rd and the self (jivatm an)\ between innum erable selves; between the L o rd and matter (p ra k rti); between the self and matter; and betw een phenom ena w ithin matter. Yet w hile there are these distinctions and phenom ena exist inde pendently o f each other, nothing can exist outside o f the L o r d s w ill. A s the b o d y depends upon the self, so all beings and matter depend upon the L o rd w h o is their support. The L o rd in his essence is unknow able, yet he pervades the self as its inner witness and pervades matter as the inner controller. There is a graded hierarchy o f selves w hich exist at different levels o f the hierarchical co s m os, the purer selves being higher than the im pure. These selves are distin guished into three broad categories: those w h o are liberated such as gods and sages; those not yet liberated, though capable o f liberation; and those incapable o f liberation, including selves w hich are eternally transmigrant, the damned in hell, and various classes o f dem ons. Liberation is the selfs enjoym ent o f its innate being, consciousness and bliss (.saccidananda), w hich is a participation in the bliss o f the L o rd , attained through devotion (bhakti) to an icon and the L o rd s grace.38

Saiva theology
A lth ou gh Sankara is reputed to have been a Saiva, the Vedanta tradition is a discourse broadly w ithin the parameters o f Vaisnavism . A Saiva under standing o f Vedanta does develop in the thirteenth century w ith the teach ings o f Sri K anthas Sivadvaita, but, apart from this, Saiva th eology 246

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theology and philosophy

develops outside Vedanta, draw ing not so much on vedic resources as on its ow n Saiva revelation in the Tantras and Agam as. It is significant that Saiva theologies are excluded from the orthodox (astika) list o f six darsanas, show ing that from a strictly vedic perspective they are on the edges o f orthodoxy. Yet they are included in M adhavas Sarvadarsana Sam graha, show ing that they are still w ithin the sphere o f orthodox dis course and disputation. W hile all Saiva traditions have a theology, even if on ly im plicit, the tw o m ost significant developm ents fo r the h istory o f Indian theology are the dualistic and m onistic schools o f Saivism : the Saiva Siddhanta and K ashm ir Saivism or the Recognition school (Pratyabhijna).39 The developm ents of the Saiva traditions have been outlined (chapter 7); it remains here to sum m arize the essential points o f Saiva theology. A s w e have seen, there is a dualistic Saiva Siddhanta w hich developed in the north and then in the south w here it incorporated Tamil b h ak ti, and a m onistic school know n as K ashm ir Saivism , though this tradition also existed in the south. The dualists maintain that the L o rd (pati) is distinct from the soul (pas'u) and w orld (pas'a), w hereas the monists proclaim self, w o rld and L o rd to be essentially one reality: consciousness purified o f content. The ontological status o f the self became the central focus o f the ological debate dualists such as Sad yojoti (eighth century
c e


Bhojadeva (eleventh century) and A gh orasiva (twelfth century) arguing, in their com mentaries on tantric texts such as the M rgendragam a and in independent treatises (most notably S ad y ojotis N aranaresvaraprakasa and B hojadevas Tattvaprakasa), that the self is distinct from Siva, but is ultim ately equal w ith him (Sivatulya). The theologians o f the m onistic school, called the Recognition school or P ratyabhijna - most notably Som ananda (c. 900-50), U tpala (c. 9 25 -75 ), A bhinavagupta (c. 9 7 5 -10 2 5 ) and Ksem araja (c. 10 00 -50) - argued that the self, characterized b y con sciousness, is identical w ith Siva w h o is the being w hose consciousness is total. W ith the Pratyabhijna tradition, tw o conceptually distinct m etaphysi cal positions are maintained sim ultaneously. O n the one hand is a pure m onism w hich holds that the one, defined as pure consciousness, is real and the m any is false. In this view there can be no distinctions in ultimate reality and so no im purity: the self has to w ake up to the realization o f its identity w ith pure consciousness. Ksem araja says that, because o f the ontological identity o f consciousness and its object, there is nothing


An introduction to Hinduism
w hich is im pure (asuci). O n the other hand the Pratyabhijna maintains a cosm ological doctrine o f em anation, that the cosm os emanates from the one. A n oth er w a y o f saying this is that consciousness manifests itself through its vibration (spanda) as subjects and objects o f know ledge in a hierarchical sequence: the purer form s being at the to p o f the hierarchy, the form s polluted b y the im purities o f action (,karm a-m ala), illusion (m ayiya-m a la) and egoity or individuality (anava-m ala) being at the b ot tom .40 The Pratyabhijna, particularly the w o rk o f A bhinavagupta, also develops a theological aesthetics in w hich different aesthetic em otions (rasa) are seen as akin to religious em otions and the ultimate aesthetic experience o f tranquillity (santarasa) is identified w ith the religious or m ystical experience o f union w ith Siva.41

Modern developments
W hile the flow erin g o f H in du theology - the period during w hich the m ost influential theologians flourished - is over, issues w ithin traditional H indu theology and ph ilosoph y have continued to be debated into the m odern period. C om m entaries and independent treatises w ithin the darsanas, upon sacred scriptures and their com m entaries, continue to be com posed. The Sam khya, A dvaita, Gram m arian and N y a y a traditions are not sim ply the subjects o f scholarly study, but are living intellectual tradi tions, outside the secular u niversity system . A lth ou gh H indu th eology and ph ilosoph y continues in a fairly tradi tional w ay, since colonialism the H indu system s have been exposed to outside influences, and dialogue between western and Indian ph iloso ph y has occurred. This dialogue has m ainly confined itself to the Englishspeaking, and English-educated, Indian w o rld , w hich has responded to O rientalism and attempted to show the equality (or even superiority) o f Indian thought to western. Since the nineteenth century and the revitaliz ing w o rk o f Swam i Vivekananda, the intellectual climate w ithin Indian university departments o f ph ilosoph y has been that o f A dvaita Vedanta, and there has been keen interest in w estern m etaphysics w hich can be assimilated to A dvaita. A lth ou gh European phen om en ology and existen tialism have had a strong influence on the w o rk o f tw entieth-century Indian philosophers such as K . C . Bhattacharya and J . L . M ehta, respec tively, analytical philosophy, as taught in British and A m erican u niversi ties, has also had an im portant im pact.42 O ne o f In dias m ost erudite scholars to engage w ith western and Indian ph iloso p h y is the one-tim e 248

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president o f India, Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan. In his numerous books, such as Eastern Religions a n d Western Thought - a grand survey o f w est ern and Indian ideas - he seeks to reconcile western rationalism w ith H induism , presenting H induism as an essentially rationalistic and humanistic religious experience.43 This approach ignores the H indu tradi tions o f region and village - the pragm atic H induism o f everyday ritual or relegates such religious expressions to an irrational past. H ow ever, the em phasizing o f H induism as a rational discourse w hich is also in touch w ith the spirit has been highly relevant and im portant in form ing con tem porary H indu identity. It is to the form ation o f this contem porary sense o f identity and some o f its nationalistic expressions that w e turn next.

Sum m ary
In this survey o f H indu theological and philosophical traditions w e have seen h ow w ide-ranging they are. A lth ou gh A dvaita Vedanta has becom e extrem ely popular as the p h ilosoph y o f H induism p a r excellence, there is nevertheless a variety o f irreducible m etaphysical positions and a long his to ry o f rigorous philosophical debate. The rigorous nature o f ph ilosoph i cal argument - w ithin the given param eters o f revelation, the rhetoric o f liberation, and assum ptions about the nature o f know ledge - has not been part o f the W ests recent perception o f H induism . This has been partly due to the rom antic construction o f India as m ystical , and partly due to the erosion o f these traditions in the pre-colonial and colonial periods. There is no single orthodox H indu view w ith regard to theology, but H indu the ological/philosophical traditions have shared a com m on term inology and concern about com m on issues. Tw o areas w hich have been im portant in Indian m etaphysics have been highlighted. The first concerns language, the nature o f revelation, and the relation between language and being, and the second concerns ontology, the relation o f the one to the many. The concern w ith language has stemmed partly from Sanskrit, the language o f the gods (d e v a v a n i), being perceived as sacred. The concern w ith on tol o g y has stemmed from reconciling the plu rality o f experience w ith the one absolute revealed b y revelation and experienced in yoga. These issues are still alive in H indu philosophical debate, though n ow widened to incorporate traditional concerns o f w estern philosophy.

24 9

1 1 H induism and the m odern world

The decline o f the M ughal em pire b y 1720 left a p o w er struggle in India, w h ich resulted in British suprem acy fo llo w in g C live's defeat o f the N a w a b o f Bengal at the battle o f Plasey in 17 5 7 . B y the middle o f the nine teenth century B ritish p ow er was at its height. H indu traditions, w hich in the eighteenth century had been introverted and unresponsive to external events and ideas, began to respond to the British, and particularly Christian, presence. H indu reform m ovem ents developed w hich attempted to restore the perceived greatness o f H in d u ism s ancient past, to adopt rationalist elements from w ithin C hristianity, and to pay particular attention to social and ethical concerns. These H indu reform s, instigated b y a num ber o f significant figures, particularly R am M ohan R o y, are referred to as the H indu Renaissance: a religious and political m ovem ent w h ich is closely related to a burgeoning Indian nationalism . This national ism eventually resulted in the ousting o f the B ritish and the establishing o f India as a secular state in 1948, and has found expression m ore recently in H indu nationalist m ovem ents and political parties. H induism as a global religion w ith a distinct identity has arisen since the nineteenth century, due in large part to the reform ers. The H induism w hich they have prom oted is the kind w hich is best kn ow n in the West, largely due to its use o f English as a medium o f com m unication, its adop tion o f Christian elements and its ou tw ard-lookin g perspective. E ven though H indu revivalism is strongly inform ed b y a brahm anical culture, it is least representative o f H indu traditions which have been passed through the generations from pre-colonial days, w hose language is not English, 250

/ Imdmsm and the modern world

but Sanskrit and the Indian vernaculars. These traditions include the brahmanical system s o f theology and Sanskrit learning and popular or regional ritual and narrative system s, centred around local and regional temples. W hile H indu revivalism is o f vital im portance in the developm ent o f H induism as a w orld religion, the influence o f these traditions o f Sanskrit learning and popular ritual upon it has been minim al; the H indu renais sance has had a tendency to play dow n the differences between theological traditions and to relegate ritual to a p o p u lar level, below the ethical spiri tuality o f the U panisads and the G ita. The H indu Renaissance is characterized b y the follo w in g features: - an emphasis on reason to establish the truth of the Veda; - the rejection of icon worship, regarded as idolatry; - the rejection of caste (or some elements of it), child-marriage and the practice of widow-burning (sati); - the construction of Hinduism as an ethical spirituality, equal, or superior, to Christianity and Islam. M an y o f the H indu reform ers w rote in English and attracted the interest o f the English-speaking w orld. O ther reform ers, such as N ryan a G u ru in Kerala, w h o fought for the rights o f the untouchable caste o f Tikkas, com m unicated in M alayalam and so had a restricted audience. The m ost significant figure in this awakening o f a new H indu awareness at the beginning o f the nineteenth century w as Ram M ohan R o y, sometimes called the father o f m odern India.

R am M ohan Roy
Ram M ohan R o y ( 17 7 2 - 18 3 3 ) came from a traditional Bengali Brahm an fam ily - his father w as a Bengali Vaisnava, his m other a Skta - and he w as educated at the M uslim U n iversity at Patna, w here he studied A rab ic and Persian philosophical literature. This M uslim , and particularly Sufi, in flu ence engendered in R o y a strong dislike o f image w orship. H e also studied Sanskrit in Varanasi, as w ell as English, and even studied H eb rew and G reek w ith a view to translating the B ible into Bengali. A fter his extensive education, he entered the em ploym ent o f the E ast India C o m p an y in Calcutta. The grow th o f the British em pire in India w ou ld not have been possible w ithout the East India C om pany, w hich developed vast trading netw orks, centred in Bengal, and set up educational establishments for training you ng Indian men to w o rk fo r the adm inistration under B ritish


An introduction to Hinduism
rule. It is in the context o f these establishments that the seeds of a later nationalism and H indu revivalism are found. R o y developed his ideas w hile em ployed b y the East India C om pany, but left the com pany in 18 14 , having becom e wealthy, to devote him self full-time to religious and social reform . To further his ideas he founded a society, the Brahm o Samaj, dedi cated to the reform o f H induism . H e died in Bristol after contracting an illness w hilst on a visit to B ritain .1 Th e essential belief o f R o y is that G o d is a transcendent, imm utable being w h o is the creator o f the cosm os, but who cannot be kn ow n in his essence w hich is ineffable. A ll religions agree about this and differ on ly in inessentials; R o y therefore advocates a tolerant position - often associated w ith H induism as a w h ole - w hich maintains that all religions are essen tially one. This G o d can be know n through reason and the observation o f the natural w o rld or cosm os, the effect o f God. G o d , fo r R o y, is a G o d o f nature w orshipped through reason. The main philosophical influences on R o y com e from both East and West: from the Upanisads and the theology o f Sankara, from Islam ic, especially Sufi, theology, and from Unitarianism and D eism . Indeed the ethical religion arrived at through reason w hich R o y advocates is stron gly reminiscent o f the eighteenth-century English D eists: G o d and his m oral laws can be known through reason and the observation o f nature. R o y s central vision is to restore and p u rify H induism b y returning to the teachings o f the U panisads and the B rahm a Sutra, w hich he sees as em bodying a timeless w isdom , opposed to idol w o rsh ip and the ethical degeneracy into which he thinks H induism had fallen. In order to im prove the political as well as m oral standing o f H indus, it is necessary, thinks R oy, for them to give up icon w orsh ip, the proliferation o f ritual system s, and to abandon im m oral practices such as child-m arriage and w idow -b u rn in g (sati). R o y vehem ently condem ned this practice in w hich the w id o w w ould often be tied dow n on the pyre, w hether she had volu ntarily agreed or not. This he had witnessed as a yo u th w hen a sister-in-law was subjected to being burned alive in this w a y - an incident w hich left a deep im pression on the yo u n g man. In a num ber o f letters and petitions presented to the H ouse o f C om m on s in Lon don , he advocated the banning o f sati, or suttee as the British called it, a prac tice w hich was made illegal b y the British government in 18 29 , partly due to R o y s pressure. Reason and ethics are central concepts fo r Roy. Because o f reason, the doctrine o f karm a and reincarnation should be rejected, but also because

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o f reason the theology surrounding Jesu s, such as the doctrine o f atone ment and the trinity, should also be rejected as irrational. Reason, rather than revelation, leads to the discovery o f universal ethical codes, whereas dogmas lead to irrationality and unethical behaviour. The adoption o f a purified, rational and ethical religion - the essential qualities o f H induism according to R o y - w ou ld be the transform ation o f Indian society.

The Brahm o Samaj

In order to prom ote his ideas o f restoring H induism to the rational, ethical religion it once was (as he perceived it), R o y founded a m ovem ent in 1 828 called the Brahm o Sam aj.2 This, m ovem ent or society was m odelled on Christian reform movem ents and met regularly fo r religious services. D urin g these services passages w o u ld be read from the U panisads, ser mons delivered and hym ns sung, some o f w h ich w ere com posed b y R o y himself. The Brahm o Samaj held regular meetings in C alcutta and the Trust D eed o f the Brahm o Samaj, signed b y R o y and seven associates, states the purposes o f a building set aside fo r w orsh ip as being to provid e a place o f public meeting o f all sorts and descriptions o f people w ithou t dis tinction as shall behave and conduct themselves in an o rd erly and sober religious and devout m anner fo r the w orsh ip and adoration o f the Eternal Unsearchable and Im m utable B eing w h o is the A u th o r and P reserver o f the U n iverse .3 A fter his death, the tw o leaders o f the society w h o continued R o y s message o f social reform were D ebendranath Tagore ( 18 17 - 19 0 5 ) , the father o f the fam ous poet Rabindranath Tagore, and Keshab C han dra Sen (1838-84). Tagore, like R o y, was against the all-pervasive tantric and puranic form s o f ritual and image w orsh ip, w hich he saw as idolatry. O n ly the im personal absolute o f the Upanisads should be the focus o f religious devotion. Sen, his younger, aggressively enthusiastic contem porary, p ro fo u n d ly influenced b y C hristianity, generally agreed. H ow ever, because o f Sen a split occurred in the movement. Th e yo u n g enthusiast Sen, and his follow ers, abandoned the wearing o f the sacred thread, arguing fo r social equality even between Brahm an and Sudra. This was too m uch fo r the m ore conservative members o f the society w h o follow ed Tagore in retain ing it. The m ajority sided w ith Sen, but further splits in the m ovem ent weakened the p ow er o f its influence. W hile the Brahm o Samaj appealed to lower-class Brahm ans and the em erging, urban m iddle classes o f merchants and traders, it had little


An introduction to Hinduism
appeal at a popular, village level where ritual and devotion to deity icons is the main focus o f religion. Indeed, Roy, a highly educated intellectual, did not really understand the deep devotion to deities o f the rural poor. N o r did the ideas o f the Brahm o Samaj have much appeal to highly orthoprax Brahm ans w h ose main concern is the maintenance o f ritual purity. N evertheless, w ith the B rahm o Samaj, w e have the beginnings o f a sense o f a H indu national identity, albeit o f a high ly deistic and abstract kind, w hich is developed m uch further and m ore aggressively b y another society, the A ryjtSam aj, founded b y D ayananda Sarasvati.

D ayananda Sarasvati and the Arya Samaj

D ayananda Sarasvati (18 2 4 -8 3 ) was born in G u jarat to a Saiva Brahm an family. A t ten he w as initiated b y his father into a cult o f the Siva liriga. H ow ever, D ayananda lost his faith in the Saiva religion o f image w orship during an all-night vigil. Seated w ith his father in a Saiva tem ple during the festival o f N a va ra tri, he saw mice clim bing over the temple icon, eating the food w hich had been offered to the deity and so defiling it. If the icon w ere a pow erful deity, reasoned D ayananda, it surely w o u ld not allow such sacrilege. H is fathers explanations about the nature o f sym bolism , that the icon in the temple, once consecrated, is a representation and em bodim ent o f a higher power, did not allay D ayan an d as scepticism and he became a renouncer to seek the truth o f H induism beyond supersti tion - also thereby avoiding the marriage arrangements being made b y his parents. H e w andered as an itinerant h o ly man, having taken the personal name D ayananda and the name o f the renunciate order Sarasvati, on a per sonal religious quest to find truth. A t M athura he met an old blind guru, Virjananda Sarasvati, w h o predicted that he w ou ld restore H induism to its vedic glory. D ayananda then abandoned his quest fo r personal liberation and became a reform er and preacher, intent upon the transform ation o f H induism . H e argued that the Veda is revelation and that H indu supersti tions should be abandoned along w ith reverence fo r other scriptures such as the Epics and Puranas. H e did, however, accept the teachings o f the D harm a Sastras, such as the Law s o f M an u, w hich reveal the form less and om nipresent G o d w hich D ayananda believed in. In 1875 he founded a society in Bom bay, the A ry a Samaj (the N o b le or A ry a n Society), to prom ote his H indu reform ation. L ik e R o y w ho influenced him, D ayananda advocated a return to a purer form o f vedic religion w hose focus is an eternal, om nipotent, im per

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sonal G od . H e wanted to return to the eternal law or sanatana dh arm a, which H indus had moved away from by w orsh ippin g icons and incarna tions, by going on pilgrim ages, and by reveri ng t he stories and doctrines o f the Epics and Puranas. A ll these things are not found in the four Vedas, Dayananda maintained. The other scriptures are later accretions w hich detract from the pu rity of the vedic message. H is m etaphysics w ere basic, more in line with Visistadvaita teachings than with A dvaita teachings: that liberation (m oksa) is not a m erging o f the soul into G o d , but a freedom from suffering in w hich the soul retains its distinct identity. H ow ever, m ore significant than his m etaphysics are his social teachings about caste, education, language and the reform ation o f H induism into an aggressive, political force against C hristian ity and Islam . It was the reform ing aspects o f the A ry a Samaj, and its counter-offensive against attacks on H induism b y Christianity, w hich attracted the m erchant classes w ho made up its m em bership, as w ell as overseas H indus in South A frica and Fiji. D ayananda does not condem n the caste system but reinterprets it to mean that class (varna) refers to individual differences in character, quali fications and accom plishm ents. Were class to be determ ined b y personal pro clivity and merit, then, he reasoned, the higher classes w ou ld maintain high standards fo r fear o f their children becom ing lower-class, and lov^er classes w ou ld exert themselves to join the classes above them.4 D ayananda advocated radical social reform s, including m arriage from choice rather than b y arrangement and the eradication o f child-m arriage w hich w ou ld reduce the num ber o f w id ow s and so alleviate a large social problem . H e also advocated the tem porary legal alliance o f w id o w s and w idow ers, called a niyoga m arriage, fo r com panionship as w ell as the rearing o f chil dren. Education, he maintained, should be available to both sexes, fo r through education, particularly education in grammar, dh arm a, medicine and trades, H indus w^ould learn to be responsible, good H indus. D ayananda even claimed that all m odern scientific discoveries are p re view ed in the Veda, a claim w hich is still maintained b y m any H indus today. The A ry a Samaj founded schools, the gu ruku las, still in existence throughout India, w hich prom ulgated the cause o f H indu unity and vedic or A ry a n culture. The teaching o f Sanskrit, the sym bol o f Indias great past, is significant in this program m e, as w ell as the teaching o f H in di w hich D ayananda advocated as the national language. There is a strong link between language and national identity and in prom oting Sanskrit


An introduction to Hinduism
and H indi the A ry a Samaj prom oted a certain view of India which, while elevating D ayan and as vision o f H induism , occluded other elements and forces w ithin Indian society, particularly Islam, Christianity, and D ravidian, notably Tamil, H indu religions. Indeed, the A ry a Samaj has not been open to pluralist understandings o f H induism , advocating, rather, an aggressive H indu nationalism , based on a return to the ancient Vedas and being critical o f the tradition w hich has developed since then. W hile adopting m any m odern elements, the society has, in a way, rejected h istory in order to return to a perceived past o f H in du purity. H ig h ly successful in the Punjab, the A ry a Samaj reconverted to H induism m any low -caste converts to Islam and C hristianity, in a cere m ony kn ow n as the purification (.iu d d h i), w hich transform ed U ntouchables into tw ice-born H indus. W ith its success in the Punjab, D ayananda m oved the societys headquarters to Lahore, n o w in Pakistan, and after his death the m ovem ent split into a conservative branch and a progressive branch w h o w anted a progressive education and the aban donm ent o f brahm anical dietary restrictions. The A ry a Samaj has been a p o w e rfu l voice in the developm ent o f H indu nationalist politics, but intolerant o f other faiths and view s. W hile the influence o f the A ry a Samaj can be seen in contem porary Indian politics and cultural life, another force w ithin H induism , o f tolerance and accom m odation, is also found, stem m ing in the m odern w o rld from the Bengali saint Ram akrishna and his devoted disciple and interpreter, Vivekananda.

Ram akrishna and Vivekananda

Param aham sa Ram akrishna (1836 -86) was a H indu m ystic w h o declared the unity o f all religions. H e was born to a Vaisnava Brahm an fam ily in Bengal and became a priest o f the K ali temple at D aksinesvar, a few miles north o f Calcutta. H e became ecstatically devoted to K ali, the Mother, and displayed great longing fo r her, w eeping and pleading w ith her to reveal herself to him. People began to think that he was mad and his fam ily m ar ried him o ff in the hope that a fam ily life w o u ld eventually calm him dow n. H e was married in his hom e village to a five-year-old girl, and returned to C alcutta where she w ou ld join him once she had grow n up. B ack at the tem ple, Ram akrishnas love and devotion to K ali increased and he eventu ally lost outw ard sensations and perceived an inner vision o f the G oddess. These visions became m ore frequent and his trance-like states grew longer in duration until it became im possible fo r him to carry out the daily ser 256

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vices and priestly functions at the temple. I I is nephew was appointed to carry on as functioning priest and Kainakrishna was left to his devotions. A t the age o f seventeen, his wife walked the thirty miles to D aksinesvar to be w ith her husband. B y that time he had becom e transform ed through his religious practices and could not be a husband in a conventional sense. Ram akrishna w orshipped his w ife as a m anifestation o f the M other and she served him in the temple until his death. B efore his w ife joined him, tw o significant teachers came to Ram akrishna. The first was a learned Brahm an w om an, Bhairavl, a tantric initiate w h o taught Ram akrishna to control energies w ithin his b o d y and to control passion. The second was a naked, w andering sadhu, Totapuri, w h o taught Ram akrishna h ow to meditate and h ow to realize union w ith the absolute in the state o f n irvikalp a sam adhi, a high state o f concentra tion in w hich there is no awareness o f su bject-ob ject distinction. A fter this experience o f unity, he next realized the Vaisnava ideal o f love fo r G o d through devotion to K rsna, as Radha is devoted, and experienced a vision o f Krsna. H e had visions o f other deities, including Jesu s C hrist, and practised the paths o f other religions, including C h ristian ity and Islam. H aving practised and, according to Ram akrishna, realized the goals o f these religions, he concluded that all religions are true. A ll religions are different paths to the O ne, the eternal undivided being w hich is absolute know ledge and bliss. D ifferent religions cannot express the totality o f this O ne, but each manifests an aspect o f it. B oth K ali and brahm an are d iffer ent aspects o f the same reality.5 D urin g his lifetim e Ram akrishna attracted a num ber o f middle-class intellectual H indus w h o w ou ld com e to hear and be w ith the saint in D aksinesvar. A m on g them was a yo u n g man, N arendranath ( N a re n ) D atta, a m em ber o f the Brahm o Samaj, stron gly influenced by w estern sci ence and rationalism . H e had a p rofoun d religious experience w ith Ram akrishna w hen the master put his feet upon N a re n s chest and he fell into a deep trance. H e abandoned his career in law to becom e a devoted disciple o f Ram akrishna and eventually became a w orld-renouncer, taking on the name Vivekananda. Sw am i Vivekananda (18 6 3 -19 0 2 ) is a figure o f great im portance in the developm ent o f a m odern H indu self-understanding and in form ulating the W ests view o f H induism . A s a renouncer he wandered the length and breadth o f India, m editating fo r a time on a ro ck o ff Cape C o m o rin at the tip o f India, w here a temple n ow stands. H ere he achieved the state o f


An introduction to Hinduism
sam adhi which Ram akrishna had attained, and resolved to bring his vision o f H induism to the w orld. H is philosophy is the vedantic idea that the divine, the absolute, exists within all beings regardless o f social status. H um an beings can achieve union with this innate divinity (as Ram akrishna had done) and seeing the divine as the essence o f others w ill prom ote love and social harm ony. Vivekananda went to the W orld Parliam ent o f R eligions held at C hicago in 1893 w here he made an imm ense impact and is now, perhaps, the m ost rem em bered figure at that occasion. H ere he preached a doctrine o f the u n ity o f all religions and to l erance: that there should be recognition o f diversity and that there is value in diversity, furtherm ore, that India did not need m issionaries to convert its people to C hristianity, nor churches, but material support to stop star vation. Vivekananda is partly to blame fo r the com m on ly held belief that the East is spiritual w hile the West is m aterialistic. H e was convinced o f the spiritual superiority o f the East, w hile acknow ledging the material, tech nological and scientific superiority o f the West. This dichotom y has tended to reinforce the image o f India as the W ests other; the reality being m ore com plex as both cultures contain strong spiritual and m ater ial features. Vivekananda stayed in the West to prom ote his ideas and founded the Vedanta Society in N e w Y o rk in 189 5. Indeed, Vivekananda might be seen as the first effective proponent o f H induism as a w o rld religion. U p on returning to India in 1895 he founded the Ram akrishna M ission, a m onas tic order w hich differs from traditional H in du orders in prom oting educa tion and social reform , and in helping the sick. The m ission lays great im portance on this aspect o f its w o rk w hich it regards as karm a y o g a , the yo ga o f action or good w ork s, and there are colleges, high schools and hospitals run b y the Ram akrishna M ission throughout India. The order disseminates Vivekanandas vision o f H indu m odernism as N eo-V edanta: that there is an essential unity to H induism underlying the diversity o f its m any form s. W hereas C h ristianity accepts o n ly itself as the truth, claimed Vivekananda, H induism is pluralistic and accepts all religions as aspects o f the one truth. This message had great popu larity am ong In dias emergent, English-educated, middle classes, along w ith V ivekanandas stress on H induism as a scientific religion, som ething o f which Indians should be proud rather than apologetic. W hile this view o f H in duism tends to o ver ride the differences w ithin H indu traditions (let alone betw een w o rld reli gions), and has been criticized as leading to a kind o f w o o lly thinking very 258

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different from the intellectual thoroughness ol the theological traditions,6 it nevertheless provides a strong ideology to link into Indian nationalism on the one hand, and the construction of 1 linduism as a w orld religion on the other. Vivekananda might be regarded as the first to clearly articulate the idea o f H induism as a w orld religion, taking its place alongside C hristianity, Islam, Judaism and B ud dh ism .7 The vision o f H induism p ro moted b y Vivekananda is one generally accepted b y m ost En glish-speak ing middle-class H indus today. Vivekanandas N eo-V edanta and his ideas o f social change feed into the ideas o f another reform er w h o was to change the face o f Indian politics and public life, M ohandas Karm achand G andhi.

G andhi ( 1 869-1948) was born in G u jarat into a fam ily o f the Bania (a m er chant) caste w h o w ere devout Vaisnavas. H is religious context was there fore bh akti w ith Islam ic as w ell as Ja in influence. G andhi studied law in Lo n d o n where he com m unicated w ith T olstoy and met w ith T heosophy, a European m ovem ent w hich sought spiritual w isd om in the East. Indeed, it was w ith a couple o f Theosophists that G andhi read E d w in A rn o ld s translation o f the B h a g a v a d G ita w hich deeply affected him. H e also advocated vegetarianism and supported the British Vegetarian Society. H e returned to B om b ay to practise law, but in 1893 too k a job defending a M uslim merchant in D urban, South A frica. There is a fam ous sto ry o f h ow G andhi, w h o was travelling in a first-class com partm ent o f a train w ith a first-class ticket, was fo rcib ly ejected due to South A fric a s apartheid policies at the time. This experience left a deep im pression on him and reinforced his com m itm ent to freeing people from oppression how ever he could. H e founded the N atal Indian C ongress to try to allevi ate the conditions o f Indians in the N atal state. A fter tw enty-one years in South A frica, w ork in g out his political ph i lo so ph y o f non-violence and passive resistance to realize social change, he returned to India in 19 15 where he joined the nationalist m ovem ent and w orked fo r Indian independence through peaceful means. H e founded a hermitage, the Satyagraha A shram , just outside of A hm edabad, w here he occupied a spartan cell. H ere his com m unity p ro moted cottage industries such as spinning. H e organized passive resis tance to the British, including a m arch to the sea against the Salt Tax w here G andhi and his follow ers sym b olically picked up grains o f salt from the shore. This action flouted the Salt L a w and, along w ith a further


An introduction to Hinduism
protest at the D harasana Salt W orks, resulted in thousands o f arrests, including that o f G andhi himself. G a n d h is fundam ental idea is that Truth (,satya), G o d , w ho is the suprem e being (sat), and self (atman) are one in essence. The ideal and pu r suit o f Truth are central themes in G an dh is w riting and in his political and social w o rk. Indeed, he subtitled his autobiography The Story o f M y E xperim ents w ith Truth.8 Because all are united in an essential oneness, there should be harm ony and non-violence (ahimsa) between people. N on -violence is the central idea fo r w hich G andhi is remem bered, and w hich he applied to great effect in political situations, though cu riou sly it is an ideal w hich is not found in his favourite text, the B h a g a v a d G ita. N on -violence is a m anifestation o f the Truth, or G o d , and so his method o f passive resistance, applied so effectively against the British, G andhi called holding fast to the truth or satyagraha. ^ Satyagraha became a w o rd used b y G andhi to denote his m ovem ent fo r Indian nationhood, a force, he said, born o f Truth and L o v e or N o n violence .9 Satyagraha w ou ld lead to the w elfare o f all (sarvodaya). It is the practical expression o f a higher reality: a m oral code and a selfdiscipline w hich requires the control o f the senses, especially the control o f sexuality; the control o f anger and violence; and a dedication to the cause o f justice and truth. G an d h is follow ers w ere even called satyagrahis, follow ers o f satyagraha, and he expected high standards from them including sexual renunciation. C hastity or brahm acarya was o f central im portance for G andhi as a w a y to realize G o d and also to control the burgeoning population. The w elfare o f all included the em ancipation o f the U ntouchables, w h om G andhi called H arijans, the children o f G o d . Relegated to p er form ing low -status w o rk w hich w ou ld pollute the high castes, they had little political or econom ic power. The plight o f the U ntouchables could, thought G andhi, on ly be alleviated b y non-violence and holding fast to the truth. T heir m anum ission b y the high castes w o u ld not on ly be a free ing o f the U ntouchables from econom ic and social oppression, but w o u ld effect a transform ation o f the w hole society. A ll Indians w o u ld benefit. G an d h is abhorrence o f untouchability w as not an abhorrence o f a society structured according to divisions determ ined b y occupation, w hich Gandh i saw as the original, classical varn asram a-dharm a o f orthodox brahmanical H induism . Yet he wanted this structure to be transform ed and the blight o f untouchability eradicated. P artly due to G an d h is in flu 260

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ence, in post-independence India tin* idea o! untouchability has been o ffi cially abolished and it is an offence to disadvantage a person in education or profession because o f untouchability. Yet in practice the institution remains stubbornly intransigent, though there is a strong m ovem ent to alleviate the social conditions and raise the status o f the children o f G o d , who reject G an d h is title as rather patronizing, preferring to be called D alits, the O ppressed . This m ovem ent has made some progress in rais ing the awareness o f these groups and giving them a cohesive identity, even discovering a history o f D alit literature and, in the form o f a political party, the BSP, successfully battling in som e states against the conservative H indu political party, the BJP. The Indian nationalist struggle, in w hich G andhi became the leading voice in the C ongress Party, resulted in Indian independence and the British w ithdraw al from India in 1947. To G an d h is great distress, the par titioning o f the Punjab to create Pakistan w as accom panied b y massacres o f H indus b y M uslim s and M uslim s b y H indus. Sikhs too w ere victim s o f the slaughter. G andhi tried to calm the situation b y addressing groups o f people and urging H indus to respect M uslim s. It was due to this tolerant attitude that he attracted the anger o f militant nationalist H in du s, and Nathuram G odse, a m em ber o f the militant organization, the R S S , assassi nated G andhi at a D elhi p rayer meeting in 1948. Y et G an d h is legacy has lived on in India and he is w id ely revered as a saint. W ith G andhi w e see one w a y in w hich H induism and m odern national ism m ix together. G an d h is H induism is a religion o f strong ethical com mitment to social justice and truth w h ich he identifies w ith G o d . H is non-violence is inform ed b y the non-violence o f Jain ism and the renouncer tradition and also b y C h ristian passivism . H e is influenced b y the renouncer ideals o f renunciation, particularly celibacy w h ich in the H indu view bestows great spiritual power. Yet Gandhi displays little inter est in ritual or H indu m yth ology except in so far as they have bearing on ethical issues he was concerned about. Indeed, G andhi fought fo r the rights o f U ntouchables to enter H indu temples. G an d h is is an ethical H induism , one in w hich ritual and deities are subordinated to a vision o f tolerance, peace and truth. In G an d h is thought, and in the H in du revivalism o f the last tw o centuries generally, there is little concern fo r the aesthetic and sen sual aspects o f H indu culture - G andhi has even been referred to as a p u ri tan10 - but it is the Renaissance H induism , o f w hich Gandhi is a part, w hich has found articulate expression in the m odern w orld . 261

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Hindu political nationalism

T he man w h o assassinated G andhi was a member o f an extreme nationalist organization, the R SS. In contrast to the com m itted secularism o f the C ongress Party, in the face o f the religious and cultural pluralism o f India, a num ber o f right-w ing H indu nationalist groups have developed, w ish ing to prom ote India as a H indu, rather than a secular, state. This H indu nationalism m ust be seen in the context o f an India w hich has been sub jected throughout h istory to foreign invasion and, at the present time, the invasion o f western ideas and material goods. There is a certain nostalgia fo r In dias great past and a desire for the order and the clear traditional val ues o f the varn asram a-dharm a. There is a construction o f a H indu iden tity, w hich is v e ry m odern in being closely associated w ith the idea o f the nation-state, and w hich projects this identity into the past. This identity is constructed in apposition to the foreign other , particularly Indian M uslim s and, to a lesser extent, Christians, and in opposition to m odern ization and a w estern secularist ideology. These nationalist tendencies and m ovem ents have given m oral sanction to violence in the perceived struggle for H indu rights. The A ry a Samaj was an advocate o f a nationalism inform ed b y the idea o f H indu dharm a and m ore extreme nationalist groups have emerged from this. In 1909 the first vice-chancellor o f Benares H indu U niversity, Pandit M ohan M alaviya, w h o was a mem ber o f the A ry a Samaj, founded the H indu M aha-Sabha, a right-w ing H indu political party w h o set them selves against the C ongress Party and the M uslim League in the days before independence, though the party has failed to make much o f a m ark in the post-independence years. The p a rty s m ost vociferous leader was V in ayak D am odar Savarkar w h o made a distinction between H in du D harm a , the religion o f the various traditions, and H in d u tva, the so cio political force to unite all H indus against foreign influences. The idea o f H in du tva ( H induness or H in du dom ) has also been taken up b y m ore recent H indu political groups. The H indu M aha-Sabha prom otes the idea o f India as H industan and the rights o f H indus to legislate and govern themselves in accordance w ith H indu id eology.1 1

O ne o f the members o f the H indu M aha-Sabha, K . V. H edgew ar (18 9 0 -19 4 0 ), founded, in 19 25, the highly influential R astriya Svayam 262

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Scvak Sangh or RSS, an organization which continues to this d ay.12 This is not a political party as such, hut a pow erful cultural organization to p ro mote the interests o f H indus against those of M uslim s, C hristians and C om m unists. B y remaining as a cultural organization and not as a political party, the RSS has wielded considerable influence upon Indias political and cultural life, sponsoring H indu institutions such as temples and schools. R SS members dress in black and can be seen training in m ilitary fashion throughout India in the early m ornings. A related organization, the V isva H indu Parisad (V H P ) founded in 1964, has similar aims to the RSS and draw s on the same sources o f support. These organizations have had particular appeal to low er-m iddle-class male youths, providing them w ith a strong sense o f identity and an outlet fo r their nationalist aspira tions. O ne o f the R SS aims has been to provide a context in w hich H indus can be nationalized and nationalists H in d u ized .13 The fact that the R SS is not a political party means that its members are free to join other political parties and influence them from within. Indeed there have been divisions in the C ongress P arty between liberal secularists and H indu traditionalists, some o f w h om have been R SS members. The organization was banned for about a year b y N eh ru , but this was lifted and the organization continues unabated. M uch o f the com m unal violence in Indias recent history has been carried out b y R SS members and the R SS has been extrem ely influential in aw akening H indu political aspirations and the idea o f a H in du nation.

The m ost im portant H indu nationalist political party is the BJP. This is a developm ent o f the Jan a Sangh, a party founded in 19 51 b y Shyam a Prasad M ookerjee, to give voice to H indu nationalism and to oppose the C on gress Party. D urin g the 1950s and 1960s the Jan a Sangh tried to replace C ongress as the main p arty in the H indi-speaking north, stressing policies such as the introduction o f H in d i as the national language, a ban on the slaughter o f cow s, and the recognition o f the state o f Israel: policies w hich are im plicitly anti-M uslim . The party failed, however, in its efforts to replace the C ongress Party. The Jan a Sangh joined a coalition o f other anti-C ongress groups to form the Janata Party - form ally dissolving the Jan a Sangh - w hich defeated M rs G andhi and the C ongress P arty in the election o f 19 77, having been suppressed b y her governm ent during the em ergency regime (19 7 5 -7 ). H ow ever, internal squabbles prevented 263

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effective governm ent and M rs Gandhi was returned to office in 1980. A fte r this defeat the Janata Party fragmented and in A pril 1980 the B haratiya Janata Party or B JP was fo rm ed .14 The B JP is a H indu national ist party w hich w ishes to uphold the rights o f H indus and establish in India a H indu value system , as opposed to the secularist values derived from the West and supported b y the C ongress Party. The B JP has attracted w ide support, particularly from Indias educated classes both in the north and south, and, w hile maintaining the values o f varn asram a-dharm a, has cam paigned on a platform o f standing up fo r all H indus and correcting social injustices. W hile com m unal violence is often associated w ith the BJP, it should be rem em bered that not all B JP members and supporters approve o f violence as a tool to gain political ends.

W hile the R SS and the B JP have pan-H indu appeal, there are other H indu nationalist groups particular to a region. A m o n g these, the Shiv Sena (the arm y o f Siva) m ovem ent founded in 1966 in B o m b ay b y Bal Th ak k eray is especially im portant. The Shiv Senas intention is to protect the rights o f M aharastrian H indus and to rid M aharashtra o f foreign influences, b y w hich it means M uslim s and, to a lesser extent, C hristians. The movem ent is responsible fo r com m unal rioting against M uslim s in Bom bay, fo llo w ing the dem olition o f the m osque B abri M asjid in A yo d h y a in 1992. Indeed the M uslim com m u n itys property has been looted and burned, and m any lives have been taken, b y the Shiv Sena.15 There have been reac tions b y the M uslim and C hristian com munities to the Shiv Sena w ith the form ation o f M uslim and C hristian Senas, though these have been ineffec tive in protecting the com m unities they are said to represent.

The m ost significant act o f com m unal violence to have occurred in the recent h istory o f India took place in 1992. In 19 9 1 the B JP attracted atten tion b y going on a pilgrim age through India to collect bricks to build a tem ple to Ram a at A yod h ya. O n 6 D ecem ber 1992, the B abri M asjid, a m osque erected in A yo d h y a in 1528 b y Babur, was dem olished b y an esti mated 100,000 volunteers or k a r sevaks, assembled there at the call o f the RSS, V H P and BJP, though the parliam entary leader o f the BJP, L . K . A dvan i, com mented that the m osques destruction was unfortunate .16 O ne o f the motives behind the destruction was the belief that Ram a, the 264

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incarnation o f Visnu, had been born on the exact spot where the m osque stood. The dem olition was accom panied by the looting and destruction o f M uslim homes, the destruction o f other m osques, and the brutal rape and m urder o f M uslim s in A yod hya. C om m unal riots in other parts o f India follow ed the A yo d h ya incident, as well as reactive M uslim violence against H indus in other countries such as Bangladesh. The rationale behind the highly organized cam paign o f violence at A yo d h y a has been that, in the past, M uslim rulers destroyed H indu tem ples, thereby dam ag ing H indu pride, so the destruction o f the B ab ri M asjid is ju stified.17 There are no clear explanations o f H in du com m unal violence. N o doubt deeply rooted historical antagonism s are part o f the cause; the sense o f a religious identity w ith clearly demarcated boundaries, and the idea o f collective effervescence put forw ard b y the sociologist Em ile D urkheim are p ro b ab ly contribu tory factors as w e ll.18 C om m unal violence, associ ated w ith literal or fundam entalist understandings o f a religious narrative, are an all-too-com m on feature o f the m odern w o rld and not confined to India. The problem o f com m unalism is not solely an Indian one, but is particularly poignant in the contem porary Indian context. The belligerent nature o f conservative H indu m ovem ents such as the Shiv Sena is in com plete contrast to G a n d h is voice o f tolerance and non-violence, but the factious voices o f these groups are not easily appeased.

Global H induism
In contrast to the narrow nationalism o f groups such as the R SS, there are also tendencies w ithin H induism tow ards universalization or globaliza tion. G lo b al H induism is the kind o f H induism w hich has w ide appeal and w hich is becom ing a w orld religion alongside C hristianity, Islam and Buddhism , both for the H indu diaspora com m unities and fo r Westerners seeking their sense o f belonging in non-w estern cultures and religions. This kind o f H induism lays emphasis on w hat it regards as universal spiritual values such as social justice, peace and the spiritual transform a tion o f humanity. G lob al H induism is the kind o f religion given expres sion b y Viveknanda and G andhi, w hich has a sense o f India as its point o f reference, but w hich has transcended national boundaries. This kind o f religion maintains that H induism contains the oldest revelation available to hum anity, the Veda; believes in a transcendent G o d w ithout attributes w h o is nevertheless m anifested in the innum erable form s o f the H indu gods and h oly persons; believes in reincarnation; overrides differences 265

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between traditions; and tends to avoid the issue o f caste or reinterprets it, along the lines o f G andhi, so that caste is sim ply a w ay o f organizing society according to profession. The philosophy here is predom inantly the N eo-V edanta o f Sw am i Vivekananda, though other voices, the theistic H are K rsna m ovem ent and even Saiva Siddhanta, have contributed to it. This kind o f global H induism appeals to m ore educated, E nglishspeaking, urban H in dus, m any o f w hom live outside India.

W hile H induism is intim ately linked to the sacred land o f India, its cu l tural influence spread in the m edieval period to south-east A sia and beyond as far as Ja v a and Bali. Kings o f south-east A sia m odelled them selves on H indu kings, Sanskrit was a sacred language and Brahm ans p er form ed rituals in courts. F rom the last century, H induism has spread to other parts o f the w o rld through a process o f m igration. This m ore recent H in du diaspora, due to the B ritish exporting labour fo r plantations and other w o rk such as b uild ing railw ays, has placed H indus in all continents: in South and East A frica, the Pacific islands, South A m erica, the West Indies, N o rth A m erica, E u rop e and A ustralia. Indian im m igration into the U S A increased dram atically after 1965 w hen quotas lim iting im m igration w ere rem oved from the Im m igration A ct. These H indu com m unities have continued to practise their religious faith and to convert old churches and schools into temples or build new temples b y subscription in m ore affluent com m unities. In Britain, H induism has developed w ith the arrival o f E ast A frican H indus in 1965 and com m unities w hich have arisen as a consequence o f direct im m igra tion from India, particularly G ujarat. O f the 300,000 H indus in Britain today, 70% are G u jarati b y ethnicity, 15 % Punjabi, and 15 % from the rest o f In dia.19 The H in du com m unities in Britain are not hom ogenous. The G ujarati and Punjabi H indus, fo r example, as K im K n o tt has observed, speak different languages, eat different kinds o f food s, and dress d iffer en tly .20 These H indu com munities w orsh ip predom inantly in their hom es, but also in temples to various deities including K rsna, Ram a, D urga and Ganesa, especially during festivals. The H induism o f the diaspora has m oved aw ay from the strict varnas'ram a-dharm a system towards the kind o f universalism p ro pounded b y the H indu reform ers such as V ivekananda and G andhi. T he 266

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Indian cultural centre, the Bharatiya V idya Hhavan in I ondon, is an exam ple o f a centre dedicated to the dissem ination of Indian culture, inspired by the universalist H indu ideals of G andhi. Yet there are nevertheless some nationalist tendencies within diaspora com m unities, and attitudes to caste show little sign o f being eroded - som ething w hich is dem onstrated b y the rarity o f inter-caste m arriages.21

G lo bal H induism , inspired b y the teachings o f the H indu reform ers, is developing. In this G lob al H induism w o m en s voices are beginning to be heard. The Indian w om en s m ovem ent has been influenced b y that o f the West and its reactions to H induism fo llo w the western fem inist reactions to C hristianity: some believe it to be inherently patriarchal, w hile others believe that patriarchy can be separated from the spiritual values o f the religion. In traditional H induism , as w e have seen, w om en s nature was thought to be different to that o f men, being passive, nurturing and giving. In the contem porary Indian w om en s m ovem ent, expressed, fo r example, in the magazine M anushi, there is an attitude that w om en and men are equal and that statements about w om en s nature and duty subordinate and oppress w om en.22 It is w ithin G lo b a l H induism that attitudes to w om en can be more easily changed than w ithin the classical m odel o f varnsram a-dharm a.

G lo b al H induism has developed during the present century p artly due to re-enculturation: w hat Agehananda Bharati, som ew hat playfully, has called the pizza-effect . The original pizza was a hot baked bread w hich was exported to A m erica from Italy, em bellished, and returned to Italy where it became a national dish. Sim ilarly, elements o f H indu culture, such as yoga, bh a k ti, gurus, some H indu teachings, dance and music, have been exported to the West, due largely to the H indu Renaissance, where they have gained great popu larity and then gained popularity among urban H indus in India as a consequence.23 The globalization o f H induism has been due initially to Sw am i V ivekanandas w o rk , his founding o f Vedanta societies and the Rm akrishna M ission, and to the w o rk o f his disciples and other H indus strongly influenced b y his message o f universalism and tolerance. H ow ever, m any other teachers have follow ed in his w ake, bringing to the West teachings w hich have becom e an im portant cultural 2 67

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force in western societies, and which in turn have becom e an important cultural force in India, their place o f origin.

H induism in the West

T he interaction betw een H induism and western culture arose due to w est ern contacts w ith India and the colonial process. Vasco da G am a opened a seaw ay to India in around 1 500 and the spice trade developed as w ell as the settling on the w estern seaboard o f C atholic m issionaries, w h o w ere the first to be genuinely interested in H indu traditions, if on ly fo r the p u r poses o f conversion. The m issionaries learned the languages o f the people they w ished to convert. O f particular note w as R ob erto de N o b ili ( 15 7 7 -16 5 6 ) w h o tried to understand the H indu w orldview , trying to find in H in du scriptures a non-idolatrous sense o f G o d , in order to convert India to C hristianity. In the eighteenth century French missionaries co l laborated w ith H indu pandits on textual research, and a French Jesu it, J. F. Pons, produced a Sanskrit gram m ar in Latin in around 17 3 3 . This was the beginning o f In d o lo gy and the scientific interest o f the West in India. Tow ards the end o f the eighteenth century British O rientalists, cen tred in Bengal, began the system atic study o f Sanskrit and Sanskrit litera ture. A m o n g these , Sir W illiam Jones (1746 -9 4), C . W ilkins (17 4 9 -18 3 6 ) and Thom as C o leb ro ok e ( 17 6 5 -18 3 7 ) w ere the pioneers w hose w o rk led to the establishment o f the discipline o f Indology, w hich concentrated on the philological study o f Sanskrit texts. The discipline developed through the nineteenth century, the philosopher Friedrich Schlegel becom ing the first professor o f Sanskrit at B on n in 18 18 . H . H . W ilson became the first B od en P rofessor o f Sanskrit at O xfo rd (professor from 183 2 to 1860), fo l low ed b y M onier M onier-W illiams (professor from i860 to 1888) w hose Sanskrit dictionary is still w id ely used, though based on the massive G erm an scholarship o f the seven-volum e Sanskrit dictionary b y R . R oth and O tto B oth lin gk.24 Freidrich M ax M ller was a Sanskritist and pioneer o f the com parative study o f religion, editing the Sacred B o o k s o f the East series. In the U nited States, In d ology w as developed b y a num ber o f scholars at N e w Y o rk , Yale and H arvard. O f particular note are C . R . Lanm an ( 18 5 0 -19 4 1) , w hose Sanskrit reader is still used in universities,25 W illiam D w igh t W hitney (18 27-9 4 ), and M aurice B loom field ( 18 8 5 -19 2 8 ), uncle o f the fam ous linguist Leonard B lo o m field .26 Some C hristian theologians during the nineteenth century also to o k H induism seriously and the beginnings o f interfaith dialogue can be seen here. O ne 268

/ Innlmsni ,ni<l the modern world

o f the earliest of these was Row land W illiams ol I ,ampeter who presented a sym pathetic view of H indu doctrines, though inevitably regarding C hristianity as superior.27 H ow ever, notwithstanding advances made by Indologists in the understanding o f Sanskrit, Indian religions and Indian history, In d olo gy has com e under recent criticism fo r its colonial inheri tance and its claims to objective know ledge o f texts; know ledge alw ays being set within cultural presuppositions and boundaries.28 A s w ell as to the missionaries and Indologists, H indu ideas, especially what they regarded as pantheism, w ere o f interest to w estern philosophers in the G erm an Rom antic tradition such as J. G . H erder (17 4 4 -18 0 3 ), Friedrich Schlegel ( 17 7 2 - 18 29), and H egel ( 17 7 0 - 18 3 1) . H egel was am ong the first to take H indu th eology seriou sly and incorporated H indu thought into his grand philosophical scheme, though inevitably relegating it to a low er level than western philosophy. Schelling ( 17 7 5 - 18 54), H egels younger colleague, regarded Vedanta as an exalted idealism 29 and enthu siasm fo r Indian thought was taken up b y A rth u r Schopenhauer (17 8 8 -18 6 0 ) w ho regarded India as a land o f ancient w isdom . Schopenhauers philosophical heir, Friedrich N ietzsche (18 4 4 -19 0 0 ), also admired H indu ideas and referred to the L aw s o f M an u as a text far supe rior to the N e w Testament.30 These thinkers are not concerned w ith accu rate readings o f H indu texts and philosophy, but are interested in using H indu thought to back up or contribute to their ow n. The legacy o f this tradition is also found in the novels o f H erm ann H esse (18 7 7 -19 6 2 ) and the psych ologist C arl G u stav Ju n g ( 18 7 5 - 19 6 1) w h o constructed India as hum anitys spiritual hom e and the location where sym bols are m ost m ani fested from the collective unconscious.31 N o t on ly did H indu ideas, notably Vedanta, have some impact in the G erm an intellectual w orld , but also in A m erica w ith the N e w England Transcendentalists, Ralph W aldo Em erson (18 0 3-8 2 ) and H e n ry D avid Thoreau (18 17 -6 2 ) . T h eir interest influenced the U nitarian A ssociation w h o aligned themselves w ith the Brahm o Samaj. Indeed, the first H indu to speak about H induism in the West, even before Vivekananda, did so at the invitation o f the U nitarian A ssociation; Protap C hunder M o zoom d ar in 1883 delivered a lecture to a group in the hom e o f E m erson s w id o w .32

H indu gurus in the West

Since the end o f the nineteenth century, W esterners, regarding themselves as seekers after truth reacting against the organized religion o f their 269

An introduction to Hinduism
hom elands, went to India in search ol spiritual truth and often found it there in the form o f various gurus. A part from the teachers o f the Hindu Renaissance, the m ost im portant western m ovem ent responsible fo r the transm ission o f H induism to the West is Theosophy. Th e Th eosophical Society had been founded in 1 875 in N e w Y o rk b y a Russian psych ic, M adam e Blavatsky, and C o lo n el A lco tt (18 3 2 -19 0 7 ), to prom ote and explore esoteric know ledge. In 18 7 7 the society m oved to India, w here its headquarters remain at M adras and w here it maintains a good lib rary and continues to publish texts and m onographs on H induism and T heosophy. T he Theosophical Society influenced w estern intellectu als such as the poet W. B. Yeats and the novelists A ld o us H u x ley and C h risto ph er Ish erw oo d, and m any H indu ideas entered the West via Th eosophy. U p o n the death o f M adam e Blavatsky, A nnie Besant (18 4 7 -19 3 3 ) to o k over the societys leadership and trained a yo u n g b o y to becom e a w o rld spiritual leader. Jid d u K rishnam urti (18 9 5 -19 8 6 ) was educated in England b y A nnie Besant and in 1925 she declared him to be the M essiah and founded the O rder o f the Star in the E ast to prom ote this idea. Krishnam urti unequivocally rejected this role and w ent on to teach a doctrine o f pure awareness, ultim ately derived from A dvaita Vedanta, called objectless aw areness . Krishnam urti has a large follo w in g in the West and had dialogues w ith m odern nuclear physicists, such as D avid B oh m , interested in his ideas and the interface betw een science and eastern religions.33 A pparent conceptual affiliations between contem porary science and som e eastern doctrines have attracted w ide interest in recent years (which has served to reinforce constructions o f the E ast as m ystical).34 A m o n g H indu teachers to attract a w ide w estern fo llo w in g is A u rob in d o G h ose (18 7 2 -19 5 0 ). A s a you ng man A u rob in d o was involved w ith the Indian independence m ovem ent and jailed fo r terrorist activities as a result. W hile in prison he had a religious experience, achieving a state o f sam adhi through yoga. U p o n release, he w ent to P o n dicherry where he started an ashram and lived a life o f study and contem plation fo r fo rty years, developing a philosophical system inspired b y Vedanta, but inte grating elements from Y oga, Tantra and the th eory o f evolution: the spirit ual path is a path tow ards higher form s o f awareness and an integration o f matter w ith spirit. H e called his system integral Y o g a .35 A u ro b in d o s w ritin g on his system is volum inous. Significantly he w rote in English and addressed an English-speaking audience from both India and the West. 270

/ lindiiism ,111(1 the modern world

I lis legacy lives on in the town Auroville, near Pondicherry, founded by him and his companion, a French woman known as the Mother* who took over spiritual leadership of the community after his death.
O f the same generation as A urobind o, but with a much low er profile, was the Tamil m ystic Ram ana M aharshi ( 1 8 7 9 -19 5o) w ho lived and taught at Tiruvannam ali. H is teachings, w hich are pure A dvaita, and simple lifestyle attracted m any Westerners w h om he taught to ask the question W ho am I?' Through m editating upon this, a person's various roles and personae are thought to be stripped aw ay to reveal the truth o f the self as pure consciousness.36 The teachings o f Ram ana have inspired m any other gurus such as the low -caste B om b ay cigarette- (bidi-) m aker N isarga Datta M aharaj, w h o, having experienced a state o f non-dual conscious ness, proceeded to teach. These teachings have had w ide influence in the West and have produced western* gurus such as Jean K lein and A n d rew C ohen w h o continue to attract large crow ds o f - m ainly - western devotees. Tw o other contem poraries o f A u rob in d o and Ram ana M aharshi to attract w estern interest have been Param aham sa Yogananda (18 9 0 -19 5 2 ) w ho founded the Self-Realization Fellow sh ip, and Sawan Singh, the m as ter o f the Radhasoam i Satsang at Beas. Yogananda was a renouncer w h o achieved states o f sam adhi and w rote a fascinating autobiography o f his spiritual jou rn ey and the founding in C alifo rn ia o f the Self-Realization F ellow sh ip.37 The Punjabi m ystic o f the Sant tradition, Sawan Singh (mas ter from 1903 to 1948), also attracted a w estern audience, though his teach ings w ere v e ry different: rather than self-realization , he taught G o d -realization through the practice o f the yo ga o f inner sound (see pp. 10 0 - 1). D r Ju lian Joh nson , a Protestant preacher, took Sawan Singh as his spiritual master and was instrum ental in the developm ent o f the Radhasoam i Satsang in the West.38 D urin g the 1 960s m any H indu - as w ell as B uddhist and Chinese - ideas and practices came to the West and had a large im pact upon the counter culture then developing. D om inant figures in popular culture - pop stars such as the Beatles and poets such as A lan G in sb erg - prom oted H indu ideas and gurus. D urin g this period, after the lifting o f im m igration restrictions in the U S A in 1965, there w as a flo w o f Indian gurus to the West, such as M aharishi M ahesh Y ogi, the founder o f the Transcendental M editation (TM ) m ovem ent; the then teenage guru M aharaji, w ho founded the D ivin e Light M ission (since renamed Elan Vital); 271

An introduction to Hinduism
Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada, who brought the I larc Krsna movement to the West in 1965; Swam i M uktananda who founded Siddha Yoga; and B hagavan Shree Rajneesh, w ho radically reinterpreted the traditional H indu understanding o f renunciation, calling his follow ers Sannyasis, and w h o fused eastern m editation w ith western psychotherapies. O ther teach ers w h o have had an influence on the West have remained in India, such as A nandam ayi, regarded as a living deity and identified w ith the G oddess D urga; Satya Sai Baba, w h o com mands a large fo llo w in g in India and abroad, fam ous fo r his m agical pow ers o f producing images and sacred ash from his fingertips; and Sw am i Sivananda from Rishikesh, w ho taught the N eo-V edanta form ulated b y Vivekananda. Som e o f Sivanandas disciples, such as Swam i C hinm ayananda, have started centres throughout the w o rld and have taught further swamis to carry on their N eo-V edanta teachings. This great influx o f H indu teachers and ideas to the West during the 1960s and 1970s has contributed to G lo bal H induism . These teachings are not hom ogenous and there are great differences between the various teachers; for example, Bhaktivedanta P rabh u pad as teachings focusing on the theistic deity K rsn a are ve ry different from the m onistic teachings o f T M s M aharishi. M an y o f these teachers w h o set up movem ents have since died and passed on their spiritual authority to others, very often W esterners. U p o n the demise o f Prabhupada, eleven western gurus w ere chosen to succeed as spiritual heads o f the H are K rsn a m ovem ent, but m any problem s follow ed upon their appointm ent and the m ovem ent has since veered aw ay from investing absolute authority in a few, fallible, hum an teachers. Sw am i M uktananda appointed an Indian w om an, Cidvilasananda, as his successor and she n o w heads the massive organiza tion o f Siddha Y oga, based m ainly in G orakhpur, India, and in South Fallsburg, U S A . M uktanandas guru, Sw am i N ityan an da, in the early 1960s, initiated a N e w Y o rk art dealer, R u d i, w hose successor, after R u d is death in a plane accident, is an Am erican, Swam i Cetanananda, founder o f the N ityananda Institute. Some western gurus derive their teachings from H induism , but proclaim themselves to be self-realized and in some sense outside any original H indu tradition - fo r exam ple, D a A vabhasa K alk i (alias D a Free Joh n), Lee L o z o w ic k and Jean K lein, w h o em phasize the direct experience o f a non-dual reality through surrender to the master.39 M an y o f these gurus have been adopted b y urban H indus in India through the pizza effect p reviou sly outlined. C entres o f the H are K rsna

I Imdmsm am i the modern world

movement - Bhaktivedanta M anor near W atford, England, for example have been adopted b y H indu com m unities living outside India as their own. It will be increasingly difficult, or desirable, to separate out the m ore recent manifestations o f H induism in the teachings o f the gurus w ho have come to the West from m ore traditional understandings o f the diaspora com munities. Indeed the new religious m ovem ents lo o sely referred to as N ew A g e , m any o f w hose ideas are derived from H induism via 'Theosophy, m ay also contribute to G lo b al H induism in the future.

Sum m ary
There w ou ld seem to be tw o forces at w o rk within H induism in the m od ern w orld: on the one hand a trend tow ards a universalization w hich con tributes to contem porary global culture and processes, yet on the other a trend tow ards exclusive, local or national identity form ations. B oth o f these trends have emerged during the last twr centuries. H induism as a o global religion, expressed in the ideas o f the H indu Renaissance, has devel oped since the nineteenth century as a reaction to colonialism and Christianity. This kind o f H induism has been inclusive and has firm ly established itself on the w orld stage, reform ulating H in duism and dis covering its ancient origins. Th rough the w o rk o f Ram M ohan R o y and later o f Vivekananda and his follow ers, H induism has becom e a w o rld religion w hich has had a deep impact both on India and on the West at all cultural levels, from the scholarly study o f texts in In d o lo gy departments in universities, to devotion to popular gurus. Yet in contrast to these u n i versalizing tendencies, there has also developed a H indu political nation alism w hich connects H induism , or H indu D harm a, w ith the nation-state o f India. This political nationalism has inspired friction between the H indu, M uslim and C hristian com m unities in India and evoked some ter rible violence. H induism has, as have all religions, been a cause o f b lo o d shed and intolerence. Yet H induism also contains w ithin it profound resources fo r peace and reconciliation - forces w hich demand expression, and w hich m ay contribute to finding solutions to the global problem s w hich face the human com m unity in the com ing century.

2 73

Introduction i Sachau, A lb eru m s In dia, vol. i (London: Trubner and C o., 1888), pp. 22-3.

1 Points of departure
1 The March 1991 census of India estimated the population to be 843,930,861. 2 See Klostermaier, A Survey o f Hinduism (Albany: S U N Y Press,

1994)3 Knott and Toon, Muslims, Sikhs and H indus in the UK: Problems in the Estimation o f Religious Statistics, Religious Research Paper 6 (Theology and Religious Studies Department, University of Leeds, 1982). 4 R. Thapar, Interpreting Early India (Delhi: O xford University Press, I 993X p. 775 C. Smith, The M eaning and E n d o f Religion (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1962), p. 207; Frykenberg, The Emergence of Modern Hinduism , in Sontheimer and Kulke (eds.), H induism Reconsidered (Delhi: Manohar, 1991), pp. 3 0 -1. 6 O Connell, The Word H indu in Gaudiiya Vaisnava Texts\ Jo u rn al o f the American Oriental Society, 93.3 (1973), pp. 340-4. 7 Quoted in B. K. Smith, Exorcising the Transcendent: Strategies for Redefining Hinduism and Religion, History o f Religions (Aug. 1987), p. 36. 8 Lakoff, Women, Fire and Dangerous Things: What Categories R evea l A bout the M ind (Chicago and London: U niversity of Chicago Press, 1987). 9 Ibid. p. 12. 10 Piatigorsky, Some Phenomenological Observations on the Study of

Notes to pages 7 - 9 Indian Religion, in Burghardt and <>antillc* (eds.), Indian Religion (London: Curzon, 1985), pp. 208-24. 11 J. Z. Smith, Imagining Religion, From Babylon to Jonestown (University of Chicago Press, 1982), p. xi. 12 Smart, The Formation Rather than the Origin of a Tradition, D IS K U S : A D isem bodied Jou rn al o f Religious Studies, 1. (1993), p. 1. 13 W. C. Smith, The Meaning and E n d o f Religion, p. 65; see also H. von Stietencron, Hinduism: On the Proper Use of A Deceptive Term, in Sontheimer and Kulke, Hinduism Reconsidered, pp. 11- 2 7 ; also Halbfass, Tradition and Reflection (Albany: S U N Y Press, 1991), pp. 1-2 2. For an interesting, brief survey of the idea of Hinduism and the development of recent scholarship about it, see Hardy, Hinduism, in King (ed.), Turning Points in Religious Studies (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1990), pp. 14 5-55. 14 Inden, Im agining India (Oxford and Cambridge: Blackwells, 1990). 15 Durkheim, The Elem entary Forms o f the Religious L ife (London: Allen and Unwin, 1964), p. 37. 1 6 Berger, The Sacred Canopy, Elements o f a Sociological Theory o f Religion (N ew York: Anchor Books, 1990), p. 26 . 1 am also influenced here by C lifford Geertz definition of religion as that which tunes human actions to an envisaged cosmic order and projects images of cosmic order on to the plane of human experience : Geertz, The Interpretation o f Cultures (London: Fontana, 1993), p. 90. 17 Otto, The Idea o f the H o ly, 2nd edn (O xford, London and N ew York: O xford University Press, 1982). 18 For a discussion of this distinction see Smart, Reasons and Faiths (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1958) and more recently his The World's Religions (Cambridge University Press, 1989), pp. 13 - 14 . 19 For example, the important w ork by D irks, The H ollow Crow n (Ann A rbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993), pp. 106-7. 20 J. Z. Smith, Im agining Religion, p. 5 5. 1 have used the term icon in preference to image as a translation of the terms murti and vigraha to indicate the physical manifestation of a deity. M y use of the term has been influenced by Charles Pierces understanding of the icon as a sign which refers to the Object that it denotes merely by virtue of characters of its own, and which it possesses just the same, whether any such object actually exists or not (Peirce, Collected Papers o f Charles Sanders Peirce, vol. 11 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard

2 75

Notes to pages io - i$
University Press, 1932), p. 247). There Are also parallels between the Hindu murti and the Christian Orthodox icon* as a material centre which, according to Vladamir Lossky, contains an energy and divine truth (quoted in Miguel, Thologie de licone, in Viller, Cavallera and de Guibert (eds.), Dictionnaire de spiritualit, vol. v u (Paris: Beauchesme, 19 71), p. 1236). On this account a person can be an icon as well as an object of stone or wood. 21 Smart, The World's Religions, p. 9. 22 Bourdieu, Outline (Cambridge University Press, 1991), pp. 1-2 . 23 See ibid. pp. 3-9. A lso Faur, The Rhetoric o f Im m ediacy: A Cultural C ritique o f Chan/Zen Buddhism (Princeton University Press, 1991), p. 304. 24 See Piatigorsky, Some Phenomenological Observations on the Study of Indian Religion . 25 The terms secondary and indirect revelation referring to this literature of human authorship, are used by Alexis Sanderson. See Sanderson, Saivism and the Tantric Traditions, in Sutherland, Houlden, Clarke and H ardy (eds.), The World's Religions (London: Routledge, 1988), p. 662. 26 Brian Smith has defined Hinduism as the religion of those humans who create, perpetuate, and transform traditions with legitimizing reference to the authority of the Veda. B. K . Smith, Exorcising the Transcendent, p. 40. 27 Halbfass, Tradition and Reflection, pp. 1-2 2 . 28 Zaehner relates dharma to the Sanskrit root dhr which means to hold, have or maintain . He defines dharma as the form of things as they are and the power that keeps them as they are and not otherwise. Zaehner, Hinduism (O xford U niversity Press, 1966), p. 2. 29 Staal, Rules Without Meaning, R itual, Mantras and the Hum an Sciences (N ew York: Peter Lang, 1989), p. 389. 30 Gombrich, Theravda Buddhism (London and N ew York: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1988), pp. 25-7. 31 L. Dumont, World Renunciation in Indian Religions, in his Hom o Hierarchicus (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1980), pp. 267-86. 32 See L. Dumont, Hom o Hierarchicus; Milner, Status and Sacredness, A general Theory o f Status Relations and an Analysis o f Indian Culture (N ew York and O xford: O xford U niversity Press, 1994); Carman and


Brill, 19S5).

Noirs to pages i$-2

Marglin (eds.), Purity and Auspiciousness in Indian Society (Leiden:

33 Fuller, The Cam phor Flame (Princeton University Press, 1992), p. 3. 34 Ibid. p. 4. 35 See Faur, The Rhetoric o f Im m ediacy, pp. 13 -14 . 3 6 Von Stietencron, Hinduism: On the Proper Use of a Deceptive Term, in Sontheimer and Kulke, H induism Reconsidered, pp. 11- 2 7 . 37 See Staal, Sanskrit and Sanskritization \ Jo u rn a l o f Asian Studies, 23.3 (1963), pp. 26 1-75. 38 For a discussion of these levels see Faur, The Rhetoric o f Im m ediacy, pp. 80-7. 39 Biardeau (d.), Autour de la Desse hindoue (Paris: Editions de PEcole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, 1981), pp. 9 -16 . See also HiltebeitePs important w ork on the Draupadi cult in Tamilnadu: Hiltebeitel, The Cult o f D raupadi, vol. 1: Mythologies from Gingee to Kuruksetra (Chicago and London: U niversity of Chicago Press, 1988); vol. 11: On H indu Ritual and the Goddess (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1991). 40 See Appadurai, Korom and Miles (eds.), G ender; Genre and Pow er in South Asian Expressive Traditions (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1991). 41 Guha, The Prose of Counter-Insurgency, in Dirks, Eley and Ortner (eds.), Culture, Power; History: A R eader in Contemporary Social Theory (Princeton University Press, 1994), p. 337. 42 Inden, Im agining India. 43 For a good summary of the structuralist position (Marx, Dumont) versus theories of practice (Bourdieu, Giddens), and how these relate to the caste system, see Milner, Status and Sacredness. 44 See the Indian feminist journal M anushi: Women Bhakta Poets, 50, 51, 52 (Jan.-June 1989). 45 See Bechert, The Date of the Buddha Reconsidered, Indologica Taurinensia, 10 (1982), pp. 29-36. 46 Gombrich, Theravda Buddhism , p. 6. 47 Thapar, Interpreting Early In dia , pp. 136 -73. 48 Kalhana, R aj atarangini. Dutt (trs.), Kings o f Kashmira: Being a Translation o f the Sanskrita Work Rjataragini o f Kalhana Pandita, 3 vols. (1879; Delhi: M L B D , reprint 1990).


Notes to pages 2 }-N

1 Ancicnt origins
1 Writing on the idea of the trace in relation to origin the French philosopher Derrida writes: the trace is not only the disappearance of origin, it means . . . that the origin did not even disappear, that it was never constituted except reciprocally by a non-origin, the trace, which thus becomes the origin of the origin; Derrida, O f Gram m atology (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976), p. 61. 2 Wheeler, The Indus Civilization; The Cam bridge History o f India Supplementary Volume (Cambridge University Press, 1953); Dales and Kenoyer, Excavations at Mohenjo Daro, Pakistan, Museum Monograph (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993). 3 Parpola, Deciphering the Indus Script (Cambridge University Press, 1994), p. 8. 4 Jarrige and Santoni, The Antecedents of Civilization in the Indus Valley, Scientific Am erican, 243.8 (1980), pp. 10 2 -10 . See Allchin and Allchin, The Rise o f Civilization in India and Pakistan (Cambridge University Press, 1982), pp. 105-7. 5 Allchin and Allchin, The Rise o f Civilization in India and Pakistan, pp. 166-225. Parpola, Deciphering the Indus Script, pp. 9 -12 . 6 A sko Parpola and Russian scholars have argued that the script is Dravidian. See Parpola, Deciphering the Indus Script. Subash Kak in a number of papers has argued that the Indus script is of an IndoEuropean language and that the script bears some close resemblances to the Brahmi script, the precursor of devanagari in which Sanskrit is commonly written. See his On the Decipherment of the Indus Script - A preliminary Study of its Connections with Brahm i, The Indian Jo u rn al o f History o f Science, 22.1 (1987), pp. 51-6 2. 7 Renfrew, Archaeology and Language; The Puzzle o f Indo-European Origins (London: Jonathan Cape, 1987), p. 185. 8 Allchin and Allchin, The Rise o f Civilization in India and Pakistan, p. 183. 9 Marshall, M ohenjo-Daro and the Indus C ivilization, 3 vols. (London: University of O xford Press, 19 31), vol. 1, p. 52. See also Allchin and Allchin, The Rise o f Civilization in India and Pakistan, pp. 2 1 3 - 3 1 5* On the seals see Fairservis, The Roots o f Ancient India (University of Chicago Press, 1975), pp. 274-7. F r a discussion of the proto-Siva see Hiltebeitel The Indus Valley proto-Siva , Re-examination through Reflection on the Goddess, the Buffalo, and the Symbolism 278

Notes to pages 2 9 -3 7 of the vahanas'y Anthropos, 73.5-6 ( 1 97H), pp, 767-79; Srinivasan, Unhinging Siva from the Indus ( livili/.ation', Jo u rn al of the Royal Asiatic Society o) Great Britain and Ireland, 1 (1984), pp. 77-89. 10 Parpola, Deciphering the Indus Script, pp. 248-50. 11 Ibid. pp. 256 -71. 12 For a discussion of this motif see ibid. pp. 246-8. 13 Wheeler, The Indus C ivilization, p. 92. 14 Poliakov, The Aryan Myth (N ew York: Basic Books, 1974). 15 Shaffer, Indo-Aryan Invasions: M yth or Reality?, in Lukcs (ed.), The People o f South Asia: The Biological Anthropology o f India, Pakistan and N epal (N ew York and London: Plenum Press, 1984), pp. 77-90. 16 Inden, Im agining In dia, p. 89. 17 Tripathi, The Painted Grey Ware: A n Iron A ge Culture o f Northern India (Delhi: Concept Publishing C o., 1976). 18 Shaffer, Bronze Age Iron from Afghanistan: Its Implications for South Asian Proto-history, in Kennedy and Possehl (eds.), Studies in the Archeology and Paleoanthropology o f South Asia (N ew Delhi: O xford and IB H Publishers, 1983), pp. 65-10 2. 19 Shaffer, Indo-Aryan Invasions: M yth or Reality?, p. 88. 20 Parpola, Deciphering the Indus Script, pp. 15 2 -3 . 21 Renfrew, Archaeology and Language, p. 192. 22 Parpola, Deciphering the Indus Script, pp. 142-59. For the horse argument specifically see pp. 15 5-9. 23 Emeneau and Burrow, D ravidian Borrowings from Indo-Aryan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1962). 24 Parpola, Deciphering the Indus Script, pp. 167-8. 25 Ait.Ar. 5.5.3. 26 The standard German translation of the R g Veda Samhit is by Geldner, D er R igveda: Aus dem Sanskrit ins Deutsche bersetzt und mit einem laufenden Komm entar versehen, 3 vols., Harvard Oriental Series, 33, 34, 35 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 19 51). English translations are by Mller and Oldenberg, Vedic Hymns. 2 vols., SBE 32, 46 (Delhi: M L B D , reprint 1973) and there is an accessible translation of some hymns by O Flaherty: The R ig Veda. 27 See Kak, On the C hronology of Ancient India, Indian Jo u rn al o f History o f Science, 22.3 (1987), pp. 222-34. See also Frawley, G ods,

Notes to pages j 9-44

Sages and Kings: Vedic Secrets o f Ancient Civilization (Salt Lake C ity: Passages Press, 1991 ). 28 Mller, The Six Systems o f Indian Philosophy (London: Longmans, Green and C o., 1899), pp. 44-7. 29 Staal, Rules without M eaning, p. 37. 30 Ait.Ar. 3 .1.1. 31 Coburn, Scripture in India: Towards a Typology of the Word in Hindu L ife, in Levering (ed.), Rethinking Scripture; Essays from a Com parative Perspective (Albany: S U N Y Press, 1989), p. 112 . 32 This older group comprises fourteen texts, namely the Brhadranyaka, Chndogya, Aitareya, Taittirya, Kaustaki, Kena, Isa, Katha, Svetsvatara, Prasna, M undaka, M ahnryana, M ndukya and Maitr. O f these the oldest group are from the Brhadranyaka to the Kaustaki. 33 Jamison, Ravenous Hyenas and the w ounded Sun (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1991), p. 17. 34 R V 2 .1.1.3 . 35 Ap. S.S. See Heesterman, The Broken World o f Sacrifice: Essays in Ancient Indian R itual (Chicago and London: U niversity of Chicago Press, 1993), p. 10. 36 Staal, Rules Without M eaning, p. 68. A lso Staal (d.), A G N I. The Vedic Ritual o f the Fire A ltar, 2 vols. (Berkeley: University of California Press). 37 Staal, A G N I. For a concise summary of the soma sequence see Staal, Rules without M eaning, pp. 8 1-3. 38 Wasson, S o m a th e D ivin e Mushroom o f Im m ortality. EthnoM ycological Studies 1 (N ew York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1968). 39 Parpola, Deciphering the Indus Script, p. 149. 40 Staal, Exploring Mysticism (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1975), pp. 187-93. 41 For an account of the horse sacrifice see P. E. Dumont, L A svam edha: description du sacrifice solennel du cheval dans le culte vedique d'aprs les textes du Yajurveda blanc, Paris: Geuthner 1927. 42 R V 1.16 2; Sat.Br. 13.2.8; 13.5.2. 43 The horse sacrifice and spnboftc^cpulation with the horse seems to have been a com mon Indo-European theme with parallels as far away as Ireland. See O Tlaherty, Women, Androgynes and O ther M ythical

Notes to pages 44-50 Beasts (London and Chicago: University of ( Chicago Press, 1980), p. 168. 44 Ren Girard, Violence and the Sacred (Baltimore and London:

The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977).

45 See Bourdieu, Language and Sym bolic P ow er (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1 991), pp. 117 -2 6 . 46 B A U 3.9 .1-2. 47 Mller, The Six Systems o f Indian Philosophy, p. 47. 48 Sat.Br. 5 .1.1.1- 2 .

49 R V 4-550 R V 9.74. 51 R V 10 .51. 52 R V 4.26. 53 R V 1.32. 54 For an account of the dityas see Brereton, The R gvedic Adityas (N ew Haven: American Oriental Series 63, 1981). 55 R V 7.S 9 . 56 R V 10.129. 57 R V 10.129 , in O Flahertys translation The R ig Veda, p. 25. 58 Bhatta-Bhskara on the Taittirya-Samhit 1.5 .1 quoted by Gonda, Mantra Interpretation in the Satapatha Brhm ana (Leiden: Brill,
1 9 8 8 ) , p. 1.

59 Durkheim, The Elem entary Forms o f the Religious L ife (London: Allen and Unwin, 1962), p. 237. 60 See O Tlaherty, Women, Androgynes and O ther M ythical Beasts, p. 2 1.

61 Eliade, Cosmical H om ology and Yoga,,Journ al o f the Indian Society o f Oriental Arts, 5 (1937), pp. 188-203.
62 R V 10.90. 63 See Lincoln, Myth, Cosmos and Society: Indo-European Themes o f Creation and Destruction (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1986), pp. 14 1-4 . 64 Dumzil, Mtiers et classes fonctionnelles chez divers peuples IndoEuropens, Annales (conomies, Socits, Civilisations i j e anne), 4 (O ct.-D ec. 1958), pp. 716-24. 65 E. Aguilar i Matas, R g-vedic Society (Leiden: Brill, 1991), pp. 1 1 - 1 2 . 281

Notes to pages 51-61

3 D harm a 1 Witzel, On Localization of the Vedic Texts and Schools, in Pollet (ed.), India and the Ancient World, Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 25 (Department Orientalistik, Leuven University: 1987), pp. 194-200. 2 Cow ard, Lipner and Young (eds.), H indu Ethics (Albany: S U N Y Press, 1991), p. 2; Zaehner, H induism , pp. 102-24. 3 Heesterman, The In ner Conflict o f Traditions: Essays in Indian Ritual, Kingship and Society (University of Chicago Press, 1985), p. 3. 4 M S 1.1.2 . 5 Gautama D harm a Sutra 1 .1- 2 . 6 Manu 6.7 and 6.12. 7 Baud.SS. 1.23. See Staal, Rules Without M eaning, pp. 355-9. 8 Staal, Rules Without M eaning, pp. 364-5. 9 Lingat, The Classical L a w o f India (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973), pp. 73-4. 10 M. Derrett, Appendix by the translator', in Lingat, The Classical L aw o f In dia, p. 273. 1 1 Gaut.Dh. 28.49-51; M anu 12 .112 . 12 Doniger, The Law s o f M anu, p. xlvi. 13 M anu 1.85; 1 . n o . 14 M anu 10.97. 15 B. K. Smith, Classifying the Universe: The Ancient Indian Varna System and the Origins o f Caste (N ew York and O xford: O xford University Press, 1994). 16 Vis.Smrt. 2.4-14 . 17 E. V. Daniel, Flu id Signs: Being a Person the Tamil Way (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), pp. 235-6. 18 Marriott, Hindu Transactions: D iversity without Dualism , in B. Kapferer (ed.), Transaction and M eaning: Directions in the Anthropology o f Exchange and Symbolic Behaviour (Philadelphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1976), pp. 109-42. 19 Halbfass, Tradition and Reflection, p. 350. 20 Manu 10.24; 3-1 5 21 Ibid. 3.17; 11.68; 8.371-2. 22 Ibid. 10.16. 23 Ibid. 5.85. 282

Notes to pages 6 7 -7

24 Ibid. 10.51.
25 Giles, The Travels o f Fa-hsien (399-414 A l))t or Record o f the Buddhist Kingdoms (Cambridge University Press, 1923), p. 21. 26 L. Dumont, Homo Hierarchicus, p. 54. 27 Olivelle, The Asrama System: The History and Hermeneutics o f a Religious Tradition (N ew York, O xford: O xford University Press, I 993X PP- 7>24" 8. 28 Ibid. pp. 19-20. 29 Ibid. pp. 80-1. 30 Ath.V. 11.5 . 31 Gonda, Change and Continuity in Indian Religion (1965 N ew Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, reprint 1985), p. 285. 32 Ibid. 3 .1-2 . 33 Ibid. 6.8. D onigers translation, The Law s o f M anu, p. 117 . 34 Manu 6.13; 6.23-4. 35 Ibid. 3.77-8; 12.86. 36 Ibid. 1.88. 37 Ibid. 6.43-4; 5738 L. Dumont, World Renunciation in Indian Religions, in Homo Hierarchicus, pp. 267-86. 39 Manu 3.60. 40 Biardeau, Hinduism. The Anthropology o f a Civilization (N ew Delhi: O xford University Press, 1989), p. 50. 41 Manu 5.147-8. 42 Ibid. 5.165-6. 43 Leslie, Suttee or Satl: Victim or Victor?, in Leslie (ed.), Roles and Rituals fo r H indu Women (London: Pinter Publishers, 1991), pp. 17 5 -9 1. See also H aw ley (ed.), Satl, the Blessing and the Curse: The Burning o f Wives in India (N ew York, O xford: O xford University Press, 1994). 44 Leslie, The Perfect Wife: The Orthodox H indu Woman According to the Strldharm apaddhati o f Tryam bakayajvan, O xford University South Asian Series (Delhi: O xford U niversity Press, 1989), pp. 30 5-16 . 45 Fuller, The Cam phor Flame, pp. 106-27. A lso Dirks, The H ollow Crow n.


Notes to pages bti-77

46 R V 1.32 .15 . O Flaherty s translation, /'he Rig Veda, p. 15 1. 47 R V 10 .17 } ; Ath.V. 6.87 8. 48 Gupta and Gom brich, Kings, Power and the Goddess, South Asia Research, 6.2 (1986), pp. 123-38. 49 M anu 7.5-7. D onigers translation, The Law s o f M anu, p. 128. 50 Inden, Im agining In d ia , p. 228. 51 Stein, Peasant, State maf Society in M edieval South India (Delhi: O xford U niversity Press, 1980), pp. 22, 264. 52 Inden, Kings and Omens, in Carman and Marglin (eds.), Purity and Auspiciousness in Indian Society (Leiden: Brill, 1985), p. 38. 53 Kantorowicz, The King's Two Bodies (Princeton University Press, 1957). 54 Ath.V. 3.4.2. 55 M anu 7.35. 56 Ibid. 7.12-2 4 . 57 L. Dumont, H om o Hierarchicus, pp. 97-108. 58 Heesterman, The Inner Conflict o f Tradition, p. 7. 59 Ibid. p. 9. 60 See Indens review of Heestermans The In n er Conflict o f Tradition: Inden, Tradition Against Itself, American Ethnologist, 13.4 (1986), pp. 762-75. 61 Dirks, The H ollow C row n, p. 249.

4 Yoga and renunciation

1 YS 2.15. 2 Bronkhorst, The Two Traditions o f Meditation in Ancient India (Delhi: M L B D , 1993), pp. 68-1 n . 3 Masefield, D ivin e Revelation in Pali Buddhism (London: Allen & Unwin, 1986), p. 160. 4 The hymn reads: Long-hair holds fire, holds the drug, holds sky and earth. Lon g hair reveals everything, so that everyone can see the sun. Lon g hair declares the light. These ascetics, swathed in wind, put dirty red rags on. When gods enter them, they ride with the rush of the wind. C razy with asceticism, we have mounted the wind. O ur bodies are all you mere mortals can see. 284

Notes to pages yH-Hi He sails through the air, looking down on all shapes below. The ascetic is friend to this god and that god, devoted to what is well done. The stallion of the wind, friend of gales, lashed on by gods - the ascetic lives in the two seas, on the east and on the west.
He moves with the motion of heavenly girls and youths, of wild beasts. Long-hair, reading their minds, is their sweet, their most exciting friend. The wind has churned it up; Kunamnama prepared it for him. Long-hair drinks from the cup, sharing the drug with Rudra. O Flaherty, The R ig Veda, pp. 137-8. If Kunamnama is a hunch-backed goddess, we have here perhaps a precursor of the crooked tan trie goddess Kubjika. 5 Staal, Exploring Mysticism, pp. 185-7. 6 Werner, Yoga and the Rg Veda: A n Interpretation of the Kesin H ym n, Religious Studies, 13 (1976), pp. 289-93. 7 R V 1 . 11 4 . 8 Heesterman, The Broken World o f Sacrifice, pp. 178-9. On the Vratyas generally see Eliade, Yoga: Im m ortality and Freedom (Princeton University Press, 1973), pp. 10 3-4 ; Feuerstein, Yoga, The Technology o f Ecstasy (Wellingborough: Crucible, 1989), pp. 1 1 1 - 1 4 ; Hauer, D er Vratya, vol 1: D ie Vratya als nichtbrahmanische Kultgenossenschaften arischer H erkunft (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer Verlag, 1927); Heesterman, Vratya and Sacrifice, Indo-Iranian Jo u rn al, 6 (1962), pp. 1-3 7 . 9 Eliade, Yoga, p. 103. 10 Gombrich, Theravada Buddhism , pp. 57-8. 1 1 Wheatley, The Pivot o f the Four Quarters (Chicago: Aldine Publishing Co., 19 71), p. 8. See also Eck The C ity as Sacred Centre, in B. Smith and H. B. Reynolds (eds.), The City as Sacred Centre: Essays on Six Asian Contexts (Leiden, N ew York and Cologne: Brill, 1987). 12 Gombrich, Theravada Buddhism , pp. 5 1-8 ; Olivelle, The Samnydsa Upanisads, pp. 30-3. 13 B. S. Turner, Religion and Social Theory (London: S A G E Publications, 1991), p. 163. 14 Gokhale, The Early Buddhist Elite, Jo u rn a l o f Indian History, 42.2 (1965), pp. 391-402.


Notes to pages N2-9

15 Gom brich, Theravada Buddhism , pp. jN 9. 1 6 Sutta Nipata 3.9. 17 For the Ajlvikas see Basham, History and Doctrines o f the Ajivikas (Delhi: M L B D , 1981). For the Jains, see Dundas, The Jains (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1992). For the materialists, see Chattopadhyaya, Lokayata (N ew Delhi: Peoples Publishing House, 1959)18 Thapar, Interpreting Early In dia, p. 63. 19 Bronkhorst, The Two Traditions o f M editation, pp. 45-53. 20 B A U 6.5.1-4. 21 Ibid. 1 .1 .1 - 2 . 22 Ch.U. 1.1.9 -10 . Translation by Radhakrishnan, The Principal Upanisads, pp. 3 3 1- 3 . 23 Staal, Rules Without M eaning, pp. 117 -2 0 . 24 Sat.Br. 10 .2 .5 .11. 25 B A U 4 .1.1-7 . 26 Ch.U. 6 .13 .1-3 . 27 Ibid. 1.12 .1- 5 . 28 Tait.Up. 3.6.1 and 3.8.1. Translation by Radhakrishnan, The Principal Upanisads, pp. 557, 149, 150. 29 R V 10.16. 30 For a discussion of this debate and papers presenting various viewpoints, see O Flaherty (ed.), Karma and Rebirth in Classical Indian Traditions (Berkeley and Los Angeles: U niversity of California Press, 1980). A lso Boyer, Etude sur Porigine de la doctrine du samsara, Jo u rn al Asiatique, 2 (1901), 451-99. 31 B A U 3.2.13. 32 Ibid. 4.4.3. 33 Svet.U. 5.7. 34 Heesterman, The Inner Conflict o f Tradition, p. 40. 35 Ibid. p. 34. 36 M anu 2.87-100; 6.42-9. 37 Biardeau, H induism , the Anthropology o f a C ivilization, p. 159. See also Biardeau and Malamoud, L e Sacrifice dans Vlnde ancienne (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1976). 38 L. Dumont, H om o Hierarchicus, p. 272. 286

Notes to pages tiy-107

39 Inden, Imagining India, p, 203.

40 Olivclle, Samnyasa Upanisadst p. 21. 41 B A U 4 .5 .1-2 , in Radhakrishnan, The Principal Upanisads, p. 281. 42 Gombrich, Theravada Buddhism , p. 107. 43 Vis.Smrt. 96.12. 44 Nar.U. in Olivelle, Samnyasa Upanisads, pp. 19 1-2 . 45 Olivelle, Samnyasa Upanisads, p. 94. 46 For a brief though clear account see Hartsuiker, Sadhus, H oly Men o f India (London: Thames and Hudson, 1993), pp. 3 1-5 . 47 ZL4 /4.4.23. 48 Kat.U. 2 .3 .10 - n . 49 Ibid. 1.3.3-9. 50 Svet.U. 2.8-14. 51 Mait.U. 2 .7 -3 .1- 2 ; 6.18. 52 r e 1.2. 53 Svatmarama, T&e Hathayogapradipika (Madras: The A dyar Library Research Centre, 1972). 54 See Silburn, K undalini, Press, 1988). 55 Tait.U. 1.6 .1. 56 Hat. Yog. 3.32-8. 57 //. 3.42. 58 Ibid. 4.65-102. 59 Juergensmeyer, Radhasoam i Reality, T&e Logzc 0/ (Princeton University Press, 1991), 9 0 -1. 60 r e 3.16-49. 61 F 5 bhdsya 1.45. Modern Faith Energy from the Depths (Albany: S U N Y

5 Narrative traditions and early Vaisnavism

1 Mahabharata, Critical Edition with Pratika In dex, 28 vols. (Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1923-72). A n English translation of this edition was initiated by Van Buitenen, of which three volumes have appeared. Van Buitenen, The Mahabharata. 2 Mbh. 3.52-79. 3 Ibid. 1.68-72.


Notes to pages 07-16

4 Van Buitenen, The Bhagavadgita, p. 3. 5 There are several editions and translations of the Rdmdyana in India. A recent translation based on the Vlmiki text is under the general editorship of Robert R Goldman: Goldman (ed.), The Rdmdyana o f Vdlmiki: A n Epic o f Ancient In dia, vol. 1: Balakdnda (Princeton U niversity Press, 1984); Pollock, vol. 11: Ayodhyknda (Princeton University Press, 1986); Pollock, vol. 1 1 1 : Aranyakdnda (Princeton University Press, 1991). 6 P. Richman (ed.), M any Rdmayanas (Delhi: O xford University Press, 1991). 7 Ananda Ashram in N ew York State, for example, stage regular productions of the Rdmdyana. 8 Scheckner, The Future o f Ritual (London and N ew York: Routledge, I 993X PP- * 3i~83. 9 Whalling, The Rise o f the Religious Significance o f Ram a (Delhi: M L B D , 1980). 10 Hardy, Viraha B hakti (Delhi: O xford University Press, 1983), p. 86. A lso Hacker, Prahldda, Werden und Wandlungen einer Idealgestalt, Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur in Mainz, Abhandlungen der Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaftlichen Klasse 13 (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, i960). A lso Bailey, On the Object of Study in Purnic Research; Three Recent Books on the Purnas, R ev iew o f the Asian Studies Association o f Australia, 10.3 (1987), pp. 10 6 -14. 1 1 Vis. Pur. 1.30 -2. 12 See Hardy, The Religious Culture o f India: Pow er; L o ve and Wisdom (Cambridge University Press, 1994), p. 29. 13 Vis.Pur. 2.214; M anu 1.37-40. For an account of Indian cosmologies see Gombrich, Ancient Indian C osm ology', in Blacker and Loewe (eds.), Ancient Cosmologies (London: George Allen and Unwin, I 975X PP- n o -4 2 . 14 Vis.Pur. 3; 4 .21-4 . 15 R V 9 1.2 2 .16 -2 1. 16 Ibid. 1.154. 17 Vay.Pur. 2.36.74-86. 18 Bh.G . 4.7. Translation by van Buitenen, The Bhagavadgitd, p. 87. 19 Mat.Pur. 1 . 1 1 2 .1- 19 (from the Sat.Br. 1.8 .1.1-6 ). 34;


Notes to pages / 16 -2 7 10 Vis.Pur. 1.4 .3 - 11,2 5 - 9 ,4 5 - 9 . 21 Hardy, The Religious Culture of India, pp. 299-301. 22 Vis.Pur. 1.4 .17; 1.19.80; 5.9.28. 23 Hardy, Viraha Bhakti, pp. 17 -18 and passim. 24 Ast. 4.3.98. 25 M ahaniddesa, vol. 1, ed. de la Valle Poussin (London: Pali Text Society, 1916) 89, 92. 26 Bh.G. 10.37. 27 Mahhhas. 4.3.98. 28 See Hardy, Viraha Bhakti, pp. 18 -19 . 29 Ch.U. 3 .117.6 . 30 Bh.G . 1 1 .2 1 , 24, 3 1. 31 Sat.Br. 12.3.4; 13.6.1. 32 Manu 1.10 . 33 Mbh. 12 .34 1. 34 Mahnar.U. 201-69. 3 5 Tawney (trs.), Som adevas Kath Saritsgara, or Ocean o f Streams o f Story, ed. Penzer, 10 vols. (1924-8; Delhi: M L B D , reprint 1968), 5 4 .19 ,2 1-3 . 36 Sat.Br. 13.6 .1. 37 Mbh. 12.337, 63-4. 3 8 See Schrader, Introduction to the Pncardtra and the Ahirbudhnya Samhit, (Madras: A dyar Library and Research Centre, reprint 1973),


39 See Neeval, Yamuna's Vedanta and Pncartra: Integrating the Classical with the Popular (Montana: Scholars Press, 1977). 40 Jay.Sam . 4.8. 41 Bh.G . 2 .2 1-2 . Translation by van Buitenen, The Bhagavadgt, pp.

75- 742 Bh.G . 2 .3 1-3 . 43 Ibid. 4.9-23. 44 Ibid. 11.5 -4 9 . 45 Ibid. 9.33. 46 Ibid. 18.54-5, 65. 47 Ibid. 3.3; 13.5-19 289

Notes to pages 12H-40 6 The love of Visnu 1 Zvelebil, The Smile o f M ur ugan (Leiden: Brill, 1973), pp. 13 1-5 4 . 2 Ibid. p. 4; Hardy, Viraha Bhakti, pp. 12 4 -3 1. 3 Kailasapathy, Tamil H eroic Poetry (Oxford University Press, 1968), pp. 258-64.

Ibid. pp. 6 3 - 4 .

5 Hardy, Viraha Bhakti, p. 14 1. 6 Parpola, Deciphering the Indus Script, pp. 225-32. 7 The twelve are: Poykai, Putam, Pey, Tiruppan, Tirumalicai, Tontaratippoti, Kulacekaran, Periyalvar, Antal, Tirumarikai, Nammalvar and Maturakavi. 8 See Meenakshi, Andal: She Who Rules, Manushi, Tenth Anniversary Issue: Women Bhakta Poets, 50-2 (Delhi: Manushi Trust, 1989), pp. 34-8. 9 Tyagisananda, Aphorisms on the Gospel o f D ivin e L o ve or the N arada Bhakti Sutras (Madras: Ramakrishna Math, 1972), pp. 82-3. 10 Fuller, The Cam phor Flame, p. 165. 1 1 Neeval, Yamuna's Vedanta and Pancaratra, ch. 1. 12 For an account of Nammalvar and the place of his text in the Sri Vaisnava tradition, see Carman and Narayanan, The Tamil Veda (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1989). 13 Mumme, Haunted by Sankaras Ghost: The Srivaisnava Interpretation of Bhagavad Gita 18.66, in Timm (ed.), Texts in Context: Traditional Hermeneutics in South Asia (Albany: S U N Y Press, 1992), pp. 69-84. 14 Stoler-Miller, L o ve Song o f the D ark L o rd (N ew York: Columbia University Press, 1977). 15 For some good translations of these poets see Bhattacharya, L o ve Songs o f Chandidas (London; Allen and Unwin, 1967); Bhattacharya, L o ve Songs o f Vidyapati (London: Allen and Unwin, 1963); Dim ock & Levertov, In Praise o f Krishna: Songs from the Bengali (N ew York: Anchor Books, 1967). 16 Bhattacharya, L o ve Songs o f Chandidas, p. 107. 17 Majumdar, Caitanya: His L ife and Doctrine (Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1969). 18 Siegel, Sacred and Profane Dimensions o f L o ve in Indian Traditions as Exem plified in The Gltagovinda o f Jayad eva (O xford University Press, 1978), pp. 137-77. 290

Noirs to pages 140-6 19 For an account of the Sahajiyas and the hauls, see Dasgupta, Obscure Religious Cults (Calcutta: M ukhopadhyay, 1969); Dimock, The Place o f the H idden Moon (Chicago University Press, 1966). 20 Bon Maharaj (trs.), The Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu vol. 1 (Vrindaban: Institute of Oriental Philosophy, 1965). 21 See Joshi, Le rituel de la dvotion krsnaite (Pondicherry: Institut Franais dIndologie, 1959), pp. 32-3. 22 Haberman, Acting as a Way o f Salvation: A Study o f Rgnuga Bhakti (N ew York and O xford: O xford U niversity Press, 1988), pp. 87-93. 23 Barz, The Bhakti Sect ofVallabhdcarya (Faridabad: Thompson Press, 1 976). 24 Williams, The N e w Face o f H induism , the Swam inarayan Religion (Cambridge University Press, 1984). 25 Wilson (trs.), The L o ve o f Krishna: The Krsnakarnamrta o f Lilasuka Bilvam angala (Leiden: Brill, 1973). 26 See Deleury, The Cult o f Vitoba (Poona: Deccan College Postgraduate and Research Institute, i960); Ranade, Mysticism in India: The Poet-Saints o f Maharashtra (Albany: S U N Y Press, reprint 1983). 27 Tulpe (trs.), Jn an eshw ars Gita: A Rendering o f the Jnaneshw ari (Albany: S U N Y Press, 1989). 28 For an excellent personal account of the pilgrimage see Karve, On the Road: A Maharashtrian Pilgrimage, in Zelliott & Bernsten (eds.), Essays on Religion in Maharashtra (Albany: S U N Y Press, 1988). A lso Fuller, The Cam phor Flame, pp. 2 10 -14 . 29 For an account of Raidas, see Callewaert & Friedlander, The L ife and Works o f Raidas (Delhi: Manohar, 1992). 30 Vaudeville, Kabir, vol. 1 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974). 31 Hess & Singh, The Bijak o f K abir (San Francisco: N orth Point Press,
1 9 8 3 ) , p. 42 .

32 Van der Veer, Gods on Earth: The M anagement o f Religious Experience and Identity in a North Indian Pilgrimage Centre (London: Athlone, 1988). Fuller, The Cam phor Flame, pp. 163-9. 33 Hill, The H oly Lake o f the Acts o f Ram a, an English translation o f Tulsi D ass Ramacaritmanasa (Calcutta: O xford University Press, 1952).


Notes topages 14 6 -5 6

34 Lamb, Personalizing Ram ayan: Ramnamis and Their Use of the Ramacaritmanas\ in Richman, M any Ram ay anas, p. 237. 35 Scheckner, The Future o f R itual, pp. 13 1-8 3 .

7 Saiva and tantric religion

1 See Madan, Non-renunciation (Delhi: O xford University Press, 1 9 8 7 ) ,
pp. 1 7 - 4 7 .

2 Benedict, Patterns o f Culture ( 19 3 4 ; London: RKP, reprint 1 9 7 1 ) , pp. 56-8. 3 Siva-Purana, trs. A Board of Scholars (Delhi: A IT M , 1970) 2.16 -43. 4 O Flaherty, Asceticism and Eroticism in the M ythology o f Siva (Oxford U niversity Press, 1973). Reissued as Siva, the Erotic Ascetic (N ew York: O xford University Press, 1981). 5 The linga is often described as an aniconic representation, meaning that it is not a human representation. The linga can therefore be described as an aniconic icon in the sense of icon as a spiritualization5 of a physical form.
6 Tait.Sam. 4 .5 .1 ; Vaj.Sam. 16 .1 - 6 6 .

Ja b .U . 3.66.

8 See G o n d a , T h e Satarudriya\ in N a g a to m i, M a tila l and M a sso n (eds.), Sanskrit and Indian Studies: Essays in H onour o f D aniel H. H. Ingalls (D o rd re c h t: R e id e l, 19 79 ), p p . 7 5 - 9 1 . 9 Svet.U. 6.23. 10 Bhandarkar, Vaisnavism, Saivism and M inor Religious Systems (19 13 ; N ew Delhi: Asian Educational Services, reprint 1983), p. 165. 1 1 Sribha. 2.2.37. 12 Kur.Pur. 1.14.30 ; 1.20.69. 13 Sanderson, Saivism and the Tantric Traditions; A . Sanderson, Purity and Power Am ong the Brahmans of Kashm ir, in Carrithers, Collins and Lukes (eds.), The Category o f the Person: Anthropology, Philosophy, History (Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp. 190-8. 14 Sanderson, Saivism and the Tantric Traditions, pp. 664-90. 15 Mbh. santiparvan 349.64. 16 Chakraborti, Pasupata-sutram with Pancartha-bhasya o f Kaundinya. 17 Kur.Pur. 1.5 1.10 . 18 Pas.Su. 1.9.


N otes to pages 15 6 -6 6

19 Kur.Pur. 1.14.30; 1.20.69. 20 Pas.Su. 4.1-24 . 2 1 Sanderson, Saivism and the Tantric Traditions*, pp. 665-6. 22 Manu 11.7 3 . 23 O Flaherty, Siva, the Erotic Ascetic, pp. 12 3-2 7 . Kramrisch, The Presence o f Siva (Princeton University Press, 1981), pp. 259-65. 24 Sanderson, Saivism and the Tantric Traditions, pp. 667-9. 25 Snellgrove, Indo-Tibetan Buddhism : Indian Buddhists and Their Tibetan Successors (London: Serindia Publications, 1987), pp. 152-60. 26 On the obscure terminological symbolism or intentional language (sandhabhsa) of the Tantras see Bharati, The Tantric Tradition (London: Rider, 1970), pp. 164-84. 27 One text which does is the M rgendrgama. See Brunner-Lachaux, Mrgendrgama: section des rites et section du comportement (Pondicherry: Institut Franais d Indologie, 1985). 28 Bharati, The Tantric Tradition, p. 27: tantric sadhana follows a single pattern, Vajrayna Buddhist and Hindu tantric sadhana is indistinguishable, in spite of the immense disparity between the two philosophies . 29 Norm an, The Elder's Verses, vol. 11 (London: Luzac, 19 71), p. 123. 30 Brunner, U n Tantra du nord: le Netra Tantra, Bulletin de VEcole franaise d'Extrm e-O rient, 61 (1974), pp. 125-96. 31 Sanderson, Purity and Pow er, pp. 19 0 -216 ; D yczkow ski, The Doctrine o f Vibration (Albany: S U N Y Press, 1987), pp. 14 - 17 . 32 D yczkow ski, The Canon o f the Saivgam a and the Kubjiktantras o f the Western Kaula Tradition (Albany: S U N Y Press, 1988), pp. 3 1- 2 .
33 S an d e rso n , S aivism and the T an tric T ra d itio n s , p. 668.

34 Brunner-Lachaux, Somasambhupaddhati, 3 vols. (Pondicherry: Institut Franais dIndologie, 1963, 1968, 1977). See also Davis, R itual in an Oscillating Universe: Worshipping Siva in M edieval India (Princeton University Press, 1991).
35 Sp.Nir. p. 50. 36 S a n d e rso n , S aivism and the T an tric T ra d itio n s , p. 668.

37 Parry, The Aghori Ascetics of Benares, in Burghardt and Cantille (eds.), Indian Religion (London: Curzon, 1985), pp. 51-78 ; Parry, Sacrificial Death and the Necrophagus Ascetic, in Parry and Bloch (eds), D eath and the Regeneration o f L ife (Cambridge University

Notes to pages 166-74

Press, 1982); Parry, Death in Banaras (Cambridge University Press, i 994)> PP- 2 J I - 7 1 / 1 38 See Padoux, L e Coeur de la Yogini. Yogimhrdaya a v e c le commentaire D ipika d Am rtananda (Paris: Diffusion de Boccard, 1994), pp. 8-10. 39 F or both forms of Trika ritual see Sanderson, Saivism and the Tantric Traditions, pp. 672-74; Sanderson, Mandala and the Agamic Identity of the Trika of Kashm ir, in Padoux (ed.), Mantras et diagrammes rituels dans VHindouisme (Paris: C N R S , 1986), pp. 169-207; Flood, Body and Cosmology in Kashmir Saivism (San Francisco: Mellen Research U niversity Press, 1993), pp. 269-301. 40 Madan, T h e ideology of the Householder among the Kashmiri Pandits, in Madan (ed.), Way o f L ife, King, Householder; Renouncer (Delhi: Vikas Publishing House, 1982), pp. 223-49. For a modern exponent of the Pratyabhijna, see Lakshman Jee, Kashm ir Saivism: The Secret Supreme (Albany: Universal Saiva Trust, 1988). 41 Peterson, Poems to S iva, The Hymns o f the Tamil Saints (Princeton University Press, 1989), pp. 13 -14 . 42 Feudalism as a model for understanding south Asia has, however, been questioned. See Stein, Peasant, State and Society in M edieval South India. 43 Zvelebil, The Smile o f M urugan,pp. 185-95. 44 For an account of Kerala Tantrism see Unni, Introduction, in Ganapati Sastri (ed.), Tantra Samuccaya o fN arayan a (Delhi: N ag Publishers, 1990), pp. 1-7 5 . 45 Ramanujan, Speaking o f Siva (Harmonds worth: Penguin, 1973), p. 134. 46 Turner, The R itual Process (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974), pp. 80-154. 47 Ramanujan, Speaking o f Siva , pp. 6 1-5 . 8 The Goddess and Sakta traditions 1 Gross, Hindu Female Deities as a Resource for the Contem porary Rediscovery of the Goddess, Jou rn al o f the American Academ y o f Religion, 46.3 (1978), pp. 269-92. 2 O Flaherty, Women, Androgynes and O ther M ythical Beasts, p. 91. For a very good general account of the Goddess and goddesses, see Kinsley, H indu Goddesses: Visions o f the Fem inine in the H indu Religious Tradition (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of


Notes to pages 7 5 -^ 7 California Press, 1986). See also N, N. IllutU i h.iryya, History of the Sakta Religion (Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1974); Payne, The Saktas (Calcutta: Y M C A Publ ishing I louse, 1933). 3 O Flaherty, Women, Androgynes and O ther Mythical Beasts, p. 91. 4 Vijnanananda (trs.), The Srim ad D evi Bhagavatam , Sacred Books of the Hindus 26 (N ew Delhi: Oriental Books, reprint 1977). See C . M. Brown, The Triumph o f the Goddess: Canonical Models and Theological Visions o f the D evi-B hagavata Purana (Albany: S U N Y Press, 1990), for a comparison of the myth in other Puranas. 5 R V 1 .113 .19 ; 2.27.1; 7.60.5; 8.47.9. 6 Sat.Br. ; 7 R V 10.59. 8 Sat.Br. 9 K in sle y , H indu Goddesses, pp. 107-9; I 52 510 Hiltebeitel, The Cult o f D raupadl, vol. 1 (University of Chicago Press, 1988), p. 318. 1 1 Dbh.Pur. v.23.60. See C. M. Brown, The Triumph o f the Goddess,

119 .

12 Sanderson, Saivism and the Tantric Traditions, pp. 674-8. 13 Goudriaan and Gupta, H indu Tantric and Sakta Literature (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1981), pp. 79-80. 14 D yczkow ski, The Canon o f the Saivdgam a, pp. 87-92. 15 Sanderson, Saivism and the Tantric Traditions, p. 687. 16 Ibid. p. 689; Goudriaan and Gupta, H indu Tantric and Sakta Literature, pp. 59-64. 17 Goudriaan and Gupta, H indu Tantric and Sakta Literature, pp. 64-8. This text was made comparatively famous by an early British exponent and scholar of Tantrism, Arthur Avalon (alias Sir John Woodroffe), who published it in his Tantrik Texts series (no. 8, Madras: Ganesh & Co., 1918). 18 Sastri and Srinivasa Ayyangar (trs.), Saundaryalahari o f Sri Sam kara-Bhagavatpada (Madras: Theosophical Publishing House, 1 977)5 Shastri, The Lalitasaharanama with the Sauhhagyahhaskarahhasya o f Bhaskararaya (Bombay: N irnaya Sagar, 1935). A lso see Brooks, The Secret o f the Three Cities: An Introduction to Sakta Hinduism (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1990).

2 95

Notes to pages 1 tij-9 4

19 Sec Bharati, H indu Views and Ways and the H m du-M uslim Interface (Santa Barbara: R ossE rickson, 1982), pp. 23-40. 20 Sanderson, The Visualization of the Deities of the Trika, in Padoux (d.), LTm age D ivin e: culte et mditation dans l'Hindouism e (Paris: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 1990), pp. 80-2. 21 Padoux, Vc, the Concept o f the Word in Selected H indu Tantras (Albany: S U N Y Press, 1990), pp. 105-24. 22 O Flaherty, The Law s o f M anu (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1991) 10.88. 23 TA 29.97-8. 24 Brooks, The Secret o f the Three Cities, p. 28. 25 Sanderson, Purity and Pow er, pp. 190-8. 26 Eliade, Yoga, p. 258. 27 BA U 4.3.21: A s a man embraced by his beloved knows neither the outer nor the inner, so a man embraced by the essence of wisdom knows neither the outer nor the inner/ (M y translation.) 28 See Bharati, The Tantric Tradition, pp. 236-40. 29 This picture of the socially subordinate role of women has been recently challenged with regard to Buddhist Tantra. See Shaw, Passionate Enlightenm ent: Women in Tantric Buddhism (Princeton University Press, 1994). 30 Sanderson, Purity and Pow er, p. 202; Gupta, Women in the Saiva/Skta Ethos, in Leslie, Roles and Rituals fo r H indu Women, pp. 19 3 -2 10 . 31 Kau. 16 .7-10 . 32 Dasgupta, Obscure Religious Cults Dimock, The Place o f the H idden , Moon. 33 Das, Problematic Aspects of the Sexual Rituals of the Bauls of Bengal, Jo u rn al o f the American Oriental Society, 112 .3 (1992), pp. 388-432. 34 O Flaherty, H indu Myths (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1975), pp. 2 5 0 -1. 35 K B T , p . 24. 36 Pocock, Body, M ind and Wealth: A Study o f B e lie f and Practice in an Indian Village (Oxford: Blackwell, 1973), p. 42; Eliade, Yoga, pp. 349- 5296

Nates ta pages 19 4 - 2 10 37 Fuller, The Cam phor Flame, pp. 91 1. 38 Babb, The D ivine Hierarchy (New York: Colum bia University Press, 1975), p. 128. 39 Hiltebeitel, The Cult o f Draupadi.

9 Hindu ritual
1 Staal, Rules Without M eaning .

2 Ap.Gr.S. 1 . 1 . 1 1 . 3 Manu 2.9. 4 Turner, The Forest o f Symbols (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1970), p. 93. 5 For this reason Pierre Bourdieu has referred to rites of passage as rites of institution . Bourdieu, Language and Sym bolic Power, pp. 117 -2 6 .
6 See D u v v u r y , Play , Symbolism and Ritual: A Study o f Tamil Brahman

Womens Rites o f Passage ( N e w Y o r k : P e te r L a n g , 19 9 1) . 7 Manu 2.16; 26; 29. P an d ey , H indu Samskaras (D e lh i: M L B D , 1969). 8 Duvvury, Play, Symbolism and Ritual, p. 182. 9 As.Gr.S. 1.19 .1- 7 ; M anu 2.36. 10 M anu 2.67.
1 1 L e slie , Roles and Rituals fo r H indu Women, p . 1.

12 Duvvury, Play, Symbolism and Ritual, p. 229.

13 Manu 3 .4 - 5 .

14 L. Dumont, H om o Hierarchicus, p. 119 . 15 Ibid. p. n o . 16 Parry, D eath in Banaras, pp. 15 1-9 0 .

1 7 K n ip e , Sap in d ik a ran a: T h e H in d u R ite o f E n t r y in to H e a v e n , in R e y n o ld s and W au gh (eds.), Religious Encounters with Death ( U n iv e rs ity P a rk : P e n n sy lv a n ia State U n iv e r s it y P re ss, 19 7 7 ), p p.

111-2 4 .
18 See F re e m a n , Purity and Violence: Sacred P ow er in the Teyyam

Worship o f M alabar, P h .D . d isse rta tio n (P h ilad e lp h ia: U n iv e r s it y o f

P e n n sy lv a n ia , 1 9 9 1) , p p . 1 1 3 - 1 4 .

19 See O Flaherty, Karma and Rebirth in Classical Indian Traditions, pp.

x v iii- x x , 3 - 3 7 .

20 Fuller, The Cam phor Flam e, pp. 64-6. 297

Notes to pages 2 0 - 2 1
21 See Vaidyanathan, Sri Krishna: The Lord o/ ( uruvayur (Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1992). 22 See V. Turner, The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-structure (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969), pp. 80-154. 23 See Eck, Banaras: City o f Light (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984). 24 F or a first-hand account of the Kumbha Mela in 1959 see Bharati, The Ochre Robe (Santa Barbara: Ross Erikson, 1980), pp. 22 8 -31. 25 Daniel, F lu id Signs, pp. 245-78. 26 Pingree,Jyotihsdstra. Astral and Mathematical Literature, A H istory of Indian Literature 4 (Weisbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1981). 27 Davis, R itu al in an Oscillating Universe, pp. 10 1-9 . 28 Berreman, H indus o f the Himalayas: Ethnography and Change, 2nd edn (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: U niversity of California Press, 1972), pp. 378- 929 Girard, Violence and the Sacred, p. 1. 30 Hiltebeitel, O n the Handling of the Meat, and Related Matters, in Two South Indian Buffalo Sacrifices, L'U om o, 9.1/2 (1985), pp. V i - 9931 Hiltebeitel, O n the Handling of the Meat, and Related Matters, p. 19 1. 32 Lincoln, M yth, Cosmos and Society: Indo-European Themes o f Creation and Destruction (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1986), p. 186. 33 O Flaherty, O ther People's Myths: The C ave o f Echoes, (N ew York: Macmillan, 1988), p. 99. 34 Bourdieu, Language and Symbolic Power, pp. 117 -2 6 . 35 See Obeyesekere, Medusa's H air (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1984) for an account of possession as both cultural formation and an expression of personal biography. 36 Freeman, Performing Possession: Ritual and Consciousness in the Teyyam C om plex, in Bruckner, Lutze and M alik (eds.), Flags o f Flame; Studies in South Asian Folk Culture (N ew Delhi, Manohar Publishers, 1993), p. 116 . 37 See Alper (ed.), Understanding Mantras (Albany: S U N Y Press, 1989), PP- 3" 538 Ap.S.S. 2 4 .1.8 -15 .


Notes to pages 22 2-34


Manu 2.8 5.

40 R V 3.62.10. 41 Tait.Up. 1.8.


M andukya Upanisad 1 in Radhakrishnan, The Principal Upanisads ,

pp. 6 9 3 - 7 0 5 .

43 Killingly, Om: the sacred syllable in the Veda, in Lipner (ed.), A N et Cast Wide: Investigations into Indian Thought In M emory o f D a v id Friedm an (Newcastle upon Tyne: Grevatt and Grevatt, 1987), p. 14.

10 Hindu theology and philosophy

1 Halbfass, India and Europe, A n Essay in Understanding (Albany: S U N Y Press, 1988), pp. 263-86.

Ibid. p. 3 5 .

3 R V 10.129. Translation by O Tlaherty, The R ig Veda, pp. 25-6. 4 Ch.U. 6 .1.1-2 . Translation by Radhakrishnan, The Principal Upanisads, p p . 4 4 7 -9 . 5 R V 10 .125. 6 Ch.U. 2.23.3; ^I -3- See Coward and Raja, The Philosophy o f the Grammarians, Encyclopaedia of Indian Philosophies (Princeton University Press, 1990), pp. 10 1-5 . 7 Ch.U. 2.23.3. 8 Vakpad. 1 .1 3 1 . 9 C ow ard and Raja, The Philosophy o f the Grammarians, pp. 4 0 -1. 10 Ibid. pp. 1 0 - 1 1 . See also Coward, The Sphota Theory o f Language (Delhi: M L B D , 1986); Raja, Indian Theories o f Meaning (Madras: A dyar Library and Research Centre, 1963), pp. 95-148. 1 1 On these three positions see Pereira, H indu Theology: Themes, Texts and Structures (Delhi: M L B D , reprint 1991), pp. 37-40. 12 Clooney, Theology A fter Vedanta: A n Experim ent in Comparative Theology (Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications, 1993), p. 21. 13 See Larson and Bhattacharya, Sam khya; A Dualist Tradition in Indian Philosophy (Delhi: M L B D , 1987), pp. 3 -4 1. 14 Ch.U. 7.25; 6.2-4. 15 Bh.G . 7.4. 16 Sam.Kar. 20 -1. 17 Ibid. 62-4.


Notes to pages 2 3 6 -4 1 18 Rukmani, Yogavdrttika of Vijdnabhikfu, vol. 1 (Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1981), pp. 9 -12 . 19 See Clooney, Theology A fter Vedanta, pp. 23-30. 20 Jha, Purva Mimdmsa in Its Sources (Baaras Hindu University Press, 1942). There are English translations by Jha of Kumrila Bhattas Slokavdrtika (Calcutta: Asiatic Society, 1907) and Kumrila s Tantravdrtika, 2 vols. (Delhi: M L B D , reprint 1983). 21 Halbfass, Tradition and Reflection, p. 32. 22 Clooney, Thinking Ritually; Rediscovering the Prva Mimdmsa o f Ja im in i (Vienna: De N obili Research Library, 1990), p. 192. 23 Raja, Indian Theories o f M eaning, pp. 15 1- 7 3 . 24 See Clooney, Binding the Text, Vedanta as Philosophy and Com m entary, in Rimm (ed.), Texts in Context, Traditional Hermeneutics in South Asia (Albany: S U N Y Press, 1992), pp. 47-68; Halbfass, H um an Reason and Vedic Revelation in the Philosophy o f Sankara, Studien zur Indologie und Iranistik 9, (Reinbeck: Verlag fiir Orientalistische Fachpublikation, 1983); Murty, Revelation and Reason in A dvaita Vedanta (Delhi: M L B D , 1974). 25 Potter, A dvaita Vedanta Up to Samkara and his Pupils, Encyclopaedia of Indian Philosophies 3 (Delhi: M L B D , 1981), p. 6. 26 Ibid. p. 116 . F or translations into English of the Brahm a Stra Bhasya, see Thibaut, Vedanta Stras, SBE 34, 38 (Delhi: A V F Books, 1987); Gambirananda, Brahmastrabhasya (Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1965). 27 Bharati, H indu Views and Ways and the H indu-M uslim Interface, pp. 23-40. N . Brown, The Saundaryalahari or Flood o f Beauty (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1958). 28 B SB 1.1 in Thibaut, Vedanta Sutras, p. 3 (with some amendment of the translation). 29 See Halbfass, Tradition and Reflection, p. 302. 30 Granoff, Philosophy and Argum ent in Late Vedanta (Boston and London: Reidel, 1978). See Dasgupta, History o f Indian Philosophy, vol. 11 (1922; Delhi: M L B D , 1988) for a history of the later Advaitins. 31 Thibaut, The Vedanta Stras with Comm entary by Ram anuja, SBE 48 (Delhi: M L B D , reprint 1976); Van Buitenen, Ram anuja on the Bhagavadgita: A Condensed Rendering o f his Gitabhdsya with Copious Notes and an Introduction (Delhi: M L B D , 1974); Van


Notts to pages 2 4 3 -5 2 Buitenen, Ramanuja's Vedantasa nig rah a (Poona: Deccan College Postgraduate and Research Institute, 1 956). 32 Thibaut, The Vedanta Sutras with Comm entary by Ram anuja, p. 436. 33 For Ramanujas theology see Carman, The Theology o f Ram anuja: An Essay in Interreligious Understanding (N ew Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1974). 34 See Hunt Overzee, The Body D ivin e, The Sym bol o f the Body in the Work o f Teilhard de Chardin and Ram anuja (Cambridge University Press, 1992). 35 See Dasgupta, History o f Indian Philosophy, vol. 11, pp. 175-9. 3 6 The A nuvykhyna is translated into French by Siauve, La voie vers la connaissance de D ieu selon VAnuvykhyna de M adhva (Pondicherry: Institut Franais dTndologie, 1957). The Gt commentary is translated into English by Rau, The Bhagavad Gt and Commentaries According to S ri M adw acharyas Bhsyas (Madras: Minerva Press, 1906). 37 Rau, The Bhagavad Gt and Commentaries, pp. vii-xviii. 38 For a thorough account of Madhvas teaching see Dasgupta, A History o f Indian Philosophy, vol. iv , pp. 10 1-2 0 3 . 39 For Saiva Siddhnta theology see Dunuwila, Saiva Siddhnta Theology (Delhi: M L B D , 1985); Dasgupta, A History o f Indian Philosophy, vol. v ; Dhavam ony L o ve o f G o d according to Saiva Siddhnta (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 19 71). F or Kashmir Saiva theology see D yczkow ski, The Doctrine o f Vibration, and The Stanzas on Vibration (Albany: S U N Y Press, 1992). 40 See Flood, Body and Cosmology in Kashm ir Saivism , pp. 5 5-74. 41 See Masson and Patwardhan, Sntarasa and Abhinavagupta's Philosophy o f Aesthetics (Poona: Deccan College 1969); Gnoli, The Aesthetic Experience According to A bhinavagupta, Serie Orientale Roma 9 (Rome: Is M E O , 1956). 42 See, for example, Chatterjee (ed.), Contemporary Indian Philosophy (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1974). 43 Radhakrishnan, Eastern Religions A n d Western Thought (Oxford University Press, 1939), pp. 20 -1.

11 Hinduism and the modern world

1 For an account of R o y and his w ork see Craw ford, Ram Mohan R oy: Social, Political and Religious Reform in Nineteenth Century India 301

Notes to pages (New York: Paragon House, 1987); Killingly, Rammohun Roy in H indu and Christian Tradition: The / ape Lectures 1990. Newcastle c upon Tyne: Grevatt and Grevatt, 1993. 2 Kopf, The Brahm o Samj and the Shaping o f the M odern Indian M ind (Princeton University Press, 1978). 3 Collet, The L ife and Letters o f Raja Rammohan R oy (Calcutta: Sadharan Brahmo Samaj, 1962), p. 471. 4 Richards (ed.), A Sourcebook o f M odern H induism (London and Dublin: Curzon Press, 1985), p. 56. 5 For an account of Ramakrishnas life see Mller, Rm akrishna, His Life and Sayings (London: Longmans, Green and C o., 1900); Nikhilananda, The Gospel o f Sri Rmakrishna (N ew York: Rmakrishna-Viveknanda Center, 1980); and H ixon, Great Swan (Boston: Shambala, 1993). For an interesting, if somewhat reductionistic, psychological analysis of Rmakrishna, see Sil, Rm akrishna Paramahamsa, A Psychological Profile (Leiden: Brill, 1 991). 6 See Bharati, The Hindu Renaissance and its Apologetic Pattern, Jou rn al o f Asian Studies, 29.2 (1970), pp. 267-87; also Bharati, The Ochre R obe, p. 116 . 7 See Sharpe, Western Images o f the B hagavad Gita (London: Duckworth, 1985), p. 68. 8 Gandhi, A n Autobiography or The Story o f M y Experiments with Truth (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1982). The standard biography of Gandhi in eight volumes is Tendulkar, M ahatma: L ife and Work o f Mohandas Karam chand G andhi (Bombay: V. K. Javeri, 19 5 1-4 ). For a one-volume biography see Fischer, The L ife o f M ahatma G andhi (Bombay: Bharatya Vidya Bhavon, 1959). 9 Quoted in Richards, The Philosophy o f G an dhi (London and Dublin: Curzon Press, 1982), p. 48.

Bharati, H indu Views and Ways and the H indu-M uslim Interface,
pp. 1 7 - 1 8 .

1 1 On origins of the Mah Sabh see Gordon, The Hindu Mahasabha and the Indian National Congress, 19 15 to 1926, M odern Asian Studies, 9.2 (1975), pp. 14 5 -7 1. 12 See Anderson and Damle, The Brotherhood in Saffron: The Rashtriya Swayam sevak Sangh and H indu Revivalism (Boulder: Westview Press, 1987).


Notts to pages 263-69 13 Graham, H indu Nationalism and Indian Politics (Cambridge University Press, 1990), p. iN. 14 For an account of the Jana SaAgh and BJP see ibid. 15 See, for example, the graphic accounts of Shiv Sena violence in Manushi, 74-5 (1993), pp. 22-32. 16 Guardian, 7 December 1992, p. 22. 17 See Manushi, 79 (Novem ber-Decem ber 1994). 18 Gold, Rational Action and Uncontrolled Violence: Explaining Hindu Communalism, Religion, 22 (1991), pp. 357-76. A lso Gold, Organized Hinduism: From Vedic Truth to Hindu N urture, in Martz and A ppleby (eds.), Fundamentalisms O bserved (University of Chicago Press, 1991), pp. 531-9 3. 19 Nesbitt and Jackson, Sketches of Formal Hindu N urture, in H ayward (ed.), World Religions in Education: Religions in Britain, SH A P Mailing (London: Commission for Racial Equality, 1986), p. 25. 20 Knott, Hinduism in Britain, in H ayw ard (ed.) World Religions in Education: Religions in Britain, S H A P Mailing (London: Commission for Racial Equality, 1986), p. 10. 21 For studies of Hindus in diaspora, see, for example, Knott, Hinduism in Leeds (University of Leeds Press, 1986); Vertovec, H indu Trinidad (London: Macmillan, 1992).

See Kumar, The History o f Doing: An Illustrated Account o f M ovements fo r Women's Rights and Feminism in India, 1800-1990 (London: Verso Press, 1994).

23 Bharati, The Hindu Renaissance and Its Apologetic Patterns, p. 273. 24 Roth and Bothlingk, St. Petersburg Worterbuch (Delhi: M L B D , reprint 1991). 25 Lanman, A Sanskrit Reader; Text and Vocabulary and Notes (Massachussets: Harvard University Press, 1884). 26 See Staal (ed.), A R eader on the Sanskrit Grammarians (Cambridge, Mass., and London: M IT Press, 1973), pp. 138-272. 27 Williams, Parameswara-jnyana-goshti: A D ialogue o f the Know ledge o f the Supreme L ord in which are compared the claims o f Christianity and H induism (Cambridge: Deighton, Bell and Co., 1856). 28 For an excellent account of western scholarship and India, see Halbfass, India and Europe.

Ibid. p. 10 2 .


Notes to pages 2 6 9 -7 2

30 Nietzsche, The Twilight of the Idols and the Anti Christ (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1968) pp. 56-9. 3 1 For an account of the influence of the East on Jung, see Coward, Ju n g and Eastern Thought (Albany: S U N Y Press, 1984). 32 Melton, The Attitude of Americans Toward Hinduism from 1883 to 1983 with Special Reference to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (unpublished paper, 1985); Riepe, The Philosophy o f India and Its Impact on American Thought (Springfield: Charles C. Thomas, 1970). 33 Jayakar,/. Krishnamurti: A Biography (Delhi: Penguin, 1987). 34 See for example Capra, The Tao o f Physics - A n Exploration o f the Parallels Between M odern Physics and Eastern Mysticism (London: Flamingo Paperback, 1983). 35 Ghose, The L ife D ivin e (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1973); Ghose, Synthesis o f Yoga (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 19 71); Ghose, On H im self Com piled from Notes and Letters (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972). 36 M iller and M iller (eds.), The Spiritual Teaching o f Ram ana Maharshi (Boulder and London: Shambala, 1972), pp. 3 -14 . 37 Yogananda, The Autobiography o f a Yogi (London: Rider and Co., 1950). 38 J. Johnson, The Path o f the Masters: The Science o f Surat Shabd Yoga (Beas: Radha Soami Satsang, 1975). See also Juergensmeyer, Radhasoam i Reality. 39 The literature put out by these movements and teachers is vast, though there are comparatively few scholarly studies. On Rajneesh see Thompson and Heelas, The Way o f the H eart (Wellingborough: Aquarian Press, 1986). On Hare Krsna see Knott, M y Sweet L ord (Wellingborough: Aquarian Press, 1986). For Anandamayima see Das Gupta, The M other As R evealled to M e (Banaras: Shree Anandamayi Sangha, 1954). For the Maharishi, see Eban (ed.), M aharishi the Guru. The Story o f M aharishi Mahesh Yogi (Bombay: Pearl Publications, 1968). Accounts of some of these groups can be found in Barker (ed.), N e w Religious Movements: A Perspective fo r Understanding Society (N ew York: Mellen, 1982); Needham, The N e w Religions (N ew York: Crossroad Press, 1984); Hardy, H o w Indian are the new Indian Religions?, Religion Today. A Jou rn al o f Contemporary Religions, 1.2/3 (O ct.-D ec. 1984), pp. 15 -16 . On the idea of holy madness in the teaching and life of many western gurus see Feuerstein, H oly Madness (N ew York: Arkana, 1990). 304

Plate i A Saiva holy man by the Kanyakum arl Temple, Tamilnadu

Plate 2 A mythical representation o f Patanjali, the Gram m arian and possibly the author o f the Yoga Su tra, as half man, half serpent. Siva gave him this boon so that he would not crush insects with his feet. From the Siva N ataraja Temple, Cidam baram , Tamilnadu

P late 4 Lord Krsna with Radha. A popular representation

Plate j L ord Siva the ascetic. A popular representation

P late 6 Siva Nataraja, the Dancing Siva. Bronze, c. 1 100 c e

Plate 7 A Siva liga covered in petals, Cidam baram

Plate 8 Lord Ganesa This unusual twelfth- or thirteenth-century representation from O rissa, shows him with five heads, with his Sakti seated upon his knee


Plate 9 The Goddess D urga slaying the buffalo demon. Siva Nataraja Temple, Cidam baram

Plate 10 The ferocious Goddess Cam unda seated upon a corpse. O rissa, eighth or ninth century c e



Hanuman, the monkey-god

Plate 12 The Descent o f the Goddess Ganga or A rju nas Penance, Mahabalipuram, Tamilnadu, seventh century c e In this rock carving we can see an ascetic (Arjuna?) practising austerity (tapas) and representations o f various divine beings, including N agas in the Ganges itself

Plate 13 The Kapalesvari Temple, Madras

Plate 15 A young girl offering a flower to Lord Krsnas footprint

Plate 16 A serpent (naga) shrine, Bhagamandala, Karnataka

Plate iy Teyyam Shrine housing three teyyam deities, Nileshwaram , Kerala

Plate 1 8 Teyyam Shrine, housing the two teyyam deities. Kerala

Plate 20 The teyyam deity Visnumurti

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As'valayana Grhya Stra 38, 204 As'valayana Srauta Stra 38, 30, Asvins 47 Atharvasiras Upanisad 15 5 Atharva Veda Samhit 36, 37, 42, 79, 222 atimrga 155, 158, 162 tman see also self 85, 86, 95, 241, 260 Aurangzeb 143 auspicious, the 15 auspiciousness 66-7 Australia 5, 266 avatar a 1 15 - 17 , 118 of Siva 156 Avesta 30 avestan 27 Ayodhya 108, 264, 265 Ayurveda 233 Babji Masj id 264-5 Badrinath 92, 213, 240 Balarma 116 , 117 , 120 Bali 114 , 116 bandhu 36, 48, 75 Banerjee, R. D. 24 Basava 17 1, 172 Baudhyana 38, 54, 55 Bauls 140, 191 Beatles, the 271 Bechert, Heinz 20 belief(s) 6, 7, 12, 199, 258, 264 about life after death 207-8 Benedict, Ruth 149 Bengali 27 Bengali Vaisnavism 135, 138-41 Berger, Peter 9 Berreman, G. D. 217 Besant, Annie 270 Besnagar inscription 119 Bhagavad Gita 14, 96, 107, 115 , 119 , 124-7, 136, 137, 143, 239, 240 Gandhi influenced by 259 Madhvas commentary on 245 Smkhya in 234 Sankaras commentary on 240 Bhagavn 103, 114 , 124 Bhgavata(s) 119, 123-4 Bhgavata Pur ana n o , 120, 133, 140, 181 Madhvas commentary on 245 Bhagavatl 103, 114 Bhairava 16 1, 162, 165 bhakti 11,9 6 , 103, 113 , 125, 130, 13 1, 132, 135, 138, 139, 143, 144, 173 as rejection of formal religion 13 1 ecstatic 132 in Saiva Siddhnta 162, 168-71 in Svetsvatara-Upanisad 153 poetry 136 Sankaras view of 242 Tamil culture and 129; see also Bhagavata(s), Bengali Vaisnavism, Caitanya, Sri Vaisnavasa Bhakti Stra 133 bhakti-yoga 126, 137 Bhaktivednta Swami Prabhupada 272 Bhandarkar Oriental Institute 105 Bhrat 240 Bharati, Agehananda 187, 241, 367 Bharaty Vidya Bhavan 267 Bhrgava family 105, 106 Bhartrhari 228-9 Bhskararya 190 Bhattacharya, K. C. 248 Bhvaviveka 240 Bhavisya Pur ana n o Bhiksyatana 157 Bhma 106 blooga 155 Bhojadeva 162, 247 Bhrgu 105 bhr 45, 222 bhuvas 45, 222 Biardeau, Madeleine 18, 65, 88, 89 bija 1 1 1 Bilvamangala 142 bindu 188 birth rites 200, 202, 203 BJP 263-4 Blavatsky, Madame 270 bliss 85 blood offerings 18, 165, 183-4, 208, 216 substitute blood 210 Bloomfield, L. 268 Boar avatar a 116 body 48-9, 57, 65, 77, 188-9 as chariot 95 corresponds to cosmos 48 creation of divine 160 creation of in next world 207 identified with om 84 in bhakti 133 in Ramanujas theology 244; see also esoteric anatomy, Kundalim Boethlink, O. and R. Roth 268 Bohm, David 270 Bourdieu, Pierre 10, 201 Brahma n o , 115 , 150, 157, 176, 179 Brahma Purna n o Brahma Stra 125, 139, 14 1, 154-5 Madhvas commentary on 245 Ramanujas commentary on 243 Sankaras commentary on 240 brahmacrin 13, 62, 63 brahmacdrya; see also celibacy 62, 65, 156, 190, 260


Brahman(s) passim sramas and 62-j attitudes to sex 65-6 from cosmic man 48 ideal of 58-9, 62, 64 in class hierarchy 58-61 in Kerala 41, 54, 210 king and 72-4 overseer of vedic rites 42 renouncer and 87-8 true 82 Untouchable and 61 brahman 84-5, 10 1, 126, 133, 226, 228,230, 236,239 identified with Kali 257 in Ramanuja 243, 244, 245 in Sankara 241, 242 Brhmana(s)/Brhmana literature 36, 37, 38, 47-8, 54, 87, 179, 200 asceticism in 94 continuation in Upanisads 83 Goddess in 179 Brahmnda Purna n o brahmanicide 157, 165 Brahmanism 77, 90, 189 Brahmanization 148; see Sanskritization Brahmavaivarta Purna n o Brahmo Samj 252, 253-4, 257 Brahui 27 Brhadranyaka Upanisad 38, 40, 44, 51, 83, 84, 86,90,94, 153, 190 Sankaras commentary on 240 Brhaspati 45 Britain, Hindus in 6, 266 Brooks, Peter 105 Brown, N. 241 Buddha 20, 30, 61, 81, 82, 116 buddhi 233, 234, 235 Buddhism 17, 20, 48, 51, 76, 77, 81, 82, 86, 90, 92, 130, 13 1, 170, 224, 229, 232 Abhidharma 233 Buddhist Tantras 158 influence on Sankara 240 M ahynai59 Yogcra/Vijnanavda 229, 233 Theravda 119 , 161 Vajrayna 159 Caitanya 135, 139 cakra 98, 99, 100, 186 cakravrtin 68 Calcutta, Kl temple at 182, 192 Campantar 169 camphor flame 209 Cmund 177, 182 Candidas 138 Candragupta, King 52
Candragupta Maurya 52, 1 1 9 Candala 61

Carikam literature 129 -31, 180 caste/caste system 12, 58-61, 72, 73, 89, 135, 16 1,2 5 5 , 260 Goddess worship and 190, 191 rejected by bhakti 143, 169 causation, theories of 230 celibacy; see also brahmacarya 63, 65, 81, 190 Chalukyas 113 , 170 Chandogya Upanisad 40, 83, 119 , 153, 226, 233 Chinmayananda, Swami 272 Cholas 1 13 , 129, 169, 170 Christianity 6, 253, 255, 256, 257, 258, 259 Cidambaram 129, 170 Cidvilasananda, Swamini 272 Clive of India 250 Clooney, F. 231, 236, 237 Colebrooke, T. 268 colonialism 6, 19, 249 commentary, commentaries 230-1 communal religion 13 communalism 264-5 Congress Party 261, 263, 264 consciousness 94, 97, 167, 225, 228, 247 identified with Kali 168, 185-6 cosmology 48-9, 70, 10 1, m - 1 3 cremation ground 207, 214 cremation-ground asceticism 16 1, 165, 167, 17 1, 185-6 Cultural Studies 19 Cultural transformation thesis 32-3 Cuntarar 169 custom, as source of dharma 58 Da Avabhsa Kalki 272 Dd 144 Ddpanthis 144 Daksa 46, 149-50, 192, 199, 219 Dalits; see also Untouchables 59, 261 datida 71 darsana (system of theology) 224 six darsanas 2 31-2 darsana/darsanam (vision of deity) 209, 210, 2 1 1, 220, 221, 224 Dasanmi(s) 92-3, 148, 240 Dasaratha 108 Dsas 34, 45 Dassera 196, 212, 216 Datttreya 116 Davis, Richard 215 death; see also Yam'a 9, 13, 46, 92, 202, . 206-8 debts, three 13,'64 Deists 252 .


Delhi Sultanate 161 deva 13, 40, 44-7, 64, 66 devads 21 o Dev 17, 174, 175-8, 18 1, 186 myth of; see also Goddess, the 175-6 Devbhgavata Pur ana 175, 18 1, 192 Devmdhdtmya 175, 176, 18 1, 182 dharma n - 1 2 , 1 7, passim as cosmic principle 57 context-sensitivity of 57-8 definition of 52-3 gender roles and 65-6 idea of 52-3 in Bhagavad Gita 125-6 in Jaimini 236, 237 in Epics 105-7, I09 of king 67-9, 7 1-2 sources of 53-4 Dharma 105, 107 Dharma Castra 53, 55, 56-7, 62, 63, 64, 65, 68, 157, 200, 202, 254 Dharma Stra 53, 54, 55-7, 68, 200 Dhrtarstra 106, 107 Dhruva 46 diaspora, Hindu 266-7 dks 87, 122, 134 nirvana 164 samaya\ 164 see also initiation Dionysian cultures 149 Di