Kashi, one of the oldest living civilizational centres of the world, is the city
of Hindu ascetics. In each crowd of 240 people there is one ascetic. Every three
minutes, during the convenient hour of the day, one can meet a sanyasi or
a naked baba on the path along the Ganges. Every 22nd building in Kashi is the
abode of gods or of ascetics.
What make ascetic organization attractive?
Where does its strength lie?
What People's needs does it serve?
To what extent is it other-worldly?
How does it respond to social change?
What is its future?
A comprehensive and correlated answer to these questions
have been attempted in this richly illustrated study of ascetics and their
organizations. First of its kind, this is a total survey of ascetics of a sacred
city. The book offers far more than a numerical analysis. It reveals many
unusual aspects of ascetic organizations: Asceticism provides a safety-value of
individual liberty against the pressures of the rigidly hierarchic caste system.
Yet, both the Shaiva and the Vaishnava ascetics tend to be influenced by caste
considerations, present a much wider and more liberal outlook on the question of
linguism or regionalism. The ascetics dedicated to the spiritual pursuit of
moksha are also involved in the management of estates, business, fighting and
litigation, patronage of the arts and excellence and in political gamemanship.
They maintain various forms of linkage with the householders.
In the wake of
"modernization", the ascetic organization is shorn off much of its
earlier sacrosanet social functions. But nevertheless it still serves a most
fundamental need of man: it takes care of man when he is disowned by society,
rejected by his dear and near ones, and when he is utterly confused in meeting
the challenges of transience and death his future, his Ultimate Reality.
absorbing and penetrating book will fascinate not only the students of
anthropology of religion and Indian civilization but also everyone with an
About the Author:
Surajit Sinha (b. 1926), Ph.D. (North-western University, Evanston) is a
specialist in anthropological study of tribes and Indian civilization, and has
published around 100 papers and edited volumes in this field. Acclaimed for
originality, penetrating insight and subtle analysis Dr. Sinha has contributed
several concepts to Indian Anthropology. He was previously Director of the
Anthropological Survey of India where he initiated a number of research projects
concerning the study of Indian society and civilization. He is currently
Vice-Chancellor of the Visva-Bharati University.
Baidyanath Saraswati (b. 1932), Ph.D. (Ranchi University) specializes in
anthropology of religion and Indian civilization. His work has taken him
throughout India. Amond his other works are Pottery Techniques in Peasant
India (Co-author), Contributions to the Understanding of Indian
Civilization, Kashi: myth and reality of a classical cultural tradition,
Brahmanic Ritual Traditions: in the crucible of time, Potterymaking Cultures and
Indian Civilization, and Sacred Complex in Kashi (Co-author). Dr.
Saraswati was associated with the Anthropological Survey of India, and has been
successively Fellow and Visiting Fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced
Study. He is currently Visiting Fellow at Visva-Bharati.
The two authors of this book have been collaborating since 1959.
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