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Essays on Religion Literature and Law (Gunther-Dietz Sontheimer)

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Item Code: NAR569
Publisher: Manohar Publishers And Distributors
Author: Gunther-Dietz Sontheimer, Heidrun Bruckner, Anne Feldhaus and Aditya Malik
Language: English
Edition: 2004
ISBN: 9788173045219
Pages: 468
Other Details 9.00 X 6.00 inch
Weight 760 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

The present volume contains fourteen selected papers in English by the late G. –D. Sontheimer and follows up on his earlier volume King of Hunters, Warriors, and Shepherds: Essays on Khandoba (Delhi 1997). The articles chosen for publication here span a wide thematic and temporal range and will be of interest to students of Hinduism. The volume contains essays on the juistic personality of Hindu deities, the history and religion of pastoral groups in the Deccan and the interdependence of fold and scriptural religion. The articles reflect Sontheimer’s multidisciplinary approach, combining the methodologies of philology, anthropology, history, archaeology, epigraphy and iconography. Three other articles, illustrated by over a hundred photographs, focus on hero and sati-stones of the Deccan and Western India. Sontheimer identified the worship of heroes and satis as an important element of folk religion. He analyses the memorial stones in the context of other historical, social and religious references, physical ecology articles deals with aspects of oral literature. Two papers can be considered building blocks for a model of Hinduism that was finally worked out ‘Hinduism-The Five Components and their interaction’ (1989), the article which concludes the present volume.

The two volumes of Sontheimer’s collected papers are complemented by memorial volume entitled in the Company of Gods which is being published simultaneously by the same.

About the Author

Gunther-Dietz Sontheimer (1934-92) taught History of Religions and Philosophy of South Asia, traditional Hindu Law, and Marathi language and literature at the South Asia Institute of the University of Heidelberg. He was a scholar of Indian folk culture, especially the oral traditions, religion and customs of pastoral communities in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

Heidrun Bruckner is Professor of Indology and South Asian Studies at the University of Wurzburg. She is the author of a monograph in German on Turu folk religion (1995), and co-editor of Flags of Fame: Studies in South Asian Folk Culture(1993).

Anne Feldhaus is Professor of Religious Studies at Arizona State University. She has published several books on religious traditions in Maharashtra and translated Professor Sontheimer’s Pastoral Deities in Western India into English (1989).

Aditya Malik is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. His publications include a monograph on the pilgrimage of Pushkar (1993) and two recent books on the Devnarayan Katha.


The present volume continues the publication of selected English papers by G.-D. Sontheimer begun in 1997 with a volume of Essays on Khatuloba [EK]. Whereas the ten articles of the earlier volume had a thematic focus on the 'folk god' Khandoba, the fourteen articles chosen for publication in this volume span a wider thematic and temporal range. Five of these predate the earliest one in EK. They have been arranged in chronological order, starting with a lengthy and learned paper on the juristic personality of Hindu deities, first published in 1965 in a German journal of comparative law. This article provides an important link between Sontheimer's study of law and of Indology.

Sontheimer (b. 1934) was enrolled for both subjects—law and Indology—at the University of Tubingen from 1953-8. At the department of Indology and Comparative Religion he studied Sanskrit, Indian Philosophy and Religion (with H. von Glasenapp, 1891-1963, who retired in 1959), and Hindi. He graduated in law in 1958. In the same year, he gained a scholarship to study Hindu Law and Dharmasastra at the Law College and the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute of the University of Poona, where he stayed up to 1961. It was during this period that he met D.D. Kosambi, who first took him out for field research in archaeology, prehistory, and folk religion. This probably laid the foundation for his characteristic later approach to Indian studies. In 1961, he joined the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London, where he acquired a postgraduate diploma in English Law in 1962 and a Ph.D. in Hindu Law and Dharmasastra in 1964. The thesis for the Ph.D. was on The Joint Hindu Family (published in 1977, see LP).

In his 1965 article on the Juristic Personality of Hindu Deities (Religious Endowments in India), Sontheimer bases his discussion on a large number of Sanskrit sources, ranging from the Dharmasastras to Mimamsa and Vedanta texts (Brahmasutras with various commentaries), as well as on religious practice, popular belief and case-law. He observes that popular practice and the theories developed in the courts hardly agree and that `neither the ancient discussions of the Mimamsakas, nor the modem doctrines based in part on Western models, are apt for the situations we have been discussing' (1965, pp. 99-100).

The next major area of Sontheimer's research and publications was the history and religion of pastoral groups in the Deccan (Dhangars, Gollas, Kurubas) and the interdependence of folk religion and scriptural religion. After joining the South Asia Institute of the University of Heidelberg as a research assistant (German: `Assistene ) in 1965, Sontheimer stayed in Maharashtra for several months every year (1966-72). While heading the New Delhi branch of the South Asia Institute (1973-5), he conducted field-work not only in Maharashtra, but also in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh, and got involved deeply in the documentation and study of hero- and sate-stones. During the same period, he underwent 'habilitation' (approx. D. Lit.) with a thesis on the origin, history and environment of pastoral deities in Maharashtra and a lecture on hero- and sati-stones. In May 1974 he presented his inaugural lecture (on the bhakti saints of Maharashtra) and became a member of the faculty?

The thesis was published in German in 1976 (see LP) and a revised English version of it (tr. Anne Feldhaus) was published in 1989. A book (with L. Leshnik) on pastoralists and nomads in South Asia came out in 1975, another one (with S. Settar) on hero-stones in 1982 (based on a 1975 seminar). Several articles contributing to these two areas are included in the present volume: 'Some Notes on Biroba, the Dhangar God of Maharashtra' (1974) and 'Field Research in Maharashtra and Karnatak: the History of Some Pastoral Communities and Their Cults' (1974). For these two studies Sontheimer was especially indebted to D.D. Kosambi, with whom he had first encountered a group of Dhangars in 1958. In 'Field Research ...' Sontheimer stresses the need to combine the study of various types of sources such as written and oral ones and the methodologies of various disciplines such as anthropology, history, archaeology, iconography and epigraphy in order to gain information on the history of cults and on the communities associated with them. 'The Dhangars: A Nomadic Pastoral Community in a Developing Agricultural Environment' (1975) provides an ethnography of the HatIcar Dhangars. 'The Prehistoric Background to Pastoralism in the Southern Deccan in the Light of the Oral Traditions and the Cults of Some Pastoral Communities' (1980, with M.L.K. Murty) is a learned attempt to make use of the contemporary study of a community for the interpretation of prehistoric data and vice versa. Historical, iconographic and epigraphic analyses are combined for an understanding of hero- and sati-stones so widespread all over the Deccan and other parts of India. Sontheimer documented thousands of these memorials, many of which he was the first to discover. About a hundred such photographs are reprinted in the present volume as part of three articles: 'Some Memorial Monuments of Western India' (1976); If `Hero- and Sati-Stones of Maharashtra' (1982); and 'On the Memorials to the Dead in the Tribal Area of Central India' (1982). These articles provide useful descriptions and classifications of hero- and sari-stones and—as far as possible—analyse them in the context of other extraneous historical, social and religious references, physical ecology and literary sources. Sontheimer identified the worship of heroes and sates as an important element of folk religion.

Three articles focus more exclusively on textual studies, two of which deal with aspects of oral literature. Thus, in 'King Vikram and Kamalu inde, the Shepherd: Bhakti Episodes from an Oral Epic of the Dhangars of Maharashtra' (1981) Sontheimer gives an example of the folk variety of bhakti and comments, inter alia, on the difference between an orally presented text studied in its context and the version of a printed pamphlet. In The Ramayana in Contemporary Folk Traditions of Maharashtra' (1991) he studies oral varieties of the classical epic, trying to show 'how folk traditions in Maharashtra borrowed elements from the classical Ramayana and subordinated them to their own local beliefs, needs and conditions. By doing so the folk tradition retained its own identity in the past ...'. 'God, Dharma and Society in the Yadava Kingdom of Devagiri according to the Lilacaritra of Cakradhar' (1982) is part of Sontheimer's larger, unaccomplished project to prepare a complete translation of this medieval Marathi text.

Besides these three textual studies and translations, Sontheimer's literary interest and gift resulted in a number of translations he contributed to the. South Asian Digest of Regional Writing from 1972 onwards, but these are not included in the present volume. Among the unpublished manuscripts he left behind are a collection of Indian oral folktales in German translation as well as a translation of the short Marathi novel Jataya by Keshav Meshram. It was, among other things, his translations that gained Sontheimer the Tagore Literature Prize of the Indo-German Society in Germany in 1987.

In 1971, the Heidelberg indological trio—Hermann Berger (`Classical Indology'), Lothar Lutze (`Modern Indian Languages and Literatures') and G.-D. Sontheimer (`History of Indian Religion and Philosophy') that was to give shape to Heidelberg Indology for the next twenty years—had initiated the institution of 'Interregional Seminars', which were conducted annually during the summer term. The contributions were published in the newly founded South Asian Digest of Regional Writing, of which Sontheimer became the editor-in-chief (1972-92).5Even before the Digest, a publication series Neuindische Studien (Modern Indian Studies) had been founded and edited jointly by Berger, Lutze and Sontheimer. Most of the volumes consist of linguistic descriptions of oral languages, some of them studied for the first time (see LP).

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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