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Flags of Fame- Studies In South Asian Folk Culture

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Item Code: NAW752
Publisher: Manohar Publishers And Distributors
Author: Heidrun Bruckner, Lothar Lutze And Aditya Malik
Language: English
Edition: 2023
ISBN: 9788173040498
Pages: 503
Other Details 9.00 X 6.00 inch
Weight 640 gm
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Book Description
About The Book

This volume contains fifteen articles by eminent Indian and European scholars describing and analyzing various aspects of folk culture in South Asia. The principal emphasis is on folk religion, including both ritual performances and oral texts.

The articles cover a wide spectrum of regional traditions, ranging from Kerala and Karnataka in the southwest to Nepal and the Himalayas in the northeast, and a stunning variety of materials, including ball games, oral poetry, a ritual hunt, ghost and deity possession, and the traditions of itinerant genealogists. Several major themes typical of Indian folk religion bind the different articles together. Among these themes are references to a royal and martial paradigm for understanding divinity, and an emphasis on the god's immediate presence, in possession and in ritual.

Papers included are-Part I: King Khandoba's hunt and his encounter with Banai, the shepherdess; Ritual rivalry in Kerala; performing possession: ritual and consciousness in the Teyyam complex of Northern Kerala; Tai Paradevata; a goddess and her ritual impersonation in the Teyyam tradition of Kerala; Siva under refuse: the hidden Mahadeva and protective stones in Nepal: On Himalayan ball games, head-hunting , and related matters; God, ghosts and demons: possession in South Asia; Part II: The genres of Tulu folk-poetry: an introduction; Kannalaye: the place of a Tulu paddana among interrelated oral traditions; Text variability and authenticity in the Siri cut; Avatara, avenger, and king; narrative themes in the Rajasthani oral epic of Devnarayan; The episode of the golden Siva image in the Bagaravat; Itinerant Vaisnavite genealogists of the Ganges basin; Nasiruddin and Adinath, Nizamuddin and Kaniphnath; Hindu-Muslim religious syncretism in the folk literature of the Deccan; The king and the tribal bard: patterns of protest by two minorities.

About the Author

Heidrun Bruckner got her Ph.D. in 1978 from Marburg University. Besides oral literature and folk religion, her fields of interest include Indian philosophy, Sanskrit drama, South Asian performance traditions, and modern Indian literature. Since 1990, she is Professor of Indology in the Department of Indology and Comparative Religion at Tubingen University.

Lothar Lutze (1927) has been connected with India and Indian literature since 1960. He has specialised in Hindi and Bengali languages and literatures, folk literature and Indian and interculturally comparative literature and has established the study of modern South Asian languages and literature at the South Asia Institute, University of Heidelberg. At present he is the Institute's representative in New Delhi.

Aditya Malik (1959) obtained his Ph.D. in 1990 from the University of Heidelberg on the pilgrimage center of Puskara (in press). In 1991 he began work with G.D. Sontheimer on a project focused on the oral epic and cult of the folk deity Devnarayan in Rajasthan. He is currently research associate in the Department of Indology at the South Asia Institute, Heidelberg.


The present volume is based on the papers of two 'inter-regional' seminars and a two day conference conducted by Lothar Lutze and Heidrun Bruckner at the South Asia Institute, Heidelberg University in summer 1988 and 1989. The theme of the seminar was: "South Asian Folklore: Regional Varieties, Modes of Transmission and Performance." The majority of contributions focussed on descriptions and analyses of rituals and oral texts in a ritual context, all within the framework of the folk level of Hinduism. The term "folk culture" in the subtitle of the volume is meant to encompass e themes in the folk religion, folk literature and folk performances.

The backgrounds of the contributors are Indology, literature, linguistics, folklore, history and anthropology. Generally speaking, the ge in the book is expressive of an approach to South Asian studies which tries to cut across narrow compartmentalizations of disciplines in order to do justice to the continuity of Indian culture. This approach has been cultivated at the South Asia Institute from its inception in the early sixties; since the seventies the inter-regional seminars conducted by the Department of Indology have been for discussions and publications along these lines.

The editors would like to express their gratitude to Klaus Werner Muller for his editorial assistance; to Shirley Langwiesner for taking special efforts in preparing the index; and to Sandra Joost and Srilata Muller for carefully and promptly reading through the proofs. We would also like to thank Anne Feldhaus for her suggestions and support.

Gunther-Dietz Sontheimer died in Heidelberg on June 1, 1992, while this volume was under preparation. We dedicate the book to him.

The use of diacritics in transliteration and transcription follows generally acknowledged Indological conventions as found in the dictionaries of the respective languages. The application of diacritics with regard to place names, proper names, the names and epithets of deities, as well the use in the transcription of non-written languages and dialects of phonetic symbols based on linguistic conventions, has been left to the choice of individual authors.


The fifteen articles of the present volume cover a wide geographic area from Kerala to coastal Karnataka, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Garhwal, the Gangetic plain, Bengal, Orissa, and Nepal. They have been organized into two groups: I Divine Performances focusing mainly on ritual performance, and II Textual Networks centering on (mostly oral) texts. Needless to say, textual evidence is also included in part I, and, conversely, ritual data in part II. The present volume is - among other things - part of a larger project to work out a morphology of the folk level of Hinduism in relation to its other layers. To this end the common features have to be identified and, simultaneously, regional and subregional variation has to be studied in relation to context. The material presented in this book shows that the folk religious level of Hinduism has many elements in common in different regions of South Asia. A systematic analysis of these elements and the identification of factors that determine variation would be a next step. By providing some new data and fresh approaches the editors hope that the present book will be an incentive towards that end. As a working model for a differentiated and yet "open" approach to Hinduism, we have chosen a notion developed by Gunther Sontheimer which he most recently elucidated in his contribution to Hinduism Reconsidered.' The notion is that of the "five components" of Hinduism. The components are (1) The work and teachings of the Brahmans, (2) asceticism and renunciation, (3) tribal religion, (4) folk religion, and (5) bhakti. Sontheimer stresses that these components are not to be viewed as "watertight compartments, but rather as presenting a continuum and as interacting among themselves in a fluctuating process..." Taking the Khandoba cult of Maharashtra as an example of "folk religion," Sontheimer shows how other components are integrated into the cult and thus make it "a mirror of Hinduism." There is special need to work out such categories of description and analysis because folk religion does not explain itself. Therefore Sontheimer's pragmatic approach is particularly useful. Thus typical features of folk religion identified by him overlap with traits that connect the materials of most contributions (Zoller, Sontheimer, Malik, Singh, Freeman, Nambiar, Tarabout): references to a royal and martial paradigm expressed by the perception of god as a king and hero; possession as a way of direct communication with the divine, and the stress on the immediate presence of the god. While local deities often combine both negative and positive characteristics, these tend to be split up into a benevolent god and his demonic counterpart as the social and territorial domain of the deity expands. This state of affairs is the central theme of Criminal Gods and Demon Devotees. Essays on the Guardians of Popular Hinduism (A. Hiltebeitel (ed.) Albany 1989).

The West Coast material not only shares the royal and martial aspects and the feature of possession with the data from other regions, but Tulunad, North and Central Kerala are further related by similar ecological and economic conditions, as well as by the matrilinearity of the castes involved in the cults. With the gods being placed in the specific setting of "small kingdoms" we encounter a variety of highly localized cults - the realm of the gods often consisting of no more than a few villages - which are at the same time "royal."

The first article, by Gunther D. Sontheimer, combines the study of scriptural, historical, and oral literary sources with a detailed documentation and analysis of the Somvati Amavasya festival in the cult of the folk deity Khandoba in Maharashtra. Sontheimer takes up a special facet of the cult, namely the god's hunting expedition. On the lines of a number of earlier studies of his, he not only describes the event in the immediate context of the procession and the festival rituals of which it forms an integral part, but also analyses it as a typical feature of folk religion, characterized by antagonistic rituals, a perception of god as king and the notion that the annual renewal of fertility is the task of the kingly god who recreates life out of death. The rituals of folk religion distinguished by pomp, festivity, drama and play form a contrast to the Vedic Srauta ritual. At the same time, elements of the hunting expedition have parallels with Vedic rituals such as the Asvamedha: Khandoba's horse is sent ahead of the procession, recalling the sacrificial horse which is made to roam through the realm of the sacrificer/king. Besides explicating this and other Vedic connections, Sontheimer describes the forest in which the hunting expedition is undertaken as the locus both of fights against "demons" and of royal erotic adventures.

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