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Clark, Matthew James (2004) The Dasanami-Samnyasis: the integration of ascetic lineages into an order. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis examines the history and practices of the Dasanami-Samnyasis, one of the largest sects of Indian renunciates, founded, according to tradition, by the famous advaita philosopher Sankaracarya, who may have lived in the eighth century CE. It is argued that it is highly improbable that Sankaracarya founded either the sect or the four (or five) main Dasanami monasteries, which are the seats of reigning Sankaracaryas. The locus of identity for the Dasanamis (meaning 'ten names') lies in several short texts, known as mathamnayas, which were most probably produced around the time the Dasanamis became organised as an order, in the late sixteenth or seventeenth century. The political and religious circumstances of the time provide an adequate---though not definitive---context for the production of a distinct Hindu identity for the sect. The process of forming an identity integrated several lineages of ascetics, some of which had no previous connection to each other. There are two main branches of the order: one being what might be called the Brahmanical monastic advaita tradition, extensively promoted for the first time by the early Vijayanagara rulers in the fourteenth century; the other being the military branch of naga-s, who have a non-orthodox, semi-Tantric background, and who were particularly conspicuous when they served in the standing armies of various north Indian regents during the eighteenth century. Initiation procedures illustrate the merging of the two branches. The contribution of this thesis to the study of religions is to provide, for the first time, an account of the history of the Dasanamis that is an alternative to that espoused by the orthodox tradition, and to illustrate the various and complex roles that samnyasis have played---and continue to play---in Indian religious history.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:05

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