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Sharma, Ursula (1969) Hinduism in a Kangra village. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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In this thesis I set out to test the hypothesis that the separation of the pure from the impure is a theme which links all the various aspects of religious activity in village Hinduism, integrating them in spite of their apparent cultural diversity. In the first Chapter I describe some of the recent theoretical approaches to the analysis of Hinduism in anthropological literature, for instance the contributions of Srinivas, Marriott and Mathur. Most of these emphasize the diversity of Hindu religious activities. But Dumont, and more recently Harper, have pointed to the unifying role of the purity-pollution principle which underlies all ritual activity. In Chapter 2 I give a brief description of the village where I carried out field research, giving especial attention to the operation of rules concerning purity and pollution in social life. In Chapter 3 I describe the private religious activities of the villagers. These consist of individual acts of worship addressed to members of a pantheon which includes deities of a local nature along with scriptural deities known all over India, I describe the villagers' conception of their relationships with these gods and the techniques of the ritual they use in order to influence them. In many ways these relationships reflect the relationships between members of different castes in human society. The concern for the separation of the pure from the impure which governs contact between castes also governs contacts between men and deities. Also the relationship between a household or personal deity and his devotee is analogous to that between a powerful jajman and his low caste client. Chapter 4 consists of a description of life cycle rites and other public rituals performed with the aid of a Brahman priest. Many of the public ritual acts conducted on such occasions are directed to the preservation of the pure deities from the threat of pollution arising from contact with their less pure devotees, or from other sources of pollution. In Chapter 5 the festival cycle observed in the village is described. In calendrical rites the concern for purity is shown through activities such as purificatory fasting and bathing, which are recurrent elements in the round of festivals. The last chapter consists of a general discussion of the purity-pollution principle. Not only does this principle give unity to the diverse aspects of religious activity but it also provides continuity between Hindu religion and Hindu social life in general: the hierarchical relations between, men and deities are only an extension of the hierarchical relationships between men themselves, and between men and the other things and creatures in the universe.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:14

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