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Folk Culture, Folk Religion and Oral Traditions as a Component in Maharashtrian Culture

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Item Code: NAZ145
Publisher: Manohar Publishers And Distributors
Author: Gunther-Dietz Sontheimer
Language: English
Edition: 1995
ISBN: 9788173040870
Pages: 318 (1 Color and 7 B/W Illustrations)
Other Details 9.50 X 6.30 inch
Weight 580 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

The subjects of the papers in this volume range from the early phases of human culture Maharashtra as evidenced by archaeological findings at Daimabad and lnamgaon (Dhavlikar) to the rise of the yaksa Khanderav to the tutelary god of the Satavahanas, the rulers of the Deccan in the early years of the first millennium, AD (Deshpande). Recurrent themes in Indian folk-lore, such as the traditions about cows, bulls, buffaloes, and bears are surveyed by Durga Bhagwat who sees compositeness as the very essence of folk, that is, Indian culture. The close description of living folk traditions of great antiquity in the Marathvada region of Maharashtra forms the subject of P.B. Mande's impressive ethnographic contribution. R.C. Dhere shows how folk etymologies, though often incorrect historically, infuse sacred places with religious significance, while the saints make creative use of etymologies current among the people to concretize abstract or universal spiritual doctrines. James W. Laine examines heroic ballads about SivajT, povadas, showing the inherent tensions between the ideals of the warrior-sacrificer and brahmanical notions of the ideal Hindu king as an ascetic-renouncer.

While Dilip Chitre brings Patthe Bapurav back on stage to show how one of the first songs of social criticism in MarathT has its roots in the /avnT, a folk genre of Maharashtra, N.K. Wagle involves us in endless litigations concerning the sending of troublesome spirits (bhOts) in 18th century Maharashtra, tongue very much in cheek. In a more serious vein, Eleanor Zelliot highlights the consciously anti-Hindu 'folk-lore of pride' written by the Buddhist followers of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. In a similar context, Traude Pillai-Vetschera chronicles the struggle of Mahar converts to Christianity to come to terms with the painful injustices of the past and find the human dignity they deserve amidst the often equally painful injustices of the present. While E. Reenberg Sand selects aspects of the history of the sacred places along the riverbanks near PandharpOr to demonstrate the inter-relatedness of folk and bhakti traditions, Anne Feldhaus draws us into the whirl-pool of her research on different types of river goddesses showing the inter-relationships of water, fertility, females, difficulties in childblearing, and the danger of the di owning of children if river goddesses are not propitiated. Most appropriately, Gunther Sontheimer chose the pilgrimage-festival of god Khandoba as the theme of his own contribution. 'The folk festival in (jatrA) in the religious tradition of Maharashtra' is, in a way, the hub of this volume into which the majority of its papers neatly fit, not unlike jewelled spokes in the wheel of a magnificent temple-chariot....

About the Author

Gunther-Dietz Sontheimer (1934-1992) began his contribution to our understanding of Indian culture with work on classical Hindu law (dharma-Sastra) in the early 1960s. His strong interest in the normative thought of Hinduism eventually led to a major study of Hindu ethics in 1980. At the same time, the archaic world-views contained in the ancient legal texts inspired Sontheimer to go to the sources of Indian religiosity in the cults of equally ancient folk deities. He tought history of religion in South Asia at the South Asia Institute of Heidelberg University.


One of the most challenging aspects of Indian culture is its vari-ety and complexity. The multiplicity of groups and traditions in India and the manifold character of their interrelations provide much of the richness of the tapestry of Indian life and thought. Giinther Sontheimer was fascinated by this aspect of Indian culture. He sought to understand Indian culture, and especially Hindu religion, in all its wealth and variety. In his article "Hinduism: The Five Components and their Interaction",' Sontheimer distinguished the following five elements of the dominant religious tradition of India: the work and teachings of Brahmans, asceticism and renunciation, tribal religion, folk religion, and bhakti. In distinguishing these five "components", Sontheimer considered it important that they "not be viewed as watertight compartments, but rather as presenting a continuum and as interacting among themselves in a fluctuating process over thousands of years."

Although Sontheimer's early work dealt with Indian religious law (dharmaidstra), one of the learned disciplines of Brahmans, it was folk religion and tribal religion that he studied in the greatest depth from the late 1960's until his death in 1992. Focusing on the cult of the folk god Khandoba and on the traditions of the Dhangar shep-herds of Maharashtra, Sontheimer's studies also extended to other groups, deities and traditional cults in the pastoral and forest areas of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. His interest was not confined to religion, nor his methods to those of either philol-ogy or ethnology. Like his teacher D. D. Kosambi, Sontheimer aimed "to combine armchair philology with archeological, ethnological, linguistic, and other investigations.

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