From the Jacket
In the present volume which deals with the studies on the religious systems of ancient India the term historiography has been used to denote the history of researches on various system both in its heuristic and interpretative aspects. It is against the background of the academic activities of the last 200 years that Prof. Bhattacharyya has dealt with the contents of the major works of every decade, the perspectives and theorizations of their authors, their methodolology, assessment, criticism and interpretation, the dominant outlook of various ages by which the approaches of the authors are conditioned and many allied features: It is a stock-taking of the earliest work on Indian religion, of the varied developments in the study of the description of its formal structure and also in that of the methodological principles of interpretation and of the canons of assessment put forward by modern schools of academic disciplines necessary for the purpose of a better understanding of the multi-dimensional character of Indian religious systems.
About the Author
Narendra Nath Bhattacharyya does not require any special introduction in the field of Indological studies. Through religious history in his forte he walks in equal ease in diverse branches of ancient Indian history and civilization.
His important publications include Indian Puberty Rites; Indian Mother Goddess; History of Indian Cosmogonical Ideas; Ancient Indian Rituals and Their Social Contents; History of Sakta Religion; History of Indian Erotic Literature; Jain Philosophy; Historical Outline; History of Researches on Indian Buddhism; History of Tantric Religion; Geographical Dictionary of Ancient and Early Medieval India; Ancient Indian history and Civilization; Trends and Perspective, Glossary of Indian Religious Terms and Concepts; and Buddhism in the History of Indian Ideas.
He has edited R. P. Chanda's Indo-Aryan Races and N. C. Bandyopadhyaya's Development of Hindu Polity. He has also edited Medieval Bhakti Movement in India, a collection of papers by eminent scholars published on the occasion of Sri Caitanya's Quincentenary and Prakrit and Jain Studies, a collection of essays in honour of Prof. J. C. Jain.
Bhattacharyya teaches in the Department of Ancient Indian History and Culture, University of Calcutta. He presided over the Ancient Indian Section of the Indian History Congress in the 52nd session held at Delhi in 1992.
Any aspect of writing history comes within the purview of historiography. In the present volume which deals with the studies on the religious system of ancient India the term 'historiography' has, however, been used to denote the history of researches on various system both in its heuristic and interpretative aspects. Ever since the beginning of the Indological researches religion and religious history have drawn scholarly attention. Numerous works on various religious systems of ancient India have been published in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Even today at least forty per cent of the Indological publications pertain to religious studies.
It is against the background of this vast academic accumulation of two hundred years that the contents at least of the major works of every decade, the perspectives and theorizations of their authors, their methodology, assessment, criticism and interpretation, the dominate outlook of various ages by which the approaches of the author are conditioned, and many allied features are to be understood and evaluated. An historical survey or stocktaking of the earlier works pertaining to different branches of religious studies, of the varied developments in the study of the description of their formal structure in the phenomena of religion and also in that of the methodological principles of interpretation, and of the canons of assessment put forward by modern school of various academic disciplines pertaining to different branches of religious studies is therefore necessary for the purpose of a better understanding of the multi-dimensional character of the Indian religion systems.
The present work purports to accomplish this difficult task. But it should be stated in this connection that it is not the first work of this kind. Some sorts of religious historiography were also previously made. Ernst Windisch's work (Geschichte der Sanskrit-philologie in Grundriss Series) on Indian philology and literature (1917-21) contained information on religious studies in the nineteenth century Europe. Subsequently work pertain mostly to Buddhism among which Henri de Lubac's La rencontre du bouddhisme et de l'Occident (Paris, 1952), E. Conze's Thirty Years of Buddhist Research (London, 1967), W. Peiris's The Western Contribution to Buddhism (Delhi 1973), J. W. De Jong's A Brief History Buddhist Studies in Europe and America (Varanasi, 1976) and the present author's History of Researches on Indian Buddhism (New Delhi, 1981) deserve special mention, beside the stupendous volumes of the Buddhist Bibliography which contain a great deal of historiographical elements. In fact the importance of bibliographical works cannot at all be ignored in regard to historiographical context. A. Guerinot undertook the first systematic survey of all the available printed books and article on Jainism published up to his time in his Essai de Bibliographie Jaina (Paris, 1906) and Repertoire d'Epigraphie Jaina (Paris, 1908). C. J. Jain's Bibliography (Calcutta, 1945) is also descriptive in nature and serves a great purpose in dealing with Jain historiography. Louis Renou's bibliographie Vedique, published in 1931, contain complete list of work on Vedic subjects done up to the year 1930. the monumental volumes of R. N. Dandekar's Vedic Bibliography (published since 1946) contain as well short descriptive accounts or critical assessment of important work which are very helpful for the purpose of historiography. Religious historiography paintings to all forms of Indian religion has found a very important place in P. J. Chinmulgund and V. V. Mirashi's Review of Indological Research in Last 75 years (Pune, 1967, 561-773). In recent times K. M. Shrimali's presidential address entitled 'Religion, Ideology and Society' delivered in the ancient India Section of the Indian History Congress (1989) has dealt with the major trends in the modern studies on various aspect of Indian religion in the post-Independence period. This address also marks a critical assessment of what is known as Religionwissenchaft or 'science of religion' dealing with the theories put forward by the philologists, anthropologists, sociologists and ecologists.
As I have stated above, the present work proposes simply to acquaint the reader with the main trends of the studies and researches on different aspects of the religious system of ancient India in chronological sequence. The book id divided into eight chapters the first of which deals with the studies on prehistoric and tribal religious structure. The sixth chapter deals with general work on religious history as a whole or special studies on some selective aspects. The second, third, fourth, fifth and seventh chapters deal respectively with the Vedic, Buddhist, Jain, Epico-Puranic and theistic sects and miscellaneous cults while the eighth deals with the iconographical and terminological studies. A total span of 175 years (from the beginning of the nineteenth century to 1980) has been covered, though some works published after 1980 have also been discussed. Such a work of course is not expected to be absolutely comprehensive, but it can indicate the lines on which further work is possible. In order to give a clear idea of the subject, I have tried in my own way to deal, howsoever summarily, with most of the important topics of each religious system. A short bibliography containing a list of important books published after 1970 has also been supplied.
I am painfully conscious of the fact that, notwithstanding my best efforts, I have failed to make the volume free from errors and blemishes. For these I crave the indulgence of sympathetic readers and request them to be kind enough to draw my attention to the defects they may notice in the work. My thanks are due to Sri Devendra Jain of Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, for the sincere interest he has taken in publishing this work.
If the volume proves to be of any use to the students of ancient Indian history and Indian religion I shall consider my labours sufficiently rewarded.
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