How does one gain an understanding of the socio-religious life of a group of believers in contemporary India (in which group the author himself is an occasional practitioner) and communicate it to readers who may be largely unfamiliar with it? This pioneering sociological account of the Jains of North India addresses the question by experimenting to interweave form and content through a reliance on diverse sources of information, techniques and points of departure resulting in a collage. The challenge here is to provide an outline of contemporary Jainism within the context of a self-conscious community of adherents and, at the same time, to account for the small change of imbricated commercial and ritual transactions in their everyday life. This is met by a concise narrative of the beginnings, history, schisms, social organization and cosmology of the living Jain tradition. There is no imposition of a metaphysics on this narrative and the chapters follow one another in an engaged probe into the meaning (metaphor) and social structure (community) of north Indian Jainism today.
About the Author:
RAVINDRA K. JAIN is currently Professor of Sociology-Social Anthropology and former Dean, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He was University Lecturer in the Social Anthropology of South Asia and Fellow of Wolfsom College, Oxford University (1966-74). He has held teaching and research assignments at the Australian National University, Canberra; University of New England, Armidale: University of Durban-Westville, S. Africa; University of the West Indies, Trinidad; University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, and the Mahatma Gandhi Institute, Mauritius, Elected T.H.B. Symons Fellow in Commonwealth Studies in 1996, Professor Jain is a recognized international authority on Indian diaspora. His published works include South Indians on the Plantation frontier in Malaya, Yale University Press, London and New Haven, 1970; Text and Context: The Social Anthropology of Tradition, Institute for the Study of Human Issues, Philadelphia, 1978; and Indian Communities Abroad: Themes and Literature, Manohar Publishers, New Delhi, 1993, besides a large number of research papers in national and international journals.
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