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Crossing the Lines of Caste: Visvamitra and the Construction of Brahmin Power in Hindu Mythology

ISBN : 9780199341108

Price(incl.tax): 
¥16,170
Author: 
Adheesh A. Sathaye
Pages
334 Pages
Format
Hardcover
Size
163 x 237 mm
Pub date
Jun 2015
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What does it mean to be a Brahmin, and what could it mean to become one? Over the years, intellectuals and dogmatists have offered plenty of answers to the first question, but the latter presents a cultural puzzle, since normative Brahminical ideology deems it impossible for an ordinary individual to change caste without first undergoing death and rebirth. There is, however, one notable figure in the Hindu mythological tradition who is said to have transformed himself from a king into a Brahmin by amassing great ascetic power, or tapas: the ornery sage Visvamitra. Through texts composed in Sanskrit and vernacular languages, oral performances, and visual media. Crossing the Lines of Caste examines the rich mosaic of legends about Visvamitra found across the Hindu mythological tradition. It offers a comprehensive historical analysis of how the "storyworlds" conjured up through these various tellings have served to adapt, upgrade, and reinforce the social identity of real-world Brahmin communities, from the ancient Vedic past up to the hypermodern present. Using a performance-centered approach to situate the production of the Visvamitra legends within specific historical contexts, Crossing the Lines of Caste reveals how and why mythological culture has played an active, dialogical role in the construction of Brahmin social power over the last three thousand years.

Index: 

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Note on Transliteration
Abbreviations
About the Companion Website
Introduction: Crossing the Lines of Caste
Foundations
1. Poet, Priest, and Prince: Glimpses of Visvamitra in Vedic Literature
2. Genealogy of the Brahmin Other in the Sanskrit Epics
Adaptations
3. Spinning the Brahmin Other in the Early Puranas
4. Geo-Mapping the Brahmin Other in Regional Puranic Literature
Confrontations
5. Encountering the Brahmin Double in Medieval India
6. Becoming a New Brahmin in Modern India
Conclusions: Texts, Performances, and Hindu Mythological Culture
Catalogue of Visvamitra Legends
Bibliography
Index

About the author: 

Adheesh A. Sathaye is an Associate Professor in the Department of Asian Studies at University of British Columbia.

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