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Posts tagged ‘colonialism’

  1. Krishna in the dock: the 1862 Maharaja libel case and its consequences – III

    “Through a long night of superstition and darkness, vile creatures like this Maharaj have been able to make their dens of vice and debauchery seem to their spell-bound followers to be the holy temples of God. But as soon as the morning light comes, the place is found in full corruption and uncleanness; magical spells lose all effect; and men of a better sort rise disgusted, and at any cost break loose from such a haunt.”
    Times of India May 2, 1862

    Some recent correspondence has reminded me that I had more to say about the Maharaja libel case. For this post, I’m going to examine some of the intersecting factors which allowed Gujurati social reformers to enter into a strategic alliance with Imperial law, with far-reaching effects. Continue reading »

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  2. Krishna in the dock: the 1862 Maharaja libel case and its consequences – I

    The cardinal idea of the doctrine of Vallabhacharya is the incarnation in his person and in that of his descendents of Krishna, and the enjoyment for that reason, of the right to confer upon the faithful the privilege upon this earth of a personal union with the deity of their worship. Theoretically speaking, were this personal union to be regarded spiritually and held to elevate the mind to an intimate union with the highest moral principle; were it to hold forth by meditation and isolation some incentive to a consideration of self-annihilation and self-denial, this doctrine might have claims upon our attention as doing some, however limited, a good. But preached to a people who, from climatic influences and early conditions of puberty are peculiarly lascivious and prurient, the evil grows more and more enormous with the progress of the sect. …Gloomy faiths, bound to asceticism, have no real hold on the moral conduct of the professors of them, but a religion which rushes into an opposite extreme, and stimulates an evil too great already for the patience of mankind and civilisation, deserves to be trodden out.
    Anthropological Review, Vol.4, No.14, 1866

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  3. Lecture Notes: On the Kamasutra – I

    Following on from the last post in this series in which I examined William Ward and his contribution to the assciation between tantra and sex, I now want to turn to the second of the three texts I examined in my Treadwells lecture – the Kamasutra. I selected the Kamasutra specifically because it is so frequently assumed to be a “tantric” text, and because I wanted to use it as a “lens” through which to examine the period it was first published in – the late nineteenth century and in addition, its later influence in the 1960s and beyond. For this first post, I will discuss the Kamasutra and the cultural context in which it was published, and follow up with a discussion of the Kamasutra’s wider reception in the twentieth century. Continue reading »

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  4. Lecture Notes: On William Ward

    “The Tuntrus are fabulously attributed by the Hindoos to Shiva and Doorga; and are said to have been compiled from conversations between these two deities; the words of Shiva being called Agumu, and those of Doorga, Nigumu. Narudu is said to have communicated these conversations to the sages. Through the inability of men to obtain abstraction of mind in religious austerities, yogu, &c. the ceremonies enjoined in the veda could not be performed; in compassion to the people, therefore, say the learned Hindoos, the Tuntras were written, which prescribe an easier way to heaven, viz by incantations, repeating the names of the gods, ceremonial worship, &c. &c.
    At present a few of the original tuntrus, as well as compilations from them, are read in Bengal. Those who study them are called tantriku pundits.”
    William Ward, A view of the history, literature, and mythology of the Hindoos

    For this post I’m going to examine the work of the Reverend William Ward (1769-1823), who provided one of the earliest European accounts of tantric beliefs and practices, and was one of the most widely-read and influential observers of Indian life and religion throughout the nineteenth century. Continue reading »

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  5. Shamanism and gender variance: the eighteenth century – two sexes, three genders?

    “Among the women I saw some men dressed like women, with whom they go about regularly, never joining the men. The commander called them amaricados, perhaps because the Yumas call effeminate men maricas. I asked who these men were, and they replied that they were not men like the rest, and for this reason they went around covered in this way. From this I inferred that they must be hermaphrodites but from what I learned later I understood that they were sodomites, dedicated to nefarious practices. …I conclude that in this matter of incontinence there will be much to do when the Holy Faith and the Christian religion are established among them.”Fray Pedro Font, Font’s Complete Diary of the Second Anza Expedition 1775-1776

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  6. Book review – Imagining Hinduism: A Postcolonial Perspective

    One of the problems of engaging with tantra is that so many of the tropes used to construct contemporary popular representations of “tantra” – indeed, the very notion of “tantra” itself; that it is a singular, monolithic category which can be easily seperated from its South Asian roots and contexts – arise from colonial-era discourses. Postcolonialism has, since the 1970s been gaining increasing prominence as a broad-based approach to studying the interactions between (mostly) European nations and the societies they colonised. For a useful introduction to the range of issues which postcolonialism encompasses, see this Interview with Achille Mbembe. Continue reading »

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  7. Shamanism and gender variance: the eighteenth century – “torrid zones”

    “On my visit this Morning to Tynah and his Wife, I found with her a person, who altho I was certain was a Man, had great marks of effeminacy about him and created in me certain notions which I wished to find out if there were any foundations for. On asking Iddeah who he was, she without any hesitation told me he was a friend of hers, and a class of people common in Otaheite called Mahoo. That the Men had frequent connections with him and that he lived, observed the same ceremonies, and eat as the Women did. The Effeminacy of this persons speech induced me to think that he had suffered castration, and that other unnatural and shocking things were done by him, and particularly as I had myself some Idea that it was common in this sea. I was however mistaken in all my conjectures except that things equally disgusting were committed.”
    William Bligh, The Log of the Bounty, 1789

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  8. Must we love the Golden Bough?

    What is it about Pagans and The Golden Bough? It seems like every time I open a book written by a Pagan or Magician, there it is, casting an inescapable shadow over the text, like the monolith in 2001. Continue reading »

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  9. Context matters

    There are a number of issues relating to the practice of attributing western ‘meanings’ to Sanskrit terms. Continue reading »

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