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Dealing with Deities
The Ritual Vow in South Asia
Dealing with Deities
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Selva J. Raj - Editor
William P. Harman - Editor
Price: $95.00 
Hardcover - 288 pages
Release Date: April 2006
ISBN10: 0-7914-6707-4
ISBN13: 978-0-7914-6707-7

Price: $33.95 
Paperback - 288 pages
Release Date: January 2007
ISBN13: 978-0-7914-6708-4

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Explores the practice of taking ritual vows in South Asia, a lay tradition prevalent in the region’s religions.

Drawing on original field research, Dealing with Deities explores the practice of taking ritual vows in the lives of ordinary religious practitioners in South Asia. The cornerstone of lay religious activity, vow rituals are adopted by Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs who wish to commit themselves to ritually enacted relationships with sacred figures in order to gain earthly boons and spiritual merit. The contributors to this volume offer a fascinating look at the varieties and complexities of vows and also focus on a unique characteristic of this vow-taking culture, that of resorting to deities and shrines of other religions in defiance of institutional directives and religious boundaries. Richly illustrated, the book explores the creativity of South Asian devotees and their deeply felt convictions that what they require, they can achieve faithfully—and independently—by dealing directly with deities.

“The volume offers an excellent variety of traditions, topics, and methods in the consideration of religious vows. It is particularly notable that some essays include considerations of vows undertaken by devotees of one religion to a person or deity associated with another. This feature reflects the complexities of the ritual lives of many South Asians too often overlooked in other treatments.” — Peter Gottschalk, author of Beyond Hindu and Muslim: Multiple Identity in Narratives from Village India

“A splendid volume that will be read by scholars and assigned in classes on South Asian religions.” — Rachel Fell McDermott, coeditor of Encountering Kaµliµ: In the Margins, at the Center, in the West

Contributors include Martin Baumann, Louis E. Fenech, Sunil Goonasekera, William P. Harman, Shankarrao Kharat, M. Whitney Kelting, Ramdas Lamb, Jack E. Llewellyn, Vasudha Narayanan, Karen Pechilis, Tracy Pintchman, Selva J. Raj, Pashaura Singh, and Sufia Uddin.

Selva J. Raj (1952–2008) was Chair and Stanley S. Kresge Professor of Religious Studies at Albion College. He is the coeditor (with Corinne G. Dempsey) of Miracle as Modern Conundrum in South Asian Religious Traditions; Popular Christianity in India: Riting between the Lines; and Sacred Play: Ritual Levity and Humor in South Asian Religions, all published by SUNY Press. William P. Harman is Professor of Philosophy and Religion at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

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Table of Contents

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1. Introduction: The Deal with Deities—Ways Vows Work in South Asia
    Selva J. Raj and William P. Harman

2. "The Vow": A Short Story
    Shankarrao Kharat 

I. Getting What You Want

3. Negotiating Relationships with the Goddess
    William P. Harman

4. Shared Vows, Shared Space, and Shared Deities: Vow Rituals among Tamil Catholics in South India
    Selva J. Raj

5. Religious Vows at the Shrine of Shahul Hamid
    Vasudha Narayanan

6. In the Company of Pirs: Making Vows, Receiving Favors at Bangladeshi Sufi Shrines
    Sufia Uddin

7. Bara: Buddhist Vows at Kataragama
    Sunil Goonasekera

8. Performing Vows in Diasporic Contexts: Tamil Hindus, Temples, and Goddesses in Germany
    Martin Baumann

II. Getting What You Need

 9. Singing a Vow: Devoting Oneself to Shiva through Song
     Karen Pechilis

10. Monastic Vows and the Ramananda Sampraday
      Ramdas Lamb

11. Negotiating Karma, Merit, and Liberation: Vow-taking in the Jain Tradition
      M. Whitney Kelting

12. Vows in the Sikh Tradition
      Louis E. Fenech and Pashaura Singh

III. Getting Nothing At All

13. When Vows Fail to Deliver What They Promise: The Case of Shyamavati
      Tracy Pintchman

14. Two Critiques of Women's Vows
      Jack E. Llewellyn

IV. Conclusion: Some Promising Possibilities

15. Toward a Typology of South Asian Lay Vows
      Selva J. Raj and William P. Harman

Appendix: Essays Arranged According to Tradition

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