Hindu ritual and its significance for ritual theory

The following monograph, does not directly relate to Iranian Studies, but promises to be an important book and will be of interest to scholars of religion and Iranian Studies for its content and methodological approach:

Michaels, Axel. 2015. Homo Ritualis: Hindu ritual and its significance for ritual theory (Oxford Ritual Studies). Oxford University Press.

Drawing on extensive textual studies and fieldwork in Nepal and India, Axel Michaels demonstrates how the characteristic structure of Hindu rituals employs the Brahmanic-Sanskritic sacrifice as a model, and how this structure is one of the distinguishing features of Hinduism more generally. Many religions tend over time to develop less ritualized or more open forms of belief, but Brahmanical Hinduism has internalized ritual behavior to the extent that it has become its most important and distinctive feature, permeating social and personal life alike. The religion can thus be seen as a particular case in the history of religions in which ritual form dominates belief and develops a sweeping autonomy of ritual behavior.

Read more here.

Axel Michaels is Director of the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe” and Professor of Classical Indology at the South Asia Institute at the University of Heidelberg.



Panini, Sanskrit and software development

BBC Radio 4 is currently exploring aspects of Indian history based on biographies of 50 important Indian historical figures: Incarnations: India in 50 Lives. Yesterday’s programme happened to be on the Indian grammarian Panini, whose grammar—according to this programme—played a pivotal role in making Sanskrit the lingua franca of South Asia for more than a millennium.

If you like Sheldon Pollock, you will enjoy the episode on Panini, as Pollock briefly speaks about Sanskrit and cosmopolitanism. Towards the end of the programme he suggests that Sanskrit’s role in developing literacy contributed to India’s success in software development, contrasting this with China as a hardware developing country. I am not entirely convinced by this, but it is interesting thought nonetheless.

You can catch up with the episode on BBC Radio 4.

A good indological problem

Not strictly related to Iranian Studies, but this article by Dominik Wujastyk contains an insightful discussion of what constitutes a good indological problem:

Wujastyk, Dominik. 2014. How to choose a good indological problem. In Joe Pellegrino (ed.), Open pages in South Asian studies, 173–192. California: South Asian Studies Association.

Read the article here.