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Ways of Dying: Death and its Meaning in South Asia

Elisabeth Schombucher Claus Peter Zoller (Editor)

Death as the basic condition of life and as the ultimate destiny of all men is also a decisive factor in the shaping of cultures. Death's emergence as rupture and loss, and man's reaction in the form of grief and mourning are at the core of a vast unfolding of belief systems and ritual practices which aim at dealing with this overwhelming reality coherently. Whether the hereafter, into which death leads, is seen as the radical other that either precludes the possibility of the continuation of an individual existence of the possibility of any epistemological insight, or whether it is rather seen as a continuation of existence, allowing interactions between this and that world, man is inevitably directed towards this horizon that is death. This volume aims at surveying how various cultures (tribal, regional and pan Indian) of South Asia come to terms with this horizon of dying, death and the dead. It combines the ethnographic point of view that stresses the social and ritual forms related to death, and the conceptual aspects which favour the idea of an agency of texts. The contributions have been organized in three sections: the first section deal with the 'good' death, the second with 'untimely' or 'extraordinary' death and the third focuses on the interpretation of the theme of death in textual traditions and on how death is portrayed in various cultural performances. Moreover, this book does not just centre on the study of weel-known articulate and self-projecting traditions but on cultures that lack this dimension. It sheds light on conceptual systems, ritual prescriptions and texts, and their interaction with the actual thinking and acting of people. The great variety of approaches to this subject found in this volume is a reflection of the multiplicity and variableness of South Asian cultures. Nevertheless, there are some insights, e.g. the idea of an interrelation between death and violence, and between death and transformation, that seem to be at the centre of a large number of South Asian cultures.

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Bibliographic information

Title Ways of Dying: Death and its Meaning in South Asia
Format Hardcover
Date published: 01.01.1999
Edition 1st Ed.
Language: English
isbn 8173042438, 9788173042430
length 327 p., Royal 8vo.