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Indian Religious Manifestations

B066
Session Chair: Antje Linkenbach-Fuchs | Thursday, August 27, 1:30-3 p.m. | Venue

Durga Basu

Chamunda—The Manifestation of Terrific form of Matrika in Brahmanical Religion of Medieval Bengal

During early medieval period, Bengal had witnessed the growth of a number of malevolent deities who had significantly influenced the religious ambience of Bengal. Chamunda the Sakti of Yama is one such goddess who has been recognized primarily as a malevolent deity in Hindu religious sphere. She has a repository of several invincible and destructive characters. She is one of the celebrated Saptamatrikas who according to the Puranas were created by lord Siva to kill the demon Andhakasur. Most of the major Puranas mention the origin and iconographic details of goddess Chamunda. She has always been represented in fierce form with four hands and terrific face with powerful tusks. The text, Vishnudharmottara gives a detailed iconographic representation of Chamunda which corresponds to the medieval images of Chamunda in Bengal. The present paper aims to highlight the sculptural manifestations, their significance in art and religion of ancient Bengal.

Oscar Figueroa-Castro

The profane within the sacred: The representation of the origins of drama in Nāṭyaśāstra’s first book

The sacred and the profane are ordering categories, whose province and meaning are usually thought as something separate, sometimes even antagonistic. The culture of ancient India offers a rich repertory of cases suggesting a more complex mechanism of interaction between sacred and profane realities. Among those cases is Sanskrit dramatic art, whose principles, themes and conventions reached a canonical status in the Nāṭyaśāstra, the main treatise on the subject (ca. II-IV CE). In this paper, I focus on the mythico-ritual and properly scenic representations of the very origins of drama, as articulated in Nāṭyaśāstra’s first book. Although these have been studied separately —i e., as providing elements for advocating either the text’s religious origins or its literary aspirations—, a satisfactory account of the complex dialectic between sacred and profane is still a desideratum. Thus, as I will argue, the representation of the origins of drama in Nāṭyaśāstra’s first book rests upon a complex interchange of religious and purely literary presuppositions—it is inserted in a rhetoric that introduces innovation and secular values, and yet (or for that very reason), shows a deep awareness about the importance of preserving a sacred aura and upholding tradition.

Bikash Mukherjee

Tantrayana Buddhism in Eastern India

With the revival of Buddhism during Pala Period in Eastern India, it disseminated with most illuminating ways and practiced under the name and doctrine of Vajrayana or Tantrayana. Using this concept of Buddha-Dharma this paper as reflected in the textual and archaeological bearings, highlights the distinctive feature of the Tantrayana form of Buddhism, a religious practice for human being, irrespective of caste, colour or gender differences in order to develop their mundane and spiritual mind. This system probably came into existence with its clear exposition in the eighth century A.D. onwards. In our discussion in the paper, it is expressed that the salient features of Tantrayana Buddhism are the rituals and practices demonstrating primarily as substitute or alternative for the earlier abstract meditation. This form of religion with its doctrinal aspect as the source of dogmatic view and rigid practice was acceptable to the Indian followers and transmitted to the countries beyond the jurisdiction of Indian-subcontinent.

Shriya Bandyopadhyay

Dharmā-thakūr, the “Healer of Wounds” and its Peasant Followers in Eighteenth Century Bengal

The cult of Dharmā-thakūr was very popular in eighteenth century Bengal. Its followers comprised of the marginal of village society- agricultural laborers, landless peasants, manual scavengers. They constructed their divine as lord supreme who was harsh and at the same time benevolent, healer of wounds. This paper explores how changes in land revenue system (under Nawāb Murshid Quli Khan) and harsh methods of revenue collection were reflected in the imagination of Godhead and religious rituals of certain agricultural communities. The discussion will be based on a combined study of Dharmā-maṇgal religious genre and Gājan ceremony of the cult followers. In Gājan the followers of Dharmā practiced arduous religious rituals by self infliction of bodily pain to satisfy their God. The paper will also look at the process of Brahmanical adaptation of Dharmā texts through control over literacy in order to transformation the religious world of the toiling mass.

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