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.
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.