Challenges prevailing conceptions of what religious ritual does and how it achieves its ends.
Religious rituals are often seen as unchanging and ahistorical bearers of long-standing traditions. But as this book demonstrates, ritual is a lively platform for social change and innovation in the religions of South Asia. Drawing from Hindu and Jain examples in India, Nepal, and North America, the essays in this volume, written by renowned scholars of religion, explore how the intentional, conscious, and public invention or alteration of ritual can effect dramatic social transformation, whether in dethroning a Nepali king or sanctioning same-sex marriage. Ritual Innovation shows how the very idea of ritual as a conservative force misreads the history of religion by overlooking ritual's inherent creative potential and its adaptability to new contexts and circumstances.
Brian K. Pennington is Professor of Religious Studies at Elon University and the author of Was Hinduism Invented? Britons, Indians, and the Colonial Construction of Religion. Amy L. Allocco is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Elon University.
"The volume is a very important contribution to the ongoing discussion on South Asian ritual, ancient and contemporary. Many case studies in this volume show that even strategic change is often not presented as innovation, but rather as the return to an original tradition, as the restitution of an older and better state before time corrupted the ritual system. It shows clearly that looking closely at ritual practices within their specific historical and local contexts helps understand how religious traditions maintain a 'timeless' aura while constantly adapting to a rapidly changing world." — Reading Religion
"The breadth of coverage in Ritual Innovation is extraordinary and refreshing in terms of the types of contemporary ritual practices and practitioners receiving attention, not to mention the geographic spread across South Asia. This book makes a significant contribution to the scholarly literature on South Asian religions and contemporary Hinduism." — Karline McLain, author of The Afterlife of Sai Baba: Competing Visions of a Global Saint