The Living and the Dead
Social Dimensions of Death in South Asian Religions
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Explores the social treatment of death in South Asian religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and other traditions. Includes material on women and marginalized groups.
This collection examines the social dimensions of death in South Asian religions, exploring the ritualized exchanges between the living and the dead performed by Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and other religious groups. Using ethnographic and historical tools associated with the comparative and historical study of religion, the contributors also record the voices and actions of marginalized groups—such as tribal peoples, women, and members of lower castes—who are often underrepresented in studies of South Asian deathways, which typically focus on the writings and practices of elite groups. For many religious people, death entails a journey leading to some new condition or place. As the ultimate experience of passage, it is highly ceremonial and ritualized, and those beliefs and practices associated with the moment of death itself—death-bed ceremonies, funerary rites, and rituals of mourning and of remembering—are examined here. The Living and the Dead offers historical depth, ethnographic detail, and conceptual clarity on a subject that is of immense importance in South Asian religious traditions.
Liz Wilson is Professor of Comparative Religion at Miami University and the author of Charming Cadavers: Horrific Figurations of the Feminine in Indian Buddhist Hagiographic Literature.