Hindu Ritual at the Margins: Innovations, Transformations, Reconsiderations

Hindu Ritual at the Margins: Innovations, Transformations, Reconsiderations

Hindu Ritual at the Margins: Innovations, Transformations, Reconsiderations

Hindu Ritual at the Margins: Innovations, Transformations, Reconsiderations


Hindu Ritual at the Margins explores Hindu forms of ritual activity in a variety of "marginal" contexts. The contributors collectively examine ritual practices in diaspora; across gender, ethnic, social, and political groups; in film, text, and art; in settings where ritual itself or direct discussion of ritual is absent; in contexts that create new opportunities for traditionally marginalized participants or challenge the received tradition; and via theoretical perspectives that have been undervalued in the academy.

In the first of three sections, contributors explore the ways in which Hindu ritual performed in Indian contexts intersects with historical, contextual, and social change. They examine the changing significance and understanding of particular deities, the identity and agency of ritual actors, and the instrumentality of ritual in new media. Essays in the second section examine ritual practices outside of India, focusing on evolving ritual claims to authority in mixed cultures (such as Malaysia), the reshaping of gender dynamics of ritual at an American temple, and the democratic reshaping of ritual forms in Canadian Hindu communities. The final section considers the implications for ritual studies of the efficacy of bodily acts divorced from intention, contemporary spiritual practice as opposed to religious-bound ritual, and the notion of dharma.

Based on a conference on Hindu ritual held in 2006 at the University of Pittsburgh, Hindu Ritual at the Margins seeks to elucidate the ways ritual actors come to shape ritual practices or conceptions pertaining to ritual and how studying ritual in marginal contexts--at points of dynamic tension--requires scholars to reshape their understanding of ritual activity.


The editors of this pioneering volume on Hindu ritual do not intend to suggest that the contexts and practices studied are considered to be marginal as “juxtaposed against something in or about Hinduism that is normative or authoritative.” They “understand ritual to be of human construct and thus fluid over time and place—neither static nor unified but rather occasioning diversity, difference, and dispute.” This volume’s illuminating contributions by a variety of leading contemporary scholars of Hinduism and ritual studies continue the innovative and creatively critical spirit of major theoretical studies of ritual over the past couple of decades, including Ronald Grimes’s Ritual Criticism: Case Studies in Its Practice, Essays on Its Theory, which was published in this series in 1990.

A central goal of this collection, according to its editors, is “pushing our understanding of the complexities of religion, and Hinduism in particular, beyond the limits, boundaries, or ‘margins’ to which the Western scholarly community has until recently historically corralled it.” As the editors declare, “We are, collectively, more interested in change, transformation, and dissonance than in stability, continuity, or consonance.” The authors present diverse studies that consider Hindu ritual in traditional historical settings in South Asia, in the contemporary Hindu global diaspora, and in the contexts of contemporary ritual theory. The sophisticated, diversely fascinating, and accessible studies will reward readers—whether professors, their students, or the global market interested in Hinduism in today’s world—with discourses that expand our knowledge and understanding of “popular religion” well beyond the traditional but currently declining boundaries of “official religion,” whether as defined by orthodox Hindu priests or conventional Western scholars.

Frederick M. Denny

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.