The City as a Sacred Center: Essays on Six Asian Contexts

The City as a Sacred Center: Essays on Six Asian Contexts

The City as a Sacred Center: Essays on Six Asian Contexts

The City as a Sacred Center: Essays on Six Asian Contexts

Excerpt

The original drafts of most essays in this volume were presented and discussed in a panel of the American Academy of Religion at its annual meetings in 1982. Since that time an effort was made to secure papers on other "sacred cities" in Asia, particularly a North Indian city and Nara/Kyoto, but without success. The collection is only a sample of the many which might have been included. In any case, the primary intent was to provide a number of different examples of what have been called ceremonial centers or sacred cities within the Asian context. There are, of course, many differences between these cities. While the common factors are part of what the volume is all about, there has been no effort made to obscure the important ways in which they differ. There was no agreement in advance about how one might approach the basic theme and thus the papers reflect very diverse ways of conceptualizing this theme and analyzing the material pertinent to it with respect to each city. Some essays, for instance, limit their focus in a fairly strict fashion to the city itself and its internal dynamics, at the same time suggesting how this picture relates to the wider society and in some sense to the cosmos at large. Other essays look in detail at the relationship between pluralistic forces of a socio-political and religious sort and how these are woven into a broader unifying picture in that society and beyond. In some ways, each essay does both.

On the other hand, it was considered important to include an introductory essay that explored the concept of a sacred city per se and attempted to provide illustrations which helped to set the other chapters into a larger theoretical framework. The theme is not a new one. One thinks especially of the work of Paul Wheatley and in a more general sense of Lewis Mumford before him. The more one explores the concept, however, in a detailed sense the richer the subject appears. There is much more that can be done. Among the best studies thus far is the recent one published by Diana Eck entitled Banaras: City of Light (1982), which represents a kind of model for others that might be attempted. And, in a different sense, her introductory chapter in this volume helps one to make more sense of the other essays which follow.

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