By Selva J. Raj, William P. Harman

Explores the perform of taking ritual vows in South Asia, a lay culture ordinary within the region’s religions.

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This page intentionally left blank. 2 “The Vow”: A Short Story SHANKARRAO KHARAT TRANSLATED BY MAXINE BERNTSEN F ull-moon day, the day to keep the vow to the goddess. Midnight had passed, the night was almost over. Under its basket, the rooster crowed. And Tatya Nailk sat up with a start. His wife Sarji sat up too. Tatya got up and walked to the corner of the room. He leaned down and felt with his hand under the basket, listening to the muffled krr krr of the chicken inside. He rose again, took the board leaning against the door and put it on top of the basket.

The term Naik is usually used for the low but not untouchable castes of this area, but the author does not make the caste clear. 2. The goddess Mariai is found in every village and usually is served by Mahars, although as the goddess of pestilence she is worshipped by all. 3. The author, himself an ex-untouchable brought up in a village, delights in the detail of village life, making the harshness of existence in rural Maharashtra clear through description and dialog. 4. Vahini, lit. brother’s wife, is used here in the way that neighbors would use family terms to indicate a respectful familiarity with each other.

Having said that, we invite you to listen to some very accomplished voices that range from an Indian fiction writer’s attempt to capture the power of vows in the lives of simple people; to Llewellyn’s presentation of critical voices in Hinduism that wish to consign the vow to an instrument of superstitious female oppression; to a series of remarkable scholarly essays that locate themselves somewhere in between these two extremes. Notes 1. ” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 68, 4 (December 2000): 705–835.

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