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Stonemill and Bhakti

From the Devotion of Peasant Women to the Philosophy of Swamis

Tangible patrimony usually attracts attention and efforts of preservation. Intangible cultural traditions do often go with the winds of history when their social and material setting disappears. Such is the case with the songs below

About This Book

Tangible patrimony usually attracts attention and efforts of preservation. Intangible cultural traditions do often go with the winds of history when their social and material setting disappears. Such is the case with the songs that women in India, while grinding before dawn, have kept singing for ages on their hand-mill. Aside from the male society, they hoarded up for themselves a non-material matrimony. Today, though, motor driven flour-mills have put to rest these voices of silence, their legacy remains with them: immense and immemorial, purely feminine and oral, anonymous and personal, collective and intimate. Words from the heart, they glitter like flames in the domestic hearth.

This book is the first attempt of systematic cultural-anthropological study of that unique tradition. It offers keys to apprehend it. Why should this tradition, first of all, originate from a shared compulsion to "open up one's heart"? This differentiates the women singers' intentionality from the didactic treatment of pundits and sants who make grinding and grindmill the allegory of an advaitic bhakti. For women -- Lakshmis dedicated to serve the Fortune of their family and its lineage -- life in plenty is their raison d'etre. When preachers and swamis advocate a holy insensibility to earthly things and fellow human beings, the work of grinding -- epitome of woman's office -- carries worldly utopias of abundance and reveals a quest for salvation through bonds of affective attachment.

Eventually, the study raises radical questions on such crucial concepts as those of bhakti, tradition, the status of popular traditions versus elaborate constructs of literati. The symbolism of the stonemill in religious Marathi literature is constrasted with the experience of grinding of peasant women as the latter articulated it in their work-songs. What is sought is an epistemological insight into the cognitive processes which result in the dialectic blend of affinity and glaring inconsistency that one observes between those two levels of cultural creativity.

  • Foreword By : Y. B. Damle
  • Binding: : Hardbound
  • 13 Digit ISBN : 9788124600597
  • 10 Digit ISBN : 8124600597
  • Edition : 1st edition
  • Year : 1996
  • Pages : x, 280 p.
  • Size : 25
  • Weight (approx.) : 800
  • Bibliographic Details : Maps; 18 Coloured illustrations

Introduction: Handmill and Anthropology

Grinding and Singing at Dawn
The Grindmill, Symbolic Support of Bhakti
Distinctive Metaphorical Processes
Various Modes of Bhakti, Our Approach

Part I
Theological Rationalism
From Namdev to Mahipati
(A Written Tradition of Pundits)

1. Christian Strategy for India's Salvation

Mahipati's Legacy to Modern Times
Stepping-Stone for Missionaries and Nationalists
A Context of Cultural and Religious Conformation

2. Deliverance from the Pangs of Earthly Life

The Theological Grounds of Hagiography
Kabir, an Ideal of Peace Through Detachment
Allegorical Rationalist Discourse

3. Considerate Love of God for the Lowly

Krishna Condescends to Help and Grind
Krishna Rebukes Outraged Devotees and Saints

4. Mystical Crushing of Duality

Poems of Reference from the Tradition of Saints
Construction in the Abstract of the Grinding Work
Speculative Transfer of Alien Notions

5. God's Companionship with the Destitute

Jani's Songs of Pure Love
An Ambiguous Heritage

Part II
The Flour and The Song
Peasant Women at the Millstone
(An Oral Traditions of Women)

6. The Call to Grind

On their Feet at Cock-crow
Under the Light of Venus
Let Us Grind Spiritedly!
Pure Food, A Spell

7. The Compulsion to Sing

A Frenzy for Singing
"Open Up Your Heart!"
In Memory of Oneself
The Words and their Intention

8. A Breath of Lakshmi

Fortune as Vocation
A Pleiad of Godly Companions

9. Divine Liberties

Vitthal, the Dearest God-Friend
Vitthal Grinds in Jani's Hut
Pilgrims to Pandhari
The Message of Gokulpur

10. Worldly Utopias

Figures of Distinction
Figures of Redemption
Figures of Abundance
Through a Way of One's Own
A Selective Semantic Re-Investment
Self-Cognition Through Specular Recognition
Constraining Mediation
Multiplicity and Polyvalence of the Subjective Experience
Three Cognitive Modes
A Symbolic Logic

Part III
The Bonds of Hope
A Set of Attachements as System of Affective Secur

11. Mother and Daughter : Intimate Identification


12. Mother and Son : Reassuring Presence

Full Attention
A Diamond

13. The Daughter-in-law : In Search of Belonging

Torment from Mother-in-Law
Appeased Cooperation
Support from Brother
Routine Companionship

14. Salvation Through Appropriation

Two Figures of Possession
In Quest Of Security
Bhakti, A Structure of Attachment

Conclusion : Epistemological Perspectives

Bhakti and the Devotion of the Peasant Women
A Variety of Historical Motivations
Oral Tradition, a Guarantee of Autonomy
I Tell You, Woman
A Set of Dichotomies

Annexe - 1: Area of Collection: Mawal Corpus
Annex - 2: Western Maharashtra Places and Saints of Bhakti 13th -- 18th C.                                
Annexe - 3: Popular Visual


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