1st Edition

Objects of Worship in South Asian Religions Forms, Practices and Meanings

Edited By Knut A. Jacobsen, Mikael Aktor, Kristina Myrvold Copyright 2015
    236 Pages 20 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    234 Pages 20 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Objects of worship are an aspect of the material dimension of lived religion in South Asia. The omnipresence of these objects and their use is a theme which cuts across the religious traditions in the pluralistic religious culture of the region. Divine power becomes manifest in the objects and for the devotees they may represent power regardless of religious identity.

    This book looks at how objects of worship dominate the religious landscape of South Asia, and in what ways they are of significance not just from religious perspectives but also for the social life of the region. The contributions to the book show how these objects are shaped by traditions of religious aesthetics and have become conceptual devices woven into webs of religious and social meaning. They demonstrate how the objects have a social relationship with those who use them, sometimes even treated as being alive. The book discusses how devotees relate to such objects in a number of ways, and even if the objects belong to various traditions they may attract people from different communities and can also be contested in various ways.

    By analysing the specific qualities that make objects eligible for a status and identity as living objects of worship, the book contributes to an understanding of the central significance of these objects in the religious and social life of South Asia. It will be of interest to students and scholars of Religious Studies and South Asian Religion, Culture and Society.

    Introduction: Material Objects of Worship in the Lived Religions of South Asia, Knut A. Jacobsen, Mikael Aktor and Kristina Myrvold

    Chapter 1: The Śivaliṅga Between Artifact and Nature: The Ghṛṣṇeśvaraliṅga in Varanasi and the Bāṇaliṅgas from the Narmada River, Mikael Aktor

    Chapter 2: Jhāṅkīs: "Living Images" as Objects of Worship in Himachal Pradesh, Brigitte Luchesi

    Chapter 3: The Material Culture of Sāṃkhya: Kapila as Object of Worship, Knut A. Jacobsen

    Chapter 4: Yantras as Objects of Worship in Hindu and Tantric Traditions

    Materiality, Aesthetics, and Practice, Xenia Zeiler

    Chapter 5: Wheel of the Liberated: Jain Siddhacakras, Past and Present, Ellen Gough

    Chapter 6: Object of Worship as a Free Choice: Viṭhobā (god), Dñyāneśvar (saint), the Dñyāneśvarī (book), or Samādhī (grave)? Irina Glushkova

    Chapter 7: Architectural Heritage and Modern Rituals: The Ahmad Shah Bahmani Mausoleum between Old Political Concerns and New Religious Perceptions, Sara Mondini

    Chapter 8: Lāl Beg Underground: The Passing of an "Untouchable" God, Joel Lee

    Chapter 9: Making the Book a Living Guru: Ritual Practices Among Contemporary Sikhs, Kristina Myrvold

    Chapter 10: Worshipping the Sword: The Practice of Śāstar Pūjā in the Sikh Warrior Tradition, Satnam Singh

    Chapter 11: Rites of Reverence, Ways of Worship: The Bodhi Tree in Bodhgayā as a Material Object and Focus of Devotion, Albertina Nugteren


    Knut A. Jacobsen is Professor in the History of Religions at the University of Bergen, Norway. He is author and editor of around thirty books and numerous articles and is the founding editor in chief of the six volume Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism (2009-2014).

    Mikael Aktor is Associate Professor of Study of Religions at University of Southern Denmark. His publications include Ritualisation and Segregation: The Untouchability Complex in Indian dharma literature with special reference to Parāśarasmṛti and Parāśaramādhavīya (2008).

    Kristina Myrvold is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the Department of Cultural Studies, Linnaeus University, Sweden. She has published several articles on Sikh practices in Sweden and in India, and is the editor of publications such as Sikhs Across Borders: Transnational Practices Among European Sikhs (with Knut A. Jacobsen, 2013).