Ascetics of Kashi: An anthropological exploration

Item Code: IDE572
Author: Surajit Sinha, Baidyanath Saraswati
Publisher: N.K. Bose Memorial Foundation
Language: English
Edition: 1978
Pages: 297 (B & W Illus: 37)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.0" X 5.5"
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Book Description
From the Jacket:

Kashi, one of the oldest living civilizational centres of the world, is the city of Hindu ascetics. In each crowd of 240 people there is one ascetic. Every three minutes, during the convenient hour of the day, one can meet a sanyasi or a naked baba on the path along the Ganges. Every 22nd building in Kashi is the abode of gods or of ascetics.

What make ascetic organization attractive?
Where does its strength lie?
What People's needs does it serve?
To what extent is it other-worldly?
How does it respond to social change?
What is its future?

A comprehensive and correlated answer to these questions have been attempted in this richly illustrated study of ascetics and their organizations. First of its kind, this is a total survey of ascetics of a sacred city. The book offers far more than a numerical analysis. It reveals many unusual aspects of ascetic organizations: Asceticism provides a safety-value of individual liberty against the pressures of the rigidly hierarchic caste system. Yet, both the Shaiva and the Vaishnava ascetics tend to be influenced by caste considerations, present a much wider and more liberal outlook on the question of linguism or regionalism. The ascetics dedicated to the spiritual pursuit of moksha are also involved in the management of estates, business, fighting and litigation, patronage of the arts and excellence and in political gamemanship. They maintain various forms of linkage with the householders.

In the wake of "modernization", the ascetic organization is shorn off much of its earlier sacrosanet social functions. But nevertheless it still serves a most fundamental need of man: it takes care of man when he is disowned by society, rejected by his dear and near ones, and when he is utterly confused in meeting the challenges of transience and death his future, his Ultimate Reality.

This absorbing and penetrating book will fascinate not only the students of anthropology of religion and Indian civilization but also everyone with an inquiring mind.

About the Author:

Surajit Sinha (b. 1926), Ph.D. (North-western University, Evanston) is a specialist in anthropological study of tribes and Indian civilization, and has published around 100 papers and edited volumes in this field. Acclaimed for originality, penetrating insight and subtle analysis Dr. Sinha has contributed several concepts to Indian Anthropology. He was previously Director of the Anthropological Survey of India where he initiated a number of research projects concerning the study of Indian society and civilization. He is currently Vice-Chancellor of the Visva-Bharati University.

Baidyanath Saraswati (b. 1932), Ph.D. (Ranchi University) specializes in anthropology of religion and Indian civilization. His work has taken him throughout India. Amond his other works are Pottery Techniques in Peasant India (Co-author), Contributions to the Understanding of Indian Civilization, Kashi: myth and reality of a classical cultural tradition, Brahmanic Ritual Traditions: in the crucible of time, Potterymaking Cultures and Indian Civilization, and Sacred Complex in Kashi (Co-author). Dr. Saraswati was associated with the Anthropological Survey of India, and has been successively Fellow and Visiting Fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study. He is currently Visiting Fellow at Visva-Bharati.

The two authors of this book have been collaborating since 1959.


1.Perspective and Methodology1
2.Problem of Definition26
3.Organization of the Ascetic Order46
4.The Shaiva Sampradaya59
5.Other Shaiva Ascetic Organizations101
6.The Vaishnava Sampradaya115
7.Organization of Ascetics of Miscellaneous Sects138
8.Kumbha: The Festival of Ascetics148
9.Interaction Between Ascetics and Householders166
10.Future of the Ascetic Order183

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