Tag Archives: India

Book: Territory, Soil and Society in South Asia

Daniela Berti & Gilles Tarabout (dir.), 2009, Territory, Soil and Society in South Asia, New Delhi, Manohar, 379 p.

A pluridisciplinary team of researchers has raised the question of territory in this book, which is the revised and English version of a previous publication in Italian. Beginning with the study of territorial representations in the Vedic texts to end up with a contribution about the mobilization of territorial categories by the Hindu nationalists during political processions, the authors have also taken into account in their theoretical framework the territory as a divine or spiritual jurisdiction, that is to say, a territory where the power and authority of various social groups exert on. Given the few studies on the notion of territory as both a cognitive category and a category of analysis of social change, it is certain that this book will not go unnoticed in the landscape of publications on Indian society.

Rémy Delage

 

More infos

http://www.manoharbooks.com

Preprint version

http://gtarabout.free.fr/pdf/Preprint_Introduction_Territory.pdf

 

PhD thesis: The Islamic monuments of Ahmedabad

Sara Keller, The Islamic monuments of the walled city of Ahmedabad, India (15-18th century): an archeological study. PhD thesis in Building Archaeology, University of Paris IV Sorbonne, France; and Otto-Friedrich Universität Bamberg, Germany, 16 October 2009.

“Unlike many medieval and modern royal urban foundations in the Indian subcontinent, the city of Ahmedabad survived till now as the politic and economic heart of Gujarat. Today, the historical Islamic monuments are the sole witnesses of the splendor of a city which used to controlled the trade ways linking Delhi and central India with the arabic countries and the eastern African coast. Our archeological study not only identified the vast corpus of Islamic monuments still existing of the walled city of Ahmedabad, it also permitted a detailed analysis of the sites and buildings, bringing informations concerning the evolution of architectural forms and technics over more than four centuries. Those researches brought new lights on the urban history of Ahmedabad and the history of Gujarat, as well as on the importance of the “Gujarati style” within the Indian architecture and the architecture of the islamic world. The study finally could show the survival, in Gujarat, of feudal systems deeply rooted in the local culture till the end of the 16th century, and the transition to a modern type of administration spread in India by the Mughal empire.”

Keywords: India, architecture, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, Islam, mosque, mausoleum, madrasa, Sultanate, Mughal, minaret, sufi, art, jain, brahmanical, indic, urban structures, city, monuments, water, tank, measurement, proportion, vastu, ornementation, arche, technique, pietra dura.

 

Book review: L’ascète et le bouffon by Christiane Tortel

Christiane Tortel, L’ascète et le bouffon. Qalandars, vrais et faux renonçants en islam ou l’Orient indianisé, Arles, Actes Sud, 2009.

The publication of an academic book on the qalandars is a true event. Despite the existence of a book by Ahmed Karamustafa (1994), another one by Katherine Ewing (1977) and masterful papers by Simon Digby (1984), the article of the second edition of the Encyclopedia of Islam gives evidence of the scarcity of academic works on the topic. Christiane Tortel is a freelance specialist of Persian literature who is a recognized translator of referent treatises of Sufism (1998). Christiane Tortel, an expert in the collection of rare manuscripts, is also well acquainted with fieldwork since she has visited numerous shrines and temples in different parts of Asia.

This 439 pages book is a very ambitious work, in a previous version, a Ph. D. defended at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Études in Sorbonne University. After an introduction, the first part is devoted to “Asceticism, transgression and quackery. The pariah and the jester” (pp. 25-228). The second part is devoted to “Unpublished texts: presentation and translation” (pp. 229-305). Beyond the notes, bibliography and index, one will appreciate wonderful pictures discovered in various libraries of Europe and Asia.

The main thesis proposed by the author is that the role played by India in Islamic and Christian worlds has been under evaluated. The main basis of this misunderstanding is that since Antiquity, the historians always classified the Indians among the Africans since they were seen as Blacks. The author uses the figure of the qalandar to track the way by which Indian characteristics have penetrated Islam and Christianity. The problem is that this policy implies the use of innumerable references written in innumerable languages over many centuries. The consequence is the details makes one lose the thread of the demonstration implemented by the author. The argument would have been more convincing if it had been more tightly focused on the figure of the qalandar, and possibly the main transmitters of this figure, the gypsies.

The second part provides very useful data. The author also gives useful summaries of the relations between the Qalandariyya and “institutionalized” tarîqas like the Sohrawardiyyas or the Chishtiyyas, especially in South Asia. Last but not least, Christiane Tortel provides us the French translation of unpublished manuscripts. They include treatises of the Faqr-nâma genre, like Risâla-yi tawba attributed to Abû’l-Hasan Kharaqânî (d. 1033), or the Risâla-yi qalandarî, translated into French from an anonymous Persian manuscript she has found in Tashkent. Another remarkable piece is a rare example of scholarly literature of the qalandarî type, the Qalandar-nâme composed by Abû Bakr Qalandar Rûmî (d. 1321) from Crimea. Although the conclusion of this huge work is contained in a single page, where the author restates that Qalandariyya is a late extension of Indian renunciation, this book ultimately provides a useful basis for further study of the topic of qalandar, as the author states herself (p. 188).

Michel Boivin (CNRS-CEIAS,EHESS, Paris)

References

Paroles d’un soufi. Abû’l-Hasan Kharaqânî 352-425/960-1033, présentation, traduction du persan et notes par Christiane Tortel, Paris, Editions du Seuil, 1998.

A. T. Karamustafa, God’s Unruly Friends: Dervish Groups in the Islamic Later Middle Period, 1200-1550, Salt Lake City, University of Utah Press, 1994.

S. Digby, “Qalandars and related groups: elements of social deviance in the religious life of the Delhi Sultanate”, in Y. Friedman, Islam in Asia, Jerusalem, The Magnes Press, 1984, pp. 60-108.

K. P. Ewing, Arguing Sainthood. Modernity, Psychoanalysis, and Islam, Durham and London, Duke sUniversity Press, 1977.

 

Book: South Asian Sufism

Soren Lassen and Hugh Van Skyhaw (ed.), 2008, Sufi Traditions and New Departures. Recent Scholarship on Continuity and Change in South Asian Sufism, Islamabad, Taxila Institute of Asian Civilizations, 215 p.

This book is the first one to be published on Sufism by the TIAC in Islamabad. The book gathers nine contributions mostly written by German scholars and other scholars working, or who have worked, in Germany. Noteworthy is a posthumous paper of Annemarie Schimmel she has delivered in 2002 on Muslim culture in the Deccan, which is also available through a CD. Sufi traditions are scrutinized in several provinces of the Indian subcontinent, like Rajasthan, Bengal, Punjab and others. Moreover, the be shar paths of Sufism are the topic of three contributions. A first one by Fateh Muhammad Malik is devoted to the Malâmatiyya in Punjab. A second one by Ute Falash deals with the Madariyya in India. Finally Jürgen Wasim Frembgen’s paper focuses on an enraptured saint of Udaipur. In conclusion, the book mirrors well both the diversity of academic approaches to South Asian Sufism, and the variety of the Sufi expressions in this area.

Michel Boivin

More infos

http://www.tiac.edu.pk

 

Book: The Nath Yogis in Contemporary India

Véronique Bouillier, 2008, Itinérance et vie monastique. Les ascètes Nath Yogis en Inde contemporaine, Paris, Editions de la MSH, 310 p.

In this book, Véronique Bouillier gives a description of an Indian Saivaite sect, the Nath Yogis. Through the example of this sect, the social anthropologist examines the main features of Hindu asceticism i.e. the interweaving of a tradition of personal spiritual and ascetic quest and a collective organisation. She suggests that this collective organisation which relies on monastic institutions has enabled Hindu asceticism to endure and innovate. This volume, which draws on detailed ethnographic fieldworks as well as various historical sources to portray a vivid sect, is divided into three parts. The first part is a general presentation of the Nath Yogis, the second and the third parts describe the double configuration of the sect through the collective and personal monasteries. The author builds step by step her argument and her rich and detailed book can be read as an in-depth journey within the Nath Yogi world which leads us to Nepal, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Haryana.

Frédérique Pagani

More infos

http://www.editions-msh.fr

 

Book: Journey to God. Sufis and Dervishes in Islam

Jürgen Wasim Frembgen (2008) Journey to God. Sufis and Dervishes in Islam, Karachi, Oxford University Press.

Since 1981, the author has been conducting ethnographic fieldwork on Islamic mysticism and Sufi cults in South Asia and more particularly in Pakistan. His latest book is a revised English version translated of the German one by Jane Ripken. Jürgen Wasim Frembgen here focuses on the role played by Sufis and dervishes in shaping social and cultural environments in the whole Muslim world from Africa across the Middle East to South Asia, with special emphasis on India and Pakistan. While describing everyday practices, perceptions and representations, the author intents to show how Sufi cults and saints became popular forms of Islamic religiosity at the local level, as well as components of mass devotional movements in Muslim societies.

Rémy Delage

 

More infos

http://www.oup.com