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  IN THE COMPANY OF GODS

 ESSAYS IN MEMORY OF GUNTHER-DIETZ SONTHEIMER

Edited by ADITYA MALIK, ANNE FELDHAUS, HEIDRUN BRUCKNER,

2005, 409pp. ISBN: 81-7304-591-7, Rs. 995 (HB)


When Gunther Sontheimer passed away at the early age of fifty-eight on 1June 1992, he had done a good thirty years of research and teaching on a variety of subjects including traditional Indian law and ethics, contemporary literature in Marathi, Hinduism and folk religion in Maharasthra. He guided a generation of students at the South Asia Institute of Heidelberg and a "Sontheimer School" had begun to take shape there.

This volume contains twenty essays written by Indologists, anthropologists, historians, experts on Indian law, art historians, a filmmaker and a poet from all over the globe - India, Germany, USA, Canada, Israel and Russia are testimony to the shoreless reach of Sontheimer's work. The authors and the editors of this volume have been irrevocably influenced by his original ideas, and his intensely shy yet extraordinarily inspiring personality.

The essays in this volume are divided into four sections: folk religion, bhakti, history and law, and an epilogue that reflects on Sontheimer's thoughts on Hindu law, the constituents of Hinduism, his interest in folk bronzes, documentary film-making, and a poem by Dilip Chitre on Sontheimer. The chapters on folk religion reflect his deep understanding of this aspect as being boundary crossing, incorporating the trans-local and the local, the high and the low - a simultaneous networks of traditions. The chapters on bhakti show how devotion, in the Vārkarī tradition in Maharashtra and in Kabīr’s poetry, transcends the categories of folk, tribal and Brāhmanical. The chapters on history and law deal with the application of the forest (vana) and settlement (kṣetra) spatial and symbolical categories used by him in his analysis and customary law during the early colonial period in Maharashtra. The contributions in the fourth section are biographical and trace his thoughts on law, his analysis of Hinduism, his fascination with "folk bronzes" and his discovery of the film.

 


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