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India: A Sacred Geographyby Diana L. Eck
Synopses & Reviews
In India: A Sacred Geography, renowned Harvard scholar Diana Eck offers an extraordinary spiritual journey through the pilgrimage places of the world's most religiously vibrant culture and reveals that it is, in fact, through these sacred pilgrimages that India’s very sense of nation has emerged.
No matter where one goes in India, one will find a landscape in which mountains, rivers, forests, and villages are elaborately linked to the stories of the gods and heroes of Indian culture. Every place in this vast landscape has its story, and conversely, every story of Hindu myth and legend has its place. Likewise, these places are inextricably tied to one another—not simply in the past, but in the present—through the local, regional, and transregional practices of pilgrimage.
India: A Sacred Geography tells the story of the pilgrim’s India. In these pages, Diana Eck takes the reader on an extraordinary spiritual journey through the living landscape of this fascinating country –its mountains, rivers, and seacoasts, its ancient and powerful temples and shrines. Seeking to fully understand the sacred places of pilgrimage from the ground up, with their stories, connections and layers of meaning, she acutely examines Hindu religious ideas and narratives and shows how they have been deeply inscribed in the land itself. Ultimately, Eck shows us that from these networks of pilgrimage places, India’s very sense of region and nation has emerged. This is the astonishing and fascinating picture of a land linked for centuries not by the power of kings and governments, but by the footsteps of pilgrims.
India: A Sacred Geography offers a unique perspective on India, both as a complex religious culture and as a nation. Based on her extensive knowledge and her many decades of wide-ranging travel and research, Eck's piercing insights and a sweeping grasp of history ensure that this work will be in demand for many years to come.
"At a time of religious intolerance and extremism, Harvard comparative religion and Indian studies professor Eck (Encountering God: A Spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Banaras) offers an important corrective to the idea that Hindu religious and cultural distinction depend on, or correlate to, uniqueness and exclusivity. This rich study of 'the pilgrim's India' emphasizes the repetition of meaning as well as the 'complexity, mobility, and plurality' attendant on the country's vast network of pilgrimage sites, which form an intricately 'imagined landscape' linking the physical topography with cherished stories of gods and heroes — a 'practical everyday pluralism.' Similar to (but distinct from) Benedict Anderson's formulation of nationalism as the 'imagined community,' the imagined landscape is far from fanciful. No Google Earth search can capture the embedded meaning of this geography, explains Eck, who persuasively describes a lived social landscape centuries old, yet very much alive — with literally millions of pilgrims on the roads today. Cogent and erudite, this carefully crafted investigation is replete with accounts of myths modern and ancient, and offers an extensive glossary of key terms. An important addition to the study of religion, comparative cultures, and politics, the book should also serve intellectually adventurous readers as a 'thick descriptive' travel guide, while offering a reflection on the social and cultural construction of our own landscapes. Agent: Jill Kneerim, the Kneerim & Williams Agency." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
DIANA L. ECK is professor of comparative religion and Indian studies at Harvard University and is Master of Lowell House and Director of the Pluralism Project. Her book Banaras, City of Light, remains a classic in the field, and Encountering God: A Spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Banaras won the prestigious Grawemeyer Book Award. In 1998, President Clinton awarded her the National Humanities Medal for the work of the Pluralism Project in the investigation of America's changing religious landscape.
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