Synopses & Reviews
In this moving ethnographic portrait of Hindu renouncers--sadhus or ascetics--in northern India and Nepal, Sondra L. Hausner considers a paradox that shapes their lives: while ostensibly defined by their solitary spiritual practice, the stripping away of social commitments, and their break with family and community, renouncers in fact regularly interact with "householder" society. They form a distinctive, alternative community with its own internal structure, but one that is not located in any single place. Highly mobile and dispersed across the subcontinent, its members are regularly brought together through pilgrimage circuits on festival cycles. Drawing on many years of fieldwork, Hausner presents intimate portraits of individual sadhus as she examines the shared views of space, time, and the body that create the ground for everyday experience. Written with an extraordinary blend of empathy, compassion, and anthropological insight, this study will appeal to scholars, students, and general readers alike.
"Will be of interest to students and scholars who are interested in any of a number of subjects: meditation, yoga, sacrifice, Vedanta, gender, bhakti, pilgrimage, body, space, desire, and liberation. Beautifully written, it is also a wonderful contribution to the fields of anthropology and religion." --Lindsey Harlan, Connecticut College Indiana University Press
"Wandering with Sadhus is a nuanced, humane, and evocative study of Hindu renouncers in South Asia. It is also a theoretically powerful contribution to anthropological scholarship on bodies in culture, the intricacies of social organization in South Asia, and the lived practice of a complex religious system." --Ernestine McHugh, author of Love and Honor in the Himalayas: Coming to Know Another Culture
About the Author
Sondra L. Hausner is University Lecturer in the Study of Religion at Oxford University. She grew up in Nepal, Bhutan, and Swaziland in a United Nations family. She lives in Oxford, United Kingdom.
Table of Contents
Note on Transliteration
Introduction: Wandering with Renouncers
1. The Body and Sadhu Society
2. The Social Structures of Sadhu Life
3. Hardwar: The Ground of Space
4. Allahabad: The Community in Time
5. Kathmandu: The Body in Place
Conclusion: The Culture of Hindu Renunciation
Appendix: Literatures on Renunciation and Embodiment