God of Justice

God of Justice : Ritual Healing and Social Justice in the Central Himalayas

4.11 (9 ratings by Goodreads)
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God of Justice deals with ritual healing in the Central Himalayas of north India. It focuses on the cult of Bhairav, a local deity who is associated with the lowest castes, the so-called Dalits, who are frequently victims of social injustice. When powerless people are exploited or abused and have nowhere else to go, they often turn to Bhairav for justice, and he afflicts their oppressors with disease and misfortune. In order to end their suffering, they must make amends with their former victims and worship Bhairav with bloody sacrifices. Many acts of perceived injustice occur within the family, so that much of the book focuses on the tension between the high moral value placed on family unity on the one hand, and the inevitable conflicts within it on the other. Such conflicts can lead to ghost possession, cursing, and other forms of black magic, all of which are vividly described. This highly readable book includes a personal account of the author's own experiences in the field as well as fascinating descriptions of blood sacrifice, possession, exorcism and cursing.
Sax begins with a straightforward description of his fieldwork and goes on to describe the god Bhairav and his relationship to the weak and powerless. Subsequent chapters deal with the lives of local oracles and healers; the main rituals of the cult and the dramatic Himalayan landscape in which they are embedded; the moral, ritual, and therapeutic centrality of the family; the importance of ghosts and exorcism; and practices of cursing and counter-cursing. The final chapter examines the problematic relationship between ritual healing and modernity.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 296 pages
  • 152.4 x 231.14 x 25.4mm | 453.59g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • New.
  • 0195335864
  • 9780195335866

Review quote

William S. Sax's latest book... exhibits the same rich ethnography and lively, argument-driven prose that characterized his earlier work... the book offers a wealth of ethnographic description and direct quotation, and it successfully places this content in relation to larger debates in the field and sax's own arguments about ritual, modernity, and personhood in South Asia... it is an excellent book for the classroom as well as a significant contribution to the
literature on healing, caste, gender, and the culture and religion of Garhwal. * Carla Bellamy, Book Reviews: South Asia *
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About William S. Sax

William S. Sax Executive Director, South Asia Institute, and Head, Department of Anthropology, University of Heidelberg
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Table of contents

1. Introduction: Fieldwork Among the Harijans ; 2. God of Justice ; 3. Landscape, Memory, and Ritual ; 4. Oracles, Gurus, and Distributed Agency ; 5. Rituals of Family Unity ; 6. Families and their ghosts ; 7. Sending the God Back ; 8. Postscript: Ritual healing and modernity
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Rating details

9 ratings
4.11 out of 5 stars
5 33% (3)
4 44% (4)
3 22% (2)
2 0% (0)
1 0% (0)
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