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Vedic Ideals of Sovereignty and the Poetics of Power.

American Oriental Series - aos 90

American Oriental Society, 2007

167 pages, English

Cloth, 10 x 7 inches

ISBN13: 978-0-940490-21-5

$54.00

Vedic Ideals of Sovereignty and the Poetics of Power examines motifs central to the expression of the ideal of sovereignty as it is articulated in Vedic liturgical poetry. Through close analysis of Vedic hymns, exegetical texts; and ritual complexes, the author argues that the language proper to the domain of kingship was gradually adapted to express aspirations for spiritual freedom, and that the culmination of this process is reflected in the doctrines of liberation presented in the early Upanishads.

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Working from the premise that the Rgvedic hymns were composed within the context of a clan-based society, Proferes begins by exploring how liturgical poetry and ritual practice contributed to the negotiation of competing claims for sovereignty within a Vedic polity, helping to regulate and define the interactions of its constituent groups. It is argued that the symbolism of the ritual fire as it appears in the Rgveda and the Atharvaveda articulated the fluid nature of sovereignty in a segmentary kinship society and provided an early paradigm for the exploration of the concept of unity within diversity that would become such a crucial aspect of later Upanishadic thought.

The author demonstrates that the ritual symbolism of the royal unction rite and its accompanying liturgy exploits elements of the natural world such as fire, sun, and water to express a holistic vision of the interaction between human political authority and the powers of the cosmos, thus correlating the processes of nature to the internal operations of human society and ensuring that royal legitimacy was presented as the result of narual law. Through this rite the early Veidc clans symbolically unified themselves in and identified themselves with the body of the king, redering him an icon of the totality of the polity under his control and, by extensin, of the entire cosmos. Thsi metaphor of kingship was later used in the Upan ishands to express the indentification of the microcosmic self with the macrocosmic Whole.

Proferes examines an early reflection of these ideas in the Agnicayana. It is shown that this rite was origunally developed by combinig elements from two distincet ritual complexes, the first consisting of the joint kindling and communal worship of the tribal fire representing the unity of constituent clans, the second consisting of a royal unction rite by means of which a king was ritually trasformed into the sun through waters that represented the poer of the clans. These two complexes were integrated through their culmunation in the unction, performed first for the tribal fire and immediately after for the human king indentified with it. Only later, it is argued, was eligibility for the rite expanded to include a broader range of individuals from among the twice-born who wished to imitate the style of a great king and thus enhance their own status and potential.

As the author argues, it was this "popularization" of the ideals of sovereignty that inspired a whole new set of religious values and ideas, many of which contributed to the speculative explorations of spiritaul liberation recorded in the Upanishads, thereby informing religious discourse in India for centuries.
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Title Annotation:NEW FROM THE AMERICAN ORIENTAL SOCIETY
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book review
Date:Oct 1, 2006
Words:535
Previous Article:Books Received.
Next Article:Demonstratives in Semitic.
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