People Trees: Worship of Trees in Northern India

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9780199929160: People Trees: Worship of Trees in Northern India
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People Trees is about religious conceptions of trees within the cultural world of tree worship at the tree shrines of northern India. Sacred trees have been worshiped for millennia in India, and today tree worship continues there in abundance among all segments of society. In the past, tree worship was regarded by many Western anthropologists and scholars of religion as a prime example of childish animism or primitive religion. More recently, this aspect of world religious cultures is almost completely ignored in the theoretical concerns of the day.
Incorporating ethnographic fieldwork and texts never before translated into English, David Haberman reevaluates concepts such as animism, anthropomorphism, and personhood in the context of the worship of the pipal, a tree of mighty and ambiguous power; the neem, an embodied form of a goddess whose presence is enhanced with colorful ornamentation and a facemask appended to its trunk; and the banyan, a tree noted for its association with longevity and immortality. Along with detailed descriptions of a wide range of tree worship rituals, here is a spirited exploration of the practical consequences, perceptual possibilities, and implicit environmental ethics suggested by Indian notions about sacred trees.

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About the Author:


David L. Haberman is Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University Bloomington.

Review:


"This book is a valuable addition to the emerging field of religion and ecology, as it not only provides new data from the field but also enhances our hermeneutic lenses to interpret this data from non-Western ways."--Journal of Religion


"Engaging and accessible... Haberman's book brings attention to an important yet understudied aspect of Hindu religious experience." --CHOICE


"Here is a spirited exploration of the practical consequences, perceptual possibilities, and implicit environmental ethics suggested by Indian notions about sacred trees." --Forum on Religion and Ecology Newsletter


"This remarkable book introduces us to trees in a new way. Beginning with a critique of the idea of 'the primitive' in earlier forms of discourse, Haberman makes connections between the trees that inhabit our driving metaphors and the trees that surround us in nature. Through the presentation of careful ethnographic research in northern India, Haberman explains the living reciprocity between human and trees at the core of Hindu faith and practice, providing an important context for understanding the living reality of what Schweitzer called 'reverence for all life.'" -- Christopher Key Chapple, Doshi Professor of Indic and Comparative Theology, Loyola Marymount University


"People Trees is essential Haberman. The book takes an ancient practice, the honoring of trees in India, and places it in historical and contemporary perspective. This is accomplished with theoretical sophistication, rigorous reading of ancient texts, and moving narratives from fieldwork. In the end Haberman gives us a new ecological and human perspective on trees in India, and we wonder why we have never thought of things this way before. Haberman throws all the pieces in the air, and when they come down, they form an elegant, compassionate, and transformative argument that means we will never look at trees the same way again." -- Laurie L. Patton, author of Bringing the Gods to Mind: Mantra and Ritual in Early Indian Sacrifice, and translator of the Bhagavad Gita, Penguin Classics Series


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Publisher: Oxford University Press, 2013
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