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Two Articles by Axel Michaels published

02. Feb. 2018

Axel Michaels, former Director of the Cluster, contributed the articles “Rites of Passage: saṃskāras” and “Ritual” to the recently published volume “The Oxford History of Hinduism: Hindu Law”. The volume investigates the Dharmasastra, the ancient Hindu law texts, and was edited by Patrick Olivelle and Donald R. Davis with Oxford University Press.

The major aim of the volume “The Oxford History of Hinduism: Hindu Law” is to show how Hindu Law and the History of Hinduism are correlated and mutually shaped each other. With their collection of various articles, the editors Patrick Olivelle and Donald R. Davis, thus, try to capture the importance of the ancient Sanskrit law texts to Hindu history.

In his article “Rites of Passage: saṃskāras”, Axel Michaels examines the classical Hindu life-cycle rites, the term saṃskāra and its history. Thereby, the notion saṃskāra refers to rites of passage and includes purification actions that make persons fit to specific purposes that are meant to be accepted by the gods. Michaels especially focuses on Nepal to present a local variant of such traditional saṃskāras. He describes prenatal, birth and childhood, adolescence, marriage, old-age, death, and ancestor rituals and analyzes the transformational process of these life-cycle rituals in the light of general theories on rites of passage.

The second article “Ritual” first examines Sanskrit terms equivalent to the word ritual and defines the term in accordance to its different formal components. This finally creates an understanding for legal Hindu procedures. In a second step, Axel Michaels includes the analysis of paradigmatic rituals such as sacrifice, called yajna or iṣṭi, of life-cycle rituals, which refer to beforementioned saṃskāra, and of worship, also called pūjā. Finally, the author analyses various theories on ritual.

Axel Michaels is former Director of the Cluster and currently works at the South Asia Institute as Director of the Department of Classical Indology and as Professor for Classical Indology. Furthermore, he is Speaker of the Collaborative Research Centre on "Dynamics of Ritual" of the German Research Foundation.

 


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