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Tamil Temple Myths

Tamil Temple Myths: Sacrifice and Divine Marriage in the South Indian Saiva Tradition

David Dean Shulman
Copyright Date: 1980
Pages: 486
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  • Book Info
    Tamil Temple Myths
    Book Description:

    South India is a land of many temples and shrines, each of which has preserved a local tradition of myth, folklore, and ritual. As one of the first Western scholars to explore this tradition in detail, David Shulman brings together the stories associated with these sacred sites and places them in the context of the greater Hindu religious tradition.

    Originally published in 1980.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5692-3
    Subjects: Religion
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. iii-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS (pp. xi-xii)
  5. ABBREVIATIONS (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. GLOSSARY (pp. xv-1)
  7. Map: Tamiḻnāṭu, Major Shrines (pp. 2-2)
  8. CHAPTER I Introduction (pp. 3-39)

    From earliest times, India has given form to many of its most vital ideas through the medium of myth. The labyrinthine world of Hindu mythology has always been known to us principally from classical texts in Sanskrit—the Vedas, the Brāhmaṇas, the two epics, and the major purāṇas. It is in the works of this last category, the purāṇas (the name means “old,” “ancient story”), that Hindu myths have crystallized in their classical forms. Yet within this vast world there exist, and no doubt have for long existed, individual traditions of mythology proper to the various historic centers of Indian...

  9. CHAPTER II The Phenomenon of Localization (pp. 40-89)

    The feature that most conspicuously distinguishes the Tamil myths from the classical corpus of Sanskrit myths is the persistent localization of the mythic action.Sthalapurāṇas, as collections of stories that have clustered around individual shrines and their environs, are by definition repositories of localized myths and legends; yet this definition by itself tells us nothing of the religious conceptions that underlie the phenomenon of localization. This chapter attempts to analyze these conceptions as they appear in a set of recurring symbols and in a number of stories, in which the tension between the limitation implicit in the localization of the...

  10. CHAPTER III The Creative Sacrifice (pp. 90-137)

    The cosmological motifs studied in the previous chapter derive their particular character in Tamil mythology from their association with a fundamental conception, which appears in the tradition of most Tamil shrines. We may call this conception the “creative sacrifice.” As we have seen in the myths of the cosmic flood, the world is bom, or reborn, out of the violent destruction of a former creation; the deluge holds within it the vital seed of new life. The flood myths reveal on the level of cosmic processes the basic Indian notion of sacrifice: life is born out of death, out of...

  11. CHAPTER IV The Divine Marriage (pp. 138-316)

    The central structural element of the Tamiltalapurāṇamis, in a majority of instances, the myth of Devī’s marriage to the god. The marriage of the god and the goddess is one of the year’s major rituals in the temples;² the myth provides the background to this celebration by explaining how the main gods worshiped in the shrine came to be present there. In a sense, the marriage myth is thus a kind of origin myth, and we shall see that the myths of marriage are linked in many ways to the complex of symbols and motifs analyzed earlier with...

  12. CHAPTER V The Demon Devotee (pp. 317-346)

    One important problem remains to be discussed. In the previous chapters we have seen how the divine marriage in south India may be interpreted in the light of the creative sacrifice. We have studied the concept of woman as a focus of dangerous power and as the natural ground of the sacrifice, and we have seen how ritual requires the devotee to imitate the sacrifice of the god by offering his power and life to the goddess. This is the most ancient layer of the myth, in which the deity functions clearly as a model for man. But, as we...

  13. CHAPTER VI Conclusion (pp. 347-352)

    Two themes have persistently engaged our attention in our progress through the myths of the Tamil shrines—the search for power and all that power can bring; and the attempt to make this search subservient to an ideal of purity. Power is believed to be derived from forces that are, in their very essence, contaminating; these forces belong to the violent substratum of chaos out of which the world has emerged, and which is represented in the shrine by tangible symbols (the tree and the sacred tank). In Tamil myth, as in Hindu thought generally, the creative processes of the...

  15. NOTES (pp. 355-426)
  16. BIBLIOGRAPHY (pp. 427-456)
  17. INDEX OF MOTIFS (pp. 457-460)
  19. Back Matter (pp. 472-472)