Stories about Posts

Vedic Variations around the Hindu Goddess

Madeleine Biardeau

Stories about Posts

Madeleine Biardeau

Translated by James Walker
360 pages | 108 halftones, 10 figures, 3 maps | 7 x 10 | © 2004
Cloth $58.00 ISBN: 9780226045955 Published October 2004
Stories about Posts is the magnum opus of Madeleine Biardeau, one of the most influential Indologists of the twentieth century. Nearly twenty years in the making, it connects her varied studies on the Sanskrit epics, the Hindu Goddess, Vedic sacrifice, rural India, and the interpretation of Hinduism.

After exploring several ethnographic facts that have escaped the notice of previous observers, Biardeau presents a variety of hunches, hypotheses, and insights building up to the provocative thesis of Stories about Posts: that the variations found in the contemporary cult of the Goddess—in both her royal and rural village aspects—reveal untraced regional histories of the Vedic sacrificial post, the yupa. Biardeau's work opens up new ways of thinking about Vedic sacrificial themes and elements as they recur in post-Vedic texts and iconographies. It also connects wayside stones in Maharashtra named after the buffalo to stones, posts, and people named after a so-called Buffalo King in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Tamilnadu.

A work of magnificent scholarship and fieldwork, Stories about Posts, in ways no previous work has attempted, much less accomplished, unravels much of the mystery surrounding contemporary Hindu ritual by connecting it to the ancient Sanskrit epics. As such, it will fascinate students of Indology, religious studies, and anthropology for years to come.
List of Figures
List of Plates
Translators' Preface
Note on the Transcription of Indian Languages
List of Abbreviations

PART ONE: Potu Raju
I. The Little Brother of the Goddesses of Andhra
A. Representations and Elements of Ritual
1. Representations
2. Festivals
B. Identification of the God
1. Mythical Elements
2. His Name
II. His Verdic Ancestors
A. The Sacrificial Post
1. Its Form
2. The Putting to Death of the Victim
B. The Sami and the Kindling Sticks
III. The Post for the Buffalo Sacrifice in Orissa
A. Local Conditions
B. Textual Givens
C. Ritual Facts
IV. Return to Potu Raju
A. In Search of an Installation Ritual: The Post-God of Kanakona
B. Attempt at Interpretation

PART TWO: The Symbol Splintered
I. Potta Raja
II. The Post
A. Draupadi with Two Posts
B. The Torture Post and Its Avatars in Tamilnadu
1. The Post-"Demon"
2. Mariyamman and the Impalement Stake
3. Mariyamman, Her Post-Husband, and Other Avatars
of the Buffalo in Kongunad
C. Madan and His Congeners
1. The Buffalo Sacrifice in Gangaikondam
2. The Madans
3. Karuppu, the Black One
III. The Sami
A. The Buffalo Sacrifice in Maduvettimangalam
B. The Fire: Demon, Torture, Funeral Pyre
1. The Demon Vanni
2. The Firewalk and the Goddess Paccai Amman
3. The Cremation Ground
C. The Samipuja
Appendix: Maps of Sites Visited
Review Quotes
Frederick M. Smith | Journal of Religion
"Biardeau should need no introduction for anglophone scholars of Indian religion. Yet this volume serves as just such a showcase. . . . What is on display in this volume is Biardeau's long-standing commitment to linking different aspects of the Indic universe: Sanskrit, Vedic studies, South Indian languages and ritual, ethnography. . . . It is no wonder that  this is the volume that she felt best represented her interests and therefore wanted translated for a wider audience."
Carl Olson | Hindu Studies
"The author is a distinguished Indologist who has written a tour de force in the field that combines ethnology and textual study. . . . This book is essential reading for any Indologist and ethnologist."
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