The Hindu World. Edited by SUSHIL MITTAL and GENE THURSBY. The Routledge Worlds. New York: ROUTLEDGE 2004. Pp. xi + 657. $210.
The Hindu World is a volume in "The Routledge Worlds" series that includes nine published works and four others forthcoming. Aside from two volumes on the Biblical and the Babylonian worlds, and the eastern fringes of their respective empires covered in the Greek and Roman worlds, there is no member of the series other than The Hindu World based in Asia. The editors of this impressive and up-to-date work on Hinduism have organized twenty-four chapters into seven parts. An introduction is followed by parts two and three, traditional surveys that reflect attention to chronological developments. The first, "Oral Teachings and Textual Traditions," takes the reader through four chapters (Veda and Upanisads, the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, and the Puranas), by Laurie Patton, James Fitzgerald, Robert Goldman and Sally Sutherland Goldman, and Velcheru Narayana Rao respectively. The second, "Theistic and Devotional Movements," also covers four chapters (Saiva, Sakta, Vaisnava, and Bhakti traditions, in that order), by Gavin Flood, Kathleen Erndl, Francis Clooney and Tony Stewart, and David Lorenzen. Thus far, with up-to-date and engagingly written essays, we are on familiar ground in a one-volume survey of Hinduism.
The remaining parts, four through seven, however, contain fifteen chapters marshalled in a different scheme. These chapters constitute a lexicon of Hindu categories, each one under the heading of a single Sanskrit word. The editors have attempted to locate what is "classical" and enduring in Hindu culture with clusters of key terms. Dharma, artha, kama, and moksa, the four "life-deals," the caturvarga or purusartha that makes a natural set to open this lexicon, merit a chapter each. Titled "Cosmic Order and Human Goals," this part covers the successive pursuits of dharma, worldly goods, pleasure or desire, and liberation, explored respectively by Barbara Holdrege, Hartmut Scharfe, Dermot Killingley, and Klaus Klostermaier.
Part five, "Social Action and Social Structure," contains another four chapters, devoted to karma, samskara, varna and jati, and asrama. The authors of these essays on action and its consequences, life-cycle rites, class and caste (or "birth networks"), and stages of life are, respectively, Herman Tull, Mary McGee, McKim Marriott, and Walter Kaelber. The sixth part, "Vitality in Persons and in...