Cover image for The ravenous hyenas and the wounded sun : myth and ritual in ancient India
The ravenous hyenas and the wounded sun : myth and ritual in ancient India
Jamison, Stephanie W.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Ithaca, N.Y. : Cornell University Press, [1991]

Physical Description:
xix, 335 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
Format :


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BL1212.2 .J35 1991 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Vedic Sanskrit literature contains a wealth of material concerning the mythology and religious practices of India between 1500 and 500 B.C.E. a crucial period in the formation of traditional Indian culture. Stephanie W. Jamison here addresses the conditions that have limited our understanding of Vedic myth and ritual, such as the profusion and obscurity of the texts and the tendency on the part of scholars to approach mythology and ritual independently. Tracing two key myths through a variety of texts, Jamison provides insight into the relationship between early Indic myth and ritual as well as offering a new methodology for their study.

After a brief survey of Vedic literature and religion, Jamison examines the recurrences of the myths "Indra fed the Yatis to the hyenas" and "Svarbhanu pierced the sun with darkness." Focusing on their verbal form and ritual setting, she essays a general interpretation of the myths and their ritual purpose. Her book sheds new light on some central figures in Vedic mythology and on the evolution of Vedic mythological narrative, and it points to parallels in other cultures as well. Indologists and other scholars and students of South Asian culture, Indo-Eurepeanists, folklorists, historians of religion, classicists, and comparatists will welcome this rich and suggestive introduction to the Vedic tradition."

Reviews 1

Choice Review

This is a fine work of scholarship. Apart from the careful analysis of parallel passages in different myths and in different versions of the two key myths that form its object of analysis, the greatest strength of this book is the way Jamison contextualizes myths within ritual performance. This is a departure from the closed formalism of the kind of analysis that treats myths entirely as self-referring texts having no locus or function outside of the literary world of other myths. In the case of the two myths analyzed here, their connection with ritual is obvious since much of their action involves ritual performance, but this kind of contextualization would be appropriate even if this were not the case, for it is by such means that we endeavor to create imaginatively the world the myths presuppose. The book has a useful glossary of Sanskrit terms, a note on Sanskrit pronunciation, a good bibliography, and appropriate indexes. It is clearly written, but because of the numerous passages necessarily cited, will be slow going for readers unfamiliar with similar material or with its background culture. Most useful for advanced undergraduates.-S. A. Tyler, Rice University