P45


Objects of worship in the lived religions of South Asia: forms, practices and meanings 
Convenors:
Mikael Aktor (University of Southern Denmark)
Knut Axel Jacobsen (University of Bergen)
Location:
C408
Start time:
27 July, 2012 at 9:00 (UTC+0)
Session slots:
3

Short Abstract:

Objects of worship are at the same time material objects shaped by traditions of religious aesthetics and conceptual devices woven into webs of religious and social meaning. This panel contributes to an understanding of the central significance of these objects in the social life of South Asia.

Long Abstract

South Asian religions are known for their strong emphasis on visuality. Objects of worship may be natural phenomena like trees, mountains or rivers, or they are man-made artefacts in all kinds of shape and design - anthropomorphic, theriomorphic or aniconic. Together they may form patterns in the landscape that are seen as an object of worship in its own right. Although generally designed in non-verbal visual media, such objects reflect a long history of religious discourse and give rise to endless interpretations. Objects of worship have been the focus of complex theological debates about the nature of God, whether saguna, nirguna, empty, diverse or exclusively One. They have been causes of bitter charges of "idolatry" that have been central to the rise of reform movements and new religions in which letters, words and books became themselves objects of worship.

Objects of worship are at the centre of religious practices performed privately or in homes and temples. They protect those who wear them against all kinds of misfortune like disease, childlessness, unemployment or demands of paying off one's debt. They are tools of meditation and of attaining altered states of consciousness. Some even guarantee liberation from rebirth.

In essence, objects of worship are at the same time material objects shaped by traditions of religious aesthetics and conceptual devices woven into webs of religious and social meaning. The papers of this panel all contribute to an understanding of the central significance of these objects in the social life of South Asia.

Accepted papers: