SOAS University of London

SOAS South Asia Institute


The Roots of Yoga - James Mallinson

Roots of Yoga
Authors: James Mallinson and Mark Singleton
Penguin, 2017

'Yoga is to be known through yoga. Yoga arises from yoga. One who is vigilant by means of yoga delights in yoga for a long time'

Yoga is hugely popular around the world today, yet until now little has been known of its roots. This book collects, for the first time, core teachings of yoga in their original form, translated and edited by two of the world's foremost scholars of the subject. It includes a wide range of texts from different schools of yoga, languages and eras: among others, key passages from the early Upanisads and the Mahabharata, and from the Tantric, Buddhist and Jaina traditions, with many pieces in scholarly translation for the first time. Covering yoga's varying definitions across systems, models of the esoteric and physical bodies, and its most important practices, such as posture, breath control, sensory withdrawal and meditation, Roots of Yoga is a unique and essential source of knowledge.

The book is drawn from over a hundred texts, many of which are not well known, and which date from about 1000 BC to the nineteenth century CE: a period of almost three thousand years. Although most of the texts included here are in Sanskrit, there is also material from Tibetan, Arabic, Persian, Bengali, Tamil, Pali, Old Kashmiri, Old Marathi, Avadhi and Braj Bhasha (late-medieval precursors of Hindi), and English. This chronological and linguistic range reveals patterns and continuities that contribute to a better understanding of yoga’s development within and across practice traditions (for example between earlier Sanskrit sources and later vernacular or non-Indian texts which draw on them).

Book 'Political Change and Public Culture in Post-1990 Nepal'

Political Change and Public Culture in Post-1990 Nepal

Author: Michael J. Hutt & Pratyoush Onta
Cambridge University Press, 2018

This book explores various domains of the Nepali public sphere in which ideas about democracy and citizenship have been debated and contested since 1990. It investigates the ways in which the public meaning of the major political and sociocultural changes that occurred in Nepal between 1990 and 2013 was constructed, conveyed and consumed.

These changes took place against the backdrop of an enormous growth in literacy, the proliferation of print and broadcast media, the emergence of a public discourse on human rights, and the vigorous reassertion of linguistic, ethnic and regional identities. Scholars from a range of different disciplinary locations delve into debates on rumours, ethnicity and identity, activism and gender to provide empirically grounded histories of the nation during one of its most important political transitions.

The Sweatshop Regime: Labouring Bodies, Exploitation, and Garments Made in India

The Sweatshop Regime: Labouring Bodies, Exploitation, and Garments Made in India

Author: Mezzadri, Alessandra
Cambridge University Press, 2016

This book explores the processes producing and reproducing the garment sweatshop in India. Drawing from Marxian and feminist insights, the book theorizes the sweatshop as a complex 'regime' of exploitation and oppression, jointly crafted by global, regional and local actors. It illustrates the links between the physical and social materiality of production, unveiling the distinct circuits of exploitation corresponding to different clothing items. Through the eyes of sourcing actors, the whole country can be re-imagined as a giant department store, with different garment collections exhibited at different floors, and created through the sweat of different sets of labourers.

The book depicts the sweatshop as a complex joint enterprise against the labouring poor, shaped and steered by multiple lords, and where production and circulation - of garments, processes and people- intertwine in manifold ways. It shows how the labouring body is systematically and inexorably depleted and consumed by garment work, until it is finally ejected from the sweatshop. Finally, it highlights how the study of India's sweatshop regime informs contemporary debates on industrial modernity, comparative advantage and cheap labour, modern slavery, and ethical consumerism.

 Crispin Branfoot - In Andal's Garden Book Cover

In Andal's Garden: Art, Ornament and Devotion in Srivilliputtur

Authors: Crispin Branfoot and Archana Venkatesan
Marg Publications, 2015

A close focus on the temple-town Srivilliputtur of Tamil Nadu and the worship of one of south India's best-loved goddesses AndalAndal or Goda was a 9th-century Tamil poet and mystic, today worshiped as a goddess across southern India. Her vibrant, sensuous poetry, the Tiruppavai and Nacciyar Tirumoli, sings of her love for Vishnu. Her birthplace is Srivilliputtur, a small town 75 kilometers south of Madurai. Her temple in Srivilliputtur shares space with the Vishnu temple complex, one of the most important of the Tamil Vaishnava temple sites.

These two temples share much in common both architecturally and ritually with two major Madurai temples: the Shaiva Minakshi-Sundareshvara temple and the Vaishnava Kudal Alakar temple. Relating the temples in Srivilliputtur to those in Madurai develops an understanding of the nature of temple ritual, myth and patronage under the Pandyans and the later Nayakas. The temple is today a frequent stop for Vaishnava pilgrims, particularly during the three major Andal festivals (March, August and December).

Tellings and Texts: Music, Literature and Performance in North India

Tellings and Texts: Music, Literature and Performance in North India

Author: Orsini, Francesca and Butler Schofield, Katherine (eds.)
Open Book Publishers, 2015

Examining materials from early modern and contemporary North India and Pakistan, Tellings and Texts brings together seventeen first-rate papers on the relations between written and oral texts, their performance, and the musical traditions these performances have entailed. The contributions from some of the best scholars in the field cover a wide range of literary genres and social and cultural contexts across the region.

The texts and practices are contextualized in relation to the broader social and political background in which they emerged, showing how religious affiliations, caste dynamics and political concerns played a role in shaping social identities as well as aesthetic sensibilities. By doing so this book sheds light into theoretical issues of more general significance, such as textual versus oral norms; the features of oral performance and improvisation; the role of the text in performance; the aesthetics and social dimension of performance; the significance of space in performance history and important considerations on repertoires of story-telling. The book also contains links to audio files of some of the works discussed in the text. Tellings and Texts is essential reading for anyone with an interest in South Asian culture and, more generally, in the theory and practice of oral literature, performance and story-telling.

Bollywood’s India: Hindi Cinema as a Guide to Contemporary India
Bollywood’s India: Hindi cinema as a guide to contemporary India 

Author: Dwyer, Rachel 
Reaktion Books/Hachette, 2014

Bollywood’s India explores the nature of mainstream Hindi cinema, now best known as ‘Bollywood’ and explains why it favours non-realistic depictions of everyday life in India. Rachel Dwyer argues that Hindi cinema’s interpretations of India over the last two decades are the most reliable guide to understanding the nation’s changing dreams and hopes, fears and anxieties.

Her book shows how escapism and entertainment function in Bollywood cinema, and what that reveals about Indian life and society. It looks at the ways in which Bollywood has imagined and portrayed the unity and diversity of India--what its people believe and feel; their views on religion, caste and politics; life at home and in public. The book is based on twenty years of watching, teaching and writing about Hindi films, working with filmmakers and discussions with critics and fans. Featuring 80 striking images, the book has much to say to scholars and students of Indian cinema who are curious about the ways in which aspects of Indian life and culture are shown on screen, as well as to the general reader and fan of world cinema.

Captain Linnaeus Tripe:Photographer of India and Burma, 1852-1860
Captain Linnaeus Tripe: Photographer of India and Burma, 1852-1860

Authors: Taylor, Roger and Branfoot, Crispin 
National Gallery of Art and Prestel Publishing, 2014

This volume on Captain Linnaeus Tripe, who photographed extensively in India and Burma in the mid-19th century, offers brilliant pictures that display the unusual combination of a surveyor’s eye and an artist’s passion.

Captain Linnaeus Tripe (1822–1902) occupies a special place in the history of 19th-century photography for the outstanding body of work he produced in India and Burma (now Myanmar) in the 1850s. Introduced to photography by those who saw it as a pastime, he recognized that it could be an effective tool for conveying information about unknown cultures. Under the auspices of the East India Company, he took many photographs of Buddhist and Hindu architecture and dramatic landscapes not seen before in the West. His military training gave his work a striking aesthetic and formal rigor and helped him achieve remarkably consistent results, despite the challenges that India’s heat and humidity posed to photographic chemistry. This sumptuous volume features photographs from Tripe’s two major expeditions: to Burma in 1854 and to southeast India in 1857. Essays explore the evolution of his practice and the importance of the sites he recorded, while maps and a chronology provide an overview of his life and travels.

newbigin book

The Hindu Family and the Emergence of Modern India: Law, Citizenship and Community
Author: Eleanor Newbigin
Cambridge University Press, 2013

Between 1955 and 1956 the Government of India passed four Hindu Law Acts to reform and codify Hindu family law. Scholars have understood these acts as a response to growing concern about women's rights but, in a powerful re-reading of their history, this book traces the origins of the Hindu law reform project to changes in the political-economy of late colonial rule. The Hindu Family and the Emergence of Modern India considers how questions regarding family structure, property rights and gender relations contributed to the development of representative politics, and how, in solving these questions, India's secular and state power structures were consequently drawn into a complex and unique relationship with Hindu law. In this comprehensive and illuminating resource for scholars and students, Newbigin demonstrates the significance of gender and economy to the history of twentieth-century democratic government, as it emerged in India and beyond.

 Richard Widdess - book cover - Dāphā: Sacred Singing in a South Asian City. Music, Performance and Meaning in Bhaktapur, Nepal

Dapha: Sacred Singing in a South Asian City
Music, Performance and Meaning in Bhaktapur, Nepal
Author: Widdess, Richard
Ashgate, 2013

Dāphā, or dāphā bhajan, is a genre of Hindu-Buddhist devotional singing, performed by male, non-professional musicians of the farmer and other castes belonging to the Newar ethnic group, in the towns and villages of the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. The songs, their texts, and their characteristic responsorial performance-style represent an extension of pan-South Asian traditions of rāga- and tāla-based devotional song, but at the same time embody distinctive characteristics of Newar culture. This culture is of unique importance as an urban South Asian society in which many traditional models survive into the modern age.

The book describes the music and musical practices of dāphā, accounts for their historical origins and later transformations, investigates links with other South Asian traditions, and describes a cultural world in which music is an integral part of everyday social and religious life. The book focuses particularly on the musical system and structures of dāphā, but aims to integrate their analysis with that of the cultural and historical context of the music, in order to address the question of what music means in a traditional South Asian society.

Edward Simpson - book cover -  The Political Biography of an Earthquake: Aftermath and amnesia in Gujarat, India (London: Hurst).

The Political Biography of an Earthquake: Aftermath and amnesia in Gujarat, India
Author: Simpson, Edward
Hurst, 2013

For those so-minded, the aftermath of an earthquake presents opportunities to intervene. Thus, in Gujarat, following the disaster of 2001, leaders were deposed, proletariats created, religious fundamentalism incubated, the state restructured, and industrial capitalism expanded exponentially.

Rather than gazing in at those struggling in the ruins, as is commonplace in the literature, this book looks out from the affected region at those who came to intervene. Based on extensive research amid the dust and noise of reconstruction, the author focuses on the survivors and their interactions with death, history, and with those who came to use the shock of disaster to change the order of things.Edward Simpson takes us deep into the experience of surviving a ‘natural’ disaster. We see a society in mourning, further alienated by manufactured conditions of uncertainty and absurdity. We witness arguments about the past. What was important? What should be preserved? Was modernisation the cause of the disaster or the antidote?As people were putting things back together, they also knew that future earthquakes were inevitable. How did they learn to live with this terrible truth? How have people in other times and places come to terms with the promise of another earthquake, knowing that things will fall apart again?