About the Book
Time is an important factor in the performance of vedic ritual. It is very much essential that every detail in the ritual be performed at its proper time. Vedic texts abound in numerous speculations about the mystic connection of time and ritual. A detailed study of such speculations was a long felt desideratum. The present book is an attempt in this direction. Aspects such as duration, order, frequency, auspicious and inauspicious time. symbolic time, time in respect to microcosm and macrocosm, etc. have been dealt with in this book.
About the Author
Maitreyee Rangnekar Deshpande did her graduation from University of Mumbai and the post- graduation and doctorate from the University of Pune. She did her Ph.D under the guidance of Dr. G.U. Thite. She has studied German from Max Mueller Bhawan, Pune and French from alliance Francaise de Poona, Pune. She has written a few articles in English and Marathi, which have been published in various journals.
Despite the wonders of the information age, there are still precious few actual collaborations between scholars living in the West and scholars living in India on points of Indology. Each world of scholarship bends to exist happily with rules, social worlds, and questions of its own, occasionally peering with timid engagement into the other world for reasons of necessity. Only rarely do scholars engage that other scholarly world for reasons of sheer joy and curiosity. We are no longer curious, but rather laden with the unfortunately false presumptions that "Western" and "Indian" forms of scholarship always have particular tendencies and characteristics which define them. Why would an Indian scholar look at Western Indology if she has learned that it must be colonial by virtue of the fact that it is Western? And Western scholars have been ignoring Indian scholarship for years, treating it at best as a handmaiden to their own work. The terms "Western Indology" and "Indian Indology" were originally provisional terms suggesting certain kinds of cultural orientations and critiques, and yet now they have become the determining factors which draw a hard dividing line between our questions and concerns.
This is a sorry state of conversation indeed. Yet our Indological questions and concerns are surprisingly common. And we ignore those common concerns at our intellectual peril. Some works, however, do still bravely cross the cultural dividing line. This is why it is a great delight indeed to write a foreword to the work of Maitreyee Deshpande, whose cross-cultural Indological energies are evident in her book, "The Concept of Time In Vedic Ritual." Among the many virtues of this work, the reader can see that her questions are shared by a larger community of Indologists, both "Western" and "Indian", and will be of interest to scholars working in different fields, disciplines and scholarly worlds. How might we use the tiniest ritual details to rethink the idea of time in early India? What kinds of time are possible in this early Indian ritual world, and what can it teach us about other ritual worlds?
Deshpande argues that in Indology, the emphasis has been on the metaphysical study of the Brahmanas, but very little on the empirical emphasis of the texts. Her critique spans both Western and Indological scholarship, ranging from A. B. Caland to Brian Smith. Her typology of time goes a long way toward remedying that lack, both in terms of its thoroughness of data collection, as well as its development of a new set of categories with which to think about Vedic ritual. The book's main contributions, as I see it, are both historical and conceptual.
Let me begin with the historical. On the one hand, she systematically shows the ways in which Brahmanic ritual expands itself to incorporate the exigencies of time. While time has been a scholarly focus in the study of the more philosophical Vedic texts, such as the Upanisads, and the later hymns of the Rg Veda, the "history of time" (to borrow a phrase from Stephen Hawking) as such in early India has not included the ritual texts. Deshpande demonstrates that there is a distinct set of conceptions about time in ritual performance that include narrative, grammar, and implicitly philosophical perspectives. Her book will help any historian of ideas place the ritual texts (usually ignored in the history of Indian ideas) alongside their predecessors and successors, and complete the picture of early Indian intellectual life that we currently possess.
The sheer thoroughness of the index of ideas about time that comprises the bulk of the book is remarkable. While the author herself does not claim thoroughness, the reader cannot help but remark on the years of work which the sheer gathering of data must have required. Any historian would be able to use this work as a kind of encyclopedia.
Turning now to the conceptual contribution : The typology that Deshpande develops is also creative and helpful. While some of her categories are intuitively obvious, some of them are not, and reflect a much more accurate idea of Sankritic ideas of time. "Duration", "Order", "Frequency", "Time Identified with Ritual Details" and "Time and Measurement of Ritual Details" all impress me as very important and fresh ways of looking at time in Indian perspective. They are productive categories not only because one wouldn't necessarily think of them in their own right, but because they can provide important links to the reconception of time in the Upanisads. One of the crucial ways in which Upanisadic time is re-configured is through the identification of the meditating body with the passage of time, and we can see the "middle stage" of this process by looking at the Brahmanas as Deshpande does.
Two particularly fruitful reconceptions of time which Deshpande suggests and which are, I think, very new to Vedic studies.
**Contents and Sample Pages**