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Roots of Wisdom, Branches of Devotion

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Plant life has figured prominently in Indian culture. Archaeobotanical findings and Vedic texts confirm that plants have been central not only as a commodity (sources of food; materia medica; sacrificial matter; etc.) but also as powerful and enduring symbols. Roots of Wisdom, Branches of Devotion: Plant Life in South Asian Traditions explores how herbs, trees, shrubs, flowers and vegetables have been studied, classified, represented and discussed in a variety of Indian traditions such as Vedism, Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, indigenous cultures and Islam. Moving from an analysis of the sentience of plants in early Indian philosophies and scientific literature, the various chapters, divided in four thematic sections, explore Indian flora within devotional and mystic literature (bhakti and Sufism), mythological, ritual and sacrificial culture, folklore, medicine, perfumery, botany, floriculture and agriculture. Arboreal and floral motifs are also discussed as an expression of Indian aesthetics since early coinage to figurative arts and literary figures. Finally, the volume reflects current discourses on environmentalism and ecology as well as on the place of indigenous flora as part of an ancient yet still very much alive sacred geography.

Published: Jun 1, 2016

Section Chapter Authors
List of Figures Fabrizio Ferrari, Thomas Dähnhardt
List of Tables Fabrizio Ferrari, Thomas Dähnhardt
Introduction Fabrizio Ferrari, Thomas Dähnhardt
Section 1: Nature, Landscape, Devotion
1. A Modern Kalpavr̥kṣa: Sathya Sāī Bābā and the Wish-fulfilling Tree Antonio Rigopoulos
2. “Pagoda Tree”: Plants and Other Foliate Motifs on Indians Coins through History Shailendra Bhandare
3. Divine Flora, Divine Love: The Place of Natural Scenery in the Ultimate Vision of Kr̥ṣṇa Bhakti Graham Schweig
Section 2: Devotion, Ecology, Ritual
4. Perfumed Islam: The Culture of Scent at the Nizamuddin Basti Mikko Viitamäki
5. The Bodhi Tree and Other Plants in the Pāli Tipiṭaka Antonella Serena Comba
6. Wood, Water, and Waste: Material Aspects of Mortuary Practices in South Asia Albertina Nugteren
Section 3: Ritual, Power, Myth
7. The Herbal Arsenal and Fetid Food: The Power of Plants in Early Tantric Exorcism Rituals Michael Slouber
8. Tree-Hugger: The Sāmavedic Rite of Audumbarī Finnian Gerety
Section 4: Myth, Food, Nature
9. Caryota Urens: From Vegetable Manifestation of God to Sacred Tree of the Shamans of Odisha Stefano Beggiora
10. Rice and Rice Culture. Cultivation and Worship of a Divine Plant in Western Odisha Uwe Skoda
11. Agriculture, Floriculture and Botanical Knowledge in a Middle Bengali Text Fabrizio Ferrari
End Matter
General Index Fabrizio Ferrari, Thomas Dähnhardt
Index of Botanical Species Fabrizio Ferrari, Thomas Dähnhardt