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By Leela Prasad

Leela Prasad's riveting booklet offers daily tales on matters comparable to deities, ascetics, cats, and cooking in addition to stylized, publicly brought moral discourse, and indicates that the learn of oral narrative and function is key to moral inquiry. Prasad builds on greater than a decade of her ethnographic learn within the recognized Hindu pilgrimage city of Sringeri, Karnataka, in southwestern India, the place for hundreds of years a colourful neighborhood tradition has flourished along a convention of monastic authority. Oral narratives and the seeing-and-doing orientations which are a part of lifestyle compel the query: How do members think the normative, and negotiate and exhibit it, whilst normative resources are many and diverging? ethical persuasiveness, Prasad indicates, is in detail tied to the aesthetics of narration, and mind's eye performs a necessary function in shaping how humans create, refute, or relate to "text," "moral authority," and "community." Lived understandings of ethics preserve notions of textual content and perform in flux and lift questions on the structure of "theory" itself. Prasad's cutting edge use of ethnography, poetics, philosophy of language, and narrative and function experiences demonstrates how the ethical self, with a potential for creative expression, is dynamic and gendered, with a old presence and a political company.

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Poetics of Conduct: Oral Narrative and Moral Being in a South Indian Town

Leela Prasad's riveting publication provides daily tales on topics corresponding to deities, ascetics, cats, and cooking besides stylized, publicly brought moral discourse, and indicates that the research of oral narrative and function is vital to moral inquiry. Prasad builds on greater than a decade of her ethnographic study within the recognized Hindu pilgrimage city of Sringeri, Karnataka, in southwestern India, the place for hundreds of years a colourful neighborhood tradition has flourished along a practice of monastic authority.

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21 Two wonderful folkloric collections immediately come to mind. Kirin Narayan shows how Swamiji, a holy man in Nasik (western India), with great compassion, humor, and wisdom employs storytelling to enliven moral teaching. While sometimes Swamiji’s stories resemble known literary story traditions, his stories are ultimately narrations that are deeply sensitive to the situational contexts of the listening audience. 22 More recently, in a hundred oral tales shared with him in various villages in Tamilnadu, Stuart Blackburn finds that the tales are explicitly moral in orientation and reflect not only moral content but tellers’ perspectives on that content.

26 While brahmans, and the few Jains in Sringeri, live in the immediate area around the matha, Hindus of other castes (Vokkaligas, Vishwakarmas, and Bunts, for example) and Muslims, many of whom have generational ties with Sringeri, live in different parts of the town. These generational ties, I learned, are quite significant and deep, shaping interreligious dialogue and coexistence. I showed up unannounced one mid-morning at the house of Ziya Ahmed, who was well known in Sringeri as a respected member of the Muslim community and also as former vice president of Sringeri’s municipal council from 1979–1981.

As I walked around the temple more recently in June 2004, looking at sculptures that had been freshly washed in the light drizzle that had set in, Shamanna, the caretaker of the basadi, told me that some of the statues in the pillared courtyard (the navaranga) had been brought from ruins of basadis around Sringeri. Plans were underway for renovation, but the funds were slow in coming. All the same, the sanctum had been completed, renovated with new flooring, puja was being conducted daily. The annual Jain celebration at Mahavir Jayanti clearly indicates that Sringeri’s Jainism is an ongoing tradition.

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