buried images

Allen W Thrasher athr at LOC.GOV
Tue Apr 22 22:52:06 UTC 2008

Could the images sometimes be of bhutas, pretas, ganas or fierce deities?  I read online an article by a Japanese scholar, which I can't locate any more, saying that into the 20th century in Kerala, when the dikes of fields were breaking from a flood, a landowner might grab one of the low-caste workers off working on the dikes and have him buried in the dike to become a guardian to prevent collapse.   There could be a segue from burying a human to burying an image of the sort of being one expected and wanted him to become afterwards, and the distinction between the dead and demons and fierce gods is frequently vague.  Gail Hinich Sutherland, The disguises of the demon : the development of the Yakṣa in Hinduism and Buddhism (Albany : State University of New York Press, c1991) discusses this with respect to both India and Southeast Asia.  There could also be a segue from burying images of fierce beings to burying images of more kindly ones, or of types that had gone from being basically malicious to being kindly.  The ones mentioned in this thread so far seem to be kindly.

There are three articles on human sacrifice in India, all dealing with burial, in The strange world of human sacrifice / edited by Jan N. Bremmer (Leuven ; Dudley, MA : Peeters, 2006):

Human sacrifice in India in Vedic times and before / A. Parpola -- Human sacrifice (puruṣamedha), construction sacrifice, and the origin of the idea of the "man of the homestead" (vāstupuruṣa) / H.T. Bakker -- Human sacrifice among the Konds /  L.P. van den Bosch

A complete table of contents can be found in the online by searching the title in LOC's OPAC < catalog.loc.gov > or, hopefully, by this direct link: 
< http://tinyurl.com/3pqd3a >.

The possibility of foundation sacrifice at Kausambi is discussed in one of these (I think it was Bakker's) -- as was a clay figure of a man buried there.


Allen W. Thrasher, Ph.D., Senior Reference Librarian
South Asia Team, Asian Division
Library of Congress, Jefferson Building 150
101 Independence Ave., S.E.
Washington, DC 20540-4810
tel. 202-707-3732; fax 202-707-1724; athr at loc.gov
The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Library of Congress.

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