Publication announcement

Ute Huesken ute.huesken at URZ.UNI-HEIDELBERG.DE
Sat Aug 29 20:58:35 UTC 2009

Ute Hüsken:
Vi??u?s Children. Prenatal life-cycle rituals in South India.
Translated from German by Will Sweetman,
with a DVD by Ute Hüsken and Manfred Krüger.
Ethno-Indology. Heidelberg Studies in South Asian Rituals 9
Harrassowitz Verlag · Wiesbaden 2009.

This book deals with the history and development of the South Indian  
Vaikh?nasa tradition. The Vaikh?nasas are a Brahmanic community that  
serves as hereditary priests in Vi??u temples. Central to this  
monograph is a controversy, ongoing for centuries, as to what makes a  
person eligible to perform the rituals in Vi??u temples: does birth or  
initiation create the ideal intermediary between the god and humans?  
Since the 14th century CE the discussion in the relevant Sanskrit  
texts centers around the question of whether the Vaikh?nasa priests  
must undergo an initiation including a branding on the upper arms, or  
whether their particular prenatal life-cycle ritual vi??ubali makes  
them eligible to perform temple ritual.  As hereditary temple priests  
the Vaikh?nasas? own stance is explicit: they are Vi??u?s own  
children, preordained for temple service already before birth. In  
addition to the textual perspective, three instances of local  
conflicts from the 19th/20th centuries about the question of whether  
the Vaikh?nasas require initiation are analysed in their contexts.  
Furthermore, three examples of present day performances of vi??ubali  
are presented and interpreted in the light of the relation between  
text and performance, and from the perspective of the acting priests?  
ritual competence. The book also contains a DVD with some of the  
video-coverage of the three vi??ubali performances

The DVD is also available separately:

Vi??u?s Children. Prenatal life-cycle rituals in South India
by Ute Hüsken and Manfred Krüger
Camera: Ute Hüsken
Editing: Ute Hüsken and Manfred Krüger
DVD authoring and design: Manfred Krüger
© by Hüsken and Krüger
Published by Harrassowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden, 2009
ISBN: 978-3-447-05853-7

The DVD ?Vi??u?s Children? presents three enactments of the South  
Indian prenatal life-cycle ritual called vi??ubali. This ritual is  
specific to the Vaikh?nasas, a group of Brahmin priests in South  
Indian Vi??u temples. It is performed in the eighth month of a woman?s  
first pregnancy. Vi??ubali, ?the offering to the god Vi??u?, enacts  
and marks a transformation of the unborn child into a Vi??u devotee,  
and confers on it its future right to act as a temple priest in South  
Indian Vi??u temples. It is understood as a prenatal initiation,  
performed by the god Vi??u himself: Vi??u transforms the unborn into  
his own child.

Ute Huesken
Professor of Sanskrit
Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages
University of Oslo
Faculty of Humanities
P.O. Box 1010 Blindern
N-0315 Oslo

Room 387, P.A. Munch's Building
phone: +47 22 85 48 16
telefax: +47 22 85 48 28
ute.huesken at

Co-editor, Oxford Ritual Studies Series
Co-chair, Ritual Studies Group, American Academy of Religion

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