Essay on Death in Banaras by Jonathan P. Parry

Essay on Death in Banaras by Jonathan P. Parry

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Death in Banaras by Jonathan P. Parry focuses mainly on the priests and other “sacred specialists” who serve the deceased, pilgrims, and mourners in the city of Banaras. This book looks at how the priests organize their business, the understanding of the rituals and representations of death in which they preside. The author has contributed to the literature on symbolism of death and the sociology of priest and specialists in the sacred. This novel focuses on topics such as death rituals, death, and pilgrimage, and makes a few different arguments throughout the literature. Perry supports his arguments with the use of facts. The author argues that death is an act of cosmic regeneration (Perry, 13), that the data on spirit affliction supports four related propositions (226), and that the renouncers and his values have made Hindu social life problematic (139).
This book is split into four parts “Death and the City, “Death as a Living,” “Death into Birth,” and “ the End of Death.” In the first part of this book Parry gives an overview of the “profane” and “sacred” aspects of Banaras (32). Second part “Death as a Living,” focuses on the business of mortuary rituals (139). Part 3 “Death into Birth,” describes the actual death rituals and the reinstruction of the departed from ghost to ancestor. The final section “The End of Death,” describes the ascetic’s quest to conquer death entirely by not going through the endless cycle of rebirth. In each of Perry’s main sections of his book he goes has subsections with much detail about the section as a whole (220).
The first argument presented by the author in Death in Banaras, is that death is an act of cosmic regeneration. He argues that the staged cremation rituals are a kind or re-enactmen...


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...e were some aspects of the book I enjoyed, while there were many areas I did not like. For example I did not like how many facts were presented in the book, I felt this book should be used in a classroom, as a textbook rather than something to read for fun. This made the book difficult to read for the fact that it was pure analysis and description of different aspects dealing with death. The book relies heavily on presenting facts from other sources. I believe that the author presents his arguments clearly and precisely, and provides evidence of examples to back up his case. He surveys, analyzes, and interprets the spiritual along with the material phenomenon associated with death in Banaras. I would suggest this book to anyone who has an interest in death rituals, death, and pilgrimage. While this book was not my favorite I would still suggest it to other people.

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