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International Encyclopaedia of Tribal Religion
ISBN : 77550381
Volumes : Set in 12 Volumes
Author : S. M. Channa
Pages : 4000 pp
Year of Publishing : 2000
Binding : Hardbound
Publisher : Cosmo Publications
Religion has been an integral aspect of human life and metaphysical though and a quest for the numinous has characterized Homo Sapiens, ever since the dawn of the human species. Religious beliefs and rituals exist at every level of human society. Even is those societies which have rudimentary technology, the metaphysical and philosophical systems are highly developed and complex, putting the question as to whether technology is the only standard for judging human intellectual capacity. The so called tribal societies are characterized by elaborate systems of rituals and symbolic structures leading to an impression of their being exotic, among the lay public.
However, systematic study of religion and analysis of rituals, symbols and myths and belief system among the pre-literate people and the indigenous population of the world has yielded and enormous corpus of literature, theoretical insights and rich ethnography, which makes for an insight into the entire system of human thought processes and rationality as also provides a clue to the functioning of society.
The anthropologist’s approach to the study of religion has largely focused upon the study of those religious systems that are distinguished from the Universalistic or World religions by being the specific would-views, belief systems of individual communities. These are named only after the name of the community to which they belong and specific and localized. This is not to say, common institutions and symbolic constructs do not exist across various religions of the world. In fact there are many institutions of common occurrence like, life cycle rituals, taboos, religious functionaries and so on such that every where there is a ritual way of incorporation a new born into society, some taboos related to pregnancy, some myths regarding origin of the human race and many similarities in world view and belief patterns. But the study of the tribal religions is usually an aspect of the individual ethnographic studies undertaken by the anthropologists. As such these studies provide a glimpse of little known or specific practices and belief systems and enable us to build a comparative study of religions over a wide canvass, both spatially and temporally.
The Encyclopaedia of Tribal Religions, in twelve volumes, is a glimpse into the enormous literature built up by anthropologists on the subject of religion, right from the earliest stage of the discipline to the present times. The gather of Social Anthropology, Edward B. Tylor, had given the earliest definition of religion as ‘a belief in supernatural beings’. Also the first stage in human religion was described by him as Animism. From an early evolutionary approach into the origin and development of religion, to the study of religion tribal societies. It includes classic works such as that of Tylor, Rivers, Lowie, Malinowski, Radcliff-Brown and Evans-Pritchard later writer like Tuner, Firth and also those of more contemporary writers like Richard Schechner, Michael Taussig etc.
The typology of division of the volumes is the most widely used in graduate and postgraduate studies of anthropology. These are, ‘Elements of Tribal Religion’, ‘Heath and the Supernatural’, ‘Oracles, Omens and Dreams’, ‘Shamans, Magicians and Priests’, ‘Religion and Economy’, ‘Rituals and Society’, ‘Myths and World-View’, ‘Witchcraft and Magic’, ‘Life and Death’, ‘Symbolism’, ‘Life cycle rituals’ and ‘Christianity and tribal Religions’.
This pioneering work covers almost all aspects of the social and cultural approach to the study of Religion has been taken into account. Attempt has been made to include various theoretical perspective as well as ethnographies of societies all over the world.