Guardians of the Transcendent: An Ethnography of a Jain Ascetic Community

By Anne Vallely

© 2002

Itinerant white-robed ascetics represent the highest ethical ideal among the Jains of rural Rajasthan. They renounce family, belongings, and desires in order to lead lives of complete non-violence. In their communities, Jain ascetics play key roles as teachers and exemplars of the truth; they are embodiments of the lokottar - the realm of the transcendent.

Based on thirteen months of fieldwork in the town of Ladnun, Rajasthan, India, among a community of Terapanthi Svetambar Jains, this book explores the many facets of what constitutes a moral life within the Terapanthi ascetic community, and examines the central role ascetics play in upholding the Jain moral order. Focussing on the Terapanthi moral universe from the perspective of female renouncers, Vallely considers how Terapanthi Jain women create their own ascetic subjectivities, and how they construct and understand themselves as symbols of renunciation. The first in-depth ethnographic study of this important and influential Jain tradition, this work makes a significant contribution to Jain studies, comparative religion, Indian studies, and the anthropology of South Asian religion.

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Product Details

  • Series: Anthropological Horizons
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 320 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.9in x 0.8in x 8.8in
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  • PUBLISHED NOV 2002

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    ISBN 9780802084156
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Quick Overview

Explores the many facets of what constitutes a moral life within the Terapanthi Svetambar Jain ascetic community, and examines the central role ascetics play in upholding the Jain moral order.

Guardians of the Transcendent: An Ethnography of a Jain Ascetic Community

By Anne Vallely

© 2002

Itinerant white-robed ascetics represent the highest ethical ideal among the Jains of rural Rajasthan. They renounce family, belongings, and desires in order to lead lives of complete non-violence. In their communities, Jain ascetics play key roles as teachers and exemplars of the truth; they are embodiments of the lokottar - the realm of the transcendent.

Based on thirteen months of fieldwork in the town of Ladnun, Rajasthan, India, among a community of Terapanthi Svetambar Jains, this book explores the many facets of what constitutes a moral life within the Terapanthi ascetic community, and examines the central role ascetics play in upholding the Jain moral order. Focussing on the Terapanthi moral universe from the perspective of female renouncers, Vallely considers how Terapanthi Jain women create their own ascetic subjectivities, and how they construct and understand themselves as symbols of renunciation. The first in-depth ethnographic study of this important and influential Jain tradition, this work makes a significant contribution to Jain studies, comparative religion, Indian studies, and the anthropology of South Asian religion.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • Series: Anthropological Horizons
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 320 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.9in x 0.8in x 8.8in
  • Reviews

    'Some of the best ethnographic writing I've seen in quite some time ... Wonderfully written, evocative, persuasive.'


    Anne Meneley, Department of Anthropology, Trent University
  • Author Information

    Anne Vallely is a part-time lecturer in the Departments of Anthropology and Religion at Concordia University, and in the Faculty of Religious Studies at McGill University.