Lectures on Dravidian India, by Chantal Boulanger.

Most studies of India concentrate on Northern cultures and relate only to Sanskrit sources. Yet, Indian civilisation was made from the clash of two traditions, the Aryan with the Dravidian. Very little was left of the original Dravidian culture, so too many people completely dismissed its influence. But in Tamil Nadu, it remained unspoiled for a longer time, and is still very much present today, through customs, rituals, and a mostly unexplored literature.

Chantal Boulanger, after studying Indian culture in the usual, Sanskritic way, researched Tamil traditions and Dravidian aspects of Hinduism for more than 10 years, getting in the way a degree in social anthropology with a thesis on priesthood in Shiva temples. She presents lectures about South India in which she opens new horizons for understanding this fascinating culture.

THEMES:

* The great South Indian temple : an architectural mandala.

From the worship of an ant-hill under a tree to the elaborate and gigantic temples of South India, this lecture first explores their history, then their structures, meanings, purpose and rituals, with the help of slides taken in major temples of Tamil Nadu.

* Consecrations : The concept of God as an Energy.

Based on series of slides representing the consecration of a temple and that of a priest, this lecture shows how God is really conceived as a form of Energy, and explains why He can take many forms. These pictures of rituals rarely witnessed give powerful insights into Hinduism.

Click here for the themes of a series of lectures on South Indian temples and related rituals.

* South Indian marriage rituals.

Through slides taken during several weddings, this lecture explains the rituals and their meanings, which differ from caste to caste. Emphasis is put on the sociological aspect.

* South Indian life rituals.

With slides of the "giving of the name" of a baby, a Brahmin's initiation, weddings, a priest's initiation, a "thousand moons"(70 th birthday) ceremony and funerals, as well as daily rituals, the lecture shows how Indians go from one stage of life into another through a set of rituals. It concentrates on their meanings and their importance for social integration.

* Saris : weaving and wearing.

Based on slides taken with some of the best designers and weavers of India, this lecture shows the various traditional weaving techniques. It also explains the sociological aspects of the industry. The lecture goes further in describing how saris are worn in the most traditional ways, which are now disappearing. THE RESEARCH.

Click here for more themes on saris drapes and weaving in India.

* The Goddess : the cosmic feminine Energy.

Dravidians worshipped the Goddess - then called Korravai - long before they were influenced by Sanskrit culture. In fact, it is their concept of a powerful, bloodthirsty, dangerous, yet creative and generous feminine Energy which finally gave Shakti cults. The lecture explores the history of this concept, and explains its present influences on village worship, status of women and Hinduism.

Click here for more themes on Indian women.

* Village life and rituals.

The lecture describes the life in a typical South Indian village, with its social structure, rituals, the work of farmers and craftsmen. It shows its evolution and its important role in Indian history and economy.

* Sex, Love and Religion in South India

All the world's religions have rules about love and sexual behavior, and often the love of God and the lower sexual impulses are opposed - creating a problem for humans who need both. In South India, Hinduism developed a method of integrating sex and God in a philosophy that accepts all loving behavior. It teaches that at the beginning of time God became Siva and Shakti, and from their play the world came forth. At the end of time the lovers will reunite and there will be only God, perfect pleasure, again.
Practices considered deviant in other religions - prostitution and homosexuality for instance - are accepted in a religion that allows the love of God to be interpreted in a physical manner. Sexuality is not totally free and uncontrolled in Hinduism; however, by accepting and offering a context for every aspect of love and sex, Hinduism not only promotes tolerance but also creates an orderly society.
The lecture describes how love and sex are viewed in South Indian religion and how its myths address every form of sexual behavior. It discusses the roles of temple prostitutes, transvestites, and the sex of married couples. The evolution of these attitudes will also be examined, along with the puritanical influence of the British.

* Click here for themes of lectures on Hinduism.

All lectures are illustrated with slides and last one hour and a half (plus half an hour for questions).

C. Boulanger has given some of these lectures at many institutions and universities, such as:

American Museum of Natural History, New York

Columbia University, New York

Université de Tours, France

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