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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Smrti : a study in the sacralization of social processes Smith, Patricia Jean


The purpose of this thesis is to demonstrate the advantages of adopting a sociological approach to the study of the smrti literature of India. For this purpose a functional-sociological approach is outlined by extrapolating and combining classical, sociological principles taken from the writings of Emile Durkheim, Max Weber and Peter Berger. The approach is designed to illustrate the three principal phases in the sacralization of social processes--explanation, legitimation and perpetuation. In Chapter One these three phases are discussed and defined with the aid of Emile Durkheim's and Mircea Eliade's concepts of the sacred, Max Weber's concepts of rationalization, legitimacy, traditionalism and charisma, and Peter Berger's concepts of cosmization, 'world-construction', 'world-maintenance' and plausibility structure. In Chapters Two and Three this approach is applied to three of the major smrti texts--The Visnu Purana, The Manu Smrti and the Mahabharata. Each of these texts admirably illustrates one phase of the sacralization process. In addition, the three aspects of the Indian concept, dharma--cosmis, social and individual--are discussed in terms of sacralization process. The advantages of this type of approach to smrti literature lie in its ability to point to some of the reasons for Hinduism's historical emergence during the period of smrti literature, the fifth century B.C. to the fifth century A.D. Second, it demonstrates the relationship of the different genre of smrti to one another. Third, it provides a framework for the understanding of smrti which is familiar to non-Indians, and which harmonizes well with smrti as defined by the Indians themselves.

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