Sunday, June 6, 2010
(Saints') corpses: polluting or pure?
One of the papers which have been discussed at the last STIMW dealt with death in the ISKCON movement (whose members are also known as Hare Krishna). Through that (and thanks to the STIMW habit of pre-circulating papers) I started reading about the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas attitude towards corpses. Apparently, something has occurred between the ancient Indian idea of the pollution through dead bodies and the Gaudīya Vaiṣṇavas' cult of the saints' corpses. Phyllis Granoff, in a recent article (Phyllis Granoff, "Relics, rubies and ritual: some comments on the distinctiveness of the Buddhist relic cult", Rivista di Studi Orientali 2008) collects several examples of an early not-so-negative attitude towards saints' bones and so on, but they are not at all comparable with these later commemorations and cults. Hence, I wonder whether there is an Islamic influence as the source of them. After all, in some schools of Islam, pilgrimages to the tomb of a Saint are quite common, and there are several such examples in India.