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Sacred and Profane

Sacred and Profane
Unusual Customs and Strange Rituals

First Edition
  • G.S. Sachdeva - PhD, Adjunct Professor at NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad

September 2020 | 288 pages | SAGE Select
The battle between scientific temper and superstition has raged since ages. One may believe that unusual rituals and customs are extinct in the times of artificial intelligence and bots, but it is far from the truth as this book will prove.

As bizarre as it might seem, in France one can marry a dead person, and in Africa a married woman can marry another married woman as a practical way of solving the social problem of old-age neglect.  This book is a collection of unusual superstitions, rituals and customs that are practiced by ordinary people all around the world. It should be read to build awareness about these rituals and to know about the many shades of faith in this world we inhabit.

Sacred and Profane is not a religious exposition or vindication of rituals; it aims to arouse human curiosity about such beliefs while shedding light on some important social issues.
Foreword by Air Marshal K. K. Nohwar (Retired)
A Living Deity : Goddesses and Womanhood
Marry a Dead Person : Unusual Marriages and Strange Customs
Human Sacrifice with Safety Measures : Sacrifices and Penances
Feast to the Monkeys : Of Stratified Societies, Festivals and Prasads
Hurling Obscenities in Front of a Deity : Celebrating with Abandon
Tale of Platonic Love That Bestows Boons : Miracles, Myths and Boons
Sadasuhags: The Cross-dressers Veneration of the Oddities and Peculiar Practices

Sacred and Profane is a narration of social customs, unusual events and mythical stories, prevalent in our part of the universe, some of which are embedded in religion and others are not, but all are mostly accompanied by rituals and practices that have gained certain obligatory force and a power of compulsion to abide by a regimen of performance for their followers. Their succinct description and accompanied ethos, without any religious connotation, coming from a renowned scholar, makes it a compulsive reading, which succeeds in arousing the curiosity of an inquisitive mind.

Prof S. K. Verma,
Vice President, Indian Society of International Law, New Delhi and Professor of Law (Retired), Delhi University

An intriguing book for both academic and non-academic readers. G. S. Sachdeva’s compilation and secular presentation of several rituals and customs that are treated as ‘unusual’ or ‘strange’ by outsiders, but normal by its practitioners, illustrate that they all have their own life and meaning that grow and adapt with time. The book provides plenty of food for thought for the scholars of society and culture to carry out in-depth research in order to better appreciate, with emic and etic perspectives, the many dazzling customs and rituals of both indigenous and non-indigenous peoples.

Krishna B. Bhattachan, PhD,
Indigenous Expert, Lawyers’ Association for Human Rights of Nepalese Indigenous Peoples (LAHURNIP), Kathmandu, Nepal

This is a fascinating book. It introduces us to a wide range of religious practices, many of which may appear ‘strange’ and ‘unusual’. However, they continue to be popular with the common people and also play an important role in their lives. Professor Sachdeva does not simply condemn or decry them, as a rationalist would do. Nor does he celebrate them as a traditionalist would do. Instead, he invites us to acknowledge their presence and understand the value they have to their practitioners. He also provides his analyses of these realities, using theories and categories from social sciences, theology and philosophy.

Surinder S. Jodhka,
Professor of Sociology, Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

Gripping narrative of the intricacies of religious order in the ultra-modern era with a blend of functional and pseudo-secular analysis. The work uncovers the observance of unbelievable ritualistic practices associated with myths and realities of the sacred in South Asia. No doubt, the compilation set forth the everyday religion in motion with rational and non-logical acts, expressing an instrumental bearing of men towards the mysterious religious cosmos.

Ashish Saxena,
Sociologist, University of Allahabad

The book seeks to focus on some aspects of culture or religion or faith-based human practices. These are so interwoven with the lives of people that the dividing line between sacred and profane often gets blurred. Derived primarily from information in the public domain, the author has audaciously tried to make sense of customs and rituals around which lives of ordinary people revolve, ordained by scriptures, need of the hour, born out of beliefs, having scientific basis to bring about colour and discipline in life. Their sublime divinity is difficult to fathom by ordinary mortals as the compass of logic just does not work here. For an inquisitive mind, this work lucidly provides a good food-for-thought. The scholar-author has made a commendable effort, without being judgemental, to ignite the interest of other connoisseurs to pursue research in this field.

Prof (Dr) Bharat H. Desai,
Professor of International Law, Centre for International Legal Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

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ISBN: 9789353885151