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South Asian Folklore: An Encyclopedia Hardcover – Dec 20 2002


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*Starred Review* Edited by three well-known folklore scholars, South Asian Folklore contains about 500 entries on the local traditions of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. The editors point out that cultural production is not bound by modern political boundaries and acknowledge that, because of the size of the region and the uneven nature of prior research, the work presents only a "suggestive sample of the huge range of South Asian cultural practices and production." These limitations notwithstanding, there is an impressive wealth of information here, the work of more than 250 contributors. Entries on the architecture of Afghanistan, bangles as symbols of status and ethnic identity, traditional carpet weaving, the caste system in India and Nepal, the ritual practice of firewalking in Sri Lanka, Hindu goddesses, the Indian classical dance called Kathakali, the Tibetan hero Kesar, and the uses of turmeric as a sacred plant are just a few examples. Although there are some entries related to music, such as Film music and Women's songs, detailed articles on folk music were omitted because The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music devotes one volume to South Asia.

Most of the alphabetically arranged articles are divided into two categories: general concept articles and case study articles. The former recognizes topics that are applicable to the entire region and provides an overview of a topic (e.g., Folk art, Pilgrimage, Pottery, Puberty rituals). Generally two or three pages long, these articles are intended to pique the reader's interest and provide see also references to the more detailed case study articles. Usually shorter, the case study articles focus on one specific topic (e.g., Bhakti saints, Jain folklore, Jihad poetry). Geographic (Bangladesh, Gujarat); definitional (Bhand pathar, a form of Kashmiri theater; Panch Pir, five Sufi saints venerated by South Asian Muslims); and biographical (Tagore, Rabindranath) entries are also included. Each article concludes with bibliographic references. Though there is no classified contents list, the index helps the reader pull together all the information related to a specific place or activity. Index entries that are also main entry headings are indicated in bold type. Black-and-white illustrations, though few in number, are well chosen.

This fine book provides a readable introduction to topics that are often neglected by Western study. In recent years there has been an increase in scholarship on the folklore of the region, but until now there have been no encyclopedic overviews. Although this area of the world receives some coverage in publications with an international focus, such as Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Beliefs, Customs, Tales, Music and Art (ABC-CLIO, 1997), more general works cannot, obviously, give the same depth of study as this single volume. With its thorough scholarship and unique coverage, South Asian Folklore is recommended for large public and academic libraries. RBB
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

An impressive wealth of information... This fine book provides a readable introduction to topics that are often neglected by Western study... Until now there have been no encyclopedic overviews... With its thorough scholarship and unique coverage, South Asian Folklore is recommended for large public and academic libraries. -- Booklist/RBB (starred review)
An accessible guide... A rich tapestry for lay reader and scholar alike. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries. -- Library Journaln
This wider-ranging survey encompasses art, architecture, music, dance, food, literature, theater, religion, and much more... Fills a gap long unaddressed in American reference collections. It will serve academic and public libraries well. -- Lawrence Looks at Books, Gale Reference Reviews

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Acrobatics has been a distinct folk art form in South Asia since antiquity. Read the first page
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