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Strong Arms and Drinking Strength Masculinity, Violence, and the Body in Ancient India

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Strong Arms and Drinking Strength Masculinity, Violence, and the Body in Ancient India by Whitaker, Jarrod L., 9780199755707
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  • ISBN: 9780199755707 | 0199755701
  • Cover: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 4/13/2011
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Jarrod L. Whitaker examines the ritualized poetic construction of male identity in the Rigveda, India's oldest Sanskrit text, arguing that an important aspect of early Vedic life involves the sustained promotion and embodiment of what it means to be a true man. The Rigveda contains over a thousand hymns, primarily addressed to three gods: the deified ritual Fire, Agni, the war-god Indra, and the sacred beverage sóma. The hymns were sung in day-long fire rituals in which poet-priests prepared the sacred drink in order to empower Indra. The dominant image of Indra is that of a highly glamorized, violent, and powerful Aryan male; the three gods represent the ideals of manhood. Whitaker finds that the Rigvedic poet-priests employed a variety of poetic and performative strategies - some explicit, others very subtle - to construct their masculine ideology as normative, while justifying it as the most valid way for men to live. Poet-priests naturalize this ideology by encoding it within a man's sense of his body and physical self. Rigvedic ritual rhetoric and practices thus encode specific male roles, especially the role of man as warrior, while embedding these roles in a complex network of social, economic, and political relationships. Strong Arms and Drinking Strength is the first book-length examination in English of the relationship between Rigvedic gods, ritual practices, and the identities and expectations placed on men in ancient India.

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