chapter  14
23 Pages


ByHerman W. Tull

India is renowned for its diversity. Dissimilitude abounds in every sphere-from thephysical elements of its land and people to the intangible workings of its beliefs and practices. Indeed, given this variety, India itself appears to be not a single entity but an amalgamation, a “construct,” arising from the conjoining of innumerable, discrete parts. Modern scholarship has, quite properly, tended to explore these elements in isolation. (In part, this trend represents the conscious reversal of the stance taken by an earlier generation of scholars whose work reified India into a monolithic entity-a critical element in the much maligned “Orientalist” enterprise.) Nonetheless, the representation of India as a singular “whole” is not an entirely capricious enterprise; for India is an identifiable entity, united by-if not born out of-certain deep and pervasive structures. Thus, for example, the Hindu tradition has long maintained a body of mythology that weaves the disparate temples, gods, even geographic landscapes that exist throughout the subcontinent into a unified, albeit syncretic, whole.