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On Hinduism$
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Wendy Doniger

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199360079

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199360079.001.0001

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Zoomorphism in Ancient India: Humans More Bestial than the Beasts 1

Zoomorphism in Ancient India: Humans More Bestial than the Beasts 1

Chapter:
(p.426) Zoomorphism in Ancient India: Humans More Bestial than the Beasts1
Source:
On Hinduism
Author(s):

Wendy Doniger

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199360079.003.0030

Anthropomorphism and zoomorphism are pervasive themes in Sanskrit texts, which project human qualities upon animals and imagine humans as animals. Although anthropomorphism is more common than zoomorphism in India (as elsewhere), it offers few insights about animals. This chapter examines zoomorphism in ancient India, first by providing an overview of the relatively straightforward texts of anthropomorphism and the more challenging texts of zoomorphism. It looks at animal imagery in Sanskrit literature and the mythological cluster about talking animals and humans in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. It also considers the reasons why humans become animals in Hindu myths and the importance of language and compassion in treating animals according to the basic standards of human decency.

Keywords:   anthropomorphism, zoomorphism, animals, humans, ancient India, animal imagery, Ramayana, Mahabharata, language, compassion

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