Thursday, December 18, 2014

Modern-Day Slavery and Mission from Below

Let me introduce you to my friend Kumar. Kumar is not his real name. Posting his real name online might put him in jeopardy. I have known Kumar since he was a young man about to marry our househelper, Sita. He had moved into the Kathmandu Valley in search of a job and picked up construction skills working on building sites. It was a difficult life, getting up early every day to stand on street corners waiting to be hired by builders for a day's work, never knowing that he would have any income from one day to the next. Then the building industry collapsed and we helped Kumar learn to drive with the hope that he could become a taxi driver. That didn't work out so Kumar was back to square one and now with a wife and two sons to support things were not looking rosy.

One day he came to me with his 'contract' to work in the Gulf. It was a poorly photocopied sheet of paper with a dozen potential reasons why he might be sent home at any time at his own expense. He was to work on construction sites in the Gulf for two years in 50C (120F) heat, stay in a labour camp with scores of other workers. His passport would be taken away on arrival and returned only on completion of his commitment. His total pay for two years bonded labour: $3000, half of which would go to pay the manpower office that arranged his contract. I was incensed and tried to dissuade him from going but there was no other work to be had.

We heard bits and pieces of his life there during those years. Mainly we heard that he was still alive. When he returned, he came to visit us. "I survived," he told us. That was the main thing. Others didn't. One worker fainted at height, fell to the ground, broke his back, and was put on a flight back to Kathmandu, with no compensation. Nepal has no provision for paraplegics or disability benefits or free health care. Others died. There is a continual stream of coffins arriving on the tarmac of Tribhuvan International Airport to grieving relatives who have lost their only wage earner, or to no-one as no next of kin has been informed.

That is what modern day slavery looks like.

But there is a silver lining on this noxious cloud of gross injustice - mission from below. (I think it was Samuel Escobar who coined this expression.) Kumar loves the Lord Jesus. He also loves his fellow workers and so with others he started a church among them. Spiritual life welled up in the sands of that arid place. Now a whole lot of Nepalis arrive back in their home country new men. God does indeed move "in mysterious ways his wonders to perform" (William Cowper).

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Why Ethnography is Vital in Missions

I just came across this quote that I saved some time ago. It is by two German architects who were working on the restoration of Nepalese monuments:
Deficient planning is all too frequent.  Western experts usually have but a perfunctory acquaintance with the cultural presuppositions of the countries they are working in.  Their counterparts from the developing countries, often western-trained, sometimes do not wish to appear traditionalist; equating tradition with backwardness, they too readily yield to suggestions which set their own cultural heritage at nought.
 The only escape from this dilemma is to present the axioms of a culture in a comprehensible way, and to work out some of the implications these axioms will have to the community that shares them.  An attempt to disentangle an incomprehensible conglomeration, and to show the system behind a mass of seemingly disjunct facts, might help experts to realise that very good reasons usually lie behind what are, apparently, queer and peculiar patterns of behaviour. (Gutschow, N., and B. Kölver 1975.  Ordered Space, Concepts and Functions in a Town in Nepal.  Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner, p. 6)
Gutschow and Kölver are concerned that Western experts involved in heritage restoration don't give themselves to really understanding the culture of the community that hosts them. Their local partners, furthermore, are concerned that they will appear to be uneducated and ignorant if they challenge the experts. And so the sensitive restoration of a national treasure ends up looking like a dog's breakfast.

It reminds me of so much that goes on as mission. Dedicated foreigners who have degrees in theology and mission partner with local believers (who, by virtue of their relationship to the foreigners are marginal to their community) to plant churches in an unreached community. Six months language study with minimal acquisition of local cultural understanding is followed by action on a grand scheme, drawn up in a foreign clime, funded by generous supporters, and approved by the local workers (who are they to challenge the latest ideas?). 'Queer and peculiar patterns of behaviour' are dismissed as false religion. The opportunity for careful contextualization is foreclosed.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Hard Rock Theology - my review of Dan Stange's theology of religions

Dan Strange's major new book was published in the UK in the spring: 'For Their Rock Is Not as Our Rock': An Evangelical Theology of Religions (Nottingham: Apollos, 2014, 384 pp, £19.99). (Due to be published in March 2015 in the USA.)

My review article of it is now online in Foundations here.

Here is a taster of the article in the hope that you go on to read the book and my review:

A few years ago I read this extract of a letter from a Japanese student on returning to Japan after studying in England:
Two months have already passed since I came home. I’ve been missing England and all my friends so much that I sometimes cry… Please listen to me. I’ve decided not to follow Christianity any more. I’m so sorry if my decision disappoints you. I can’t deny Christianity at all because I really know what I experienced in England… But now I must follow my family’s religion. Please don’t misunderstand. I’ve decided by myself although it was hard for me.
No sensitive disciple of Christ, regardless of their position on perseverance and apostasy, would be left unmoved on reading such words. But they also provoke questions: What does she mean when she says she is not going to follow Christianity anymore? Just what did she experience in England? What is it about her family’s religion that has led her to take such a decision? Quite apart from the pastoral issues that arise from such a situation the need for clear thinking on religion and religions is obvious. This volume by Daniel Strange, Academic Vice-Principal and Lecturer in Culture, Religion and Public Theology at Oak Hill College, London, is his attempt to do just that.
Strange draws the geological metaphor for his title from Moses’ song (Deut 32:31) and is not shy to declare his theological commitments: “this is a book for evangelical Christians, written by an evangelical Christian” (33). His particular confessional stance is that of Reformed theology (“the confessional tradition I believe to be closest to God’s revelation in Scripture”) although he hopes that the common evangelical position on the authority of Scripture will encourage a broad range of evangelical interaction. He also believes in the creation and fall as real space-time historical events, the uniqueness of Christ, and the necessity of conscious faith in the finished work of Christ for salvation, which I also affirm.

Dan’s book is a major contribution to the field of the theology of religion and deserves to be studied carefully.I learned a lot from it and have been challenged to hone my own understanding considerably. But I do have issues too. My critique in the review article focuses primarily on the author's method. It seems to me that Dan, like most writers in this area, get into difficulty by equating religion (the orientation of the heart) and religions (rival social realities). What do you think?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Original Monotheism

Review of In the Beginning God: A Fresh Look at the Case for Original Monotheism by Winfried Corduan (Nashville, Tenn.: B&H Academic, 2013).

The author reprises the debate that raged in the 19th Century as to the origin and evolution of religion. At that time the dominant view emerged, championed by such noted scholars as E. B. Tylor and J. G. Frazer, that religion emerged first as a sort of animism in which societies began to worship spirits that inhabited the forest, river and mountain, later evolving to become polytheistic and eventually monotheistic. ‘Primitive’ communities in the world today, the argument followed, are archaic throw backs to older times, representing an unbroken tradition that gives us insight into the nature of the first religion. This was very convenient for them, as Corduan quotes Evans-Pritchard:

We should, I think, realize what was the intention of many of these scholars if we are to understand their theoretical constructions. They sought, and found, in primitive religions a weapon, which could, they thought, be used with deadly effect against Christianity. (11)

Other scholars challenged this view. Among them were Andrew Lang and Wilhelm Schmidt who argued that there are many societies that have the very simplest material culture that are, nevertheless, monotheistic. Schmidt in particular adduced an impressive array of evidence to back up his thesis, covering many volumes of, says the German-born author, difficult German. Corduan argues that Schmidt’s detractors clearly did not read his works closely at all but rather decided to dismiss his arguments on the basis of a supposed bias since he was a Catholic priest. Those same interlocutors expected their own views to be taken seriously by virtue of their not being religiously motivated and that is what happened. Schmidt’s views were ignored for the most part and by the mid-twentieth century a consensus emerged not to pursue this discussion further such that the Macmillan Dictionary of Anthropology on my bookshelf does not even mention him.

The culture-historical method that Schmidt’s theory grew out of lies over a narrative of migration which goes something like this: Groups of people migrate for many reasons and as they do so those groups encounter other groups and compete for food and other resources. The group with the less-developed technology ends up either being absorbed into the other group or migrating to another place as they are out-competed. Migration places the less-developed group in a more marginal environment. This can happen again and again, and has done so throughout human history. As has become very clear through genetic studies in recent years, “the history of humans is to a large extent the history of the migrations of people groups” (146). The groups with the least developed technology today, such as those of Southeast Australia, Greenland, Tierra del Fuego, the African jungle, or the Andaman Islands, living in isolated or inhospitable environments, therefore, are those whose culture preserves elements that are among the oldest in the world. The culture-historical method, then, uses this premise to tease out the oldest elements of culture. Using this method, then, Schmidt demonstrated that, far from being a new phenomenon, the oldest form of religion in the world is monotheistic and thus the culture-historical method supports the biblical narrative.

This is a work of apologetics and therefore out of my field of expertise. The author is well versed in philosophy, so employs careful logic to make his case. It would be good to see those that have inherited the mantle of Schmidt’s detractors work their way through the arguments. I cannot do that but want simply to state that I found the book compelling and fitting into my own studies of human development. Nevertheless, I have an issue with one assertion, that phenomenology is necessarily a subjective description in contrast to history being objective narrative (269). I fail to see why phenomenology is necessarily any more subjective than history. Indeed, phenomenology is surely the synchronic counterpart to the diachronic of history and therefore not necessarily any less reliable at all. The reliability of phenomenological descriptions can be challenged on at least two levels: the phenomena themselves and the interpretation of those phenomena in exactly the same way that historical accounts can be.

There are, in addition, a number of minor issues that I want to point out.

  • In a number of places Corduan mistakenly refers to roving groups of hunter gatherers, such as various Aboriginal groups in Australia, as ‘clans’ (e.g. 66). The term usually employed in the discipline is ‘band’ rather than clan: the latter refers rather to certain social structures that are typical of more complex societies such as those that have a pastoral or agricultural economy.
  • I am puzzled by Corduan’s use of the term ‘phratry’ which does not fit with common use as I understand it; he may have read more widely than I so I am open to being corrected. As I understand it, phratry is not synonymous with clan as the author seems to think (e.g. 83, 112) but rather refers to a grouping of two or more clans that claim common descent from a mythical ancestor, thereby making the phratry an exogamous group. If the society is divided into two phratries then each of these is a moiety but phratries are not necessarily moieties (121).    
  • Homo neanderthalensis is spelled homo neanderthalis (194).
  • Corduan calls the Nepali language ‘Nepalese’, a term which is reserved as an adjective for the people or their culture.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Does Mission Matter?

Review of Mission Matters: Essays on the Theory, Practice and Contexts of Mission by Keiran Beville (Darlington: Evangelical Press, 2014).

Mission Matters is a two-part collection of essays and reports that have been published before in magazines and journals over a number of years. The author is a pastor in Ireland and a visiting professor at Tyndale Theological Seminary in Amsterdam. In Part 1 Beville covers a number of missiological topics such as the nature of mission, the role of the local church in mission, and issues focussing on the Western context.

Beville roots his theology of mission in the mission of God (missio Dei) (149) and argues that mission should be defined broadly and holistically while retaining the central place of evangelism. He ably discusses contemporary movements such as ‘Aggressive Atheism’ and ‘Militant Secularism’ and suggests ways that the church should respond to these.

Beville argues, rightly I think, that ‘postmodernism presents a new frontier situation’ (94, though not perhaps so new now) and expresses concern that some Christians have sold out to the spirit of the age. Though I agree that that has indeed happened I think that Beville’s choice of the ‘missional church’ to direct his fire at is problematic. Without referencing any writer or public figure he describes the missional church as if it is one neatly defined movement and then sets about challenging this straw man. Pastors and other leaders from a broad range of doctrinal and missiological positions advocate reforms to church life that are characterized as missional so such a critique is too blunt an instrument for the job.

In reflecting on ‘false religions’ (130) Beville argues that there are ‘commonalities’ with the truth that can be used as ‘a fertile place for the true gospel of Jesus to take root’. He wants to distance himself though from the idea that ‘people throwing themselves on God’s mercy in response to natural revelation necessarily leads to salvation’, which suggests that, nevertheless it might be possible. The author goes on to argue that ‘where [the Scriptures] are not available or where a person has not had access to Scripture we may be sure that God knows how individuals would have responded if given the opportunity to do so’ (136). I wonder on what basis we may be so sure.

Part 2 is a collection of reports from trips the author has taken to various far-flung places such as India, Romania and Serbia. I would have been very happy to read these in their first incarnation but in a book they come across as dated and out of place, viz., for example, a photo of parking problems in Romania! Furthermore, although he acknowledges that he is ‘very new to the Indian scene’ (310), his makes forthright statements about the dalits that suggest that careful research of the missiological context is optional. Sadly, the factual errors presented demonstrate sociological and political naiveté. Is this inevitable when pastors travel overseas for short-term ministry? I hope not, but it is all too common.

Although the author has a number of good things to say, as a whole the book disappoints. It would have been better had the author used the stories in part 2 to illustrate the points he was making in Part 1 rather than divide the book in two. As it is, the book lacks cohesion. There are presentational issues, too, that drag the book down: poor printing (several pages have lines running through photos and text) and, in places, poor punctuation.

Although the reader can gain a good deal of helpful insights from this book, more reliable alternatives would be John Piper’s Let the Nations be Glad! The Supremacy of God in Missions (3d edition; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010) or, the recently published book by Michael W. Goheen, Introducing Christian Mission Today: Scripture, History and Issues (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2014).

Friday, September 12, 2014

Lints' Theological Vision

I have been revising my Church and Context module recently (teaching begins next week). I wanted to follow up on a writer that Tim Keller leans on in Center Church - Richard Lints (see my review of Center Church here)In his The Fabric of Theology: A Prolegomenon of Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993) Lints discusses at length the important issues involved in theological method. Among other very helpful insights into the processes by which we formulate doctrine Lints makes the important point that theological prolegomena are properly postdogmatic, rather than what one might intuitively suppose to be predogmatic. This is because the prolegomena themselves are theological. It is only after, or in the process of theologizing that one can truly formulate one’s prolegomena (279-80).

In Lints’ approach the theological framework should be determined by the flow of redemptive history:

A theological framework ought to be shaped through the careful and purposeful reading of the revelation of God’s redemptive activity. It is only when that is understood that a theological vision will develop. It is by that vision that we can understand the proper identity of the modern individual and the modern community of interpreters and the proper place of the modern era in redemptive history. As we come to understand the theological framework of the Scriptures, we can use it to interpret our own place in the historical unfolding of the redemptive activity of God. (312)

This framework is worked out as one proceeds from exegesis to biblical theology. Systematic theological categories must be fitted into this redemptive theological framework. Systematic theology, then, emerges out of the theological framework. The appropriation of a theological vision, by contrast, is the next step and comes out of the interaction of the theological framework with the cultural context (285-86). Or, as Keller, expounds Lints, “a theological vision is a vision for what you are going to do with your doctrine in a particular time and place” (Center Church, 18).

I appreciate the concern that Lints has not to allow a “concern for ‘relevance’ ... to dominate the theological framework” but I struggle here to understand how a systematic theology can emerge out of a biblical theology without being expressed in ways peculiar to a certain culture. It is systematic theology in a particular language and is therefore, an ethnotheology, rather than a metatheology. It seems to me then, that, using Lints’ categories, theological vision must be one and the same as theological framework.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Ten American Picture Books Every British Child Should Have Read to Them

We have two whole shelves of picture books at home. Now my youngest is ten they hardly get taken down and looked at, let alone read. These days it is The Hobbit, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, The Divide, etc. But we would not want to part with these beloved picture books. They sustained us through many an exhausted bed time. They let our imaginations run wild: we clambering over icy mountains, fought fire-breathing dragons, explored deep dark caverns, and swam through shark-infested waters. Thankfully, we always managed to get back in time for bed. The children enjoyed them too! We learned geography, history, art, mechanics, animal behaviour, and meteorology.

Of course, we read many picture books that were never read again. Some seemed, strangely, to be over much more quickly than the number of words suggested! Once the children were able to follow along they had to be confronted with the grim reality that some books would have been better had they never seen the light of day. Such books have happily been expunged from my memory and certainly do not figure on those two hallowed shelves in the family room. Most of the books that do remain found their way from the West to Nepal and back again. One or two went missing so we bought replacements because we could not imagine life without them. Most have seriously worn dust jackets or plain cloth covers because the dust jacket did not survive the frequent assault of preschoolers eagerly seeking their contents. Some are affected by monsoon mould. One had to be reassembled page-by-page with sticky tape after a frustrated toddler could think of no other way to handle his emotions than to rip up most of his favourite book. These books are loved.

Now it is a curious thing that the United States of America and the United Kingdom are not just two great nations divided by a common language but also two great picture book powers divided by mutual ignorance. Not completely: a few authors get read on both sides of the Atlantic, e.g. Dr Seuss. But it always struck us how very different the children's section of the library in Britain is from that of the States. So I would like to share with you fellow Brits ten American picture books that you may never have heard of and that will leave you and your children in a desperate state of cultural poverty if you do not get to enjoy them together.

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans (ISBN 0-670-85187-6 for the 6 story set)
"In an old house in Paris
that was covered with vines
lived twelve little girls in two straight lines."
This has been one of our all-time favourites. I can probably recite the whole book still. We all recite lines when the occasion prompts us, usually in unison. Brave Madeline is the smallest of the twelve. We don't even learn the names of any of the others. In fact we don't even find out why she is even at the old house in Paris. But the sparse context makes the story stand out carried along by its brilliant rhyming. We were given the complete set of six Madeline stories in a single volume. The only difficulty is which one to choose before bed!

"Could Be Worse!" by James Stevenson (ISBN 0-688-07035-3)
"At Grandpa's house things were always the same...," but Mary Ann and Louie find out that Grandpa's life may not be so boring after all. James Stevenson has a wacky imagination and draws with a sketchy style that belies his artistic talent.

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey (ISBN 0-670-45149-5)
A duck's-eye-view of 1940s Boston with a homey story and brilliantly drawn monochrome pictures. I once got two of my girls to copy a McCloskey duckling and still have those drawings.

Christina Katerina and the Box by Patricia Lee Gauch, illustrated by Doris Burn (ISBN 0-698-11676-3)
Christina's mother buys a new refrigerator but Christina is much more exited about the box, which becomes, by turns, a castle, a clubhouse and, well you'll have to find out. A celebration of childhood creativity, imagination and just plain fun.

A Big Ball of String by Marion Holland (ISBN 0-00-171318-3)
As with cardboard boxes if you have a big ball of string you can do anything! The rhyming text encourages children to predict the next line and try out rhyming words themselves.

Doctor De Soto by William Steig
Doctor De Soto is a mouse dentist. Being a mouse he refuses to treat animals dangerous to mice. But when a well-dressed fox turns up with a flannel bandage around his jaw the De Sotos decide to risk it. The fox wonders whether it would be 'shabby' of him to eat the De Sotos when the job was done. The question is, Who is able to outwit whom?

Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall, pictures by Barbara Cooney (ISBN 0-14-050441-9)
A 19th century farming family in New England uses an ox-cart to take their goods to market, where they make the money to buy the things they can't make themselves. Simple story that shows the cycle of the seasons and the value of hard work and thrift.

Amos and Boris by William Steig (ISBN 0-14-050229-7)
When Amos the mouse falls off his boat, the Rodent, all seems lost. But as Amos begins to wonder what it would be like to drown a huge head bursts out of the water: Boris, a fellow mammal. Boris rescues Amos but that isn't the end of the story.... Steig has a tremendous way with words. 'Bursting breakers,' 'phosphorescent,' and 'evaded' are not words you normally find in a book for small children but they way Steig uses them they will never feel lost but will have their imaginations expanded. My favourite Steig book.

Stone Soup by Marcia Brown (ISBN 0-689-71103-4)
This is a classic retelling of an old French tale in which three hungry soldiers outwit the selfish inhabitants of a village into laying on a feast for them. Children love the clever scheme of the soldiers and mock the folly of the villagers!

The Glorious Flight: Across the Channel with Louis Bleriot by Alice and Martin Provensen (ISBN 0-14-050729-9)
"The year is 1901. The place is the city of Cambrai, in France." History as it is meant to be - a great story of vision, hard work and perseverance and eventual success with watercolour paintings reminiscent of Ox-Cart Man.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Glossary to Caste and Kinship in a Modern Hindu Society

My publisher forgot to include the glossary to my book, Caste and Kinship in a Modern Hindu Society: The Newar City of Lalitpur, Nepal (Bangkok: Orchid, 2013, available here) so here it is for anyone struggling their way through it.

Apart from English terms, all names and terms are transliterated from Newari, Nepali (Np.) or Sanskrit (Skt.).

ācārya (ācāḥ)—learned teacher
āgã chẽ—Tantric shrine
āgã dyaḥ—god that resides in āgã chẽ
agnate—patrilineal kin, a person that is related to ego through links with males alone
aĩta—sweet presented as part of ritual gift-giving
Aji—midwife; provides ritual service at Birth Purification
Ajimā (Hāriti)—malevolent goddess
Ashtamātrika—Eight Mother Goddesses
ashtami—Eighth day of lunar fortnight; important for Buddhists
avatār—‘avatar’; incarnation of Vishnu
aylaḥ—spirits, usually distilled from rice
bāhāḥ, bahi—Buddhist monastery
baigaḥ—uppermost storey of house
bājã—particular style of traditional music; music in general
baji—beaten rice, staple at feasts
Bāl Kumāri—one of the Eight Mother Goddesses
bali—sacrifice, usually animal
Banepa—small Newar town east of Bhaktapur
Bārāhi—lineage of Carpenters; one of the constituent thars of the Pengu Daḥ
Bhairava—blood-accepting, male deity; consort of the Devi
bhakta—devotee (usually in context of Vaishnavite sects)
Bhimsen (Bhindyaḥ)—blood-accepting, male deity beloved of traders
bhincā macā—sister’s son and his children
bhoto (Np.)—waistcoat or vest of Bῦgadyaḥ
bhujyaḥ—offering to Bῦgadyaḥ
bodhisattva—one who aims to become a fully enlightened Buddha
Brahman—a member of a particular lineage with links to the priesthood
brahman—the uppermost of the four ideal varna categories; priest
Bhaktapur—Newar city, east of Lalitpur
bhusyāḥ—large cymbals
bhut/pret—ghost, malevolent spirit
buddhamārgi—a follower of the path of Buddha; one who has a Vajrācārya domestic priest
Bῦgadyaḥ (coll.)—the god of Bῦga; Karunāmaya/Matsyendranāth
caḥre—the fourteenth day of the waning fortnight, especially sacred to the worship of Shiva.
caitya—votive Buddhist shrine; like a stupa but much smaller
Cākwāḥdyaḥ (a.k.a. Minnāth)—accompanies Bῦgadyaḥ on the Jātrā
Caturmāsa—period of four months of Vishnu’s sleep
cheli—ground floor of house
chwāsā—Remains Deity marked by an aniconic stone embedded in the ground
chwaylā bhu—pre-purification feast
cibhāḥ—(see caitya)
cusyāḥ—small cymbals, accompany naykhĩ
cwatã—second floor of house
dakshina—ritual fee
dabu—dance platform
daḥmā—the main forward beam of the chariot
dāmaru (dabu dabu)—small, one-handed double-headed drum
dān—inauspicious gift
dāphā—a genre of traditional Newar music
darshan—view of the deity; obeisance
dasa karma—Ten Life-Cycle Rituals (see samskāra)
Dashmahāvidya—Ten Great Knowledges; a set of female protective deities
dekhā—Tantric initiation
devi—goddess; refers to all goddesses or specifically to the great Goddess (the Devi)
Dewāli—season for Lineage Deity Worship
dhāḥ—two-headed drum, may be played with wooden stick
dharma—religious duty, law, custom, classically set out in sacred texts (dharmashastra); by extension, moral order more generally
dhimay—double headed drum, played with hand and curved cane stick; bigger than dhāḥ
dholi (Np.)—palanquin
digu dyaḥ—Lineage Deity
doti—traditional wrap-around loincloth
dyaḥ pālā—god guardian; caretaker of a temple
ekadasi—11th day of lunar fortnight; sacred to Vaishnavites
emic—the perspective of the insider (the opposite of etic)
galli—narrow lane
Ganesh (Ganedyaḥ)—elephant-headed god, Shiva’s first son and god of beginnings
ghaḥ—traditional Newar water pot
Ghaḥku—a lineage of Farmers who act as brakemen for the Bῦgadyaḥ and Cākwāḥdyaḥ chariots
ghāt—slope, typically adjacent to a river
ghyaḥ—clarified butter
Gubhāju (coll.)—Vajrācārya, Buddhist Priest
guthi (gu)—socio-religious association
guthiyār—member of a guthi
gway—areca (betel) nut
Haluwāi (coll.)—alternative thar appellation of Sweetmaker or more general referent of any sweetmaker
hiti—water spout
Holi—important spring festival
Indra—the Vedic king of the gods
ishtadevatā—chosen deity
—boiled rice
jāt/jāti—common term for group of intermarrying lineages, or caste
jātrā—processional festival; The Jātrā refers specifically to that of Bῦgadyaḥ
jhyāli—small cymbals
Jyāpu (coll.)—Maharjan, Farmer
kacha—raw food
kāshyap (kāshi)-gotra—of Aryan (Indic) ancestry
Kasāḥ (coll.)—Mulmi/Nyāchyã Shresthas, Bronzesmiths
kaḥsi—roof terrace
kalasha—Flask used for sacred purposes
Karamjit—Mahābrāhman death specialists
Karmācārya (Acāḥju)—Tantric priest
kartal—two-piece, one-handed percussion instrument
Karunāmaya—name of bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (see Bῦgadyaḥ)
Kāstakār—Carpenter (alt. to Sthāpit)
Kathmandu—capital city of Nepal; one of three cities of medieval Nepal Valley
Kãwã—skeletal demon
Khadgi (Nay)—Butcher
Khwapa (coll.)—Bhaktapur
khya—the goblin with the lolling red tongue
Krishna—incarnation of Vishnu
kshatriya—second of ideal varna categories; warriors and kings
kuladevatā (Np.)—Lineage Deity (see digu dyaḥ)
Kumāri—Mother Goddess; also virgin goddess in Newar societies
Kwenādyaḥ (coll.)—Jala Vināyak; one of the four important forms of Ganesh in the Valley
lakh—one hundred thousand
lākha mari—sweet presented as part of ritual gift-giving
Lakshmi—goddess of good fortune; Vishnu’s principle wife
Lalitpur—city of Nepal (Kathmandu) Valley south of Bāgmati River; home of Pengu Daḥ
laptyā bhway—traditional Newar leaf-plate feast
laskus—ritual welcome at the door of house or gate of city
lhāsā-gotra—of Tibetan (Bodic) ancestry
Licchavi—ancient rulers of Nepal Valley
linga—phallic representation of Shiva
Lwahãkaḥmi (coll.)—Stonemason; one of the constituent thars of the Pengu Daḥ
magaḥ khĩ (Np. mādal)—small two headed drum Mahādyaḥ (Shiva)
Mahālakshmi—Mother Goddess
Malla—rulers of medieval Nepal
mānā—volumetric measure of ten handfuls or about a litre
Mānandhar—Oil Presser
mandala (mandap)—sacred diagram or platform
Marikaḥmi (coll.)—Sweetmaker; one of the constituent thars of the Pengu Daḥ
mashān—cremation ground
mātã—first floor of a house
melā—grand festival
mhyāy macā—daughter and her children
Mohani (Dashaĩ)—the most important festival of the autumn season
mridanga (Skt.; Nw. pacimā)—two-headed drum
mudrā—ritual position of the hands
muhāli—shawm (medieval-style oboe)
Mulmi/Nyāchyã Shresthas—Bronzesmiths
murti—image or form of deity
nāga—serpent deity
Nakaḥmi—(Newar) Blacksmith
nakhaḥtyā—feast associated with a nakhaḥ
Narasimha—‘man-lion’ incarnation of Vishnu
Nārāyana—alternative name of Vishnu; common form in Nepal
Nāpit (Nau)—Barber
Nauni—Barber’s wife
naykhĩ—double-headed drum, like dhāḥ but smaller; usually played by Butchers (Nay)
nitya pujā—daily worship
Nyāchyã—(see Mulmi)
Panauti—small Newar town in Banepa Valley
pāju—mother’s brother
Pānju—priest of Bῦgadyaḥ
Parbatiyā—Nepalese of the hills
pāthi—volumetric measure equivalent to eight mānās
Pengu Daḥ— ‘The Four Groups’; the focus of this study
phālca—public shelter
phuki—patrilineal relative
pikhā lakhu—carved stone that marks the ritual entrance to the house; Kumar
pitha (pigandyaḥ)—Power-Place
pradakshinapātha (Skt.)—procession route
Prahlāda—son of Hiranyakashipu; devotee of Vishnu
prākrit—natural, aniconic stone image
Pramānas—medieval, de-facto rulers of Lalitpur
prasād—‘grace’; sanctified food, flowers and sinha distributed to worshippers in return for pujā
pujā—worship, usually comprising offerings of fruit, flowers, vermilion, and sweets
pujāri—temple priest
pukka—food that has been made acceptable to eat; well cooked; more generally, solid
purohit—domestic priest
punhi—full moon, auspicious day especially for Buddhists
pwanga—short horn
Rādhā—Krishna’s lover
Rājbhandāri—Royal Storekeeper, member of dominant caste
Rājopādhyāya—Newar Brahman caste
Rājkarnikār (Marikaḥmi)—Sweetmaker
Rām (Rāma)—avatar of Vishnu
Rana—rulers of Nepal from 1847-1951
sadhu (see sannyasin)—ascetic renouncer
sagã—good luck food; two varieties-egg (khẽy) and fish (nyā)
sāit—auspicious time
samay baji—feast-like meal consumed after special pujā
Samgha—Buddhist Monastic Community
samskāra—life-cycle rituals
Sankhu—small town north of Bhaktapur
sãnhu (sãlhu)—first day of solar month
sannyasin—ascetic renouncer
Sarasvati—goddess of learning, Brahma’s wife
Shaivite—of, or pertaining to, Shiva; worshipper of Shiva
Shah—present dynasty of Nepal kings; descendants of Prithvi Narayan Shah
Shākya (Bare)—Goldsmiths; also workers of silver and brass; shopkeepers; of one caste with Vajrācāryas
Shilākār (Lwahãkaḥmi)—Stonemason; alt. thar appellation for Shilpakār
Shilpakār (Lwahãkaḥmi or Sikaḥmi)—Sculptor
shivamārgi—a follower of the path of Shiva; one who has a Brahman priest
shudra—fourth of ideal varna categories; servants, slaves, labourers
Sikaḥmi (coll.)—Carpenter; one of the constituent thars of the Pengu Daḥ
sinha—mark of vermilion on forehead
shakti—divine power, personified as feminine
shawm—medieval-style oboe
shrāddha—Ancestor Worship
Shrestha—dominant Newar caste; proper thar name of some of these
sikāḥ bhu—meal involving ritual division of head of sacrificial animal
sinājyā myẽ—rice transplantation song
snāna—ritual bathing
soḥra shrāddha—Sixteen [Day] Ancestor Worship
Sthāpit (Sikaḥmi)—Carpenter
stupa (thur)—sacred mound
Swanti (Np. Tihār)—important late-autumnal festival
syāḥ phuki—close or ‘bone marrow’ kin
taksāri—chief of royal mint
Taleju—chosen deity of Malla kings; blood-accepting female deity
Tamvaḥ (coll.)—Coppersmith; one of the constituent thars of the Pengu Daḥ
Tāmrakār (Tamvaḥ)—Coppersmith
tāpā phuki—distant kin
thaḥ chẽ—natal home of married woman
thākāli—senior male; elder
thākāli luyegu—initiation as a thākāli
thākāli nakĩ—senior married female
thāy bhu—ceremonial dish used at a Marriage or Mock Marriage celebration
Theravāda Buddhism—form of Buddhism found in Sri Lanka and more recently brought to Nepal
thon—homebrewed beer
thyasaphu—biographical entry on a legal document
trope—a word or expression used in a figurative sense
Tulādhar—principle thar of merchant caste in Kathmandu
tulasi—sacred basil plant; worshipped as Vishnu throughout Caturmāsa
twaḥ (Np. tol)—traditional locality
Urāy (coll.)—Tulādhar et al.
utsāva (Skt.)—festival
vaikuntha—Vishnu’s abode
Vaishnava (Vaishnavite)—of or pertaining to Vishnu; worshipper of Vishnu
vaishya—third of ideal varna categories; traders
Vajrācārya—Buddhist Priest
Vārāha—the boar-avatar of Vishnu
varna—‘colour’; system of castes in sacred texts; ideal caste structure
vermilion—mercuric sulphide; a bright red to reddish-orange coloured powder; mixed with curd, and husked rice it is applied with the finger to the image of the deity and thence to the worshipper’s forehead as prasād
Vishvakarma—patron deity of artisans
vrata—Observance including fasting usually in devotion toward a particular deity
waḥ—lentil cake
wala pala or wala pā—sub-section of guthi
yaḥ mari—special rice cake especially consumed at winter solstice festival
yaḥsĩ—ceremonial pole
yajña (homa)—Fire Sacrifice
Yama (Yamadyaḥ, Yamarāja)—the god of the abode of the dead
Yāngwa—a lineage of Farmers who lash the chariot together with vines
Yẽnyaḥ (Indra Jātrā)—important late-monsoon festival