Nathan McGovern

Mar 19, 2019

The Snake and The Mongoose

The Emergence of Identity in Early Indian Religion

Oxford University Press 2018

purchase at The history of Indian religions in the centuries leading up to the common era has been characterized in the scholarship by two distinct overarching traditions: the Brahmans (associated with Vedic texts, caste, and Vedic rituals) and the renouncer (śramaṇa) movements we see in the Upanishads, and in Jainism and Buddhism. Were these traditions at odds with each other as “snake and mongoose” (attributed to the 2nd-century BCE Sanskrit grammarian Patañjali)? Does “Brahmanism” pre-exist this pivotal encounter, or as it in fact forged therefrom? Was there such a thing, e.g., as a Buddhist Brahman in this era? In his book The Snake and The Mongoose: The Emergence of Identity in Early Indian Religion (Oxford University Press, 2018), Nathan McGovern draws on ancient texts to problematize the distinction between Brahman and non-Brahman in this era, shedding light on the presence of various Buddhist, Jain and Vedic groups who equally identified as Brahmans.
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