This book examines a monastic institution – the Madhava Matha of Udupi (Udipi) in Southern Karnataka – as a site of the formation of religious opinion, of monastic training, and practice, and the transmission of knowledge. The author brings both sociological and textual perspectives to bear on his work.
While anthropologists and sociologists have worked on cults, practices, categories of specialists and concepts, Vasudeva Rao’s is one of the few books to focus on a monastic institution as the site of the formation of religious opinion in the context of monastic training and practice. Dr Rao’s work provides an understanding of doxa or religious opinion in the context of the Madhva tradition of South India. In doing so, he focusses on priests rather than ascetics and thus contributes to the growing body of literature on the forms in which Brahminic ideology and practice take shape. In the process, Dr Rao also casts light on the complex ways in which a tradition perpetuates itself and deals with continuity and change. The study highlights the ways that texts are learned, remembered and transmitted to become a part of Indian religious experience. A significant contribution is also the ways in which the understanding of Madhva gurus and students reflect and are influenced by the general mood and the political discourse in the country.
Vasudeva Rao holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the Delhi School of Economics, where he subsequently taught a few years. He is at present a Consultant at the United Nations Development Programme, New Delhi.
Apart from his work in the sociology of religion, he has also written on education and works on issues related to child labour and education.