On the Road. The religious Significance of Walking
The social construction of the body has been the focus of recent scholarship in a variety of disciplines. This paper investigates the way walking, that is, the moving body, is socially constructed within the different religious ideologies of ancient India. Beginning with the Vedic period, we find that walking takes on a religious significance in India culminating in the ascetic ideology of wandering ceaselessly without a permanent place of residence. Walking is also the bodily expression of liminality. Walking can be seen as the opposite of rest, stability, and structure, the opposite of social space, of home and village. The meanings of difficulty, danger, and gain are latent in many of the ritual uses of walking, including warfare. The warrior ethic posited that if the danger prevailed and the soldier died, he would gain a heavenly reward in place of the earthly. Thus the intimate and inextricable connection is made between difficulty, danger, and gain - all three of which required that one abandon structured and secure space and enter the liminal world of the traveller.
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