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Gift and Return Gift, Greeting and Return Greeting in India.

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In a remarkable, often quoted footnote of his famous “Essai sur le don,” Marcel Mauss wonders that traditional Hindu law does not really prescribe the obligation to return a gift (Skt. dāna). According to some authors (J. Parry, Th. Trautmann, G. Raheja et al.) Mauss has demonstrated by this footnote his lack of a firm grasp of the theory of dāna since he did not notice that a dāna contains too much impurity or inauspiciousness to return to its donor. On the basis of striking parallels between the Śāstric theories of greeting (abhivādanadharma) and gift-giving (dānadharma), this paper questions the aspect of impurity in the gift and argues that kingly generosity or liberality and the meritious attitudes of asceticism have been the major source for giving gifts.

Affiliations: 1: Südasien-Institut Universität HeidelbergIm Neuenheimer Feld 330D-69120 Heidelberg


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