As a place to die, to dispose of the physical remains of the deceased and to perform the rites which ensure that the departed attains a 'good state' after death, the north Indian city of Banaras attracts pilgrims and mourners from all over the Hindu world. This book is primarily about the priests and other kinds of 'sacred specialist' who serve them: about the way in which they organise their business, and about their representations of death and understanding of the rituals over which they preside. All three levels are informed by a common ideological precoccupation with controlling chaos and contingency. The anthropologist who writes about death inevitably writes about the world of the living, and Dr. Parry is centrally concerned with concepts of the body and the person in contemporary Hinduism, with ideas about hierarchy, renunciation and sacrifice, and with the relationship between hierarchy and notions of complementarity and holism.
"The author has done a superb job in combining description and analysis, his conclusions are both provocative and informative. There is no doubt that this work is a major contribution to the meager literature on the anthropology of symbolism of death and the sociology of specialists in the sacred. It is a 'must read' for those interested in topics such as death, death rituals, and pilgrimage." Choice