Continuing my Victorian research trawl, the next thing on the agenda is Hindu folklore and mythology1.
I’m looking for information on the closest analogues to European faeries: rakshasas, apsaras, yakshas, gandharvas, other things in that vein. (Not positive yet which of these is most appropriate to focus on, and there might well be other possibilities I’m not aware of.) I have a certain amount of familiarity with major primary texts like the Ramayana and Mahabharata; at this point what I’d really like to read is a good secondary source that discusses these things directly. Are there books out there which will talk about their origins, nature, appearance, habits, narrative or theological role, etc? Someone who’s done for Hindu material what Katharine Briggs did for British. Bonus points if your recommended source talks about the role of these ideas in daily life, outside the context of the epics.
Unfortunately, I’ll only be able to read sources in English, which I know will limit my field sharply. (Especially since English sources, especially of the older variety, are likely to be heavily tinged by the colonial lens.) But any pointers in a useful direction would be appreciated.
Edited to add: Heh. Sometimes, i r not so brite. I posted this, then got up to fetch from the shelf what books I already have on Hinduism . . . then remembered why I have them. Because I took a course on Hinduism from Diana Eck while I was at Harvard. She was even one of my House Masters! So I’ve e-mailed her, too, to see if she can help a former Lowellian out.
1 – For the record, while some people have gotten into the habit of using these words as a form of dismissal, that is never what I mean. I’m interested in the cultural material (lore) of a particular group of people (folk), and a “myth” is not a lie, but rather a specific kind of sacred narrative. (Yes, I do in fact use the phrase “Christian mythology.”) I bring this up because I spent a minute or so trying to find other words to use that would say what I mean without the baggage, before deciding I’m damned if I’ll surrender the technical terminology of my field without a fight.
In related news, “gender” is not just a polite term for “sex” and AUUUUUUUGGGGGH I hate it when useful specificity gets obliterated by careless daily speech. But we’ve already spent too long on this tangent, so back to the query we go.