Lord Skanda-Murugan

University of Pittsburgh letterhead

2604 Cathedral of Learning
Pittsburgh Pennsylvania 15250 USA
Fax: 412-624-5994

January 18, 2001

Dr. G. John Samuel, Chairman
International Centre for the Study of Skanda-Murukan
Institute of Asian Studies
Chemmancherry Sholinganallur
Chennai 600119 INDIA

Dear Dr. Samuel,

I regret that I cannot be present for the Second International Conference on Skanda-Murukan, but I am nevertheless pleased to send along my felicitations and congratulations on this occasion. Little did I imagine when Professor Kamil Zvelebil first suggested to me some thirty-five years ago that a doctoral dissertation on Murukan would be a fascinating way to understand the history and contemporary character of Tamil culture and religion that, by the turn of the millennium, over one hundred scholars would have come to the same conclusion.

Of course, a number of scholars have now refined and superseded my rather feeble early attempts at understanding Murukan. But I am pleased that a certain tradition has continued that has been of great assistance for my own research and that of my colleagues -- a collaboration between academic "outsiders" and thoughtful "insiders." Many scholars in the "West" have been enormously indebted over the years to literally hundreds of persons willing to share their "emic" sense of their own tradition; such people have permitted us to observe religion in practice and have discussed with us the meaning of texts, icons, inscriptions and other expressions of religious culture. In turn, I hope we have been able to ask questions and offer hypotheses that have enhanced the understanding of our "insider" collaborators and friends.

I am delighted that research institutes such as yours are encouraging the rigorous and academically responsible study in India not only of the Skanda-Murukan tradition, but of Indian religion in general. It is my hope that such study will increasingly find its way into university curricula there and catalyse sober and dispassionate reflection on the enormously important role of religion on the Indian landscape. I hope your Second Conference will be yet one more step toward that end.


Sincerely yours,

Clothey signature

Fred W. Clothey
Professor, Religious Studies University of Pittsburgh

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