The History of Janakpurdham: A Study of Asceticism and the Hindu Polity is a major contribution to the understanding of three important social persona in Hindu societies of South Asia: the ascetic, the Brahman and the king. Deviating from earlier discussions that focused on the binary opposition between the Brahman and the king, Burghart introduces a model of a trinity that included the ascetic. Besides being a rich ethnography of the Ramanandi order of ascetics, the book also provides a very detailed ethnohistory of Janakpurdham in the Nepal Tarai and its religious significance in what was then the Hindu kingdom of Nepal. Based on a rich and largely unpublished corpus of historical documents, it reconstructs the complex dealings and inter-relationships between the royal centre and the Ramanandi ascetics at the periphery. At the same time, the book is also a study of the coming of modernity to Nepal and the rich and detailed analysis of the political and historical context in which the Ramanandis operated helps question the prevalent image of Hindu ascetics as figures epitomising disembodied spirituality.