Palanquins of the gods: Indigenous theologies, ritual practice, and complex agency in the western Indian Himalayas

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Abstract

Village deities in the West Indian Himalayas, who manifest in temples, in possessed oracles, and in moving vehicles, intervene in various aspects of the private and public lives of their devotees. As such, these devīs and devtās (goddesses and gods) emerge, from both indigenous theologies and scholarly theories, as complex agents whose cognition is distributed among community members and whose agency is articulated and enacted in public rituals. After presenting the body of theory to which I have just referred, I argue in this article that the institution of the moving rath—literally a ‘chariot’, but in reality a palanquin carried on devotees’ shoulders—is a major ritual arena where the deities are established as such complex agents. I do so by documenting in detail and analysing the ritual handling of the shared rath of the goddess Haḍimbā and the god Manu Ṛṣi, two well-known village deities in the Kullu Valley (Himachal Pradesh), otherwise known as ‘The Valley of Gods’.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)300-323
Number of pages24
JournalReligions of South Asia
Volume10
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2016

Keywords

  • Agency
  • Himalaya
  • Hinduism
  • Palanquin
  • Procession
  • Ritual

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