All posts by J-T. M.

Research & Activity Elsewhere

The I-Share project tries to engage with the research and activities done in the past and in the present elsewhere on the theme of shared sacred spaces.  Two examples include:

 

The Exhibition Shared Sacred Sites

The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations (MuCEM) in Marseilles, France first launched the Exhibition in 2015, which is the fruit of several years of scientific research conducted by CNRS and Aix-Marseille University.  The exhibition takes a fresh look at the religious behaviour of Mediterranean populations and highlights some of the most interesting (and most overlooked) phenomena in the region, namely the sharing and exchange between religious communities.  After Marseille, the exhibition travelled to show in other cities like Tunis, Marrakesh, Paris, Thessaloniki and New York.

 

Shared Sacred Sites project

It is a collaborative project that seeks to develop a rubric for the description, classification, analysis, and publication of work relating to spaces and locations used by multiple, disparate communities for religious purposes. The project is composed of several sub-projects that individually address different and particular difficulties in the study of shared sacred sites and that combine to form an important, updated, and modern survey of the unique features, mechanisms, and adaptations of coexistence found in the communities involved with shared sacred sites.

Sehwan Sharif, Sindh

Credits: Rémy Delage (During the urs with the dargah under renovation in 2012)

Basic information

Location (country): Pakistan

Location (city): Sehwan Sharif

Location (neighbourhood):

Location (GPS coordinates): Latitude: 26.412225 | Longitude: 67.86294

Type of religious site: Dargah, Darbar, Muslim and Hindu Sufi lodges, etc.

Religious community(ies) attending: Sunni and Shia Muslims, Hindus, Malang, Faqir, etc.

No of communities attending:

Language(s) used for ceremonies and prayers: Sindhi, Urdu, Punjabi

Approximate size of the site: (in m2)

Year of construction: 13th century

Pilgrimage location: yes

Pilgrimage season: Month of Sha’ban

Names and dates of the main festivals celebrated in situ: Celebration of the `Urs (18-20 Sha’ban); Commemoration of Ashura (1-10 Moharram)

No of pictures of the sites appended to this form: (Min 1)

Website page of the site (if available):                                                 

Name and title of the in-charge of the site (if known): Awqaf Department, Government of Sindh

Overview of the site

The pilgrimage centre of Sehwan Sharif is located in the southern province of Sindh in Pakistan, along the Indus. Its reputation is related to the presence of the saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, an antinomian Sufi who migrated and settled there at the end of the 13th century. Since then, the locality developed in parallel with the growing cult of the saint that has known a significant increase in terms of participation since the late 20th century.  Apart from the daily visits of devotees (ziyarat) throughout the year, two major events structure the ritual calendar of the mausoleum. On the one hand, the commemoration of Ashura (month of Muharram) is an occasion for Twelver shias to display their religious identity during which a complex system of ritual processions reveals social divisions at the local level. On the other hand, the annual pilgrimage (urs, mela) during the month of Sha’ban is preceded by one the most important gathering of faqirs across the subcontinent and followed by the departure of several caravans of faqirs and pilgrims to other holy destinations. What is more, the locality of Sehwan articulates during the festival various circulatory territories that bring together various social (transgender, low and high castes, etc.) and religious groups (sunni, shia, hindu, malang, etc.). The practices of sharing public spaces during such specific event are worth being studied empirically since they contribute to the repositioning of pilgrims and local people faced with social and religious otherness.

Bibliography pertaining to the site

Rémy Delage (2018) « Sufism and Pilgrimage Market: A Political Economy of a Shrine in Southern Pakistan », in Coleman, S. & Eade, J. (eds) Translating the Sacred: Pilgrimage and Political Economy in Transnational Contexts, Berghahn Books, Oxford.

Rémy Delage (2016) « L’espace du pèlerinage comme territoire circulatoire : Sehwan Sharif sur les rives de l’Indus », Cahiers d’Outre-Mer, Numéro thématique Prier aux Suds : les lieux de culte entre territorialisations, cohabitations et mobilités du religieux, 275.

Omar Kasmani (2017) « Grounds of becoming : faqirs among the dead in Sehwan Sharif, Pakistan ». Culture and Religion. An Interdisciplinary Journal, vol. 18, n° 2, pp. 72-89.

Omar Kasmani (2016) « Women [un-]like Women : The Question of Spiritual Authority among Female Fakirs of Sehwan Sharif ». In M. Boivin and R. Delage, eds, Devotional Islam in Contemporary South Asia: Shrines, Journeys and Wanderers, Londres, Routledge, pp. 47-62.

Rémy Delage (2016) « Soufisme et espace urbain. Circulations rituelles dans la localité de Sehwan Sharif », in Claveyrolas, M. & Delage, R. (eds) Territoires du religieux dans les mondes indiens. Parcourir, mettre en scène, franchir, Editions EHESS, coll. Purusartha, n°34, Paris, pp. 149-175.

Rémy Delage et Delphine Ortis (2014) « Les relations entre Sehwan Sharif et l’Indus dans le Sindh : histoire d’une mise à distance (Pakistan) », in Harit Joshi et Anne Viguier (eds) Ville et fleuve en Asie du Sud. Regard croisés, Editions INALCO, pp. 33-47.

Boivin, M. (2012) Le soufisme antinomien dans le sous-continent indien. Paris, Éditions du Cerf.

Michel Boivin (2012) « Compétition religieuse et culture partagée dans les lieux saints complexes d’Asie du sud » in Isabelle Depret et Guillaume Dye (dir.), Partage du sacré : transferts, cultes mixtes, rivalités interconfessionnelles, Bruxelles, Editions EME, pp. 149-165.

Boivin, M. (2011) Artefacts of Devotion. A Sufi Repertoire of the Qalandariyya in Sehwan Sharif, Sindh, Pakistan. Karachi, OUP.

Michel Boivin et Rémy Delage (2010) « Benazir en odeur de sainteté. Naissance d’un lieu de culte au Pakistan », Archives des Sciences Sociales des Religions, n° 151, Paris, Editions EHESS,  pp. 189-211.

Boivin, M. (2005) « Le pèlerinage de Sehwân Sharîf, Sindh (Pakistan) : territoires, protagonistes et rituels », in S. Chiffoleau & A. Madœuf, dir., Les  pèlerinages au Maghreb et au Moyent-Orient. Espaces publics, espaces du public, Damas, IFPO, pp. 311-345.

Hazrat Maulana Ziauddin Sahab Rehmat Fakhri Nizami Chisti Dargah, Jaipur

Source: https://hazratmaulanaziauddin.weebly.com/ (Oct 2018)

Basic information

Location (country): India

Location (city): Jaipur, Rajasthan

Location (neighbourhood): Char Darwaza 302002

Location (GPS coordinates): (c.f. https://www.gps-coordinates.net/)

Latitude: 26.927362 | Longitude: 75.838432

Type of religious site: (i.e. dargah, shrine, stupa etc.) Dargah

Religious communities attending: Hindu, Sikh, Muslim

Number of communities attending: 3

Language(s) used for ceremonies and prayers: Hindi, Urdu, local dialects

Approximate size of the site: (in m2)

Year of construction: Mosque built in 1798; Mausoleum built in 1929

Pilgrimage location: NO

Pilgrimage season:

Names and dates of the main festivals celebrated in situ: Urs (August –September)

Website page of the site:

https://www.facebook.com/Dargah-Hazrat-Maulana-Ziauddin-Sahab-Rh-Fakhri-Nizami-Chishti-Jaipur-219848224700992/

https://hazratmaulanaziauddin.weebly.com/

Name and title of the in-charge of the site 

Hazrat Syed Zainul-abideen (Mehmood Mian Sahib) is the Sajjadanashin and Mutawalli of the Dargah Sharif

 

Overview of the site

Located in the predominantly Muslim locality of Char Darwaza, Subhash Chowk, Jaipur, the Dargah Hazrat Maulana Ziauddin Sahab Rehmat Fakhri Nizami Chisti is one of the most reputed dargahs of the Nizami chistiya sufi order in Jaipur. Among the dargah visitors, it’s largely Muslims from various sects and beliefs, but a smattering of Hindu and Sikh presence is observed. Most worshippers of the shrine, come here after incidents of spirit possession, black magic, loss and misfortune etc., the cure for which not only lies in the blessings of Maulana Ziauddin Sahib, but also in the hands of a small shrine of Rehmat Ali Baba within the complex. Is Rehmat Ali Baba then the crowd-puller? Through an observation of the faith, beliefs and practices of visitors at the site, I would like to examine how interactions, connections and ‘shared’ sacredness among the two shrines of Hazrat Maulana Ziauddin and Rehmat Ali Baba are built.

 

Economy of the site

The ownership is disputed as Maulana Ziauddin did not have a direct descendant. There is a court case between the present Sajjadanashin family. Hazrat Syed Zainul-abideen (Mehmood Mian Sahib) is the Sajjadanashin and Mutawalli of the Dargah Sharif.

 

Conflicts revolving around the site

  1. The ownership of the site.
  2. It seems there are also rivalries with other Chistiya dargahs in the city, especially with Hazrat Miskeen Shah; often manifested in conversations of which saint came into Jaipur first. (This authenticity claim/one-upmanship could be related to lineage issues?)

 

Bibliography pertaining to the site

Bentley, M., Peerenboom, C. A., Hodge, F. W., Passano, E. B., Warren, H. C., & Washburn, M. F. (1929). Instructions in regard to preparation of manuscript. Psychological Bulletin, 26, 57–63. doi:10.1037/h0071487

Rappaport, J. (1977). Community psychology: Values, research and action. New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.

Upcoming event on Dec 4, 2018

The next conference and team meeting on December 4, 2018  at CEIAS. See poster for programme: 

IShare poster texte 4dec2018 web

10h-12h: Talk on Traversées théologiques des frontières religieuses, by Catherine Clémentin-Ojha

(Chaire: Dynamique des mouvements religieux dans le monde indien. De l’anthropologie à l’histoire, CEIAS-EHESS- see profile)

13h-15h: Discussion over David Mosse’s book, The Saint in the Banyan Tree: Christianity and Caste Society in India  (See Book review by Alpa Shah 2015)

Mosse, David 2012- Book Cover
Mosse, D 2012- Contents

 

 

 

Shri Loknath Brahmachari Samadhi Mandir, Bangladesh

(Picture provided by Raphael Voix- September 2018)

Basic informationLocation (country): BangladeshLocation (city): Baradi.Location (neighbourhood): Sonargaon Upazila in Narayanganj District under Dhaka Division. The temple is 35 kilometers from Dhaka.Location (GPS coordinates): (c.f. https://www.gps-coordinates.net/)Type of religious site: (i.e. dargah, shrine, stupa etc.) : shrineReligious community(ies) attending: Hindu and MuslimNo of communities attending: 2Language(s) used for ceremonies and prayers:  Bengali and Sanskrit.Approximate size of the site: (in m2) : not knownYear of construction: 1890Pilgrimage location:  YesPilgrimage season: All year long, specific function around the 2nd of June.
Overview of the siteThe site is the dedicated to the cult of Lokenath Brahmachari,  a Brahmin that was born circa 1825 in a small village in the North-East of Kolkata. Lokenath Brahmachari had settled in Baradi – actual Bangladesh – in 1864 as a recluse ascetic. He lived there a life of meditation  and religious observances and was considered as ‘one who had attained the highest spiritual perfection’ (siddha mahapuruṣa) and he came to be worshipped as an  ‘incarnation of God’. The number of his worshippers went on fast increasing and he became known as the ‘celibate ascetic’ (brahmacari) or the ‘preceptor’  (gosvāmī) of ‘Baradi’.  After his death in June 1890, the owners of the ashram and his favourite disciple introduced the worship of his throne (āsana) and sandals (pādukā) as a way to perpetuate his memory. They inaugurated an annual celebration (utsava) for his death anniversary that progressively gained importance. In 1912, the partner of a wealthy firm of merchants, paid for a function that was at the time viewed unequalled in its magnificence. Since then this annual function has grown in importance over the years up to gathering thousands of people. It contributed to popularize the Hindu saint among different populations, even among Muslims who would also join in the festivities. In 1917, a temple was built and ritually consecrated before the public where for the first time a photo, was installed and worshipped. As early as 1936, disciples had founded similar ashrams in different parts of East Bengal. Today, this annual function is still held every year and attract thousands of devotees, Hindu as well as Muslims.
Bibliography pertaining to the siteBharati Brahmananda. 1903. siddha-jībanī : bābā lokanāthera siddha-jībanīra alaukika kāhinī. [Biographies spirituelle d’un saint ]Mukhopadhayay, Jamini Kumar. 1908.  Dharmasāra Saṅgraha. Siddhi Mahāpuruṣa (bāradīra). śrīśrīlokanātha brahmacārībābāra jībanī saha tadīẏa upadeśābalī  [Collection des pensées sur le dharma. La vie et l’enseignement de Lokenath Brahmachari de Baradi]Prakash Chandra Nag vs Subodh Chandra Nag And Ors. on 19 August, 1936 – Equivalent citations: AIR 1937 Cal 67Chaudhuri,  Kanishka.  2011.  The  Social  Organization  of  the  Lokenath  Sevashram   Sangha  of  Chakla  of  North  24-Parganas:  A  Study  in  Sociology  of  Religion.  Departement  of  Sociology,  Calcutta  University.  

Mariamabad Virgin Mary Shrine, Pakistan

Devotees offering prayers in front of Mariamabad’s grotto. 2016. Credits P. Rollier

SITE – Basic information

CountryPakistan

LocationNational Marian Shrine, Mariamabad Chak # no 3, Shekhupura District, Punjab, Pakistan

Type of religious siteCatholic church and national shrine

Religious communities attendingPunjabi Christians, Muslims, Hindus

No of communities attending: more than two

Language(s) used for ceremonies and prayers: Punjabi, Urdu

Pilgrimage location: yes
Pilgrimage season: A three-day annual pilgrimage and mela is held yearly around September 8th to celebrate the Nativity of the Virgin Mary. The shrine also attracts visitors during Lent.

Name and title of the in-charge of the site (if known):  Parish priest Rev. Bernard Emmanuel (Archdiocese of Lahore)

 

Overview of the site

Established by Belgian Capuchins in the late nineteenth century, the small village of Mariamabad is located in Pakistan’s Punjab province. The site under study is composed of the village itself — about 300 houses — and its large religious complex, which includes a church, a mango orchard and a grotto topped by a statue of the Virgin Mary. Since the 1950s, this Catholic village has become a centre of pilgrimage. With growing intensity since the 1990s, thousands of pilgrims walk or cycle over great distances every year to celebrate the nativity of the Virgin Mary in Mariamabad. Known as ziarat-e-maqadas Mariam, this gruelling yet playful ritual is presumably the largest Christian congregation in the country, and culminates with a three-day mela or festival held around the Marian shrine.

Most participants are working-class Punjabi Christians, who are descendants of ‘chuhra’ untouchable castes converted to Christianity during the first half of the twentieth century. Concerned that recently converted Christians could relapse into heresy, Belgian missionaries designed the shrine and its pilgrimage as a Christian alternative to local Muslim village festivals. But boundaries are porous, and the language of ritual practice deployed in this site mirrors that of Muslim dargahs and Hindu yatras. This allows for a wide participation of Protestants, Muslims and Hindus seeking the Virgin’s blessings in relation to specific vows. As a result, critics often describe this site and its ritual as being excessively Islamized, or as a superficial recasting of Hinduism bordering idolatry. Rather than signalling a syncretic encounter, this ‘shared sacred site’ needs to be analysed with reference to the specific articulation between caste and religious identity in Punjab, and to the changing trajectories of social mobility among marginalized Punjabi Christians in Pakistan.

Bibliography pertaining to the site

Harding, Christopher.  2008. Religious Transformation in South Asia : The meanings of conversion in Colonial Punjab. Oxford.

Harding, Christopher.  2008. ‘The Christian Village Experiment in Punjab: Social and Religious Re-formation.’ South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies 31(3): 397-418.

O’Brien, John. 2006. The Construction of Pakistani Christian Identity. Lahore: Research Society of Pakistan.

O’Brien, John. 2011. ‘The Quest for Pakistani Christian Identity: A narrative of Religious Other as Liberative comparative Ecclesiology.’ Pp. 78-103 in Church and Religious ‘Other’, edited by G. Mannion.  London; New York : T&T Clark

O’Brien, John. 2015. ‘By the finger of god: healing and deliverance in Pakistan’. Pp. 230-259 in Witchcraft, Demons and Deliverance: a global conversation on an intercultural challenge, edited by C. Währisch-Oblau and H. Wrogemann. Zürich: LIT Verlag.

Pelckmans, Godefroid.  1900. Dix Années d’Apostolat au Pundjab. Bruges: C. Ryckbost-Monthaye.

Pickett, J. Waskom. 1933. Christian Mass Movements in India. Lucknow: Lucknow Publishing House.

Walbridge, Linda. 2003. The Christians of Pakistan: The Passion of Bishop John Joseph. London: Routledge Curzon.

Webster, John. 1978. ‘Christianity in the Punjab’. Missiology: An International Review 6(4): 467– 483.

Webster, John. 2007. A social history of Christianity: North-West India since 1800. New Delhi: Oxford University Press

A French nun imparts catechism to ‘chuhra’ children in Mariamabad in the 1920s or 1930s. Credits: Source unknown

Young Christian in front of the statue of the Virgin in Mariamabad. 2018. Credits: P. Rollier

Pilgrims from Lahore on their way to Mariamabad. 2016. Credits: P. Rollier

Pilgrims from Lahore on their second day walking from Lahore to Mariamabad. 2016. Credits: P. Rollier.

Devotees climbing up a cross to offer a chadar in honour of the Virgin. 2016. Credits: P. Rollier

A hawker selling posters during the mela in Mariamabad. 2016. Credits: Michael Kashif

Young pilgrims during the mela in Mariamabad. 2016. Credits: P. Rollier

Cycling pilgrims arrive in the village of Mariamabad. 2016. Credits: P. Rollier

Statue of the Virgin Mary in Mariamabad. 2018. Credits: P. Rollier

A resident of Mariamabad singing in church after Sunday service. 2018. Recorded by P. Rollier

Promotional video: Annual Pilgramage to Mariamabad, 2018. Credits: Shahid Ghouri

References on the Queen-Victoria ritual complex and Medine Sugar Estate

Benoist, Jean. 1998. Hindouismes créoles : Mascareignes, Antilles, Paris : Éditions du CTHS, 303 p.

Claveyrolas, Mathieu. 2017. Quand l’hindouisme est créole. Indianité et plantation à l’île Maurice, Paris : Editions de l’EHESS.

Servan-Schreiber, Catherine (ed.). 2014. Indianité et créolité à l’île Maurice, Paris: Editions de l’EHESS, coll. Purushartha n°32.

Medine Sugar Estate

Medine sugar estate, Mauritius, 2017, credits: Dr Mathieu Claveyrolas

SITE – Basic information

Country: Mauritius
City: Medine
Languages used for ceremonies and prayers: Mauritian Creole, Sanskrit, Tamil

SITE – Overview of the site

The Medine sugar-estate temple is located in the heart of Medine sugar-estate (South-West of Mauritius), one of the last four sugar factories after the last decades’ centralization in Mauritius. It is, first, a kovil (Tamil temple) – but is is visited by devotess from all communities (Bhojpuris, Tamils and Creoles alike), and claims to follow a global Hindu-trantric tradition. Founded on a piece of land yielded by the sugar-estate, it seems to have become over the years independent from its administrative and (financial ?) control. The temple is renowned for being one of the last places to stage institutionnalized animal sacrifices, and for its therapeutic sessions – both pragmatic-oriented ceremonies gathering devotees across traditional community and religious lines.

SITE – Conflicts revolving around the site

NA

SITE – Bibliography pertaining to the site

[coming soon] https://ishare.hypotheses.org/category/sources/bibliography-per-site/on-medine-sugar-estate-temple

Benoist, Jean. 1998. Hindouismes créoles : Mascareignes, Antilles, Paris : Éditions du CTHS, 303 p.

Claveyrolas, Mathieu. 2017. Quand l’hindouisme est créole. Indianité et plantation à l’île Maurice, Paris : Editions de l’EHESS.

Servan-Schreiber, Catherine (ed.). 2014. Indianité et créolité à l’île Maurice, Paris: Editions de l’EHESS, coll. Purushartha n°32.

SITE – Photos of the site

Link: https://ishare.hypotheses.org/588

Fiedwork conducted by Dr. Mathieu Claveyrolas

Varahakshetra, 2001

Barahakshetra, Nepal, 2001, credits: Prof. Chiara Letizia

Jhakri Rai offers puja at the holy confluence, Nepal, 2001, credits: Prof. Chiara Letizia

Jhakri Rai puts tika to devotees after performing puja at the holy confluence, Nepal, 2001, credits: Prof. Chiara Letizia

Dhami Rai on the bank of Koka river, Nepal, 2001, credits: Prof. Chiara Letizia

Jhākri Gurung in Varaha temple, Varahakshetra, Nepal, 2001, credits: Prof. Chiara Letizia

Sraddha on Koshi river, Nepal, 2001, credits: Prof. Chiara Letizia

Sraddha on Koshi river, Nepal, 2001, credits: Prof. Chiara Letizia

Jhakri Cheetri performs puja in Varakshetra Kartik mela, Nepal, 2001, credits: Prof. Chiara Letizia

Jhakri Rai at the holy confluence, Nepal, 2001, credits: Prof. Chiara Letizia

Nisan Jatra from Chattara to Varahakhsetra, Kartik Mela, Nepal, 2001, credits: Prof. Chiara Letizia

Sraddha on Koshi river, Nepal, 2001, credits: Prof. Chiara Letizia

 

On Varahakshetra

Gaenszle , M. 2000. Origins and Migrations ; Kinship, Myhtology and Ethnic Identity among the Mewahang Rai of East Nepal. Kathmandu : Mandala Book Point.

Lecomte Tilouine, M. (1993). Les avatars de Varāha en Himalaya. Bulletin de l’Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient, 80/1, 41-70.

Khatiwada SP. (2010, 2067 B.S.). Cultural Heritage of Varahakshetra. Chatara: Shree RKBSA Pratisthan.

Khativada, S.P. 2014. River culture and water issue: an overview of Sapta-Koshi high dam project of Nepal. International Journal Of Core Engineering & Management (IJCEM) 1/3, 101-112.

Letizia, C. 2003. Le confluenze sacre dei fiumi in Nepal, Unpublished PhD Thesis, Università di Roma La Sapienza.

Oza, J. 2014. Resisting For the River: Local Struggle Against the Proposed Saptakoshi River Dam. Independent Study Project (ISP) Collection. Paper 1809. http://digitalcollections.sit.edu/isp_collection/1809

Schlemmer, G. (2004). New Past for the Sake of a Better Future: Re-inventing the History of the Kirant in East Nepal. European Bulletin of Himalayan Research, 25/26, 119-144.

Varahakshetra

Jhākri Gurung in Varaha temple, Varahakshetra, Nepal, 2001, credits: Prof. Chiara Letizia

SITE – Basic information

Country: Nepal
City: Barahakshetra (also spelt Varahakshetra)
Neighbourhood: Khadim Mohalla, Dargah Bazaar
Type of religious site: Hindu temple
Religious communityies attending: Hindu, Mudhum. For the Rai and other Kiranti groups, mudhum comprises histories of the origin of the ancestors, the proper means of communicating with ancestors and ritually maintaining the order they have established (Gaenszle, 2000).
No of communities attending: 8 or more
Languages used for ceremonies and prayers: Nepali, Sanskrit, Kiranti languages
Pilgrimage location: YES
Pilgrimage season: winter
Names and dates of the main festivals celebrated in situ: Kartik mela (November), in particular Kartik ekadashi and Kartik caturdasi (11th and 14th lunar day of the bright fortnight of the month of Kartik) and Maghe Sankranti (first day of the month of Magh, which falls almost always on 14th January)
Name and title of the in-charge of the site: In 2001, when I last visited this pilgrimage place, the main pujari of Varaha temple was Durganath Bandhari. The person in charge of the entire religious site was the Mahanta Mukunda Prasad Barati. Of course, these people must have been replaced since.

SITE – Overview of the site

The pilgrimage site of Varahaksetra is a complex of temples situated at the holy confluence of the Saptakoshi and Koka rivers in eastern Nepal. The confluence marked the border of three districts (Dhankuta, Sunsari and Udayapur), according to the former administrative division of Nepal. The main deity, served by Bhandari Brahmans, is Varaha, the avatar of Vishnu who, according to a well-known Puranic myth, takes the form of a boar to rescue the earth (and in some versions, kills the demon Hiranyaksa). Aside the main Varaha mythology, many different local mythologies coexist in this site (involving the yogi Aulya Baba worshipped in nearby Chattara, the King Mani Mukunda Sen, the rivers Koshi and Koka personified as girls or queens, the migration of the ancestors of the Rai, etc.).

Pilgrims and shamans (dhami-jhakri) from many Nepali communities (Rai, Limbu, Magar, Gurung, Tamang, Kami, Bahun and Chhetri) visit the temples and the holy confluence on the same dates, while they refer to different mythologies, perform different rituals at different places in the area, and call upon the services of different ritual specialists.

Hindu practices (bath, tonsure, cremations, sraddha) under the supervision of pujaris can be observed in the main temple area, where worship implies vegetarian offerings and the practice of setting free pigeons; while some of the Rai communities with the help of their dhamis perform mudhum (ancestral religion), the end of funerary rituals, and animal sacrifice on the bank of Koka river. For Rai shamans, ‘Baracchetra’ is a mythical place of origin and a destination for both actual and ritual journeys.

SITE – Economy of the site

The Guthi Samsthan, national bureaucracy that funds all religious sites of state importance in Nepal, nominates the Mahanta and gives a salary to priests and ascetics. The shops during the festivals were owned by Biharis and people from Janakpur

SITE – Conflicts revolving around the site

According to my observations in 2001, Rai pilgrims seemed to be marginalized by the Hindu reformists’ aspirations for this site. The Village Development Committee (constituted by Brahmans and Hindu ascetics) established rules to make the site a dharmik kshetra, without animal sacrifices, commerce, or consumption of alcohol or meat. At the time, Maoists insurgents were also campaigning for a mela without alcohol, sacrifice, or gambling activities. Pilgrims from Rai communities had to perform rituals outside the kshetra, on the Koka riverbank. Also, pujaris seemed critical of the shamans’ trance (kamnu) and saw it as “a practice for Shiva and Devi temples”. For their part, some Rai groups claimed that this pilgrimage was established by a dhami who had a vision of a holy stone long before the statue of Varaha was installed, hiding the stone.

In post-1990 Nepal, Kirant “indigenists” have reinterpreted mudhum and introduced changes to adapt it to modern values (no blood sacrifice, no alcohol) (Schlemmer 2004). How has this process of modernization and purification of the cults (and more generally, indigenist activism and invention of tradition) affected the conflicts observed in 2001?
The transition from a two century-old monarchy to a secular federal republic in 2008, posed a direct challenge to the dominance of Hinduism and Hindu high castes and provoked a strong reaction of Hindu Right. How has this impacted the attempts to make Varahakshetra an exclusive Hindu holy place, and more generally the historical co-presence of different groups and the tensions among them? The fieldwork will enable to contrast past observations with the current context and practices.

SITE – Other information

Following the 2008 breach of the Koshi barrage and its disastrous consequences in Nepal and Bihar, Nepali and Indian government have proposed the construction of a high hydropower dam to control the flooding of the Saptakoshi River. The very existence of Varahakshetra is threatened by the proposed construction of the dam two kilometers upstream of the temple. The possibility of this sacred site being destroyed by the dam is, for some, an irreparable loss (Oza 2014). Over the years, many local people along the Koshi Basin who will be affected by the dam have formed struggle committees to resist the project in an effort to preserve their culture, traditions, environment, and homes (Katiwada 2014). In January 2015, hundreds of villagers gathered in Varahakshetra Temple complex to protest. How is this resistance affecting the interactions among the religious communities that share this pilgrimage place?

SITE – Bibliography pertaining to the site

Link: https://ishare.hypotheses.org/category/sites/on-varahakshetra

Gaenszle , M. 2000. Origins and Migrations ; Kinship, Myhtology and Ethnic Identity among the Mewahang Rai of East Nepal. Kathmandu : Mandala Book Point.

Lecomte Tilouine, M. (1993). Les avatars de Varāha en Himalaya. Bulletin de l’Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient, 80/1, 41-70.

Khatiwada SP. (2010, 2067 B.S.). Cultural Heritage of Varahakshetra. Chatara: Shree RKBSA Pratisthan.

Khativada, S.P. 2014. River culture and water issue: an overview of Sapta-Koshi high dam project of Nepal. International Journal Of Core Engineering & Management (IJCEM) 1/3, 101-112.

Letizia, C. 2003. Le confluenze sacre dei fiumi in Nepal, Unpublished PhD Thesis, Università di Roma La Sapienza.

Oza, J. 2014. Resisting For the River: Local Struggle Against the Proposed Saptakoshi River Dam. Independent Study Project (ISP) Collection. Paper 1809. http://digitalcollections.sit.edu/isp_collection/1809

Schlemmer, G. (2004). New Past for the Sake of a Better Future: Re-inventing the History of the Kirant in East Nepal. European Bulletin of Himalayan Research, 25/26, 119-144.

Leaflets and booklets for pilgrims available on the site in 2001 :

Bajracharya, M. (1998, 2054 B. S) Śri Varāhakśetra Śri Visnupaduka tīrthaśrāddha paddhati.

Bajracharya, M. (1997,  2053 B.S ) Śri Visnupaduka darśan.

Bajracharya, M. (2000, 2057 B.S) Śri Varāhakśetra Melā 20-27 Kartik.

Bhandari, K., (2001, 2058 B.S) Śri Varāhakśetra Darśan, Varāhakśetra Dhām, Hari Bodhini Ekadasi.

SITE – Photos of the site

Link to see full pictures: https://ishare.hypotheses.org/766

Fieldwork conducted by Prof. Chiara Letizia

References on the Hazrath Pir Sayyid Hyder Shah Qadri Jilani Dargah

Green, Nile. 2006. Indian Sufism since the Seventeenth Century: Saints; Books and Empire in the Deccan. London: Routledge.

Green, Nile. 2014. Terrains of Exchange: Religious Economies of Global Islam. London: Hurst.

Reetz, Dietrich. 2006. “Sufi Spirituality Fires Reformist Zeal: The Tablîghî Jam’â’t in Today’s India and Pakistan.” Archives de sciences sociales des religions. 135. July-September.

Dargahs in Bangalore

Hazrath Pir Sayyid Hyder Shah Qadri Jilani Dargah, Bangalore, India, 2018, credits: Aminah Mohammad-Arif

SITE – Basic information

Country: India
City: Bangalore, Karanataka
Location: Somwar Peth
Type of religious site: Several Dargah
Religious communities attending: “ordinary” Sunnis, reformist Sunnis, Shias, Hindus, Christians.

SITE – Overview of the site

Reformist Islam considers devotional practices associated to Sufism and particularly to shrine worship as unlawful innovations (bida), and hence strongly condemns them. Yet some Muslims associated with reformist movements, like the Tablighi Jama’at, continue to go to dargahs. Not that it comes as a great surprise since ideological positions are constantly negotiated and subject to change but the conceptions and practices of these people partake of an internal plurality reflecting fluctuating boundaries within Islam, which in turn are symptomatic of power conflicts and attempts at internal hierarchy among various Islamic groups in India. To highlight these negotiations and conflicts, I will conduct an ethnographical study in different Sufi shrines in Bangalore (where I have been doing fieldwork on Islamic movements for years). My study will be three-fold:

1)     I will first explore the “regimes of justification”: do they borrow from Islamic tradition? Or do they borrow from other repertoires like family, caste, region of origin and so on?

2)     I will then compare the conceptions and practices of reformist Muslims (including motivations) inside the shrines with those of “ordinary” Muslims. How significantly different are they? Do the former develop practices of dissimulation inside the dargahs?

3)     I will then examine the interactions and mutual representations between these groups.

SITE – Bibliography pertaining to the site

Link: https://ishare.hypotheses.org/category/sources/bibliography-per-site/on-hazrath-pir-sayyid-hyder-shah-qadri-jilani-dargah

Green, Nile. 2006. Indian Sufism since the Seventeenth Century: Saints; Books and Empire in the Deccan. London: Routledge.

Green, Nile. 2014. Terrains of Exchange: Religious Economies of Global Islam. London: Hurst.

Reetz, Dietrich. 2006. “Sufi Spirituality Fires Reformist Zeal: The Tablîghî Jam’â’t in Today’s India and Pakistan.” Archives de sciences sociales des religions. 135. July-September.

 Fieldwork conducted by Aminah Mohammad-Arif

References on the Mahakulung site

Schlemmer, Grégoire, 2012. « Fils du territoire, alliés de la forêt. Expressions rituelles du rapport au territoire chez les Kulung Rai du Népal oriental », Moussons, N°19, 33-50.

Schlemmer, Grégoire, 2017 « Voyageurs immobiles. Ce que les voyages rituels révèlent de la géographie idéelle des Kulung Rai du Népal », Territoires du religieux dans els mondes indiens. Parcourir, mettre en scène, franchir. Delage, Rémy, Claveyrolas, Mathieu, Purusartha 34.

Schlemmer, Grégoire, Forthcoming. « Enshrining space. Shrines, public space and Hinduization among the Kulung of Nepal », Samaj.

Nicoletti, Martino, 2006, The Ancestral Forest: Memory, Space and Ritual among the Kulunge Rai of Eastern Nepal. Kathmandu: Vajra Publications.