Religions of South Asia, Vol 10, No 3 (2016)

Palanquins of the Gods: Indigenous Theologies, Ritual Practice, and Complex Agency in the Western Indian Himalayas

Ehud Halperin
Issued Date: 27 Dec 2017


Village deities in the West Indian Himalayas, who manifest in temples, possessed oracles, and 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 innovative 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 essay 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 analyzing the ritual handling of the shared rath of the goddess Haḍimbā and the god Manu Ṛṣī, two well-known village deities in the Kullu Valley (Himachal Pradesh), otherwise known as ‘The Valley of Gods.’

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DOI: 10.1558/rosa.31666


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