When the World Becomes Female
Guises of a South Indian Goddess
Publication Year: 2013
During the goddess Gangamma’s festival in the town of Tirupati, lower-caste men take guises of the goddess, and the streets are filled with men wearing saris, braids, and female jewelry. By contrast, women participate by intensifying the rituals they perform for Gangamma throughout the year, such as cooking and offering food. Joyce Burkhalter Flueckiger argues that within the festival ultimate reality is imagined as female and women identify with the goddess, whose power they share. Vivid accounts by male and female participants offer new insights into Gangamma’s traditions and the nature of Hindu village goddesses.
Published by: Indiana University Press
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...2. Guising, Transformation, Recognition, and Possibility • 548. Th e Goddess Served and Lost: Tatayyagunta Mudaliars • 1809. Exchanging Talis with the Goddess: Protection and Freedom to Move • 21010. “Crazy for the Goddess”: A Consuming Relationship • 242...
PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
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Th is is a book about the South Indian goddess Gangamma, whose rituals and narratives off er a range of possibilities and debates about gender at both cosmological and human levels. Gangamma becomes most visible and grows into her fullest power during her annual hot-season festival, during which time, for one week, ultimate reality is imagined and experienced as female....
NOTE ON TRANSLITERATION
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I have chosen not to use diacritics in the main text of this book, so that the prose will be accessible to non-specialists. However, I have included a glossary of all Telugu terms at the end of the book with appropriate dia-critics. Proper names, except for caste names, do not appear in the glossary. In transliterations in text, I have rendered both s· and ś as “sh.” Plural nouns ...
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Th e South Indian pilgrimage town of Tirupati is synonymous with the God of the Seven Hills—Sri Venkateshvara, a form of Vishnu. His temple is nestled at the far end of a series of hills that swell from paddy fi elds and rocky hillocks on the plains to a height of 1,104 meters. God lives on the seventh, interior hill, Venkatagiri. Th is mountain range anchors and gives ...
Part One. Imaginative Worlds of Gangamma
1. An Aesthetics of Excess
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Th e most striking aspect of a jatara for someone experiencing it for the fi rst time is its dizzying multiplicity of rituals and activities, carried out with a seeming lack of coordinated organization. Th ese festivals are multi-sited, multi-caste celebrations; an elaborate web of castes, ritual families, house-holds, and individuals come together in a fl ow of activities that sometimes ...
2. Guising, Transformation, Recognition, and Possibility
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While stri vesham is the most notorious feature of Tirupati’s Gangamma jatara, guising also appears in less dramatic forms, including turmeric (pa-supu) application on the faces of the goddess herself and her female worship-pers. When I attempted to confi rm with a group of women in Tatayyagunta temple courtyard that women did not take vesham, one of them vehemently ...
3. Narratives of Excess and Access
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Gangamma’s narrative repertoire opens up alternative and expanded per-spectives on the nature of Gangamma—her excess and access—to those that jatara rituals perform. More specifi cally, the primary narratives of the goddess are a site of debate about gender roles and the nature of the female. Key to this debate is the nature of and relationship between ugram and ...
4. Female-Narrated Possibilities of Relationship
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When I asked female jatara celebrants to tell me the why the jatara is cele-brated, they almost always answered with descriptions of rituals rather than with a narrative. In contrast, men responded most often to the same ques-tion with the story of the Palegadu and Gangamma. When I asked women more specifi cally about the stories of Gangamma, while they often knew the ...
5. Gangamma as Ganga River Goddess
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As my fi eldwork associate and I arrived at Tatayyagunta temple to attend the alankara of the goddess during the Navaratri festival in the fall of 1999, I noticed a young woman wrapped in a wool shawl,1 wearing a large red bottu, sitting in the interior temple mandapam in front of a microphone. She gestured for us to come and sit down next to her and proceeded to ...
Part Two. Those Who Bear the Goddess
6. Wandering Goddess, Village Daughter: Avilala Reddys
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Although many Tirupati residents say Gangamma cannot be kept at home because she is too ugra, too much to bear, several families and individuals claim exception to this generalization: “While others can’t bear her, we can and do.” One such family is the Reddy family of Avilala village, only a few kilometers from Tirupati, whose forefathers are said to have found Gan-...
7. Temple and Vesham Mirasi: The Kaikalas of Tirupati
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We fi rst met the Kaikala family whose male members take Gangamma’s veshams when we entered their domestic courtyard during the 1992 jatara to watch preparation of Gangamma’s snake charmer vesham. A fourteen- or fi fteen-year-old boy was being dressed as the goddess by his mother; he sat quietly as his mother applied pasupu to his face and his grandmother ...
8. The Goddess Served and Lost: Tatayyagunta Mudaliars
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Th e fi rst year I participated in Gangamma jatara in 1992, a female, mid-dle-aged, gracefully moving attendant was serving Cinna Gangamma in her Tatayyagunta temple. She was assisted by a male in the inner sanctum itself, and several other women were running in and out with various supplies and helping keep the temple precincts clean. A female presence and authority in ...
9. Exchanging Talis with the Goddess: Protection and Freedom to Move
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I had attended three jataras and lived in Tirupati for several months in the fall of 1999 before I heard of the tradition of matammas.1 A professor at Sri Venkatesvara University invited me to go with him to a school he had started in an adjacent town for children of matammas. Seeing my quizzical look, he explained that matammas were women who have exchanged talis ...
10. “Crazy for the Goddess”: A Consuming Relationship
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Veshalamma and Pujaramma articulate some of the benefi ts of entering a ritual relationship with the goddess; in their narratives, it would seem that these benefi ts outweigh the troubles they may experience because of this relationship. However, as the narrative fragments of the personal narratives of the female devotee of Gangamma in this chapter will suggest, there may ...
Conclusion: Possibilities of a World Become Female
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Th is ethnographic study of the goddess Gangamma and those who live her traditions has raised several questions that are woven throughout the book. First, what is the gendered nature of the gramadevata goddess who is characterized as ugra, as “too much to bear”? How does understanding this ugra goddess who wears a tali and has children, but no husband, reconfi gure ...
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...ekam) ritual anointing of image of deity with series of various liquidsAcari (ācāri) artisan caste; goldsmiths, blacksmiths, carpentersadiparashakti (ādiparaśakti) fi rst, supreme power; as proper noun, Adi Para Shakti, ambali mixture of cooling yogurt, heating raw onions, and cooked milletammavaru (ammavāru) goddess; also poxes and rashes associated with Seven Sister ...
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...1. A comparative vision of masculinity embracing a female component can be seen in the iconography of Shiva as Ardhanarishvara (lit., the lord who is half woman). For 2. Left- and right-hand castes are not indigenously identifi ed as such in Telugu, as they are in Tamil; however, Telugu caste groups share attributes of the Tamil-identifi ed left- and right-hand castes, distinguishing between those castes associated with land ...
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Abu-Lughod, Lila. 1993. Writing Women’s Worlds: Bedouin Stories. Berkeley: University ———. 1990. Can Th ere Be a Feminist Ethnography? Women and Performance 5 (1): Akundy, Anand. 2006. Bards and Goddess Festivals: Th e Pombalas and the Gangamma Jatra of Tirupati. In Performers and Th eir Arts: Folk, Popular and Classical Genres in a Changing India, ed. Simon Charsley and Laxmi Narayan Kadekar, 59–81. New ...
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Page Count: 336
Illustrations: 20 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2013