Seeking Fellow Panelists for South Asia Conference - Univ of Wisconsin-Madison

Erum Hadi's picture

Good Morning,

I am looking for fellow material culture historians, historical archaeologists, cultural historians, or world historians to form a panel for the University of Wisconsin-Madison South Asia Conference. My own research deals with Gujarat and other port cities in the Indian Ocean context of the early modern period, and I am working on material culture from this era that depicts the cultural and ideological exchanges as evidence of close contact and syncretic cultural formations. 

Please let me know if anyone else is also working on relative fields and topics. The abstracts are due on April 1st, and I am seeking 3 additional panelists. 

Thank you,



Pan-Indian Myth, Local Shrine: A Dialogue
Every full moon night, for several decades if not longer, pilgrims from a circuit of about 80 kilometres have converged at Govardhan, a long hillock near Mathura, to circumambulate it through the night in commemoration of Krsna’s lifting the mountain to protect his cowherd community from the wrath of Indra, the rain god. The pilgrimage is hallowed by a number of holy ponds and a temple supposedly marking the exact spot of the miracle. In the new century, however, the pilgrimage has grown—both in terms of the numbers of pilgrims and the range of places they come from, and in the phenomenon itself. Hundreds come regularly from as far as Rajasthan while the occasional devotee arrives from as far as Bengal. The circumambulation cycle has expanded to about eight days, and while still largely in the evening and night hours in summer, is typically accomplished in the daytime during winter. In the absence of methodical documentation and investigation, it is difficult to establish the historicity of this pilgrimage.

My paper will explore three related issues: First, the relation between sacred geography and structural temple, to question the primacy of veneration to the latter even as the sanctity of the natural landscape is implicit in the phenomenon of pilgrimage. Second, does a ‘natural’ shrine like a hillock open up access for marginalised caste groups in a way that a temple does not? Third, how are social and ritual spaces created/ modified by the interaction of a local material culture with a ‘cosmopolitan’ pilgrimage; in other words, how do the great and little traditions converse? Indeed, is it possible to say which is the great and which the little tradition?

bharati jagannathan
Dept of History,
Miranda House,
Delhi University.