"Following the Pir: Shared Devotion in South India" is an ethnographic study of the religious life of a village called Gugud u in Andhra Pradesh. It focuses on the public event of Muharram in Gugud u which takes on a strikingly-different color than Muharram as it is practiced by urban Shi'i communities across South Asia. This is due to the central place of a local pir, or saint, called Kullayappa. The story of Kullayappa is pivotal in Gugud u's local religious culture, effectively displacing the better-known story of the Imam Hussain from Shi'a Islam, and each year 300,000 pilgrims from across South India visit this remote village to express their devotion to Kul l ayappa. The ten-day rituals of Muharram in Gugud u function like a stage on which various global Islamic practices come to frame a local pir tradition surrounding the life story of Kul l ayappa and this dissertation focuses on the various rituals performed and the many narratives told during Muharram in Gugud u. It also looks at how some devotees refashion their lives after Kul l ayappa's example, as they encounter it in the rituals and narratives of Muharram.The public event of Muharram, however, has become a point of contention in Gugud u, with various religious individuals and groups now disputing the significance of what happens in Gugud u during Muharram. Despite this, the public rituals that are focused on the pir Kul l ayappa continue to be centrally-visible in Gugud u's religious life, their tradition still maintaining a successful blending of various Hindu and Muslim practices. As part of its ethnographic aims, this dissertation records multiple interpretations of Muharram and Karbala as they are given in Gugud u, and argues that this set of shared devotional practices in Gugud u represent a distinctive local religious culture.This dissertation also explores how attention to the religious life of Gugud u expands our understanding of devotion to the martyrs of Karbala across the wider Muslim world. This exploration is done in a number of ways. The dissertation documents the local shared religious practices and pir narratives in a manner that acknowledges the tensions between Gugud u's Muharram tradition and localized Islam in the village. It also analyzes localization as a process that creates and maintains both the local Muharram tradition and a kind of localized Islam. Finally, it tries is to comprehend the many-layered perceptions of these two processes as they are articulated by different caste groups in Gugud u. In other words, this dissertation deals with the mutual constitution of Gugud u's Muharram tradition and its variant of a localized Islam through the mediation of processes of localization.
Number Of Pages: 90
Published: 1st September 2011
Dimensions (cm): 24.6 x 18.9 x 0.5
Weight (kg): 0.18