Sacred Confluence: Worship, History and the Politics of Change in a Himalayan Village

Lipika Mazumdar

PhD Thesis. 1998

This dissertation addresses the general question: How do local cultures negotiate forces of change and transformation and the resultant politicization of religious experience in the context of a post-colonial nation-state? Through the use of oral historical accounts and ethnography, I examine the relationship of the villagers of Purnath, Tehri Garhwal district, Uttar Pradesh, India, Bhairopir, and the historical processes which continue to shape this relationship in the period between 1949-1996. The processual dynamics of reconfigurations and shifts in the style of worship and the meaning of deity as a node for local and regional identities vis-à-vis the nation is examined. I also investigate the concurrent ramifications of internal colonization between local and national religious and political issues. Currently, the politico-religious activity surrounding this deity may be interpreted as efforts reinstate his dominion in light of ongoing confrontation with the nation-state since 1949, and certain "diagnostic" events which occurred during the field period: a major earthquake, general elections, and the continuing political statehood movement for the Himalayan districts of Uttar Pradesh, of which Garhwal is a part.