Accepted paper:

Hierarchy, History andPerformance: Critical Comments on a Non-Brahminical Ritual


Cybil K V

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores how in the historiography of Kerala the performance of a particular ritual excludes itself from historiography of certain forms while remaining open to certain others

Paper long abstract:

Performance of a specific ritual called kalam pattu as practiced by a caste devoted to the praise of the goddess Kali in the ancestral temples of the lower castes in Kerala is the basic field of study for this paper. Focusing on this ritual it tries to understand how through multiple representations of the goddess sometimes identified as Kali and at other times as Kannaki the performance has fostered a notion of general history (Foucault: 1972) as a form of lived experience of the caste . The Velan or the performing specialists (a group of Magicians according to the Cilapthikaram a Tamil classic dated back to 200 AD) of this ritual build and improvise new environments for syncretism of not merely multiple forms of the goddess but also of faiths as diverse as Hinduism and Christianity. The differences it so clearly makes in the performance of the conflicting moods of the goddess, one as destructive, the other as calm and benevolent also counter-point how such differences have been of late eased out in the making of a total history (Foucault: Ibid) of the Hindus in the region which has been dominated by the upper caste Nambuthiri and their worship of the goddess as a benign form adhering to vegetarianism and always in the form of a consort of one of the gods, Shiva or Vishnu. The paper will discuss the artful practices by which the performers guide its evolution to the contemporary times. Foucault.M (1972) Archaeology of Knowledge, Routledge.

panel P13
Arts of memory: skilful practices of living history