Accepted Paper:

E
has pdf download Narrative reconstruction of spirit possession experience: the double hermeneutic of Gaddis religious specialists in Western Himalaya (India)  

Author:

Daniel Côté (Université de Montréal)

Paper short abstract:

Spirit possession in India is generally described as a means of social regulation and of conflict resolution through symbolic transformation. This communication explores the local meaning attached to it and its narrative reconstruction through a possible sanskritization process.

Paper long abstract:

Almost everywhere in India, spirit possession is described as a means of social regulation and of conflict resolution through symbolic transformation. This communication explores the meaning and the experience of spirit possession among the Gaddis, a semi-nomadic "tribe" of Western Himalaya, and its narrative reconstruction. Despite the assumption that possession in India is generally a belief and a practice prevailing among the "tribals" or among the low castes to complain against social oppressive patterns, Gaddis spirit possession narratives show how this intense and extravagant experience is articulated through the cultural idioms of orthodox Hinduism. Experiences of possession are interpreted in the light of yogic discipline, meditative techniques and the Hindu core concepts such as dharma, karma or samadhi (inner bliss). Concept of samadhi corresponds to the specific moment where a deity enters a human body and takes full control of his thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. This communication shows how a supposed peripheral practice may be opened up to mainstream Hinduism. Here, the spiritual discipline doesn't fit the traditional image of the renouncing yogis, but appears in the daily routine. At the same time, possession takes place in a public arena, always ritually induced with the intention to bring solutions to cross-personal or village litigations. The possibility of a double local hermeneutic is discussed here in the light of the sanskritization process and of the possible cultural legitimation through narrative reconstruction.

E-paper: this Paper will not be presented, but read in advance and discussed

Panel W094
Rethinking spirit possession