Accepted paper:

Pilgrimages: a case study of Kailash Yatras


Sujit Surroch (Government Post Graduate College Palampur, H.P., India)

Paper short abstract:

The paper deals with motivating factors, experiences, beliefs & practices, challenges being faced by Kailash pilgrims and measures taken to overcome them.

Paper long abstract:

The holy yatras (Treks) provide a kaleidoscopic view of beliefs, practices and bond of mankind with almighty. In paradisiacal land of Himachal Pradesh (India), millions of pilgrims undertake yatras to three Kailashas without being deterred by the tough hill terrains, hostile climatic conditions, altitude above 13500 feet and tiresome journey on foot. An empirical study was conducted with objectives to find out factors motivating pilgrims to undertake arduous Yatras and to know about their experiences. Religious practices being observed and challenges faced during Yatras and measures taken to overcome them were also examined. Information was elicited from thousands of pilgrims of these Kailashas during pilgrimage during 2007-11 through interviews, Focused Group Discussions and observation. It was observed that urge for eternal bliss, demystification of mysteries, to see abode of God and adventurism motivated the respondents to undertake Yatra(s). The informants keep reciting incantations during journey. Significant proportions of subjects perform yajna, meditate, worship, dance and some even beat themselves with bundle of iron chains. Overwhelming majority of informants held the belief that they were there because of His will and their good deeds of past lives. Tented accommodation at halting venues and eatables along the track are available for pilgrims. However, the subjects complained of scarcity of toilets, lights, mobile connectivity and proper paths. Yatras become challenging because of landslides, active shooting stones, incessant rains, icy winds and inadequate oxygen. However, reminiscences of almighty, fulfilling spiritual experiences and wonderful natural scenery drenching the pilgrims in the enchanting ambiance keep them charged, refreshed and energized.

panel WMW04
Anthropology of emotions and senses in religious performances