Accepted Paper:

Belief ascription and othering discourse among the ethnic communities in Assam  

Author:

Ülo Valk (University of Tartu)

Paper short abstract:

The paper discusses relationships between different ethnic and social groups and images of the ‘others’ as expressed in belief narratives of Assam. It is based on fieldwork in Mayong (Marigaon district), where the Assamese people live in close contact with several indigenous ethnic communities.

Paper long abstract:

The ethnic, cultural and religious diversity of North Eastern India is extraordinary. More than 200 languages are spoken in the region; only in the state of Assam there are 23 officially recognised 'tribal' groups. The spread of Brahmanic Hinduism in North Eastern India is historically relatively late if compared with many other parts of India; in ancient texts such as the Kālikā purāna the region has been called the land of kirātas ('indigenous peoples'). Their influence on different forms of Hinduism (e.g. in goddess worship and tantric practices) has been noted by several researchers. The paper discusses relationships between different ethnic and social groups and images of the 'others' as expressed in beliefs and narrative traditions about magic and the supernatural in contemporary folklore of rural communities. It is based on fieldwork in Mayong - an area in Marigaon district widely known in Assam as the 'land of black magic' and more recently as a tourist destination, due to the neighbourhood of Pabitora wildlife sanctuary. The Assamese people of Mayong have lived in close contact with the indigenous Tiwa, Karbi and Khasi communities, which makes the area a hub of religious and cultural exchange.

Panel P14
Circulation of cultural tropes in indigenous Adivasi India