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Title: Hindu pilgrimage, with particular reference to West Bengal, India
Author: Morinis, E. Alan
ISNI:       0000 0000 7630 1564
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1979
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Journeying to sacred places is an ancient yet contemporarily popular tradition in the Hindu society of India. At the outset of this thesis, the philosophical foundations and general patterns of pilgrimage practice in West Bengal, India, where fieldwork was conducted, are discussed. Case studies of three West Bengali pilgrimage centres — Tarakeswar, Navadvip and Tarapith, which are Śaiva, Vaiṣṇava and Śākta sacred places, respectively — reveal the considerable diversity in the regional pilgrimage tradition. In analysing each of these centres, ethnographic data on the social and economic organisation of specialised religious places, roles of sacred specialists, beliefs regarding the deities, patterns of ritual, and social characteristics and behaviour of pilgrims are presented. The literature on pilgrimage is reviewed in search of theoretical tools for the task of generalising about pilgrimage, inclusive of the evident diversity. Analysis and criticism of existing theories indicates that analysts have focused on limited aspects of pilgrimage practice which conform to disciplinary boundaries rather than seeking the patterned consistencies which define the full institution. Comparison of the three case studies reveals that the variation in religious patterns in the centres relates to wider traditions of religious culture in Bengal: the several strands of pilgrimage tradition generally replicate the sub-traditions of Bengali Hinduism and patterns of belief and practice in any sacred place are closely associated with the religious tradition of the regional cult which dominates that centre. It is possible, however, to identify two levels at which the diversity of the pilgrimage institution is founded in systematic conceptual unity. Both levels concern the meaning of pilgrimage within prevalent patterns of Bengali Hinduism. The explicit meaning of pilgrimage in the conscious thought of participants emphasises the journey to the deity's terrestrial abode in search of interaction with the divine. Implicit within this patterned behaviour are important Hindu metaphysical concepts — the implicit ideology of pilgrimage — which invest pilgrimage with meaning derived from abstract Hindu religious thought.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Hindu pilgrims and pilgrimages ; Hindu shrines ; Hinduism ; Rituals ; India ; West Bengal