Asian Ethnology 80-2 Between Devotee and God The Study of Atmosphere in a South Indian Temple Festival

Frank Heidemann

Download PDF

Hinduism Badagas worship (pūjā) atmosphere social aesthetics firewalking

Badagas, peasants in the South Indian Nilgiri region, take great care to prepare for the annual festival of the god Jedayasamy. In the festival week all activities are monitored to achieve a perfect performance. This article argues that devotees and visitors are affected by the special atmosphere of the place. According to the philosopher Gernot Böhme an atmosphere is a semi-object; it exists between individuals and the surrounding environment, and those who are affected by the particular atmosphere are its co-creators. Based on the concept of social aesthetics, this article examines several contexts. Devotees walk in a procession from village to village, dance in public places, and on the final day firewalking takes place. The festival atmosphere is planned, performed, and evaluated. The impact of the festival atmosphere is created by sensuous perceptions, symbolic public performances, and metaphorical references to social categories, here called reduplication.