sociated with rivers in Maharashtra, goddesses whose cults I continue to describe in
parts of Chapters 3, 4, and 5, and all of Chapter 6.
Chapter 3 combines Māhātmya stories about food, wealth, and agricultural plenty
with descriptions of the prominence of these themes in the cults of some of the river
goddesses. Chapter 4 explores the complementary theme of the wilder aspects of
the natural world, placing folk traditions about inviolable fish in the rivers next to
Māhātmya stories and oral traditions about the forest land with which the rivers of Maharashtra are closely identified. And Chapter 5 illustrates ways that central elements of two river goddess cults parallel a Māhātmya story about the birth, and threatened death, of a son.
Chapters 6 and 7 concentrate on a single type of material each. Chapter 6 presents a description and a brief history of the prime example of what I call modern,
urban river goddess cults. And Chapter 7 discusses Māhātmya stories about the destruction of sin and other types of evil. Although these two chapters thus do not contain comparisons within them in the same way that the other chapters do, the materials in each of these last two chapters are implicitly compared with the rest of the
materials in the book. Chapter 6, which evokes the pride and pleasure of living in a
thriving, self-confident Brahman community, portrays this experience as another of
the "good things of life" for those who have it. And Chapter 7, whose principal theme
is not particularly prominent outside the Māhātmya texts but is extremely important
within them, suggests that this theme too may well be connected with the theme of
fecundity, the theme whose presence in the Māhātmya texts and whose prominence
in other traditional materials the rest of the book seeks to show.
Kaḷubāī's worshippers include many low-caste and outcaste people, and hardly any
Brahmans. (The narrator of the story about Krṛṣṇā is a Marāṭhā.) Possession is a prominent
feature in Kāḷubāī's worship. Her principal temple lies on a mountain in Sātīrā District not
far from the source of the Kṛṣṇā. Each winter, at the extremely crowded pilgrimage festival
(jatrā) at the temple, hundreds if not thousands of animals are sacrificed. The existence and
popularity of the pilgrimage festival for Kaḷubāī, the prominence of possession and animal
sacrifice in her cult, and the caste rank of her worshippers are the basis for classifying Kaḷubāī
as a "folk" goddess.
I have been unable to trace the written source, if any, of this narrative. It is similar,
however, to a story told about the Narmadā River in a song-sermon performance (kīrtan) I
attended in Pune in 1983.
The varied and fluid interrelations between oral and textual traditions in India have
begun in recent years to receive the scholarly attention they deserve. See, for instance, the
introduction to Blackburn and
In the article on "Purification" in the same encyclopedia, James J. Preston ( 1987:96)
states: "Water has purificatory qualities in Hinduism, not because of its intrinsic purity, but
because it absorbs pollution and carries it away ( Babb 1975). Thus, the flow of water determines its purificatory efficacy."
I have used only published Māhātmyas of these rivers; however, I have collected some
manuscripts of other versions (see n. 15). Besides the Māhātmyas of the rivers, there are also
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Book title: Water and Womanhood:Religious Meanings of Rivers in Maharashtra.
Contributors: Anne Feldhaus - Author.
Publisher: Oxford University Press.
Place of publication: New York.
Publication year: 1995.
Page number: 17.
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