Mountains, Rivers, and Śiva
This first chapter will present one particularly clear example of parallelism among different types of religious responses to rivers in Maharashtra. The responses come from widely different times and social groups and are found in a variety of places in Maharashtra. The parallelism among these responses shows widespread and broad- based agreement on a basic religious fact: that there is an important connection among mountains, rivers, and the god Śiva.
In this chapter, I discuss expressions of this connection in three religious media: in architectural arrangements at certain specific pilgrimage places, in a story from a Māhātmya text, and in a type of village ritual. The pilgrimage places I discuss are those at the sources of a number of rivers in Maharashtra; the story is that of the descent of the Gaṅigā, the Ganges River; and the ritual is one in which the water of a river is carried to the temple of a nearby or distant god. I first describe the architectural arrangements in some detail. Then I summarize the story and discuss the message of the architecture in the light of the story. Finally I describe the village rituals, show how they parallel the architecture and the story, and suggest what meaning the reiterated connections among mountains, rivers, and the god Śiva might have.
I do not intend to assign priority among the three religious media discussed here. I cannot judge which of the three--story, architecture, or ritual--came first, nor can I show any of them to be derived from one of the others. What I do show is that the parallelism exists and that it is found in widely different religious genres and in a variety of social, geographical, and historical contexts.
A well-known Marathi proverb warns, "Do not look for the source of a river or the ancestry of a ṛṣi."1 The dictionary of Marathi proverbs ( Dāte and Karve 1942) inter