Water and Womanhood: Religious Meanings of Rivers in Maharashtra

By Anne Feldhaus | Go to book overview
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6
Modern River Goddess Festivals

At the other end of the emotional spectrum from the Sātī Āsarā lie the cults of the modern river goddesses. Dominated by Brahmans, these cults are also at the opposite end of the social spectrum from the cult of the Sātī Āsarā and the worship of the folk goddesses of rivers. In fact, the modern river goddesses' festivals are enthusiastic celebrations of the pride and pleasure of living in a Brahman community.

The modern river goddesses of Maharashtra and their iconography have been introduced in Chapter 2, in the course of that chapter's discussion of the femininity of rivers in Maharashtra. Appendix C lists the modern river goddess festivals of which I am aware, along with their annual dates according to the Hindu calendar. The timing of these festivals has been discussed in Chapter 3. What remains to be done in this chapter is to describe the festivals and to discuss their history. Because the modern river goddess festivals seem to be most numerous along the Kṛṣāba + i + ̅ and because I have been able to find out the most about these festivals, I concentrate on festivals of Kṛṣṇbāī, especially on the ones that are held at Wāī.

Both a description of Kṛṣṇāba + i + ̅ festivals and a discussion of their history illustrate the extent to which they are self-conscious expressions of their Brahman participants' community spirit and civic pride. In describing the festivals and discussing their history, I also discuss the community expressed in and fostered by the festivals: whom it includes, and whom it does not. Finally, I discuss the relationship between the modern Brahmanical kind of religion that the Kṛṣṇāba + i + ̅ festivals exemplify and the sort of religion that we have seen in the cults of the Sātī Āsarā and the folk goddesses of rivers.


Description of the Festivals

Each of the Kṛṣṇābāī festivals I have learned about lasts several days. Each includes, with some variation, the same basic features: a temporary shrine and canopy (maṇap),

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