Water and Womanhood: Religious Meanings of Rivers in Maharashtra

By Anne Feldhaus | Go to book overview

rivers on the one hand and Śiva and mountains on the other is expressed in sexual imagery. Śiva, his liṅga, and the mountain that is homologized to it and to him are male; Gaṅgā and most other rivers are female. When the two are brought together, as they are in the architecture, the story, and the rituals that have been examined here, the pairing presents a powerful image of fertility. In the next chapters of this study, I follow up on the implications of this pairing. I leave behind, however, the masculine potency of Śiva and his mountain liṅga, and concentrate on the femininity of rivers and the fertility they promote.


NOTES
1.
Nadīceṃ mūḷ āṇi ṛṣīceṃ kūḷ pāhū [/śodhūṃ] naye.
2.
GBP, Nāsik 1883: 7-8. What the gazetteer describes as the religiously significant source of the Godāvarī is actually Gaṅgādvār, already well below the mountaintop pool that is actually held to be the source of the river. Since there is no "flight of well built stone steps" leading to the top of the mountain, the author of the gazetteer's description may well have missed this higher place (as I did too on my first few visits to Tryambakegvar), which has nevertheless been visited by numerous pilgrims each year for centuries. What the gazetteer calls the Godāvarī's "real source" is a stream called the Kikri (Kikadḍī?), which joins the Godāvarī "about five miles" northeast of Tryambakegvar, at "the village of Chakori" ( GBP, Nāsik 1883: 654, n. 1).
3.
Mandlik 1870b: 252-53, 259; Udās 1891 [written in the 1870s]: 44, 54; and Phadke 1931: 225. See also Bhāṭte 1944, which is somewhat derivative from the works of Mandlik and Udās; and B. Jośī 1923, which is more in the nature of a travelogue than a detailed description of the place.
4.
In fact, either the Gāyatrī is not to be found at all after its initial emergence from the niche in the Pañcagaṅgā temple ( Udds 1891: 44, 54), or it flows almost immediately into the Sāvitrī ( Bhāṭte 1944: 46). The local Māhātmya (see note 9) explains that Sāvitrī cursed Gāyatrī to become a river that people would ignore ( Udās 1891: 52-53).
5.
For the parallelism to Mount Meru, see p. 26.
6.
Guravs are non-Brahman temple priests who conduct the official worship in major Śiva temples and in some goddess temples in Maharashtra.
7.
Rudraksas ( "Rudra's eyes") are the rough seeds of the Eleocarpus lanceolatus or ganitrus tree, strung into necklaces that worshippers of Śiva use as prayer beads.
8.
Oral information.
9.
I have not been able to locate a copy of this text. Several verses are cited in Udās 1891: 43-57, passim, and then again, derivatively, in Bhāṭle 1944: 32-33.
10.
Udās ( 1891: 44). This tradition particularly aroused the ire of Mandlik ( 1870b: 259): "The priests point out in the temple of Mahābaleśvara the source of the Krishna; but unfortunately for them, the source of the river is at a higher altitude than the Mahābaleśvara temple, and their story must therefore be put down as a mathematically proved fable. Krishna, being considered a sacred river, had to be referred to a sacred source, and the perversity of man seems to have here set aside the noble works of God--the true source of the river--and assigned a low symbol, invented by the wild tribes of the hills, for the origin of the sacred river."
11.
BM 3.51; BŚM 2.40-57; and numerous oral versions, including one related by Lele ( 1885: 130) and one related by Likhite ( 1919: 160).
12.
Another, even larger tank at the foot of the mountain, above the village of Tryam-

-36-

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Water and Womanhood: Religious Meanings of Rivers in Maharashtra
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents ix
  • A Note on Translation and Transliteration xi
  • Abbreviations xiii
  • Introduction 3
  • Notes 17
  • 1 - Mountains, Rivers, and Śiva 20
  • Notes 36
  • 2 - The Femininity of Rivers 40
  • Notes 60
  • 3 - Abundance 65
  • 4 - Untamed Natural Wealth 91
  • Fish 109
  • 5 - Sons and Sorrow 118
  • Notes 142
  • 6 - Modern River Goddess Festivals 146
  • Notes 169
  • 7 - Combating Evil 173
  • Notes 186
  • Appendix A. Water to the Gods 193
  • Appendix B. Images of Modern River Goddesses 198
  • Appendix C. Modern River Goddess Festivals 201
  • Bibliography 203
  • Index 227
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