Devotion to a Goddess in contemporary India

Warrier, Maya (2004) Devotion to a Goddess in contemporary India. Religious Experience Research Centre. ISBN 9780906165539

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Abstract

Revering human beings as holy and divine entities is a fairly commonplace phenomenon in Hindu India. In the Hindu scheme of things, divinity can manifest itself in different forms, in different places, at different times. Hindus commonly attribute divine powers to stones, rocks, rivers and mountains; certain kinds of birds and animals are often understood to possess sacred qualities; and occasionally human beings too fit into the category of that which is considered sacred, divine and therefore worthy of worship and veneration. This paper deals with one such divinised individual in contemporary India. Her name is Mata Amritanandamayi, which, according to her biography, means Mother of Immortal Bliss. She is popularly known as Amma, Ammachi, or Mata, all of which mean mother. In the rest of this paper I shall refer to her as the Mata. Devotees describe her as an avatar-guru, a guru, spiritual guide or teacher, who is also an incarnation, avatar, of god. My attempt here is to analyse the concept of the avatar-guru, a relatively recent phenomenon in popular Hinduism. I do this using two more conventional Hindu categories, firstly, that of the sannyasi or renouncer, and secondly, that of the avatar or divine incarnation. The avatarguru, I argue here, represents an interesting amalgamation of these two categories, and successfully resolves a crucial contradiction in the role of the renouncer in Hindu traditions. After analysing the phenomenon of the avatar-guru, I go on to explore the miraculous experiences that devotees of the Mata claim to have had after entering her fold. My research on Mata Amritanandamayi is based on an extended period of fieldwork in India and in London among followers of this avatar-guru. I should perhaps clarify at the outset that I conducted this research very much as an outsider to the belief system I encountered in the field. I was at no point inclined towards becoming a devotee of the Mata myself. As an outsider my research had its limitations since I could only seek to understand, never directly undergo, many of the experiences my informants spoke to me about. Equally however, it had important strengths as well, since as an outsider I took very little for granted but sought to question and probe every aspect of the devotional world that I encountered.

Item Type: Book
Additional Information: Series: RERC Second Series Occasional Papers;40.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Experience (Religion), India, Hinduism
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
Divisions: Alister Hardy Religious Experience Research Centre > Second Series of Occasional Papers
Depositing User: John Dalling
Date Deposited: 24 Nov 2014 10:39
Last Modified: 26 Feb 2016 11:35
URI: http://repository.uwtsd.ac.uk/id/eprint/452

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