The Dreadful Dance of the Goddess: Creativity and Mimesis in a Possession Cult of Assam

Authors

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.12797/CIS.20.2018.01.08

Keywords:

Kāmākhyā temple, Deodhāni-nāc, possession, dance, creativity, mimesis

Abstract

Every year in August devotees flock to the Kāmākhyā temple (Guwahati, Assam), to attend and observe the Deodhāni-nāc, (the dance [nāc] of the sound [dhāni] of god [deo]). The main feature of this three-day festival is the dance of the deodhās. The deodhās, Assamese males, become possessed by the goddess Kāmākhyā (and the other deities connected to her) and dance to the beat of drums. The dance of deodhās reproduces to some extent the character and iconography of the possessing deities, but is not limited to that. Through the use of his body, each deodhā actively interprets this shared image of the deity, dancing in a singular way. The paper focuses on the creative, yet unconscious process through which each deodhā shapes his peculiar dancing style.

References

Alter, A. 2008. Dancing with Devtās: Drums, Power and Possession in the Music of Garhwal, North India. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Arrago-Boruah, É. 2015. Kāmākhyā: la déesse et la sexualité en Assam. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, prepared at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales.

Assayag, J. 1999. Épilogue. La fabrique de la possession: sens et agir. In: J. Assayag and G. Tarabout (eds.). La possession en Asie du Sud. Parole, corps, territoire. Collection Puruṣārtha 21. Paris: Éditions de l’École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales: 421–447.

Bansat-Boudon, L. 1997. Introduction. Le voile de māyā. Conceptions indiennes de la théâtralité. In: L. Bansat-Boudon (ed.). Théâtres indiens. Collection Puruṣārtha 20. Paris: Éditions de l’École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales: 9–20.

Barua, G. C. 2011. The Assamese-English Dictionary. Hemkosha–Guwahati: Debananda Barua (1st ed. 1900).

Basu, H. 2010. Possession. In: K. A. Jacobsen et al. (eds.). Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Leiden–Boston: Brill: 416–426.

Berti, D. 2001. La parole des dieux. Rituel de possession en Himalaya indien. Paris: CNRS Éditions.

Bourdieu, P. 1990. The Logic of Practice. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Bronson, M. 1867. A Dictionary in Assamese and English. Sibsagar: American Baptist Mission Press.

Coomaraswamy, A. K. 1941. Līlā. In: Journal of the American Oriental Society, 61(2): 98–101.

Csordas T. J. 1988. Embodiment as a Paradigm for Anthropology. In: Ethos, 18(1): 5–47.

Dold, P. A. 2011. Pilgrimage to Kāmākhyā through Text and Lived Religion: Some Forms of the Goddess at an Assamese Temple Site. In: H. P. Rodrigues (ed.). Studying Hinduism in Practice. London–New York: Routledge: 46–61.

Fuller, C. J. 1984. Servants of the Goddess. The Priests of a South Indian Temple. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gait, E. A. 2008. A History of Assam. Guwahati: EBH Publishers (first ed. 1906).

Gold, A. 1988. Spirit Possession Perceived and Performed in Rural Rajasthan. In: Contributions to Indian Sociology, 22(1): 35–63. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/006996688022001002.

Goswami, M. C. 1960. An Annual Shamanistic Dance (Deodha Nach) at Kamakhya, Assam. In: Journal of the University of Guwahati (Science), 11(2): 37–58.

Grimes, R. L. 2006. Performance. In: J. Kreinath et al. (eds.). Theorizing Rituals: Issues, Topics, Approaches, Concepts. Leiden–Boston: Brill: 379–394.

Kapur, A. 1985. Actors, Pilgrims, Kings, and Gods: the Ramlila at Ramnagar. In: Contributions to Indian Sociology, 19(1): 57–74. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/006996685019001005.

Leiris, M. 1958. La possession et ses aspects théâtraux ches les Éthiopiens de Gondar. Paris: Plon.

Letizia, C. 2003. La dea bambina. Il culto della Kumārī e la regalità in Nepal. Milano: FrancoAngeli.

Majo Garigliano, I. 2015. The Brahmans of the Kāmākhyā Temple Complex (Assam). Customary Rights, Relations with Pilgrims and Administrative Power. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, prepared at Rome University Sapienza and at University Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense.

Malik, A. 2009. Dancing the Body of Gods. Rituals of Embodiment from the Central Himalayas. In: Sites 6(1): 80–96. http://dx.doi.org/10.11157/sites-vol6iss1id115.

Mayaram, S. 1999. Spirit Possession: Reframing Discourses of the Self and Other. In: J. Assayag and G. Tarabout (eds.). La possession en Asie du Sud. Parole, corps, territoire. Collection Puruṣārtha 21. Paris: Éditions de l’École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales: 101–131.

Michaels, A. 2016. Homo Ritualis. Hindu Ritual and its Significance for Ritual Theory. New York: Oxford University Press.

Monier-Williams, M. 2005. A Sanskrit-English Dictionary. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass (1st ed. 1899).

Padoux, A. 2010. Comprendre le Tantrisme. Les sources hindoues. Paris: Albin Michel.

Pasty-Abdul Wahid, M. 2017. When Theatre Makes the Ritual Work. Imitation, Materialisation and Reactualisation in the Malayali Ritual Theatre Muṭiyēṯṯu’. In: Cracow Indological Studies, 19(2): 33–60. http://dx.doi.org/10.0.49.253/CIS.19.2017.02.02.

Polit, K. M. 2013. Rhythm, Agency and Divine Presence in the Garhwal Himalayas. In: H. Schulze (ed.). Musical Text as Ritual Object. Turnhout: Brepols: 50–66.

Ramasso, C. 2007. Il tempio di Kāmākhyā e il culto delle Dasa Mahāvidyā. In: Annali di Ca’ Foscari. Serie Orientale, 46(3): 175–200.

Sax, W. S. 1990. The Ramnagar Ramlila: Text, Performance, Pilgrimage. In: History of Religions, 30(2): 129–153.

Sax, W. S. 2002. Dancing the Self. Personhood and Performance in the Pāṇḍava Līlā of Garhwal. New York: Oxford University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0195139151.001.0001.

Sax, W. S. 2009. Ritual and Theatre in Hinduism. In: B. Holm, B. Flemming Nielsen and K. Vedel (eds.). Religion, Ritual, Theatre. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang: 79–105.

Sax, W. S. and Polit, K. 2012. Moved by God: Performance and Memory in the Western Himalayas. In: S. C. Koch et al. (eds.). Body Memory, Metaphor and Movement. New York: John Benjamins Publishing Company: 227–242.

Serbaeva Saraogi, O. 2012. Mudrās. In: K. A. Jacobsen et al. (eds.). Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism, vol. 5. Leiden–Boston: Brill: 91–99.

Sharma, M. 2002. Deodhani Nrtya. In: K. Chittattukalam (ed.). Culture and Religions of Assam. New Delhi: Omsons Publications: 56–58.

Schechner, R. 1995. 2nd draft, July 95, Performance Studies Textbook. http://www.nyu.edu/classes/bkg/schechner. Last accessed: 04/10/2017.

Schömbucher, E. 2015. Does Possession Become Obsolete? Possession and Trance across Cultures. In: A. A. Esposito et al. (eds.) “In ihrer rechten Hand hielt sie ein silbernes Messer mit Glöckchen...”: Studien zur indischen Kultur und Literatur /“In Her Right Hand She Held a Silver Knife with Small Bells...”: Studies in Indian Culture and Literature. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag: 291–301.

Sircar, D. C. 1948. The Śākta Pīṭhas. In: Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal, 14(1): 1–107.

Tambiah, S. J. 1979. A Performative Approach to Ritual. In: Proceedings of the British Academy, 65: 113–169.

Urban, H. B. 2001. The Path of Power: Impurity, Kingship, and Sacrifice in Assamese Tantra. In: Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 69(4): 777–816.

Urban, H. B. 2008. Matrix of Power. Tantra, Kingship, and Sacrifice in the Worship of Mother Goddess Kāmākhyā”. In: Journal of South Asian Studies, 31(3): 500–534. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00856400802441946.

Documentary film

Cartosio, A. and Majo Garigliano, I. 2014. Ghora. Waiting for the Goddess.

Downloads

Published

2018-09-30

How to Cite

Majo Garigliano, Irene. 2018. “The Dreadful Dance of the Goddess: Creativity and Mimesis in a Possession Cult of Assam”. Cracow Indological Studies 20 (1):185-222. https://doi.org/10.12797/CIS.20.2018.01.08.