Can Śivaṉ Be “Re‐Formed”?

Paul Younger

in Playing Host to Deity

Published in print December 2001 | ISBN: 9780195140446
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199834907 | DOI:
 Can Śivaṉ Be “Re‐Formed”?

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Murukapula is a modestly sized village in the south of Kerala which looks out onto the backwaters leading to the sea and has a huge Roman Catholic church for its large population of fishermen. The other two‐thirds of its population are a mixture of people in Untouchables castes and Ilavas who have only a slightly higher caste status. Narayana Guru started a reform movement among Ilavas early in the last century and he visited Murukapula and there is a reform temple in the village still pushing his ideas. The traditional temple compound had separate temples for the Untouchables and the Ilavas, and the Ilava who now owns the compound has tried to redesign the local festival so that it appeals to those two groups and the more modern tastes of those who see the festival as community entertainment. The velicapatu still goes into trance for those who need exorcism, but the cock sacrifice is only simulated and the hook swinging is transformed into a painless initiation of the youth in which the whole community participates.

Keywords: cock sacrifice; exorcism; fishermen; hook swinging; Ilavas; Kerala; Narayana Guru; Roman Catholic; trance; untouchables; velicapatu

Chapter.  4465 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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