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God's Gateway

James Lochtefeld

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780195386141
Published online February 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199866380 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195386141.001.0001
God's Gateway

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This book examines how sacred meaning is created, reinforced, and maintained in Hardwar, an important Hindu pilgrimage site (tirtha). Hardwar’s religious identity is inextricably tied to the river Ganges, and the city’s sacred narratives (present and past) present its identity as fixed and unchanging—as for many Hindu pilgrimage sites. This perspective ignores mundane factors such as economic, social, or technological change, which have sharply affected Hardwar’s development in the past two centuries. Yet these two differing visions of Hardwar are both emphatically, simultaneously “real.” The work begins with a short introduction to orient the reader to Hardwar and to the author’s guiding principles. Chapters 2 and 3 then lay out these contrasting histories (sacred and secular), and Hardwar’s complex identity lies in the tension between these narratives. The book’s second part analyzes Hardwar as a contemporary Hindu pilgrimage center. Chapters 4 through 6 are devoted to differing resident elites—businessmen, pandas (hereditary pilgrim guides), and ascetics—and delineate their roles in managing Hardwar as a holy place. Chapter 7 focuses on Hardwar’s pilgrims and examines factors drawing them there. The interaction between these groups creates and maintains Hardwar’s religious environment, and these forces shaping Hardwar have strong parallels in other north Indian pilgrimage sites. The final chapter addresses this wider context by examining changes in contemporary Hindu pilgrimage, particularly how modern Hindus are reinterpreting traditional symbols to make them meaningful for their time.

Keywords: ascetic; Ganges; Hardwar; Hindu pilgrimage; Hindu pilgrimage sites; Hindu religious change; India; panda; pilgrim; pilgrimage

Book.  328 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Hinduism

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Table of Contents

Ascetic Life in God's Gateway

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