Frederick M. Smith

in Hinduism

ISBN: 9780195399318
Published online March 2011 | | DOI:


Possession is a phenomenon that occurs in a majority of the world’s cultures. It most often denotes that one or more personalities are perceived to be present in a single physical body. The reasons for this can be many, but possession in South Asia, as elsewhere, can be roughly divided into “positive” possession, in which a spirit or deity enters the body of an individual, resulting in sudden personality changes that are culturally evaluated to be positive, including oracular experience, and “negative,” in which a spirit, often of a deceased family or community member, enters the individual, causing dysfunction or illness. Exceptions to this may be found in South India, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh, where possession by deceased ancestors may be regarded as positive. In all countries and regions of South Asia, possession is found in virtually every religious, linguistic, and ethnic group. Interpretations of possession are varied, from thorough denial of its ontological reality to ready acceptance of it. Because many of the works on possession in South Asia cited in this bibliography cannot be easily fitted into a single discursive category, they must be discussed in several places, with reminders about where to locate the primary reference in the parts of this bibliography. I must emphasize that the literature on possession in South Asia, especially ethnographic, is vast and that it was often necessary to make difficult choices here regarding what to include and what to leave out.

Article.  9077 words. 

Subjects: Hinduism

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