Kāḷi in a Context of Terror

Rachel Fell McDermott and Jeffrey J. Kripal

in Encountering Kālī

Published by University of California Press

Published in print May 2003 | ISBN: 9780520232396
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520928176 | DOI:
Kāḷi in a Context of Terror

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On the east coast of Sri Lanka, the number of participants in devotionalism to local, territorial forms of the Goddess has increased dramatically during recent years. Kālī's magnetism is, however, expanding in a narrowing landscape. The war-torn east coast is undergoing stifling isolation from the wider world as separatist fighters sever telephone lines and destroy electrical transformers with explosives. The violence stems from the conflict between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the dominant armed group fighting for the establishment of a separate state, and Sri Lankan government security forces. This chapter examines the reworking of local religious life surrounding Kālī in conditions of civil war in Sri Lanka. In war-torn Sri Lanka, Kālī worship is undergoing a dramatic resurgence, with Tamil devotees flocking to her oracles both for aid in embodying and interpreting the horrible injuries of war and to perform propitiatory acts of self-mutilation. Kālī here is an angry mother goddess who must be both appeased and quite literally inscribed onto the suffering bodies of her devotees in trance and political torture.

Keywords: Sri Lanka; Kālī; civil war; violence; oracles; devotionalism; separatist fighters; religious life; self-mutilation; trance

Chapter.  11399 words. 

Subjects: Hinduism

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