Ritualizing Navaratri

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Ritualizing Navaratri The Power of Choice in the Performance of Identity in Gainesville, Florida
Dwyer, Carly
Place of Publication:
[Gainesville, Fla.]
University of Florida
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1 online resource (111 p.)

Thesis/Dissertation Information

Master's ( M.A.)
Degree Grantor:
University of Florida
Degree Disciplines:
Committee Chair:
Narayanan, Vasudha R.
Committee Members:
Sanford, Ann Whitney
Graduation Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Asians ( jstor )
Censuses ( jstor )
Ethnicity ( jstor )
Hinduism ( jstor )
Hindus ( jstor )
Prayer ( jstor )
Religion ( jstor )
Rituals ( jstor )
Singing ( jstor )
Women ( jstor )
Religion -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
diaspora, gainesville, garba, hindu, hinduism, holiday, india, jagran, kolu, navaratri
City of Gainesville ( local )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
born-digital ( sobekcm )
Religion thesis, M.A.


Hinduism in the United States has often been studied by scholars in terms of the institutionalized temples in urban areas like Atlanta, Georgia and New York City. However, very little research has been produced regarding the way people living in non-urban centers recreate Hinduism in the American context. In Gainesville, Florida, this research is especially important for the higher than average concentration of people of South Asian descent in the area. This thesis argues that the way festivals are celebrated among South Asian groups in Gainesville demonstrates the active choice of hosts and participants in events in regards to identity. During the Navaratri festival, people create a special time and place in which to perform different facets of their identities. Though participants may view their actions to be traditional or part of a historically continuous tradition they share with their families from India, the way events are constructed by hosts and participants actually involve a great deal of agency and choice in choosing what constitutes tradition. In using elements from a shared cultural repertoire, community members are able to host and take part in a multitude of events that satisfy the multiplicity inherent in identity. ( en )
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In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
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Includes vita.
Includes bibliographical references.
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Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
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This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2009.
Adviser: Narayanan, Vasudha R.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Carly Dwyer.

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University of Florida
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University of Florida
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Copyright Dwyer, Carly. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
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489120259 ( OCLC )
LD1780 2009 ( lcc )


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2009 Carly C. Dwyer 2


To Anu, for always laughing at my Sanskrit jokes 3


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS My many thanks go out to so many people for thei r support and inspiration for this thesis. First, I would like to thank Dr. Vasudha Narayanan, a true guru, without whose guidance and teaching I would know nothing. I would also like to thank Dr. Travis Smith for fueling my love for Sanskrit and helping me to memorize countless subhashita. My thanks also go to Dr. A. Whitney Sanford for convincing me to attend the Conference for the Study of Religion in India conference which was so helpful in understanding the theoretical fr amework I have used in this thesis. I would also like to thank fellow religi on graduate colleagues Bridgette O'Brien for her encouragement, Rose Caraway for advising me to send my thesis far and wide to avoid catastrophe, and especially James Jimi Wilson for reading so many incarnations of my thesis as well as for taking me under his wing during my tim e at the University of Florida. I can never thank him enough for his friendship and advice. I would also like to than k Anuradha Pandey for laughing at my Sanskrit jokes, bei ng a wonderful friend, and helping with this thesis in so many ways. I would also like to thank the families that invited me into their homes for my research. Last, but most of all, I would like to thank my husband, Dave, for his love and support. I could not have made this journey alone. Words truly fail to express my thanks. 4


TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...............................................................................................................4 LIST OF FIGURES.........................................................................................................................7 ABSTRACT.....................................................................................................................................8 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION: ETHNICITY GENDER AND RELIGION.............................................9 Beginnings................................................................................................................................9 Introduction to the Aims of this Study...................................................................................11 A Brief Word about Hinduism/Hindu.................................................................................13 What is Navaratri?..................................................................................................................15 Devi Mahatmya...............................................................................................................16 Ethnic Diversity in Practice.............................................................................................19 Why Gainesville, Florida?......................................................................................................20 ISKCON.................................................................................................................................21 University of Florida...............................................................................................................23 India Cultural and Education Center......................................................................................24 Methodology and Sample.......................................................................................................25 Intraand Extradomestic.................................................................................................26 Locating Myself...............................................................................................................3 0 Theory and the Approach to Lived Religion..........................................................................33 2 RITUALS AND PRACTICES...............................................................................................38 Introduction................................................................................................................... ..........38 Swapna's Bhajan Meeting......................................................................................................39 Tejal's Havan ..........................................................................................................................50 Usha's Living Room Kolu .......................................................................................................58 GSG and ISA Garba ...............................................................................................................68 Conclusion..............................................................................................................................79 3 ANALYSIS..................................................................................................................... ........81 Introduction................................................................................................................... ..........81 Bell and Ritualization......................................................................................................... ....82 Differentiation of Ritualization.......................................................................................84 Gender and a Ritualized Body.........................................................................................88 Space and Time...............................................................................................................91 Integration of Ritualization..............................................................................................92 Conclusions.............................................................................................................................94 Contributions..........................................................................................................................95 5


APPENDICES A STATISTICS AND THE PE W CHARITABLE TRUSTS....................................................96 US Census Bureau..................................................................................................................96 Pew Charitable Trusts.............................................................................................................99 Conclusions...........................................................................................................................101 B UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA ETHNICITY STATISTICS................................................104 Student Population................................................................................................................104 Problematizing These Numbers............................................................................................105 LIST OF REFERENCES.............................................................................................................107 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.......................................................................................................111 6


LIST OF FIGURES Figure page A-1 US Census Bureau American Factfinder Statistics..........................................................103 7


Abstract of Thesis Presen ted to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts RITUALIZING NAVARATRI: THE POWER OF CHOICE IN THE PERFOR MANCE OF IDENTITY IN GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA By Carly C. Dwyer August 2009 Chair: Vasudha Narayanan Major: Religion Hinduism in the United States has often b een studied by scholars in terms of the institutionalized temples in urban areas like A tlanta, Georgia and New York City. However, very little research has been produced regarding the way people living in non-urban centers recreate Hinduism in the American context. In Ga inesville, Florida, this research is especially important for the higher than average concentrati on of people of South Asian descent in the area. This thesis argues that the way festivals are celebrated among South Asian groups in Gainesville demonstrates the activ e choice of hosts and participan ts in events in regards to identity. During the Navaratri festival, peopl e create a special time and place in which to perform different facets of thei r identities. Though participants may view their actions to be traditional or part of a historically continuous tr adition they share with their families from India, the way events are constructed by hosts and partic ipants actually involve a great deal of agency and choice in choosing what constitutes traditio n. In using elements from a shared cultural repertoire, community members are able to host and take part in a multitude of events that satisfy the multiplicity inherent in identity. 8


CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION: ETHNICITY GENDER AND RELIGION Beginnings On a cool September evening, I arrive at an apartment complex lit dimly by the gray halogen light of lampposts along a dr iveway. Tonight I am attending a prarthana group composed of South Asian women who get together once a week to sing devotional music. I am dressed in a salwar kameez, with dupatta draped around my neck, its wispy tails trailing down my back. Although I have arrived on time, I appear to be early since no one else has exited their car or walked to the apartmen t door. I ring the doorbell. A woman answers and ushers me inside. I am the only one there and I take off my shoes inside the door, another concept I would only later understand. The apartment is sparsely decorated; family portr aits and a US Marines emblem dot the otherwise bare and white walls. The kitchen to my left and the living room straight ahead are austere and cl ean. A small picture frame is propped up in the corner of the kitchen counter surrounded by garlands of pink and white flowers. Small diyas are lit in a semicircle in front of the pictur e. I cannot make out the subject of the picture. My glasses are still in the car along with a notebook and a tape recorder I was too embarrassed to bring in with me. I ask the host where I should s it and explain that I have neve r attended an event such as this in someones home and I thank her for inviti ng me. I sit near the br own leather couch on the floor, which is covered in comforters and bed shee ts. I make mental notes of the rooms shape and the brief conversation I have with the hos t. I note the soft wh ite and pink georgette sari she wears and the way she hastily moves my shoes from where I removed them to closer to the closet so they remain out of the way of guests. I adjust my kameez and sit cross legged on the floor. 9


And then I wait for someone else to arrive and break the awkward silence of a young students first ethnographic encounter. In five minutes time, other women arrive that seem to range in age from mid-twenties to seventy or older. Some wear salwar kameez of varying fabrics and colors while some wear saris and still others wear regular We stern clothes. Most speak in snippets of a language I do not understand, though English falls from the lips of so me. After ten minutes of chitchat and much fussing about who will sit where, sixteen women s it in a circle in the living room, their own notebooks of devotional songs spread before th em, tape recorders plugged in and ready. The leader of the group attempts to quiet the conversati ons that seem to end in giggles so that they may begin. She turns on a small machine that pumps out a drone of notes to keep in tune when singing. She makes a few brief announcements th at the following week is the beginning of Navaratri and that this is the la st time they will practice as a group before singing together next week so they all ought to sing loudly and confiden tly. Finally, nearly half an hour past the time scheduled to meet, the women sing a song to Hanuman 1 and begin their weekly practice of devotional music. The vocal leader suggests they begin with th e Saundarya Lahari, a poem attributed to Shankara in praise of Devi, the divine feminine, so that they can finish the poem at the next meeting during the holiday. The women take out their own copies of the poem. Some of the copies are printed in books, othe rs are printed copies from the internet. Some versions are written in English transliteration while others are penned in the script of the owners native language. The group sings about twenty verses fr om the middle of the collection of verses 1 Hanuman is a member of the pantheon of gods and goddesses associated with Hinduism. Many pictures and icons of Hanuman are scenes from his role in the Ramayana one of the classical epic Sanskrit texts of Hinduism. He is part monkey, part man and has many special powers such as the ability to fly and the ability to make his body drastically increase or decrease in size. 10


before stopping to practice other songs to be sung the following week. The leader begins with a song that has not been sung by the group before and she finds that the ot hers are reluctant to begin with such a difficult song, so she changes her tack and asks for a suggestion of a song they all know to build up courage before singing some thing new. Someone suggests a song called Janani. The women collectively nod in approval Some flip through their personal binders full of songs to find the words, while others close their eyes and wait for the song to begin. The leader begins and the whole group joins in, fo llowing the crescendos and decrescendos of the song. Everyone seems to know the words. I sit and I listen, watchi ng some women sing and stare off into the distance while others close th eir eyes and emote over th e mood of the song. As the song ends, the group seems to come back from the distance or emotion of the song, ready to move on to the next song. Introduction to the Aims of this Study Throughout the United States, Hinduism has beco me a part of the American landscape. People from all around the world have imported this religion to the US through public festivals, the building of temples, recognition by governme nts of Hindu holidays, and various other means beginning in the nineteenth centu ry but truly flourishing after 1965 due to a change in the laws regarding immigration. Within the last two decades, a great deal of scholarship has been produced that examines the various ways in which Hinduism exists and will continue to exist in the United States. Academia seems to focus on chronicling the ways in which communities form themselves around an institution and how they utilize that institution in the construction of their identities as simultaneously I ndians and Americans. The majo rity of this scholarship has identified larger and more urban populations of South Asians around the US in locations such as New York City; the Silicon Valley of California; and Atlanta, Georgia (Eck 2001; Fenton 1988; Joshi 2006; Khandelwal 2002; Leonard 1997; Rayapr ol 1997; et al.). The late 1980s and early 11


1990s saw an effusion of scholarship that focuse d on the immigrant experiences of South Asians (few discussing religion specifica lly), the majority of which in cluded the quantitative methods most closely associated with the field of sociology (Dasgupta 1989; Eames and Saran 1980; Fenton 1988; Leonard 1997). More recently in the last decade, studies concerned with second generation South Asians have come into favor and have further addressed gender inequality, religiosity and the dissonance between genera tions of immigrants and their children, among other topics (Joshi 2006; Melomo 2005; Mruthinthi 2006; Rayaprol 2005). Despite this wealth of information regard ing the various ways people have kept and discarded elements of Hinduism in the United States scholarship has yet to substantially tap into the ways in which communities maintain their sens e of Hindu-ness when there is no temple for the community. Though other studies have identi fied the typical track that many South Asian communities follow in the creati on of a temple or religio-cultural centers (Dempsey 2006; Fenton 1988; Kurien 1998; Linda 1997; Waghorne 1999 and 2004), few have examined a community at length prior to th e building of a temple. What ki nd of Hinduism exists when there is no South Asian-specific temple or other ce ntral location as a place of worship? How are identities created, performed, (re )imagined and maintained? In what ways do the categories of religion, gender and ethnicity mi x together among a minority comm unity? What is it that people actually do with these identities? How has ritual changed as it is imported from a South Asian context and how do people deal wi th the regional diversity of their own geopolitical boundaries, in India and the United States? These questions are important quest ions to ask since much of the modern and popular scholarship regarding Sout h Asians and Hinduism in America fails to answer them, much less ask them at all. 12


This thesis will explore these questions and attempt to see how a selected group of people live out their identities during Navaratri in Gainesv ille, Florida. Ultimately, it is my theory that the assortment of ritual events that take place fo r this festival, both in homes and in large public places, allow different spaces to serve as the gro unds to perform different aspects of a person's identity and incorporate other iden tities into their repertoire of Indian-ness or Hindu-ness. This is also the locus of people w ho teach each other different ways of being Indian and Hindu. I contend that while Navaratri is pan-Indian in scope in an Indian context and continues to be so in the American context (in that it is observe d by Indians from many ethnic-and sometimes religious-backgrounds), the religious ness of the holiday is not the primary concern of those who celebrate it. Navaratri is a time out of time and a space out of space where one can create and reinforce the social networks that provide fu rther opportunities to asse rt other facets of the identities of network members, particularly in terms of ethnicity and ge nder. The structure and form of the rituals, regardless of location and ethnic or gender composition, are similar enough to create meaning among all of the performers. Wh ile religious identity is important, religious devotion may not be the motivation for participating in a religious ritual in the small slice of life that I studied. The commonality of time and space during Navaratri act as the catalyst, the common thread, which allows for an increasing ly diverse group of people to understand one another as well as themselves. The ritualizati on of Navaratri allows for a dialectic to occur between performers of different id entities in several different locations, all the while maintaining meaning. A Brief Word about Hinduism/Hindu The terms Hindu and Hinduism have become something of reified entities similar to the monolithic and increasingly imprecise catch-al l categories of religion like Christianity or Islam. The naming of Hinduism and the definition of the term are concepts embroiled in what 13


seems to be perpetual academic debate. Argumen ts abound and differ, usually in regard to who invented the term and what agency is either given or taken from the pa rties involved. John S. Hawley claims that Hinduism is a term born from the British colonial rule in India during the 19th century. This term, created to help missionaries influence a nd therefore convert the heathen natives to the cause of Christianity, helped put the natives into a box for categorization and domination. He goes on to note that while the term Hindu is a mu ch older term, it was a rarely used term, certainly never in Sanskrit or any other vaguely scriptural document and when it was, its range was such that it would have embraced Buddhists and Jains as well as the people we today would call Hindus ( 1991: 23). David Lorenzen argue s that Hindu as a religiocultural term is not a British c onstruction. Many factors and actors were complicit in the creation of the term Hindu, which one could argue was created well before the advent of the British Raj. Islamic influence was a factor, geography an d language indigenous to that area were clearly factors, and recent religious assertion in the Indian context (viz. Hindutva) clearly continues to be a factor. These influences in combination pr oduced a loaded term that was not simply an appellation for the other by the colonialist British rule of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries (1999). Other suggestions of the origin and crea tors of the terms Hi ndu and Hinduism, as well as their proper academic em ployment exist in the pages of many journals, though none have provided a concrete definition of either term upon which scholars can agree. Indeed, Douglas Brooks has identified this lack of definition as a problem within the a cademic study of Hindus and Hinduism. He rightly notes that many sc holars shy away from concrete definitions to avoid the debates briefly mentione d above, but also to avoid havi ng to separate the religion of the term from the culture or pol itics or social considerations of the term (1994: 1113-1115). 14


With this in mind, and the knowledge that page upon page has discussed this debate from a multitude of perspectives, what then are we to make of such disputed terms? For the purposes of this research, the term Hindu describes a person who utilizes the term to signify a religion that encompasses a gr eat deal of regional, doctrinal, practical and cultural variation originating from a South Asian context. H induism is the term that describes this religion which is typically connected hi storically and geographically to South Asia, and more specifically the geopolitical nation of Indi a. There is no definitive text, language, set of rituals or festivals which uniformly dictate what is and is not Hinduism. These definitions are intentionally brief and nondescript. On principle, concrete definiti ons are precisely the antithesis of what one needs to analyze th e information in this thesis. To classify Navaratri among the participants in my research as excl usively the realm of Hinduism would be false, since others who do not identify as Hindus or as part of any sect of Hinduism actively participate and find meaning in the events they attend. To say what is and is not Hindu undermines my attempt to s how the self(sub)consciou s conflation of terms that encompass multiple identities, some that c onflict and some that mesh together. Separating the religiousness of Hinduism fr om the culture, politics, ge ography, and social structures affiliated with it not only seems impossible, but perhaps truly is impossible and quite unnecessary in many ways. There is little to be ga ined from trying to separate out what exactly is religious or cultural when th e performers themselves see no reason to create such categories. What is Navaratri? Navaratri (alternatively spelled Navratri or Navarathri depending on regional language transliteration) literally means nine nights a nd is the appellation for a pan-Indian festival popularly associated with Hinduism. These nine ni ghts occur according to a lunar calendar, so it is an annual festival that change s its dates slightly from year to year on a Western calendar. 15


Technically, there are two Navaratris, one in September-October and one in March-April, though the most popularly and universally celebrated nine nights occur dur ing the autumnal phase of the moon. According to Fuller and Logan, this phas e occurs during the month called Asvin (1985), though Erndl names this same lunar time as occu rring in the month of Ka rtik (1993: 119). Regardless of the name of the month, both sour ces note that the autumnal Navaratri occurs during the bright fortnight of the moon. This se ction of the month, when the moon increases in brightness, is considered to be an auspicious time and therefore ripe for worshiping the divine (Sanford 2004: 125). This commonality of auspici ous time is one factor that allows people from all different regions of India to come together to celebrate this festival; a unifying feature especially salient in an American diasporic context. Devi Mahatmya Though Hinduism possesses a multitude of texts that worshipers can turn to, one text, the Devi Mahatmya is especially important to the worship of Devi in all her forms. Belonging to the larger Markandeya Purana, the Devi Mahatmya is twelve chapters long and covers three stories which revolve around different forms of De vi. In each story, the only one who can save the world or slay particularly evil forces is De vi, to whom the other gods pray or beseech her for help. In popular art and images of the gods and goddesses of Hinduism, masculine gods are often shown with the feminine counterparts: Vi shnu with Lakshmi, Shiva with Parvati and so on. However, the Devi Mahatmya s three stories showcase the power of the Goddess and the necessity of feminine power or shakti even by great gods like Vishnu and Shiva. As Erndl notes, the major purpose of the text is not to associate her with any particular male god but to show her as the ultimate reality who is both immanent and transcendent, who is the grantor of both material pleasures a nd liberation (1993: 28). 16


The three main story lines of the Devi Mahatmya describe three different times when the gods needed the help of the Godde ss in order to save the world. In the first episode, Devi is described as the goddess of sleep, Yoganidra, or as the goddess of sloth, Tamasi. She possessed Vishnu, who slept upon his snake, Shesha, in the middle of the eter nal sea. When two demons assaulted Brahma, who grew out of Vishnu' s navel, he prayed to Yoganidra to separate herself from Vishnu so he would wake up and vanquish the demons. In this first chapter and first story of the Devi Mahatmya Brahma noted that Vishnu had come under the power of the Goddess, just as the Goddess was the creator of illusion (Coburn 1991: 35). Shortly after Brahma's own words, a sage in the story con tinued, saying that Brahma praised the blessed sleep of Vishnu, the incomparable queen of all, supportress of the world, who causes its maintenance and destruction (Coburn 1991: 36). Th is first story exemplifies Erndl's suggestion above that Devi is the source of bot h material pleasures and liberation. The second story portrays the Goddess as the k iller of the buffalo demon Mahishasura. Here, Mahishasura takes over all divi ne power so that none of the gods are able to kill him. The gods then band together and combine their power s, from which the Goddess in the form of Durga emerges. Armed with the various weapons of the gods in her multiple-armed form, Durga kills Mahishasura by spearing and decapitati ng the demon. Kinsley notes here that: There is no attempt made, either, to 'softe n' this aspect of the Goddess. She is extraordinarily beautiful, to be sure, but she obviously delights in the din and bloodlust of battle. She does not best her enemies through cunning, deceit, or feminine wiles. She is, quite simply, invincibly powerful and accomplis hed in the martial arts and is clearly at home, perhaps most at home, when pulverizing powerful demons (1978:493). This powerful and victorious image of Mahishasura Mardini or the Goddess as the Slayer of the Buffalo Demon is a popular way to depict Durga, who mounts a lion or a tiger and whose eight arms bearing the weapons of the gods attack the half man, half buffalo demon. This epithet was particularly relevant to my research since at every South Indian Na varatri event I attended, 17


the Mahishasura Mardini Stotram 2 which can be translated as The Prayer of the Killer of the Buffalo Demon, was sung by all the participants. The twenty verses each ended with the following lines: Jaya jaya he, Mahishasura Mardini Ramya kapardini, Shaila sute These lines may be translated as Victory, Victory to the killer of the Buffalo Demon, she who has beautiful braided hair, the daughter of the mountain. This song's popularity demonstrates the importance of this second stor y to the larger holiday of Nava ratri (though the first and third stories are mentioned as well with in the span of the prayer), particularly among South Indians. The third story, also about the slaying of de mons, demonstrates how the Goddess may take several forms but all of them are truly facets of one divine feminine. In the span of the fifth to tenth chapters of the Devi Ma hatmya, two demons named Shumbha and Nishumbha, have taken all the fruits of sacrifice in th e world from the gods, rendering th em powerless. The gods went to the Himalaya mountain to sing the praises of th e Goddess and asked her for help in dispatching these demons. Hearing these praises, a form of the Goddess named Ambika sprung from the sheath of Parvati (a form of the Goddess associat ed with Shiva and the Himalaya Mountains). Ambika waged war against the armies of Shum bha and Nishumbha, while seven other forms of the Goddess came to fight as well, having em erged from the bodies of the observing and nonparticipating male gods. In the end, the armies of these brother-demons are slain. Nishumbha is killed by Ambika herself, but all of the emer gent forms of the Goddess combine to form one 2 The Mahishasura Mardini Stotram is an interesting prayer. At events and during interviews, participants were unable to recall who had written the prayer itself. Some a ttributed the text to Adi Shankara, while others claimed that a person named Ramakrishna Kavi or Telani Ramalinga composed it. However, reliable information on these suggested authors in regards to this prayer does not yet ex ist. After an intense search through the resources at my disposal, I found absolutely no scholarly analysis or even mention of this song, its author or from where and whence it came into use. The words to the pr ayer are, however, available with variou s transliterations on the internet, and printed copies are available to be purchased along with a CD from 18


massive, powerful Goddess which then defeat ed Shumbha (Coburn 1991: 52-73; Erndl 1993: 2527). Other variants of this story exist in the classical epics, the Maha bharata and the Ramayana, as well as other texts (Erndl 1993: 27). Ho wever, the theme of the powerful Goddess who returns order to the trou bled world pervades these variants as well as in the Devi Mahatmya. Though this text is cited by C oburn (1991) and Erndl (1993) to be an important source for recitation in honor of the Goddess, especially during the autumnal Navaratri, Devi Mahatmya itself was not recited at any of the events I at tended. The stories, however, were displayed through dances, songs, and images of the Godde ss. One might rightly deduce from these suggestions that although the text provides some of the basis for the mythology involved in Navaratri, it does not give litu rgical or ritual advice or guidelines. In addition to the commonality of time, the standardized story lines and lack of standardized liturgical structures (though not from any textual source) also allow for Navaratri to encompass a great deal of regional diversity in observances. Ethnic Diversity in Practice Navaratri is celebrated in a multitude of ways which often differ among regional and ethnic groups within India. In general, Navaratri is a time to celebrate the multifaceted nature of Devi. Ritual elements, such as songs, offerings of food and gifts, and dance come from a shared cultural repertoire and are comb ined in diverse and yet meaningful ways. In Bengal, and continuing in the United States among groups of South Asians with Bengali heritage, Durga Puja, or worshiping Durga exclusively, is the em phasis during Navaratri. In Punjab in North India, Navaratri focuses on the victory of Rama ov er Ravana in the classical epic the Ramayana. In South India, the nine nights of Na varatri are celebrated by setting up a kolu or golu in the central room of the home. This is an elabor ate set of steps, covered in bright colored saris on which all kinds of icons, pictures and statuettes of the gods and goddesses, along with other dolls 19


and small collectibles, are placed. There are inde ed many more ways that Navaratri is celebrated around India, and even more of an admixture of these regional varieties in a diasporic context such as the United States. Chapter two identif ies four regionally sp ecific observations of Navaratri. Chapter three then analyzes how these ways of celebrating are found to be meaningful for Indians who cel ebrate Navaratri differently because of their own regional heritage. Throughout this work, I hope to iden tify some of the ethnic or regional ways of celebrating Navaratri as pa rt of a lived religion. Why Gainesville, Florida? Gainesville, Florida is an in teresting and unique location in which to conduct research regarding Hinduism and identity among South As ian populations. But what, exactly, is so unique? Gainesville possesses several character istics that place it beyond the pale of the majority of research that has already been conducted. As mentioned before, most of the scholarship regarding Hinduism in the United Stat es has dealt with large, urban, populations of South Asians and the kinds of institutionalized Hinduism that has been created by these communities. Gainesville does not have such a ce ntralized religious institution specifically for and by people of South Asian descent. This is pe rhaps one of the most important points in my research: religious, ethnic and gendered networks exist in Gain esville without the institutions characteristic of larger urban areas. Though the city of Gainesville is home to one of the country's largest universities, the nonstudent population is unlike the pop ulation of larger cities like New York City, Atlanta and the others previously mentioned. Gainesville's percen tage of Indians and Indian American is higher than that of the rest of the nation. Indians account for 1.24 % of the total population, well above the .4 % average for the country as a whole. This population cons ists mainly of people between the ages of 25 and 65, many possessing a bachelor's degree or higher. Additionally, this 20


population statistically makes more money and owns homes with higher value than the rest of the city's population. While these are statistics and averages that qualitatively leave out the high and low ends that generate such median numbers, the group of people involved in my research reflects these general statis tics. (A figure of numbers and full analysis of these statistics gathered from the US Census Bureau's American Fact finder website can be found in Appendix A.) Many of the people in my research fit into the demographics mentioned above. There are other characteristics of Gainesville aside from this larger than average, highly educated and high income-earning population of Indians that make it an interesting place in which to study public and domestic rituals. ISKCON Near Gainesville, in Alachua, Florida, there is a temple community of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) who are also identified as members of the Hare Krishna movement. This temple complex is located about twenty minutes away from Gainesville by car. The complex is located on 127 acres of land which includes the temple itself, a cow sanctuary, two schools, a storefront, a ware house, a Tulsi house in which a sacred kind of basil called tulsi is grown, pr ivately owned homes, administrative offices, the home of the Back to Godhead magazine, and other buildings (New Raman Reti). The temple architecture blends in with the suburban surrounding landsca pe, as it looks more like a house in comparison to other Hindu and ISKCON temples around the c ountry. This community of ISKCON members is present daily on the University of Florida campus providing Krishna Lunch, a completely vegetarian and ISKCON-compliant lunch that is available on every UF scheduled day of classes, for a small donation. Some accounts figure this community to be the largest concentration of ISKCON communities in the country (Davis 2006). 21


The proximity of the temple to Gainesville and the prominence and conspicuous presence of devotees of ISKCON on campus and the la rger community were noted by several interviewees. One Indian man, who arrived in the United States in the 1970s and moved to Gainesville in the 1980s, noted that the presen ce of the ISKCON temp le made it easier to observe some rituals and festivals because it was closer than the Hindu temples located in Jacksonville, Orlando or Tampa. However, he and his family did not attend the temple with any regularity. He further noted that he admired the devotees and the ISKCON community for being so devoted and a healthy face for one kind of Hinduism, yet he added that he would not personally become a member of that community because exclusive devotion to only one aspect of the divine was too narrow a perspective fo r him. While asking que stions regarding the ISKCON temple were not part of the scheduled interview questions, off-the-cuff remarks such as these, and other similar remarks in other intervie ws, briefly highlight the interesting relationship between the South Asian Hindu communities of Gainesville with the local ISKCON community. ISKCON as a group has had a fairly recent ye t turbulent history in the United States, beginning in the 1960s and continuing today. Th is group is not typically comprised of South Asian Americans and usually consists of first generation converts from the 1960s and 1970s and their second generation ISKCON-raised children. Some scholars have noted that the early waves of South Asian immigrants in the 1960s a nd 1970s found the preexisting ISKCON temples in urban American centers to be valid centers for worship. Th ese immigrants may not have previously identified themselves as belonging to ISKCON but continued to worship with the group because of the similarity of practices a nd concepts. In the 1970s and 1980s, South Asians made up a large part of ISKCON membership since many non-Indian adherents turned away from the group due to scandal and criminal alle gations (Zaidman 2000: 2 07-210). Currently in 22


Gainesville, however, varied re sponses exist and are by no mean s uniform among those of the Indian Hindu community at large. For this reas on, I have been specific in noting Gainesvilles lack of a South Asian-specific or a South Asian funded temple. University of Florida Another unique quality of Gainesville, Florida is the location of the University of Florida (henceforth UF). Beginning in 1853 with the Ea st Florida Seminary in Ocala, Florida and solidifying in Gainesville in 1905 with the Buck man Act, UF has had a long history in north central Florida (University of Florida History 2008). The largest unive rsity in the state of Florida and one of the five larg est universities in the country, UF has upwards of 50,000 students (About the University of Florida 2009). Many of these students and faculty are of Asian origin or ancestry. Because of the si ze of the university and the wa y it supports the local economy, Gainesville is quite unlike othe r urban centers in which Asian Indians have previously been studied. UF provides its own statistics 3 of the makeup of enrolled students and employed faculty. While these statistics neither show the breakdown nor the criteria for classification of faculty or students as Asian, the number of Asians on campus has been steadily growing in the past decade. 4 Between the first semesters of 1998 and 2008, the percentage of Asians in UFs total faculty has risen from 6.6 % to 16 %. Likewi se, between 1998 and 2008, th e total percentage of UFs Asian student population has risen from 5.9 % to 7.7 %. Within the web of these statistics, 3 Much of the statistical information provided is incredibly general. Faculty composition is broken down into categories like White, African American Asian, Hispanic and Minority, cat egories that are meant to encompass the entire universitys 4,000 plus faculty. Just as the 2000 US Census Bureau statistics are to be taken with a grain of salt, so might UFs own statistics. I include them beca use, despite their essentialist and generalizing faults, they none the less shed light on the importance of the Asia n population of Gainesville, and how UF has increasingly attracted people of Asian descent to the ar ea for the purpose of faculty employment. 4 The majority of people observed and interviewed in my re search arrived in the Gainesvi lle area prior to the records provided by the Office of Institutional Planning and Research, which date back as far as 1995. See Appendix B for more information. 23


one can also note that since 1998, Asians have accounted for increasingly high percentages of faculty in the schools of Medici ne and Engineering (see Appendix B). As many authors have noted, the diaspora of Asian Indians in the 1960s and 1970s in the United States was highly educated. Khandelwal identifies this as a bra in drain from India, as many who immigrated were doctors, scientists and engineers whose sk ills were critical to India's development (1995: 179). Again, to tie these observations together would be largely speculativ e since finer detailed information regarding UFs Asian faculty is not curre ntly available. However, the participants in my research reflect the trends I have suggested: nearly ever y single husband of the women in my study hold or have held a position of professor or higher in the various engineering schools at UF. I attribute this predominan ce of connections with UF to the snowball-like sample in my research. Since I was invited into one contex t through an academic connection, the subsequent events I attended were held by members of this academically connected community. As a result, my research reflects only a small slice of life within the Gainesville Indian community and is certainly not representative of all Indians or Indian Americans in a university setting. It is truly unfortunate that statistics (and more detailed statistics at that) are not available prior to 1998 regarding the Asian population at UF. Considering th e influx of Asians in general, and Asian Indians in particular, after a change in immigration quotas in 1965, one might assume a large boom in Asian faculty and student populations at UF. Viewi ng the trends within the last decade, such a boom and steady increase in th e 1960s, 1970s and onward is not difficult to envision. India Cultural and Education Center In the southwest side of Gain esville directly west of the University of Florida, a 15,000 square foot building houses the I ndia Cultural and Education Center (ICEC). In an effort to support the surrounding community of residents and incoming stude nts at the undergraduate and 24


graduate levels in the late 1980s and early 1990s the ICEC was formed. This organization has provided a location and the means for many cultural/religious events in the Gainesville area, and has maintained a relationship with UFs I ndian Student Association (ISA) and the Hindu Students Council (HSC) in order to financially and socially suppor t members of the Gainesville student community (India Cultura l & Education Center). Several interviewees mentioned the ICEC as a useful resource for Indian members of the community, and others assured it was a much bette r space than a temple because it allows a wide range of people to use the building for a wide ra nge of activities. For example, the HSC Diwali celebration took place in an upstairs room at the IC EC. As I left the event, someone mentioned that the Swadhyay Parivar organization on cam pus was also conducting a Diwali celebration, although none of the HSC participants I asked kn ew of this simultaneous observance. Other events, such as the local Bengali Associat ions Durga Puja celebration and the HSC garba/raas dance took place at the ICEC, though not simu ltaneously. Groups based on international religious organizations, la nguage or ethnic affiliation and UF st udent organizations and others all utilize the center for different purposes. In many ways, Gainesville, Florida fits outsi de the mold of the scholarship regarding Indian immigration and Hinduism in America. The combination of the ISKCON temple and the pull of UFs opportunities for professional employment have created a noteworthy intersection for the study of Hinduism in America. Methodology and Sample Initially, my interest in this festival hinge d upon the very public and very domestic events for Navaratri in which one could participate. Throughout the course of my research, many people stressed to me that the events going on here in Gainesville would li kely be carried out in similar ways in India. For instance, the garba and raas dances, I was told, would be held in the 25


streets of the local neighborhood in India. Since such practices are not feasible in Gainesville due to the distance between apartments and subdivisions where Indian families live that are scattered around Gainesville and the surrounding towns, central locations such as the OConnell Center and the Martin Luther King Center were suitable substitutions. Similarly, several informants noted that some of their Navaratri observances, as will be described below, would take place at home in India and therefore conducting them at home in Gainesville was also appropriate. Yet, in light of these assurances, I wondered at the predominant schol arly literature which spoke mainly about the Protestantization of Hindu temples in the United States (Eck 2001). With cultural centers and Sunday schools (also called bala vihars) and large festival observances at many urban Hindu temples (Kurien 1998: 37), I questioned how people created a community amongst themselves in a place that had not ye t followed the typical progression of temple creation found in other urban centers. In order to address this question, I chose to focus on Navaratri, due to its status a fe stival that is widely celebrate d throughout India albeit in various regionally-specific ways. I attended as many events in relation to this festival as possible, as well as other subsequent events that further demonstrated the dyna mics of the larger community. The bulk of my research includes a thick descrip tion of the events that unfolded, supplemented by interviews which were conducted anywhere from two weeks to five months after the actual events. Intraand Extradomestic The events I attended in the homes of pe ople were not publicly advertised and were relatively small scale events. As an outsider to these traditions, I woul d not have known about them without the help of an active participant who, in addition to inviting me to her own home also secured invitations to the homes of others While I would not char acterize these events 26


within a private/public dichotomy, I would in stead suggest that ut ilizing a vocabulary of intradomestic and extradomestic loci. It is cl ear that the previously existing networks of relationships within the South Asian community facilitated attendance at these events, although the location of the event influenced and was infl uenced by the involved networks, as well as the sense of intra or extra domesticity. The networks contained within an intradomestic locus seem to consist of family, friends, and other acquaintances from the same regions of India and are constantly being created, recr eated and cultivated throughout the year. Since intradomestic events were organized by the members of intrad omestic networks of South Asian people, they fly under the radar of those not familiar with the tr aditions or those outside of the networks. The larger events, in contrast were more publicly advertised. Knowledge of these events was not as contingent upon membership in a networ k of insiders and the ev ents themselves were located in extradomestic contexts. The Gujarati Samaj of Gatorland (GSG) sponsored a garba/raas (an event associated with Navaratri, part icularly amongst Gujaratis) at the Martin Luther King Recreational Center which is owned and operated by the City of Gainesville. The Indian Student Association (ISA) at the University of Florida (U F) sponsored a similar event at the OConnell Center on the UF campus, which was also partially sponsored by the GSG. Both of these events were advertised through email, on websites and in the form of fliers at locations like a local Indian grocer y store called the India Bazaar and other local South Asian stores and restaurants around Gainesville. I characterize th ese events as extradomestic events created by extradomestic social networks. Extradomes tic networks and events seem to include considerations of ethnicity and language and gender, but seem motiv ated to encompass more of a pan-Indian mentality. Extradomestic netw orks perform Pan-Indian-ness whereas intradomestic networks perform this-Indian-ness. In making the distinc tion between intraand 27


extradomesticity, I do not intend to create mutual ly exclusive categories of classification. Rather, these two concepts are re lated to one another and are cer tainly encountering each other such that extradomestic situations involve intradomestic relations hips and vice versa. In addition to attending these events, I interviewed seven participants and hosts of these events. All of the inte rviewees were women. Other members of the household often listened in on the interview and offered their own informati on. In one case, an interview was conducted at the same time with a mother and a daughter. Aside from this daughter who was in her early twenties, the other interviewees were all women in their 50s. The homes in which all interviews were conducted contained several rooms, ornate furnishings, and were located in well-kept cul de sacs. While this information is largely subj ective and is my own interpretation in comparison to the surrounding Gainesville area, all of the home s of the interviewees reflected the previously mentioned census information on the location of Indi ans in a high income bracket. In all but one home, at least one member of the family was em ployed in some sort of faculty capacity by the University of Florida. Intradomestic situations and social networks are concepts in which groups of people, who form based on the household level, maintain thei r intradomesticity by loca ting themselves within the homes of the members. By this I mean that groups, like the bhajan groups I attended, form by word of mouth (perhaps from employment or other religious opportunities) into groups that move from home to home during the year. Navara tri is particularly expressive of this notion since the events I attended in a domestic setting moved from hous e to house, only once occurring at the same house within the course of nine da ys. The Latin prefix i ntra suggests something internal, or occurring within an already established location. By affixing intra to domestic I hope to suggest that a sense of exclusivity or boundedness predicates the actual creation of such 28


networks. By this I mean that notions of what it means to be North or South Indian, or female or Punjabi or Gujarati are implicit and preexisting wh en creating networks in an intradomestic context. One's ability to even join intradomestic networks is based upon these exclusive givens. However, I do not mean to say that exclusivity is necessari ly a negative thing. As many participants in my study noted, th e sense of exclusivity allowed th e participants to feel more connected because of a shared experience or a shar ed repertoire of signifi cant actions. This does not mean that new understandings of what th ese notions mean cannot be created in an intradomestic situation. On the contrary, new identities and roles with in the intradomestic network are constantly being creat ed and maintained. However, the sense of Punjabi-ness or North Indian-ness exists in some way (real or imagined) prior to the creation of an intradomestic (or extradomestic for that matter) social network. Extradomestic networks and locations can include intradomestic networks within the ranks, though extradomestic situations attempt to include much more broad categories of identity. The Latin prefix extr a, the opposite of intra, signif ies a sense of being outside or beyond. In contrast with intradomestic situ ations, extradomesticity implies a moving beyond those a priori notions of inclusivity. These extradomestic groups seek out fewer categorical qualifications for membership in the network and participation in pe rformance of such a network. In the case of the ISA garba at the O'Connell Center, the extradomestic setting and network of people who participated in this event were not joined by gender, ethnicity or religion specifically. Rather, the netw ork is comprised of people pe rforming their own pan-Indianness. While some people continued to seek out members of intradomestic networks to which they belonged, they were participating in a la rger extradomestic performance which was selfconsciously less exclusive than ot her intradomestic networks. 29


Locating Myself Emic and etic, insider and outside r: two dichotomies that have been used to describe the different approaches to scholarship with regard to studies of cu lture, especially within the study of religion. Whether one or the other is better suited to academica lly study religion is not to be argued decisively in this thesis, bu t is a topic relevant to my location in my own research. I have found that my position as an outsider to the traditions and people involved with my research both benefited and detracted from my research in varied ways. This thesis has been a research project not only in content but al so in my own personal understanding of the methodology with in the study of religion. Th e insider/outsider dichotomy has been a subject of a great d eal of scholarship which argues bot h for and against the inside or outside identity of the academic within his or he r own scholarship. Robert Orsi has outlined this issue in his Between Heaven and Earth (2005) in which he examines the intersection of his own life as an insider and outsider within his own research on American Catholicism. Reading this book before conducting some of my research was a great advantage as it c ontained an interesting mix of information about different facets of American Catholicism as Orsi had understood it during years of fieldwork in this area, but also offered gems of a dvice about the relationship that is created through the exercise of research. Relationships be tween the scholar and the people involved in a study always exist on some level. Perhaps one of th e most salient chapters is the fifth, in which Orsi truly struggles with a questio n put to him by one of his interviewees. He, a child of Italian American Catholic parents whos e own parents had emigrated from rural Italy, is asked by a female interviewee if he has ever actually prayed to St. Jude for help. He replies that he has not prayed to St. Jude, but seems to realize that the liminal position respective to the insider/outsider dichotomy in his research is a difficult place to be At once he wants to maintain his insider position, to be accepted by those he researches and to give them a voice in turn, and 30


yet he is constantly made aware of his outsider-n ess with his scholarly vo cabulary and repertoire of categories with which to understand Catholicism (2005: 146-176). Although I am in no way suggesting I share a similar insider/outsider pos ition as Orsi in my own research, I do feel compelled to note the personal difficulty I have f aced in mitigating my own identity in the face of research and to suggest some of the ramificatio ns that have resulted from that struggle. During the process of ethnographic research a nd interviews, I became keenly aware of my own identity as a white, non-Hindu female. As th e only non-Indian participant at many of the events I observed, I experienced a difficult negotia tion of identity within myself in deciding how I would act as a participant-observe r. At nearly every event, several other female participants of a range of ages encouraged me to participate more, either by singing along with the songs sung by the group, waving the lamp for the deities during arati, or eating more food. I often found myself standing toward the back or out of the la rger group during events so as to avoid others encouraging me to participate in th e rituals. This benefited me as I was able to observe the larger dynamics of the group but also it prevented me from seeing the smaller details closer to the hubs of activity. In the realistic pur suit of ethnographic research, one mu st be aware of and avoid the kind of god-trick as described by Donna Harawa y (1988: 584). As a researcher, one cannot be everywhere at once. In this way, placing myself self(sub)co nsciously outside the group has produced a different set of data than had I been closer to other performers of events. Though, I sometimes perceived this physical and metaphorical outside loca tion to be a place of loss of data, I often had to remind myself of Haraway's suggestion: The knowing self is partial in all its guises, never finish ed, whole, simply there and original; it is always constructed a nd stitched together imperfectly, and therefore able to join with another, to see toge ther without claiming to be anot her... There is no way to 'be' simultaneously in all, or wholly in any, of the privileged (i.e. subjugated) positions structured by gender, race, nation and cl ass (1988: 586; emphasis in original). 31


Further, Haraway's god-trick also reminds th e researcher that he or she influences the surrounding location during research. One cannot ignore that the me re presence of a researcher (whether having declared or guarded this identity from others) can affect what occurs during the actual research itself (19 88: 585). One might invoke the relationship of vision in the concept of darshan. Just as a devotee (or researcher in this case) goes to view the divine (or those participating in the research), the latter also goes to view the former creating an inherently connected view between the two. While I cannot calculate the affect s I had on the people I observed and interviewed, I think it is a valuable ethical issu e that every ethnologist must acknowledge and at least attempt to reconcile within his or her own work. As Karen McCarthy Brown notes in her famous tome, Mama Lola ethnographic research, whatever else it is, is a form of human relationship (1991: 12). One cannot remove the humanity inherent in ethnographic research, though one ought to struggle with the ethical dimensions of it. During the nine days and nights of festivities, bhajan groups and other religio-cultural performances I attended, I was increasingly aw are that my textbook knowledge of the category of Hinduism was not always rele vant to that which I witnessed. The practical side of intraand extradomestic performances of religion and cu lture cannot as easily be learned in a book. As Robert Orsi notes: Fieldwork forces an acknowledgment of and e ngagement with something messier than the controlled marshalling of letters on a page, something less predictable, and demands a different kind of attentiveness. The world of the text is really not the world (Orsi 2005: 164). The kind of lived religion, of which Orsi is so fond of describing, is difficult to pin down in a text because it renders the lived part of religion as a static and solidified moment. Printed words cannot change and are completely unable to nuance the dynamism inherent in every day religion in every day life. I have found very litt le information regarding the topics involved in 32


my research, and I acknowledge that once this thesis ends, the people within the religion continue to innovate, create, (re)imagine and main tain themselves in ways this thesis cannot predict or describe. However, I hope that it adds to the incr easing body of research regarding Hinduism in the United States a nd provides a starting point for continuing research to be conducted on this topic. With so many papers and books produced disc ussing urban centers as the hubs of ritual innovation for America's own brand of Hinduism, I wonder what will happen to the traditions that remain at home. I want to give a voice to the ways in which people construct and perform different ways of being Indian and/or Hindu in order to give a richer picture of Hinduism in America. I hope that what I have produced in the following pages not only provides an interesting academic analysis of lived religion, but also an accura te representation of that lived religion by those who live it on a daily basis. Theory and the Approach to Lived Religion It is one thing to observe what others are doing and recant these observations for posterity's sake. It is quite another to ta ke these observations and view them as a coherent set of data for analysis within a theoretical framework. There are numerous ways to approach the study of ritual, its contextual considerations and its f unctional outcomes. However, few other theorists are so relevant to the study of Hindu and(/or) Indian ritual as Catherine Bell's emphasis on performance. Bell is perhaps most known for her theoretica l approach to ritual that privileges the meaning of rituals to the actua l performers. In several arti cles and books, she examined the traditional dichotomy of ritual as action on one hand and belief as thought on the other. This kind of division, Bell notes, demo tes ritual to particularly thoughtless action-routinized, habitual, obsessive, or mimetic-and therefore th e purely formal, secondary, and mere physical 33


expression of logically prior ideas (1992: 19; emphasis in original ). Bell attempts to move away from these mutually exclusive categories by using the word practice in her earlier work, while later using performance with her own nuance in a critique of other performance theorists. For Bell, performance signifies diff erent things in different contexts, though the multivalence of the word functions to the benefit of the scholar. In some cases, performance refers to the execution of a command in an obligatory sense. In others, it is the word used to describe the acting out of a preset script as in a play. More rece ntly, Bell claims performance has come to signify the kind of actions that take place without expectati on of a conclusion (1998: 205). Using such a multivalent term allows one to imply a tradition-oriented execution of established codes of behavior, an action-oriented pe rspective focused on the doing itself, or both (1998: 206). Performance attempts to get away from the thought/action dichotomy by showing how ritual is a performance th at requires both action and thought. Ritual, like Hinduism, is another term that defies succinct definition. It is used not only in the context of religion, but also in contexts one might deem more secular. For instance, Gregory Goethals has described how ritual functions both in the televised blessing of Pope John Paul II, the presidential elec tions and inaugurations of the 1970s and 1980s, football's seasonculminating Superbowl Sunday, and the forma lities and ceremonies surrounding the death of Senator Hubert Humphrey (1995: 257-268). The ritualized action of these events and the utilization of media in the fo rm of television allowed people around the United States and the world to participate in different ways at different levels and locations. This emphasizes the fuzzy boundary between ritual bel onging to either religious or secular/other activiti es. For Bell, this is a strength particular to performance approaches because: it does not start out assuming what religion and ritual are; it attempts to let the activities under scrutiny have ontological and analytic pr iority, while the scholar deploys tools to 34


untangle those activities in ways that can info rm and modify his or her notions of religion and ritual and not simply attest to them (1998: 211). Employing performance theory does not begin with a priori notions of what constitutes religious ritual and what does not. To take it for granted that a ritual is religious can ignore the inherent dynamism of ritualized action as well as the dynamism of the performers of the actions themselves. Approaching ritual as performance: is better at conveying the multiple ways in which such activities are meant and experienced, as well as how such multiplicity is integral to the efficacy of ritual performances. This approach can, therefore, actually undermine relian ce on concepts like ritual, especially the notion of ritual as a universal phenome non with a persistent, coherent structure that makes it tend to work roughly the same way everywhere (Bell 1998: 218). This performative multiplicity is exactly the fram ework with which I analyze the observations of lived religion in my research. Without this possibility of the multiple ways Navaratri is celebrated, one might be content to categorize Navaratri as simply a religious ritual event that utilizes and perpetuates traditional structure and materials to continue a preexisting, static tradition. Such an analysis misses the richness of how and why Navaratri is celebrated. Indeed, to say the events in my research were r eligious rituals would be mostly false. Looking at the events I attended through a singular lens of relig ious ritual provides a very limited view of how the events are actually perc eived by the participants themselves. On the other hand, seeing these events as performances of multiplicity provides a much more nuanced understanding of how and why this ritual is performed the way it is in an American context. Three key elements will be examined throughout the following chapters that exemplify Navaratri events as performances. First, ethnic ity or regional background plays a major part in the way Navaratri is celebrated and with whom it is celebrated. In the second chapter, the events are described in terms of what I saw taking pla ce as well as what elements contributed to its particular ethnic composition. For example, a havan or fire sacrifice is an event that is not 35


unique to the state of Gujarat in India. However, certain el ements that the host chose to emphasize at the ritual made it Gujarati and specific to the family of the host. Second, gender is another category that one must take into consideration when analyzing these events. Navaratri is celebrated by many as a time to recognize the ultimate power of the divine feminine and it is difficult to ignore the predominan ce of female participation in the events for Navaratri. However, one cannot so quick ly assume that because this is a festival for the Goddess that it implies only performance by fema les. On the contrary, males participated in events at various times, and grouped themselves t ogether as well, though in very different ways and contexts than the females of my study. I can only speculate about the many factors to take into consideration when examining these data based on gender including immigration, religious rules regarding gender, changes in ritual roles based on gender and a number of other concerns. In the end, one can initially say that gender is an obvious and important piece of the puzzle of Navaratri in America. Religious identity is the third important factor to take into account. It may be assumed that because I investigate a holiday associated with a specific religious tr adition category (i.e. Hinduism) that the actual participan ts universally claim adherence to that tradition. However, at nearly every event, at least one person fit outsi de the mold of what one might consider Hindu or identified themselves as self-consciously not Hindu. It is difficult, th en, to think of Navaratri as merely a holiday celebrated exclusively by Hindus. Without the le ns of multiplicity of performance of Bell's theoretical approach, one might lose these nuanced elements of diversity in the many ways Navaratri is celebrated. In the following chapters, I hope to highlight these three concerns through a thick description of five events th at I attended during the fall Navaratri festival in 2008. In the 36


second chapter, I will describe th ese five events, highlighting thes e concerns for ethnicity, gender and religion, to show the lived reli gion of the lives of a small sele ction of Indians in Gainesville, Florida. In the third chapter, I will make s uggestions for how one can synchronically view the examples I provided in the previous chapter in order to emphasize how these three elements demonstrate the multiplicity of identities that can be displayed by understanding rituals as performances. I posit that each event for Navara tri is a performance both acted out by hosts and participants, each making a self-conscious effort to display different parts of their own identities in different spaces. Domestic and public spaces a nd the kinds of rituals that take place within them possess similar structure so that people may participate at different levels based on their own sense of ethnic, gendered, or religious requirements for participation. Navaratri is the special time and the special space for these identi ties to be performed. Its universal time and structure create meaning for ma ny while allowing for diverse ways of being. As Venkatachari says, Universality demands dive rsity of practice (1992:182). 37


CHAPTER 2 RITUALS AND PRACTICES Introduction After briefly discussing what I am studying in th is thesis, this chapter will describe the nuts and bolts of the events I attended and the interv iews I conducted for this project. As we have already seen, Gainesville is uni que in many ways. With its un iversity-centered population, its proximity to an ISKCON temple, the relationship of the Indian population with that temple, as well as Gainesville's above averag e population of Indians and Indian -Americans, the area itself is ripe for scholarly investigation. In the following pages, I will explain five events I attended during Navaratri in 2008. During this festival of nine nights, I attended several other events that helped to fill in and nuance the events I will describe below. I have c hosen to highlight these events in terms of their hosts because the influence of the hosts was so inhe rently deep and important to the event itself. Originally, I titled the sections according to the et hnicity of the host, but in looking at the events themselves I found that the sense of ethnicity was much more subtle and may belie the content of the subsections. Group bhajan meetings, Navaratri celebrations in homes and havans are not endemic to any geopolitical region of India exclus ively especially in the American context. Regionally identifying these events as North, South or Pan-Indian events was more accurate in terms of describing the composition of par ticipants at events though these regional generalizations were not hard and fast descri ptions either. Participants from different intradomestic social networks sometimes participated in other social networ ks that were different from the individual's familial ethnicity. How then could I label these events with such diversity among participants as well as in performance of r ituals? In the end, I decided to identify the events with the individuals or groups that sponsored them. For reasons that will hopefully 38


become evident as each event is described, I find the relationship of the event with the host is the most logical way to present these events. Keeping in mind the three elements of et hnicity, gender and relig ion outlined at the conclusion of the first chapter, I discuss th e way my ethnographic research presented and reinforced these themes. I have chosen the follo wing five events because they incorporate these three key themes in addition to offering their own unique dimensions that augment the larger discussion of these events as performances. Swapna's Bhajan Meeting On the first day of Navaratri, September 30th in the year 2008 1 a regular monthly meeting was held in the home of a Punjabi family in Gain esville. The first day of Navaratri for this family was celebrated in which Durga, the G oddess in a fierce and powerful form, was the centerpiece, though her image was one of many present at the altar. When I arrived, there were only two other guests present. The house, w ith several dens and liv ing rooms which were decorated with an assortment of me tal sculptures in the style of Th ai art and other kinds of art in many South Asian styles, was located in a well -kept part of town and included its own pool, large patio and tennis courts. In side the house, where the event took place, bed sheets covered the floor in a living room adjacent to the connecti ng kitchen. Several white chairs taken from the eat-in kitchen table were brought in to the livi ng room and placed on the floor where there were no bed sheets at the back of the space, furthest away from the altar which was located at the center of the fireplace. Large se ctional couches formed an L shap e at the far side of the room and many of the female participants who had ailm ents or difficulty that prevented them from 1 Navaratri dates are determined according to a lunar cale ndar which is corrected by the solar calendar. For this reason, the dates of Navaratri change fr om year to year, though they genera lly occur in late September and early October. In 2008, Navaratri began September 30th and ended on October 8th. However, the tenth day not directly included in the nine nights is celebrated with other regional observances and is called Vijaya Dashami and/or Dusshera depending on the cultural context (Flood 1996: 211-212). 39


sitting on the space on the floor sat on these couc hes. The delineation of special space through covering the floor with clean sheets was a co mmon facet of many of the events I attended, though the materials used to signify this kind of space differed in different contexts. If we understand Navaratri as a time out of time and a sp ace out of space, it seems logical that there should be a delineation of space for rituals to take place. Fifteen minutes past the scheduled time of 2:30pm, more participants arrived, though the total number of participants did not arrive until as late as 3:15pm. Throughout the two hours of singing and arati, people arrived and left as their schedules allowed. Twenty-five people attended until the conclusi on of the ritual and the serving of a late lunch. Towards the end, three or four young children and a young male adult ente red the kitchen, though these people did not participate in the rituals in the living room and were, in fact, only present for the last ten minutes of the arati and presentation of prasad Nearly every participant wore a salwar kameez also called a Punjab i suit because of its predominance among Punjabi people, though two participants wore saris. Later, others pointed out that most women wearing salwar kameez were North Indian though they noted that one South Indian woman wore a salwar kameez regularly to North Indian hosted events. I saw this same woman in a sari while at other South Indian events. This is one of many instances where clothing is used to self-consci ously inscribe the body with me aning in order to outwardly perform identity. When the woman's sense of iden tity changed, so did her clothing, to represent the way in which she fit into that specific intradomestic context. The fireplace in the living room was covered with a shimmery white piece of fabric; the ledge of the fireplace was cove red in a bright red cloth. Murti s or icons of Shiva, Ganesha, Lakshmi, Krishna, and Guru Nanak were placed to the left of a large pi cture of Durga riding a 40


tiger which was at the center of the red cloth. This picture was larger than the other icons and was placed at the center presumably because of th e Navaratri season. To the right of Durga were murtis of Lakshmana, Rama, Sita and Hanuman. All of these icons, except for the picture, seemed to be made in the same manner since the base of each was an identical gray pedestal. Directly in front of the picture of Durga, wh ich was draped in a red square cloth with gold borders and gold stripes and dots, was a small ghee lamp upon a six inch tall silver holder. There was also a silver platter on which flowers and small metal containers of powder and water were placed. Two small, silver stools in front of the fireplace were topped with a tray of apples and bananas, a brass colored kalash or pot with brass leaves sticking out of the top and a brass coconut upon the leaves (a form of the goddess f ound in several other events in my research, regardless of regional background and participation), and a burn ing stick of incense. As other guests began to arrive, the area on the floor covered in sheets was equipped with speakers and a microphone in the center. With about fifteen partic ipants in atte ndance, the host of the home, Swapna 2 hooked up the speakers to a CD play er and began playing a CD of a woman singing a prayer called Amritvani. Swapna chose to begin with this prayer, as she may begin with the same prayer for other get-togethers, with a dual purpose. First, the prayer is in glorification of the name of Lord Ram, of whom she is a devotee, but also to get others in the mood to sing. Swapna said, you want everybod y involved. Now, if I hadn't played the CD, nobody's voice is going to come out loud enough to sing it. But along with that, everybody had the prayer book and you kind of read along. This was a prayer created and promulgated by an organization called the Sri Ram Sharnam whose h eadquarters are located in Delhi, India. Swapna grew up not far from this organization in Delhi amongst a family and community of 2 All names have been changed for purposes of confidentiality. 41


people from Punjab. While this prayer is not particularly Punjabi by virtue of its origin or its language (it is composed in simple Hindi), it is demonstrative of the way in which hosts of intradromestic events assert th eir own ethnic and religious identities amongst the larger social network. While some of my observations and conc lusions from this event are more speculative, I suggest that here, as in furthe r examples explained below, the host's use of the prayer allowed her to exert a sense of religious dominance or power over the rest of the group. I do not suggest that Navaratri ought to be constr ued as an arena for silent powe r politics in a Foucauldean way, but would like to point out that these events ar e not without their consid erations of hierarchy, power and dominance on the relig ious and ethnic scale. Swapna later noted that this pray er is not specific to Navaratri, but rather was a prayer that she used at the beginning of any get-together involving group kirtan or bhajans She also mentioned that others within her social group have requested copies of the words to this prayer, though she is one of a few who have purchased the CD and use it regularly at group events. It is most often used only by her in this intradomestic context and only within he r own home. All this is to say that Swapna is the only person who uses this organization-specific prayer, indicating she is using her hierarchical position as host of the event to exert her religious sensibilities on the rest of the group. Because this prayer is sung and falls within the larger, preexisting cultural repertoire of singing at such group meetings, the Amritvani fits within scope of the participants' sense of acceptable behavior. When the CD was finished (a half hour of r eciting the prayer's more than 100 verses) the participants resituated themselves so that a central singer sat in the middle of the bed sheet covered floor with an accompanying dholak player beside her. The leading singer, wearing a bright pink salwar kameez began singing a slow song, the ornate pink dupatta draped over her 42


head and covering her shoulders. Eventually, picking up the tempo so that the dholak player could play the beat of the song, she began to si ng a bit more emphatically through the succession of songs, the dupatta eventually falling from her head a nd settling at her s houlders. She sang more than fifteen bhajans from memory as others sitting ar ound the room sang along with the aid of folders containing the songs in Hindi and a few in Punjabi. After a bout another half hour of singing songs led by this woman, some of which had a call and response segment in which the leader sang a part of a song and th e rest of the particip ants shouted the response with gusto, other members of the group were asked to select and lead a song. A microphone was passed to each woman who chose and led the song. Though the exact ages of all the pa rticipants were not possible to obtain at the time, the general order in which women were chosen to sing songs began with the older participan ts and ended with the younger ones. 3 In general, Swapna or some of the more vocal participants would ask anothe r participant to sing or choose a song, at which point that chosen person would politely decline and seemed to put up her hands as if to say no, no, I cannot sing. However, nearly every pe rson who was called upon and made a show of declination actually sang the song eventually, once she was reassured by the others that she ought to sing. Some of these i ndividually chosen songs were located in the folders of lyrics passed out previously, and some were from the me mory of the leader. Some were sung with a similar call and response style that previ ous songs had taken. At this time, the dholak did not generally accompany the singer. When all those who wanted to lead a song had had their turn, th e group then stood up, except for the main singer and the dholak player. Arati was then performed. At this time, a song sung to the Goddess was performed from memory by all participants. At other events, the same 3This observation is one of comparison made based on my ow n field notes of the estimation of ages of participants at this event. 43


song was performed during arati though the lyrics varied by even t. The majority of women, with one or two exceptions, took the dupattas of their salwar kameezs and draped them over their heads. The few women who wore saris also fixed the end of the sari over their heads in a similar fashion. The small ghee lamp from the silv er holder was then adde d to the platter that had been located in front of Durga on the fireplace altar Swapna, as the host of the ritual, was the first to wave the lamp in front of the alta r, making several clockwis e passes with the platter before handing it off to other participants who had made a makeshift line behind her. The women continued to sing as other participants to ok their turn with the la mp, though not all of the women present took a turn. One woman, who identif ied herself as a Jain, did not participate in this part of the event, citing that because she wa s Jain, she did not do this thing. At one point, the main singer and dholak player moved mid-song to have their own turn. Another woman took over on the dholak but had a difficult time keeping with the beat and as soon as the two women had their turn for the arati they took up the singing and the dholak again, since the song and the beat had been somewhat lost in their absence. At this time, a few children and a young adult male entered the kitchen to check on the food th at was being prepared and was wafting its spicy scent through the home. A few women who performed their turn for the arati first then went to the adjoining kitchen to help set up th e late lunch outside on the patio. At the end of the arati, the singing seemed to fade away into silence as a decorative sheet about a yard and a half square of bright magenta fabric lined with a gold garlanded border was held up by two other participants. At this time, Swapna took the platter of fruit and flowers and offered it to the altar. Swapna explained that the sheet: [is] for when you're offering. You want to ma ke it private, not a publ ic affair. So that sheet is held up and you go behi nd it and make the offering. And again that is a very 44


Punjabi tradition. That's the way bhog 4 is offered to God and with a special song, inviting him to come. It is interesting to note the gende r specific articles in Swapna's response. In this interview, Swapna identified herself as a devotee of Ram. The term Ram itself has several connotations. Ram may refer to the general idea of god, a sort of god without qualities as it is used by the nirguna poets like Kabir and Ravida s. Ram may also refer to th e masculine divine avatara of Vishnu found in the Ramayana, the same Ram that was present that day on Swapna's altar along with Sita, Laksmana and Hanuman (other Ramayana characters). Swapna did not specify what she meant by Ram (a lacuna in my interviewing t echniques) but made it a point to describe that she offered the bhog that day to Ram and not Durga or De vi. While this may appear to be a minor issue, I cannot help but wonder how other participants understood this offering. Did they know Swapna had offered the bhog to Ram and not the form of the Goddess who was at the center of the altar? Did this matter to them sin ce the event took place during Navaratri? Due to the constraints of my research, I wa s not able to interview other participants of this event. This is significant because the event was held at the time of celebration of th e Goddess, with Durga herself located at the center of attention on the a ltar, adorned in a way th at no other icons were decorated. Yet the host understood he r actions to be for Ram, not Durga. Again, we can see the way in which the host uses her position to conduct rituals that maintain individual and communal meaning, though these meanings may be simultaneously different. At this time, others sitting around me explained that this was a very North Indian tradition to offer the fruit and flowers behind a sheet. The sh eet was held up very close to the altar so that few people, save the two or thre e standing directly to the side, could see what was going on as 4 Bhog or bhoga is the term for the offering of flowers or fruit or other materials that is presented to the divinity at the center of the ritual. Once the materials have been placed in the presence of the divine, the bhog turns into prasad or prashad, which is then offered to the participants in the ritual as the blessing of God. 45


Swapna knelt on the ground and offered the fruit, completely obscured by the sheet. Once the food had been offered, the sheet was dropped and set to the side. Swapna then stood up among the already standing women and offered some announcements about lunch. When the brief announcements were completed, the standing crow d bubbled into hugs and greetings and various conversations. Those who had covered their heads before returned their dupattas to their original positions, either draped around the shoulders or sitting on the right shoulder. As the crowd remained standing and talking, the main female singer took the platter with the ghee lamp and brought it around for the other participants to wave their hands over the flame and either wash their faces with the heat or wave their hands over the flame and touch their foreheads one or three times. While this took place, the women who had mo ved to the kitchen began placing different dishes on a table outside and lunch wa s served. At this time, all of the women encouraged me to eat, and take some tea. Ou tside, the women scattered themselves on the patio, bringing chairs around the white plas tic tables and sitting down to chat with friends. Seemingly from nowhere, multiple photo albums containing pict ures of several different weddings appeared and the women flipped through them as they ate the vegetarian fare. It was not until much later that I found out this whole event was part of a regular group that meets once a month to sing bhajans and kirtan Though the meeting was a special occasion since it was the beginning of Navaratri, it seemed to be more of a coincidence than to have been held expressly for the holiday itself. To empha size this point and this observation, Swapna noted that this particular celebration on the first day of Navaratri was not a yearly tradition. I'd like to have it, she said, but it's not a strict tradition. If I'm able and capable and energetic enough then yes, I would like to have it. It's a celeb ration of ... a good sort. Whereas other events I attended were very self-consciously noted as tr aditional events, whether traditions brought from 46


India or traditions started in Amer ica, Swapna seemed to view Na varatri as one holiday that was neither more nor less important th an any other festival or day in general. She often expressed during the interview that the ki nds of prayers and disciplines that people undertake during Navaratri ought to be observed ye ar round since all days are equal. She did note that there were traditional ways of observing Nava ratri that she experienced in her childhood. However these events were very different from the event th at transpired in her home in September 2008. Swapna said that her family ha s always celebrated Navaratri: There are many ways of doing it. Generally in [India], it is also done at night and it is called jagran. Jagran means to stay awake. It starts after dinner and it goes on all night, and it is finished or culminated in the mo rning around 5:00 or 4:30 in the morning with a big arati. So it's an all night thing. And that was very common when I was a kid. But nowadays those are quite over. The practice of jagran has been documented by Kathleen Erndl's Victory to the Mother (1993). In her study of a goddess cult in Punjab dedicated to various locally specific forms of the goddess, Erndl notes that a jagran, also called a jagrata, is a night long performance for Devi where the performers invite the Goddess into their homes as opposed to visiting her in a temple (1993: 85). Throughout the eveni ng, the Goddess is entertained with singing and playing musical instruments, like the dholak which was also played at Swapna's afternoon meeting (1993: 89). Erndl claims that jagran is a practice with hundreds of years of history, though in Swapna's case we can see how it has been adapted to a modern American context (1993: 85). No longer occurring in the evening, and much less for seven, eight or more hours in a row, Swapna's afternoon event was held at a time that could acc ommodate greater numbers of participants. The event was also much smaller compared to what Sw apna noted would typically take place. This jagran did not involve staying up all night for the Goddess, and nor did it only involve the Goddess. Swapna likened her event to the jagran despite these differences. The perception of 47


tradition for Swapna was strong enough to tie the event to tradition though the actual execution of the event seemed quite non-traditional. Swapna also relayed other ways she celebra ted Navaratri that had been traditionally observed by her family. She said that some of these observances, such as planting a certain kind of grass and allowing it to grow throughout the ni ne days, were never don e by her personally but by other senior female members of her family dur ing her childhood in India. One other event, in which an odd number of young prepubescent girls are worshiped for an evening as a form of the Goddess, typically on the eighth night of Navaratri, was previous ly a grand event for Swapna. She would host this event in her own home or go to the home of another Indian family where she knew such a number of girls would be all in one place. However, this is no longer a part of Swapna's traditional Navaratri schedule. But nowadays, I don't do that, she said. And generally, I don't even end up inviting them home because their parents ha ve to bring them and they all have to be there at the same time which is not going to quite work out. So I go to their house with the prasad and hand it to them. Again, in this case also, the sense of tradition and ritual for Swapna seems to be flexible enough to allow for substitutions while maintaining its authenticity as tradition. As mentioned before, participation is a key element of Swapna's hosting of the event and this get together, part of a m onthly group routine, allowed the pa rticipants to c ongregate in the name of religion, but also to create a network of so cial contacts that fulfil led social relationships absent in the American context. Swapna notes: Well, living in a small town, we all cling on to each other for our emotional needs. And also your need to connect with your own kind. Basically [it's] because you speak the same language, you have the same cultural background. It's very easy to connect. For the most part, people like to connect w ith their own kind so we're all well connected socially. [The group] fulfill[s] the need for the family that we don't...the immediate family we do not have in this country. Your larger social network is also your extended family. 48


This larger social network is crea ted and cultivated for this partic ular group on a monthly basis. At Swapna's home in September, the group that met was solely comprised of women. In this way, the structure of the event, with its ti ming, location and participants became an arena for participants to not only be I ndian, or North Indian, and not only be Hindu (since not all participants were Hindu), but also to be female or an Indian woman at the same time. Swapna mentioned that if she wanted more of a mixed group of male and female participants, she may schedule the event for a Saturday. This even t was scheduled on a Tuesday afternoon because: Most of the women that come for that get t ogether are not working outside the house. So that's a very convenient time for us to do it. is a good reli gious and a good spiritual time to get together. We hold it only for an hour and a half. But after that, it is also our social time... God doesn't say that you can't socialize after your done with this... We've done our share and it's okay to now have a cup of tea together and sit and talk or whatever... Everybody kind of live[s] a little way out and nobody lik es to meet like this in the afternoons. So when you do meet, it is okay to socialize after your done. After the religious purposes of the gathering had been comple ted, the group shared in a meal and socialized by speaking to one another in a similar la nguage and looking through wedding albums that women had brought with them. Co mmensality and language sharing were two key components of this event. While the event l ooked as if it belonged to a specific religious tradition, participants claiming ot her religious identities also t ook part in the ritual and its subsequent meal and socializing. Because of th e religious and ethnic diversity of participants, one cannot simply say that this Hindu ritual wa s performed as a holiday celebration specific to Punjabi people in Gainesville. In reality, while the ritual itself may have been influenced by the host's own Punjabi heritage and her own sense of North Indian Hindu-ness, the aggregate of participants' ethnicities and religi ous backgrounds suggests that this ritual serves as a location for multiple identities to simultaneously be performed. 49


Tejal's Havan In the home of Tejal at 11 a.m. on the ninth a nd last day of Navaratri, a unique ritual took place. A fire sacrifice called a havan was performed by Tejal and her mother on the back porch of their grandiose Gainesville hom e. Several chair cushions were placed on the wooden deck for participants to sit upon and observe the proceedings The weather, still quite hot in Gainesville for the first week of October, was su nny and bright though slightly windy. When I arrived at the home, a sign printed on a piece of paper instructed visitors to come around the back of the house because that morni ng a tile floor was being installed and no one could walk through the house. As I rounded the corner at five minutes to 11, the ritual had already started though only Tejal, her mother and two men were present. In the following half an hour, fourteen additional participants arri ved at various times. The women sat on the cushions or the nearby chairs, while the five male participants all sat in the back near the metal table at the back of the porch. All present ranged in age betw een 50 and 70 years of age and no children attended at any tim e, in contrast to the event at Swapna's home. The altar to which the havan was performed, I was told, was slightly different from past years. In previous years, the havan was constructed and performed on the concrete deck near the pool in the backyard. This was not possible this year because of the new floor installation that required all furniture to be remove d and placed in the space where the havan would have taken place. Further adaptations to the ritual were ne cessary because of this. Tejal explained that typically the image of the Goddess she identified as Ambaji (a term for the Goddess as a Mother) would be at the center of the altar on the ground, surrounded by specific regional designs in chalk or powder with a sloka also written in the same material Because this ritual took place on a wooden deck, it was not possible to create th ese specific decorations that required a stone surface. Instead, the sloka was written in red marker at th e top of two pieces of white poster 50


board paper nearly three f eet square. Below this sloka, brown paper covered the rest of the poster board and the traditional designs were insc ribed in chalk in very geometric and angular patterns. This cardboard substitution occasiona lly caught the slight wind and fell over during the ritual, but no one seemed to mind except when it knocked other materials off the altar, as it did once knocking the coconut off the pot that served as a manifestation of Ambaji. The altar was covered in a red velvet cloth with gold tissue lame stripes. Only a few inches higher than the porch, the altar held two pots containing sprouts which had been planted on the first day of Navaratri, the coconut/pot form of Ambaji that Tejals family had traditionally used, and two small crystal glasses with pink flowers picked from the nearby bushes. When people arrived for the ritual, many also brought bouquets of flowers and fruit which were offered at the end of the ritual. The fire itself, made of charcoal br iquettes, was placed in a square copper container and had a tendenc y to fizzle into smoke when too much ghee was drizzled onto it. Another form of the Goddess was present on the wooden deck it self: a small clay pot with holes in its sides through whic h one could see a small votive candle burning inside. Other materials surrounding the altar were several plastic and metal cont ainers of materials needed during the sacrifice like ghee, kumkum powder, rice and other things. In addition to these materials, there was a meta l, painted rooster in front of the altar that was about ten inches tall and set to the left of the holed pot on the deck. There was no description of this rooster at the event, and its presence was not acknow ledged or described at any time during the event itself. When I asked about this during an interview, Tejal said the rooster was present: because Ambaji can come in many forms. You know she rides a tiger in some, she rides a lion in some, shes on a buffalo in some. So on one of the nights she comes riding a giant rooster. And one of our songs says, 'Oh you ca me riding on [a rooster]' so I keep a rooster [there]. 51


She later identified this form of the Goddess as Bahuchar Ma, a form which rides on a rooster. Other names identifying the same form of the Goddess might include Bahucharji or Bahuchara Mata. This form of the Goddess has been worshi ped by Tejal's family for generations and comes from the part of Gujarat from which Tejal's family originated. Information on Bahuchar Ma generally describes her in relation to the hijra communities around India. Devdutt Pattanaik's collection of mythological stories provides two na rratives of the story of Bahuchar Ma in the chapter entitled Castrated Men and Women ( 2002:95-112). In the first tale, Bahuchara is a married woman whose husband leaves her in the night and avoids his duties as a husband to help beget children. Each night, the husband rides into the forest on a horse. Bahuchara decides to follow him one evening, but has no horse and thus cannot follow him. A jungle fowl offers itself for Bahuchara to ride after her husband. Sh e finds her husband in the forest behaving like a woman so she curses him. Bahuchara de clared, 'Men like you should castrate themselves, dress as women, and worship me as a goddess,' ( 2002:100). Pattanaik notes that this story is a folk story from the state of Gujarat but does not provide any information for the second Bahuchara story (2002:99). In the second tale, Ba huchara and her sisters were attacked by a man named Bapiya. The sisters killed themselves wh ile Bahuchara cut off her own breasts, thereby removing her womanhood and preventing Bapiya from raping her. She was no longer a woman without her breasts (2002:101). Th e first story, with its mention of a fowl mount, seems to be more closely related to the description of Bahuchar Ma provided by Tejal, though she did not offer greater detail about how her family came to worship this form of the Goddess. Other sources note the local quality of Bahuchar Ma mo re closely related to th e second story. Serena Nanda describes Bahuchara as a young maiden who cut off her own breasts to avoid rape and later died in a forest in Gujarat. She was de ified for this action. When King Baria of Gujarat 52


wanted a son, he prayed to Bahucharaji whose divine grace allowed the king to have a male heir. However, his heir, Jetho, could not produce ch ildren and was given to the Goddess's service (1986:39). Further inquiry into th e way in which Bahuchar Ma fits into the life of Tejal and her family is required to more fully understand Bahuchar Ma's presence at Tejal's Navaratri havan, though these stories suggest how the local ethnicity of tradition is infused by hosts into holiday celebrations. Throughout the hour long event the observers we re rarely doing more than watching Tejal and her mother. The mother, named ZZZ, read Sanskrit verses from a book which cued Tejal to add various substances to the fire such as ghee, red, pink and white powders and rice. Sometimes when Tejal did not r ecognize the proper cues in the Sanskrit, ZZZ would speak to her in Gujarati to make sure she o ffered the correct materials and w ould not continue until Tejal had made the proper action. Near th e end of the ritual, guests were invited to chant Om hreem kleem shreem, a string of bhija mantras, or seed mantras, wh ich are short syllables used for chanting. Once this section of chanting was comp leted, school folders fu ll of printed songs in the Nagari script used commonly for the Hindi language were passe d around so that participants could sing together for the Goddess. As Tejal expl ained to me, Shes here as a guest and we do what we can to entertain her. Difficulty in choosing a song ensued as the pa rticipants were from such geographically diverse locations that not all part icipants could read the language printed in the folders of music. Singing songs, an integral part of nearly every event I attended, was addressed in diverse ways depending on the specific composition of the participants and in this case, since many participants were also participan ts of a South Indian social network, the folders full of Nagari script were not as easily read. In the end, one song was chosen that I had not heard sung during 53


other events in the previous ni ne days. The final song for the arati was a familiar tune sung during arati though it employed different words at this occasion in comparison to the event at Swapna's home. A song book was not needed fo r this song because th e many participants memorized the various versions of the song by heart. For the arati itself, Tejal placed the small ghee lamp on a gray metal tray and waved it in a clockwise circle seve ral times before passing the tray on to other participants. Flowers had been passed around to everyone before the arati and during the singing of the arati song and each person went to th e altar and placed the flowers on the velvet cloth in front of the centr al coconut/pot representing Ambaji. When everyone had their turn waving the lamp for the Goddess, the ritual was completed. At this point, Tejal thanked everyone for co ming and went around to each person, bowing down and asking for their blessing. Then the host and he r mother went to the kitchen to prepare to serve lunch. While preparations were taking place, the five men present rearranged the table and chairs, returned the seat cush ions to their seats and then sat down. Some other female participants went to kneel at the altar after the offi cial ritual had been completed and added additional flowers. Others went to the kitchen to help prepare for lunch. In the interim between the havan and lunch, people milled around, passing around plates made out of dried leaves. Tejal noted in an interview, as had other participants at the event, that these plates were like the ones she had eaten off of at home in Gujarat and were a nostalgic detail she liked to incorporate at Nava ratri. The foods served for lunch were in keeping with a traditional fast that Tejal and her mother kept during Navaratri. The majority of the food involved dairy products like milk and yogurt, as well as nuts and certain legumes. Tejal's description of the dietary restri ctions she observed was similar to those described by Swapna at a subsequent interview, though Swapna noted she did not observe such restrictions. Here, Tejal's 54


choice to provide a lunch in keeping with fas ting requirements can be seen as a technique employed by the host to use hi erarchical power to introduce certain ethnic and religious considerations for Navaratri in a culturally acceptable way. The lunch was yet another way for others to observe and partic ipate in diverse ways of be ing Indian and Hindu through commensality and consumption. At several times during an interview with her, Tejal noted that much of how she observed Navaratri, including the havan, was based on the practices of her mother and grandmother. Typically, however, Tejal noted that traditions regarding Navaratri were passed down through a patrilineal progression through sons. Tejal's family was different because the havan tradition had passed down through the females of the family. She explains: I was very close to my grandmother and I'm ve ry close to my mother, so I decided that I wanted to do it because it connected me to her. My grandmother has [since] passed away... It's interesting because when I first came here, Navaratri was not... part of the main festival that will pop into people's mind[s]. They'll say Divali, or something, or Holi. And to me too...but as I grew older, especi ally as my grandmother's he alth started deteriorating, I became much more interested in doing the Nava ratri, and now its just wonderful. I just love it. Tejal also noted that when she first came to the United States in 1970 to join her husband who had migrated before her, Navaratri was not one of the holidays she chose to observe and celebrate with her family. Divali had been the major holiday celebrated by her new family in the United States. As Tejal's children grew older an d her grandmother passed away, she decided to make a commitment to observe Navaratri in the way that her past female family lineage had. Once this promise was made, her mother mailed her a book from India of the necessary Sanskrit liturgy she should follow to authentically perform th is event. Tejal's mother later moved to the United States and now the two perform the event together annually. In other interviews, many women noted that these kinds of events where nostalgic performances in regards to family lineage or India in general became more important as the women grew older or as their children 55


grew older. While transmissi on of traditions to children wa s not a grave concern of this community, one might surmise that the drive an d motivation for maintenance of tradition and ritual are not static or progressive concerns. Feelings towards maintenance can change over time, and do not increase or decrease uniformly or in a linear fashion from less to more important. For Tejal, carrying on the tradition afte r her children left home was important to her, though she did not seem too concerned that her s ons would not likely continue the tradition in their own homes. Her children, now in their 30s had grown up with Nava ratri and Tejal felt it was up to them to decide whether or not to con tinue the tradition. Whether this has to do with the fact that her children are male, and for her family such traditions pass through daughters was not a subject I broached during the interview, tho ugh it would have provided an interesting insight into the generational importance of tran smission of tradition and culture among Indian communities in the United States. When I was first made aware that the havan would be taking place during Navaratri, I had assumed, based on my textbook erudition of Hindu traditions, that some kind of male priest would be performing it. These kinds of rituals ar e described as part of the ritual realm of upper class Brahmin men because they are considered to be ritual specialists. However, this was clearly not the case. The whole ritual was performed by Tejal and her mother. The only men in attendance remained at the back of the group, a location where I often found the men in reference to Navaratri rituals and events. In fact, when asked about the position of the religious professional within this particular ritual, Tejal explained that wh ile her family had a priest who would come and perform some ritu als in their home, the Navaratri havan did not require the services of a priest. Tejal said It's not like you must have a pr iest, but if youre lucky enough to have a priest, then they will do [the havan rituals]. 56


For Tejal, the havan serves as a way of connecting herself to past generations of relatives through the repeated performance of rituals. In addition to the rituals, observing other dietary restrictions and demonstrating these restrictions through a lunc heon for those who attended the havan allowed the host to perform her own sense of Gujarati-ness for those participants who may or may not have been Gujarati or familiar w ith that tradition. Al ong with the feeling of community generated through the commensality of lunch and the subsequent social hour, the ethnic and fast-observant dishes acted as a way to educate others about how Tejal performs her Gujarati-ness and Hindu-ness simultaneously during Navaratri. While this particular combination of ritual and food is locally specific, its meaning to Tejal was expressed to and received by a diverse array of regi onal identities. In this intradomestic context, Tejal's thisIndian-ness utilized familiar ac tions, language (in the form of Sans krit liturgy), and structures to both create a meaningful and au thentic religio-cultural experience for all of those present. This is another prime example of the di alectic relationship between the hosts and participants during the a special time and place during Navaratri. This havan is unique in a number of ways, yet demonstrates similar them es described in Swapna's group meeting in her home. First, it is performed by females, observed largely by females, with limited participation by males. This event was conducted complete ly by Tejal and her mother and was attended by more women than men. The men helped briefly w ith setting up for lunch, but were more or less waited upon by the other women who helped se rve lunch. Second, it is accompanied with ethnically specific representations of the Goddess in the form of the kalash bandhani cloth and coconut. Bahuchar Ma's vahana or vehicle in the form of th e rooster at a central and obvious place amongst the other ritual materials is another ex ample of how an event is held for a festival and sprinkled with details that suggest ethnic specificity while creating meaning for a wide range 57


of people. Lastly, the food offered at the conclu sion of the ritual was specific to the kinds of dietary restrictions traditionally observed by Tejal and past generations of her family. Again, the host's choices influenced the way other people part icipated in an intradomestic event. Despite these inflections of ethnically speci fic additions to the ritual, other participants noted the ritual's efficacy, suggesting that these ritu als are not so hard and fast as to exclude the possibility for flexibility in execution. Usha's Living Room Kolu In the home of the Gopalaraos, a celebration in the middle of Navaratri was held, which differed in a number of ways from the previous two examples I have provided in this chapter. 5 This sixth day of Navaratri event was held in a similarly upscale and large home in a nice area of Gainesville, like the other intradomestic locations in my research. Cars lined the street near Usha's home as nearby neighbors walked dogs and played in the yards before the early autumn sunset. As I parked my car on the street at aroun d 4pm, four or five ot her cars had also parked, their occupants exiting and walking towards the Usha home. The women wore beautiful saris in bright, shining colors typical of Kanchipuram style silk saris and the men typically wore polo or button down shirts with slacks, though one or two wore a more traditional pyjama style outfit. I removed my shoes outside and added them to th e melee of footwear near the front door and entered with a larger gr oup of arriving guests The entrance of the home led to a dining room table to the right and a living room in front to the left with couches and a coffee table. In these two rooms, part icularly around the dining room table, a group of about ten men sat and talke d, directing me toward the back of the house. I 5 As a preface to this description, I attended four other ev ents in which a specific core group of women gathered to sing bhajans and celebrate Navaratri. I have chosen to highlight this event to demonstrate the dynamic between genders which was more pronounced at the home of Usha than the other events. 58


entered a room that was part living room-part kitchen, full of people already engaged in singing bhajans Similar to the other ways people separate d spaces for other ev ents, the living room section was covered in bed sheets and comforters and individual chairs from other rooms of the house lined the back of the room near the kitchen. Some of the women present had moved the chairs to the less crowded kitchen, where tray s of food simmered and spluttered steam on the counter tops, filling the house with the smell of spices and vegetables. The living room was packed with participants, some with small children on their la ps, and some propped up against the walls or doorways, but all orienting them selves towards the center of the room. A kolu or golu in traditional South Indian style had been elaborately set up as the centerpiece of the room. In general, a kolu is a display of dolls upon richly decorated steps during Navaratri traditionally by South Indians. This kolu in the Gopalarao home cascaded from nearly five feet high, each successive st ep draped with ornate pink and red saris (presumably those colors in honor of the Goddess) and lighted with strings of colored and white lights one might find on a Christmas tree. Framed pictures of Durga and Laksmi sat at the top step, flanked by flowers and other statues of other gods and goddesse s. Five steps total, each about four to five feet wide and a foot deep, were completely covered with not only im ages of gods and goddess most often associated with the large Hindu pantheon, but also vari ous other items such as carved elephants made of various kinds of stone or wood, other carved rendering s of animals, Barbies decked out in saris and other ethnic Indian attire, other handmade dolls and small kitsch. This particular kolu was smaller than some of the other displa ys at the other even ts I attended. In some homes, the kolu was not relegated to the set of steps, but spilled over onto other pieces of furniture that were typically located in the room such as desks or ot her benches. It is interesting to note that these kolus included all kinds of statues, pictur es, dolls and general kitsch that one 59


would not neces sari ly associate with a Hindu ritual by a So uth Indian family. At one home, the kolu display included a smaller set of steps to the side of the main steps and included things like three stuffed pillows with the eyes of Jagannatha (a form of Krishna from Orissa). Also for this particular display, several sets of Matryoshka dolls (the Russian style of dolls that nest inside one another) were placed in order based on size upon a nearby roll top desk. In general, the number of steps varied at the different houses and th e amount of ornamentation and materials placed on the steps varied also. Each home decorated its kolu depending on the possessions of the family, and while each included similar elements of re presentations of deitie s, the focal points and highlighted deities place in loca tions of prominence also differed depending on the family. The reason for five steps was attributed in one inte rview with Sumathi that an odd number of steps was the norm, whether it was five, seven, nine a nd so on. Everything... we want it to multiply. By giving it an odd number we are saying it will grow [It is] something that will grow on, said Sumathi. At the bottom level on the floor, vases of glad iolas in bright pinks and purples and potted mums sat at both ends of the steps, an arrangemen t of flowers that seemed to increase with every new guest that arrived. In the cen ter on the floor was a silver plate about a foot or so in diameter, with a small ghee lamp and flower petals strewn about it which remained at that place until the arati performance. I took a seat in one of the ch airs at the back, next to a group of women who were already sitting and singing. Behind me, four men sat in chairs, their knees pressed against the backs of the chairs in front of them. The area set apar t by bed sheets and comforte rs in the living room was brimming with people, yet somehow as new guests arrived the group seemed to condense further toward the front of the room. L ooking around at the group sitting on the floor, I 60


recognized several women who attended other events, both North and South Indian. While clothing is not necessari ly the best marker of presumed ethnicity, nearly all the women wore saris, with the exception of a few women who had previously identified themselves as North Indian at Swapna's house wearing salwar kameez s. Nearest the kolu and on the side with the drone emitting its monotone sounds, the leader of the group I had seen a week ago at a practice meeting for Navaratri singing sat in a beautiful blue silk sari her books and notes in front of her, lead ing the core group in the songs they had practiced in their last few weekly meetings. At this event, like three other events I attended that were hosted by the core members of this group of mainly South Indian women, songs were sung by this weekly meeting prarthana group. This group was started by Sumathi and was inspired to do so by her mother. Sumathi said the group was small at the beginning and she only intended to teach her close friends some of the music and slokas she knew. Surprisingly a few people first started coming. [They said] 'Yes I want to learn, I want to lear n!' and they told their friends. You wouldn't believe in this group, people speaking different languages have come. It's amazing how a common thread has just tied us together. Something links us together. In this group, comprised of such a diverse group of women fr om all different areas of South India, many different languages are represented that use different scripts and alphabets. Because of this, Sumathi provides the words to the slokas in both Tamil and English, or advises the participants to view certain websites so th ey can transcribe the words into their own language and script. During the practice session I attended earlier in September mentioned at the beginning of the first chapter of this thesis, several people passed around s ongs to others who spoke a similar language and did not have the lyrics and others copied songs by hand in to their own language from the English transliteration in order to pa rticipate as a group. Despite these linguistic 61


differences, Sumathi says It's amazing. And at l east the feedback that I have received from them is very good. They say, 'Oh every Monday I l ook forward to those classes. That is time for myself. I get away from my work all the tensi on and stress. I come and sit there and relax and get out of the [house].' In this group, with its weekly meetings and Navaratri performances, the meetings also serve a second purpose, like many of these events, of providing a special place and time to be many things at once, a simultane ity impossible during day to day life. Once this group had performed its repertoire of songs, others were invited to sing, including the children and young adu lts in attendance. Here, as at other events, a few children sat next to their music teacher, Sita, who was also a part of the prarthana group and a frequent attendant of other South Asian performing arts events put on by UF. During an interview with Sumathi's daughter, Jaya, she noted that as a child she had always been asked to sing at these events. I always wondered why do they do this when you're little because you're really shy. They'll be like, 'Sing a song! Sing a song!' and I'm like, 'Why do I have to sing a song? What is going to come from me singing a song?' Girls are just expected to sing a song. So... you have to, even if you don't know [any songs], you're expected to know and so you're expected to sing. And that's why girls are also put in these classes for singing when they're little and da nce [classes too]. Once the children had sung with the guidance of Sita, a box of purple, yellow and green folders was brought by a man sitting in the other room and the contents were distributed around the room. There were not enough folders for every participant, so many pe ople shared with their neighbors. At this time, more men from the ot her room joined the group in the kitchen/living room and sang along with the songs from the fold ers. The songs in these folders were typed completely in English transliteration a nd were part of a larger Gainesville bhajan group that included both men and women. I note this to show the contrast in contents of the folder, not only linguistically but also organizationally. The other folders provided at the homes of Swapna and 62


Tejal contained a mixture of typed songs and handwritten songs, often in multiple languages depending on the group who compiled the folders. Here, one can surmise from the typed, organized, and Sanskritized conten ts that the co-ed Gainesville bhajan group was aiming to reach a larger, more general audience. In the smaller, gender specific groups, more specific ethnic identities were displayed through the choice of songs and languages employed, although not all participants were familiar with all the so ngs and languages. Here, in this intradomestic context, a more gender-inclusive event took place, though women comprised an overwhelming majority of participants as opposed to men. After about an hour of singing by the prarthana group and children and another half hour of singing from the Gainesville bhajan group folders, the host of the event and her husband began the arati that concluded ever y ritual event. Arati seemed to serve as the temporal break between the religious entertainment for th e gods and goddesses and the more social entertainment for the human participants in the even ts. In this event, like the other three events I attended with a majority of South Indians in at tendance, the husband of the host moved from the back of the venue to the front when the arati began. The husband and wife hosts were the first to offer the flame to the deities on the kolu while the rest of the participants sang the now familiar song associated with arati After the hosts completed their tu rn, the other part icipants who had risen at the beginning of the arati pressed towards the front of the room to have their own turn. Again, several women who recognized me from the other events encouraged me to participate, especially the woman in the seat next to me. Once the men and women had sifted through one another to the front of the room and sang the arati song for the duration of the event, the arati was concluded and again there was one who br ought the flame on the plate around to all the participants who were now scatte red throughout the house. The very end of the religious part 63


of the gathering was a bit chaotic, with pe ople milling around, hugging friends, flitting from the kitchen to the porch outside the side living room to set up tables of food. Many retired to the dining room to escape the heat and the push of the crowd in the kitchen/living room. People began to leave once they had eaten food and made the rounds of greeting and speaking with friends and acquaintances, some bri nging small plastic containers of food home to children or other family members who could not attend. Overwhelmed by the nearly 50 people in attendance, I made my way to the door to speak with a young woman who was offering a plate with red kumkum powder and yellow turmeric pow der to the female guests who were leaving. I asked her if she was related to th e hosts as a daughter or niece. She replied that she was not related, but that she had known the family growing up and they asked her to offer these materials to the guests because such an act was auspicious The accumulation of these auspicious acts, she said, was supposed to bring her a good husband in the future. She noted that she was an undergraduate student in the sc iences, a fact she claimed was stereotypical of young IndianAmerican women her age. She wondered if sh e could find a husband at her young age of 20 and if such a marriage could last these days at such a young age, a concern she voice after she divulged the auspicious reasons for her post at th e door. This UF student, also involved in the ISA, HSC and other Indian-style dance teams at the university, was introduced to this community by way of UF and other academic connec tions. Her relationship with the Gopalaraos shows that the social networks I obs erved in Gainesville were not neces sari ly exclusive to 50 year old women whose families were associated with UF. While this demographic was certainly more pronounced than younger generations of females, the intradomestic network included students of Indian American and Indian origin as well. 64


As I stood near the door, a woman named Kamal, who had previously identified herself as North Indian and a local teacher of Hindi to some of the area's children, came over with Usha as the former was preparing to leave the event. Usha, taking the plate of kumkum and turmeric from Arti, the young woman at the door, turned to Kamal and went to apply some of the red powder to Kamals forehead. At this time, Kama l said Do you mind if I do this? This is how we do it where I come from. Usha smiled and nodded at the request. Kamal then applied the powders in various ways to Usha's forehead, quietly mouthing some words I did not hear or understand. Once this was completed, the two bid each other goodbye, and Usha turned her attention to me. She asked how I had enjoye d the evening while handing me a paper bag containing a tangerine, two chocol ates and a mini Snickers bar. 6 Then, reiterating the young girl's purpose for offering the kumkum and turmeric powder as an auspicious honor, she touched her ring finger to the kumkum powder and impressed it on my forehead, telling me that she hoped I also found a good husband soon. I smiled at her as Arti suppressed a giggle, then left to put on my shoes outside and leave. This anecdote further exhibits a situation where participants of events use these intradomestic contexts as pla ces to teach each other different ways of being. The practice of offering kumkum and turmeric po wder was described by Sumathi and Jaya as a typical South Indian practice. At this event, these same materials were offered to a woman who identified herself as North Indian. At the junc ture of two regional iden tities, Kamal and Usha performed and played audience to different ways of being. Tension did not seem to result from this dialectic situation. Here, as I noted in the first chapter, di stinctions between the cultural and 6 This small parting gift was similarly given in the other three events I attended of South Indian style. At one event, I received a small plastic container with autumn leaves on the outside and a banana and a dual packet of turmeric and kumkum powders inside. At another event, I receive d a Halloween orange bag containing a mini Milky Way bar and an apple. At all three events, I was told that this was prasad that had been previously offered to the goddess and that I must take some home with me before leaving the event. Acquisition and consumption of prasad was an emphasis at several events, especially at the Gujarati Samaj Garba event that will be described in the following pages. 65


religious dimensions of this s ituation seem ambiguous at best. Neither Kamal nor Usha stopped to dissect the religious ramifi cations of either's actions, nor did the women examine how Kamals request fit within what was regionally pr acticed by Usha's family. Participating in the mutually educating situation seemed to be th e focus of many of these events. Because of situations like these, suggesting that events such as those during Navaratri are either religious or cultural leaves out a very important point: religion and culture are not mutually exclusive to the participants of the events. Religion and culture are not a binary pair in which one can dominate the other at a given event. As demonstrated in the case of Kamal and Us ha, an exchange of both religion and culture took place simultaneously, or, to riff on Catherine Bell, multiply at the same time. What is religious and what is cultural about an event are elusive categories not even articulated by participants themselves and create problematic pitfalls for academic analysis. One might better ask Kamal and Usha, what is South I ndian or North Indian about what they do or perhaps frame the question in terms of gender. These categories of identity and understanding are much more prevalent and visually expressed than any sense of relig ion or culture during Navaratri. Throughout this event, an interesting dynamic be tween genders was present that was not as well highlighted at the other events I attended. My research show ed in nearly every event that participation by males in an intradomestic contex t was rare or less populous than participation by women. When men were present, th ey rarely, if ever, sat on the floor or near the front of the group. They almost always sat at the back of the group or in an entirely different room. Men mostly participated in events during the arati or by leading prayers or slokas in certain homes. Very few young adult men attended the events I ob served, and when one was present it was only at the time when food was served. One young boy participated as a singer in two events, 66


accompanied by his teacher Sita, though once his singing was completed he left the room or moved to the back to play with the other ch ildren in another part of the house. While my research self-consciously concerns women's roles and expressions of ethnic, gendered and religious identities, it does so not only as a decontextual ized abstraction of woman but also partially as a comparison. Admittedly, I did not interview any men for this research and focused my attention during events on what I perceived to be the locations of action. However, certain trends arose and several interviews verbalized th ese trends as specific to men's participation in social and religious events. Generally, the men did not participate during this festival of nine nights. In interviews, the women provided several reasons for this. Jaya said, I feel like men are...more...inwardly pious. They say everything to themselves but they'll still go about their business. But I feel like women like do [the] si nging and sharing. It's a community thing and they like to do it together. Swapna claimed that these kinds of events w ith a mix of religiosity and socializing were more of a woman's thing... Most men might not have the tendency to want to sit through that kind of chanting and bhajan and kirtan Their attention span is less. [They are] a lot more fidgety. Tejal noted a few tim es during her interview that her husband did not participate in many events and noted he was not fond of the ritualistic nature of the events. From this, and observations in my research, it would not be incorrect to note the perceived role of men within Navaratri in Gainesville as passive participants, if they participate at all. Several women noted that the weekly meetings and group get-to gethers for Navaratri were a women's thing though none mentioned any connection between wo men's participation an d the Goddess-central worship of Navaratri's nine nigh ts. Women also noted that Nava ratri in general was a femalecentered holiday in India in which women invite other women in their own name, rather than in 67


the name of the family or their husbands. Th e women are the ones who hold parties and perform ceremonies or sing songs for the Goddess. Theref ore, the interplay between genders at Ushas home is an observation worth noting. The conspi cuous participation of women in Gainesville, intraand extradomestically, may be seen to be so mewhat continuous with the practices in India. The male participation, on the other hand, seems to be a diasporic ritual innovation. While men were not ubiquitously present at these events, their periodic participation in arati and occasional participation in singing bhajans amongst a co-ed group suggests that men are occupying a relatively new space within Navaratri. Unfortunate ly, the relationship of gender to Navaratri, in India or the United States, remains to be pub lished although these brief observations suggest further research would prove fruitful in understand ing male participation in Navaratri as well as providing more nuance for female participation. GSG and ISA Garba Garbha or garbhi means womb in Sanskrit, represen tative of the association of the feminine with shakti or power. In the first chapter, I di scussed some of the textual precedent for the stories of the Goddess performed and displaye d during Navaratri in which the power of the Goddess is essential for saving the world. The gods cannot complete the tasks that Devi does in her manifold forms. The garba dance is centered around a powe rful and creative image of the Goddess in the form of a garbha or garbhi : a pot with holes in it so that the light inside can shine and be seen. This vessel form of the G oddess present may be thought of as a sort of axis mundi for participants in the garba because it is the central image to which all the dancers orient themselves. The form is perhaps both iconic and aniconic. If Devi is the embodiment of power and creative force within the uni verse (among her infinite other qualities), the representation of the Goddess as a vessel or a womb is iconic in the sense that it represents Devis power and function. At the same time, other forms of the divi ne feminine are used during Navaratri, such as 68


Durga as Mahishasura Mardini, which some mi ght characterize as the iconic image of Devi rather than her form as a pot. Both of these forms were used at the two different garbas I attended. The sense of each forms status as either iconic or aniconic played a part in its use by the group sponsoring the garba. Garba is the general term for the dance that ta kes place during the nights of Navaratri, though a garba might take place for other auspicious events such as a wedding or some other holiday. In the Indian cont ext, as Tejal explained, garba is a Gujarati thing. Described as a Gujarati womens folk dance, garba is a dance dedicated to the Goddess in which women dance around the form of Devi to the rhythm of devotiona l music. As Mio notes, this dance began as a locally specific performance to a locally specific representation of the Goddess. As a village dance, songs, dance steps and function of the garba was transmitted on a local scale. Later, as garbas became more popular in India and other groups began to sponsor them (and thus influence the practice of them), the devotional music in praise to the Goddess gave way to popular music from Bollywood movies and popular, non-devotional sources (Mio 2008:1-3). Despite the regionally specific origin of th e community-style dance, many Indians and Indian-Americans from all different regions participate in garbas during Navaratri in the United States. Many Indian and Indian American high school and college students in Gainesville participate in garbas as far away as Jacksonville or Orlando during the weekends surrounding the time of Navaratri. Many people I talk ed to made it a point to tell me which garba was the best based on size of the venue, the music play ed, and the ability of the participants to collectively dance. The larger the venue, the more people are able to participate, though more participants may lead to more confusion on the dance floor. 69


The dance itself typically takes place in a larg e venue to accommodate the large number of participants who dance in vari ous degrees of complexity aro und an image of the Goddess in some form in the center of the venue. The HSC garba, for instance, took place at the ICEC and participants noted that about 50 pe ople participated in 2008. The ISA garba, on the other hand, took place at the OConnell Center, home to UFs basketball team among other sporting events, and likely had more than 500 participants at any one time. The central form of the Goddess as a pot or as Durga or a general picture of Devi, depending on the location of the garba and the group that sponsors it, may have an arati performed before it. After arati or a short break in dancing, the dandiya raas takes place which is also a region al kind of dance involving two rows of participants facing each other, wielding wooden or metal sticks and specific dance steps. In the American context and in the case of the ISA, after an hour (or more) of raas the bhangra or Punjabi style music and dance may take place. Bhangra is not typically a part of a garba in the Indian context. Bhangra is a kind of fusion music with root s in classical Indian music styles especially in Punjab in what is now India and Pakistan. At the ISA garba I attended, bhangra involves a leader of sorts who si ngs slow sections of a song and speaks to the crowd as they sit on the floor. At irregular intervals of slow singing and pauses, the leader then breaks into quick paced music at which point the crowd jumps up and dances by jumping in the air or employing various Bollywood dance moves in time with the music. This lively music then slows down again and the leader asks the crowd to sit, ofte n not continuing until everyone is seated on the floor. This kind of bhangra is not necessarily representative of all forms of bhangra (e.g. bhangra is at once a style of music as well as dan ce, it has regional variations as well as diasporic variations, it is utilized by varied ethnic groups and is not limited to Punjabi people, etc), though many participants noted that the music was bhangra though the way people danced, 70


with the slow singing and pauses, was not a part of all kinds of bhangra. Truly an event that is difficult to describe with words, garba in America is in general a dance where many kinds of Indians get together for va rious purposes, some social and some religious. I attended two local garbas, one sponsored solely by the Gujarati Samaj of Gatorland (henceforth GSG) and another partially sponsored by this group and hosted by the ISA at UF. I was unable to obtain any information regarding the GSG as they organize through email groups, word of mouth and do not have a public website. Contact information was not readily available. The ISA of UF, on the other hand, is a univers ity-funded group in which foreign and domestic Indian and Indian-American students participate. The garba sponsored by ISA is one of three major events that the group presents during the a cademic year. The other two, also associated with Hindu yet Pan-Indian religious holidays, are a talent show for the holiday of Divali which is held shortly after Navaratri and a spring festival for Holi. The two garbas were sponsored in part by the same group and were held at equally la rge, extradomestic venues and thus were very similar. However, the structure of the events di ffered in a few key ways. Because of this, I will describe the two events at the same time, noti ng the comparative differences between them. The GSG garba took place at the Martin Luther King Community Center in the northeastern part of Gainesvill e on the Friday and Saturday ni ghts during Navaratri. At the Friday night event, I estimated there were upwar ds of three hundred peop le in attendance, though more in total could have attended since people could come and go as they pleased. There were clearly more female than male participants in the actual da ncing, though many men sat in the plastic chairs and bleachers that were set up in the MLK Center gym where the garba took place. The event was free for all participants. No one counted the people who entered so exact numbers of participants were unavailable. This group, as participants of the GSG and ISA garbas told 71


me, was in communication with other Indian and Hindu groups on the UF campus so that each group could schedule its own garba and prevent an overlap in scheduling. I attended this garba with a close friend named Aditi and her high school aged sister. There were very few non-Indian participants at this event in comparison to the ISA garba. I speculate that this is due to the ethnic sponsorship and self-c onscious religiosity of the event as well as its lack of public advertising. The ISA garba was held at the OConnell Center on the UF campus, where other public events such as sporting events and concerts took place. This event took place two weeks later than the GSG garba and not within the nine night period of Navaratri. My estimates suggest that this event was twice the size of the GSG event. I also attended this garba with Aditi and her sister, as well as another friend named Razia. Razia and several other people I met at these events made it a point to tell me that they were not Hindu. Razia identified herself as Ismaili, a kind of Shia Islam, though she di d not see her a ttendance at the garba to conflict with her religious identity. She noted it was a social event and way for her to hang out with her other Indian and Indian-American frie nds. The relationship between garba and Ismailis is not, however, without historical precedent. Songs sung during the garba were originally called garbi s, the same term that was described earlier as the form of the Goddess as a pot with holes in it. The work of Tazim Kassam (19 94) describes the convergence of the garbis sung during Navaratri with a narrative by Pir Shams, a Satpanth Ismaili preacher from sometime between the 12th and 14th centuries. The Ismaili garbis of Pir Shams are folk songs that concern conversion from Hinduism to the Satpanth or true path (Kassam 1994: 106). During Pir Shams travels, he stops at a town that is celebra ting Navaratri. During the course of the festival, Pir Shams sings his own garbis in an attempt to convert the Hi ndu festival revelers around him. 72


Utilizing similar musical tones and tropes, Pir Shams garbis convince the Brahmins who chant the Vedas at the event that Pir Sh ams is a saint. News of Pir Shams songs of wisdom travel far and wide, converting kings and kingdoms to the Ismaili doctrines set forth in the garbis (Kassam 1994: 106-107). This is not necessa rily the reason why an Ismaili woman in Gainesville might considerer a garba as religiously acceptable, it does demonstrate how utilizing similar elements of a common cultural milieu can be used to make meaning and achieve certain goals. Because the garba was not portrayed to be specifically religious and it still involved a great deal of language, clothing and other cultural elements relevant to Razias identity, this garba, like the garbis of Pir Shams, were perceived by ma ny to be acceptable and meaningful, despite the popular association of garba or garbis specifically with Hinduism. Another participant who was also a friend of Ad iti, named Dinesh, repeatedly told me that he attended garba for fun and that it had absolutely nothi ng to do with religi on. He declared himself an atheist, and when I asked him if I could later interview him, he said, Why would you want to ask me anything? Im an atheist. I don t think I can help with your research, really. While it was not possible for me to dis cern numbers of people who viewed ISA garba as a religious event and who did not, these examples show that there are many ways of interpreting the purpose of garba and utilize it as a space to take part in and create for themselves facets of their own identities. Because of the extradomestic context of these events, larger pan-Indianness becomes emphasized over ethnically or religiously specific identities. As identified in the context of other events clothing serves as a marker for the public display of identities that can include gender and ethnicity. Garba is no exception. Clothing inscribes the body in a very visual way, and many participants view garba as a chance to inscribe their bodies with multiple meanings: gender, soci al status, ethnicity, religiosity and more. At 73


this event, most female participants wear a chaniya choli which consists of a half-shirt blouse, a floor length and large belle d skirt with a matching scarf that is draped in a certain way from front to back across the right shoulder. This scarf is draped in a way that is similar to the way saris are draped by many women in Gujarat. This outfit is often less a marker of regional identity than social status, since females with very diverse regional heritages wear thes e outfits. The materials and ornamentation of the chaniya choli are often times indicative of the wealth or status of the wearer. Some participants wore highly bejeweled and brightly colored chaniya choli that seemed to represent the current height of fashion for garba. I asked some participants whose dress seemed to be more ornate why they had chos en that particular outfit. Many of them noted that they were wearing something they had purchas ed on their most recent trip to India. The opulence of these outfits seemed to convey economic and social st atus in suggesting the wearer could afford both the expense of the glamorous dr ess as well as the trip to India required to obtain it. Other participants wore a less expens ive cotton or viscose version in the bandhani style (a kind of tie-dye ) typical of Gujarat or Rajasthan. Some of the women who attended the North Indian event earlier in the week wore salwar kameez suits or georgette saris rather than the chaniya choli, though the choice of clothi ng was not only separated by ethnic lines. I noticed that the younger female participants, high school and college age, wore a chaniya choli while older participants, mothers and other observers wore saris or salwar kameez. Though there were always exceptions to this rough rule, genera tional differences seemed to mark the major differences in clothing rather than ethnic in this extradomestic context as opposed to intradomestic contexts. Male participants displayed th e greatest amount of diversit y of clothing, some wearing a long kurta over a pair of jeans or matching pyjama pants. The kurtas were in all colors of cotton 74


and silk, some ornately embroidered and some plain. Some men wore jeans and button down shirts. The majority of older, non-college age ma le participants, especially the men who sat in chairs on the side lines of the dancing or who c ongregated in an anteroom to the main dancing room, wore polo shirts or button down shirts and sl acks. Most of these men did not participate in the garba portion of the event, with s lightly more taking part in the raas Men's participation was low and many stood on the sidelines, arms fo lded, and engaged in co nversation with other non-dancing men. Similar to other events, males and females seemed to mostly segregate themselves along gendered lines, though garba's sheer numbers and diversity of extradomestic networks made it difficult to ascertain the ratio of female to male participation. Further statistical investigation may shed light on whether garba is a location of greater gender diversity in comparison to the intradomestic events I attended. The events began in the evening, after 7pm, and lasted until midnight or 1am. When I arrived at both of these events, the garba dancing portions of the evening had begun. Partial circles of mostly young women had formed around the centers of the floors, dancing counterclockwise. As the nights continued, more and mo re dancers joined, fill ing in the spaces and creating progressively larger circles around the center. The GSG event possessed fewer participants since the MLK Cent er is significantly smaller than the OConnell Center, though the crush of participants in the dancing seemed equally as intense. Aditi told me that she preferred the ISA garba music to the GSG event because the former had a live band brought directly from India, who sang live versions of some of her fa vorite Bollywood songs. She also noted that the GSGs set of music did not follow the pa ttern she remembered from previous garba s. Usually they play one song in Hindi and then one song in Gu jarati and keep alternating like that. But this guy is just playing whatever. Again, we can see in this statement the im print of importance of 75


language and structure on an event through the performance of music and language in order for it to make meaning and tradition. The most striking difference in structure be tween these two events occurred when the garba section was completed. Like other events described previously in the chapter, arati serves as a temporal break between entertainment for th e object of worship and the more social aspects of events. One might also say that arati serves a similar function during garba where the initial dancing is oriented towards the Goddess in the center of the dance floor and the raas has a much more social feel as it is sp atially oriented in two lines wh ich wind around and break apart at random in on the dance floor. The raas is not oriented toward any deity, but rather at the co-ed lines of dancers. The GSG garba had a table in the center of its dance floor, where arati took place in a similar manner to the arati s previously described. A pict ure of Durga as Mahishasura Mardini was placed on one side of the table facing the DJ and a large brass icon of Durga stood on the other side. All kinds of sweets that had been made by various members of the GSG were set in front of the icon that would eventu ally be served in an outer room as prasad from the Goddess. A man with a microphone gave some instru ctions in Gujarati and then led a prayer. I moved with the crowd towards the side of the table with the ic on of Durga as the larger group recited the prayer together. Th en, the man took up the silver pl atter of lighted ghee lamps and signaled the larger group to sing the familiar song sung during arati. Some members of the crowd pushed through the congestion of onlookers to have their own turn waving the lamp. Others went to the table to pl ace offerings of money in front of Durga. When the song ended, the crowd dispersed, the money wa s collected and counted, and the prasad was moved to an outer room for participants to ta ke. A line quickly formed outside this room as volunteers fixed 76


up small plastic bowls of grapes, raisins, M&Ms and Hershey kisses that were white, strawberry and milk chocolate along with other homemade sweets. The ISA garba was indeed much different at the end of the initial garba dance. The president and vice presid ent of ISA made announcements and the live band was introduced. Then the band took a break and some Bollywood mu sic was piped through the speakers from an iPod. After a ten-minute break, the raas section began and then was almost immediately followed by the bhangra section. Strikingly absent was the arati When I asked former ISA president Suniti why there was no arati at this garba she responded: We have to keep our [events] non-religious, so [the executive board] decided to completely take the religion out of them Were student government funded. Its a money issue is what it is. Its not that we dont embrace our religion or want to express it, but its that we cant because of the way we get our funding. She went on to say that in previous years, the ISA attempted to collaborate with other cultural groups in Gainesville, like the GSG, so that they could pool resources to rent the OConnell Center for two nights instead of one. However, the GSG chose not to pursue this. Suniti said this was because: There was no religious aspect [at the ISA garba], [the GSG] doesnt technically view what we do as substantial enough to count, so they wanted to do their ow n. It wouldnt have flown with the community to just have done two ISA garbas at the [OConnell Center] without any kind of religious affiliation. Theyre lik e, Thats not what this holiday is about. She said that some people wanted to keep the arati but because ISA is a cultural association and not a religious one, catering to one religious tradition defeats the purpose of ISAs existence and mission. Such an observance would be unfair to the other Indian stud ents whose religious identity was Muslim or Christian. In another interview, Tejal noted that she did not attend the ISA garba because of its lack of arati : 77


I heard about that and I said, Well whats the point? If were in Navaratri, then you have to do arati To me, it makes no sense to do garba and then no arati I mean even when we do garba for somebodys wedding and all, we still do arati because its so linked with Ambaji. So I didnt want to go and do just garba. I wanted to do the arati so I went to this other one [at the ICEC put on by the HSC]. It is clearest from these quotes that the difference in events and the contents of the events suggests intraand extradomestic events provide spaces for the fulfillment of different niches of an individual's identity. For the former IS A president and many ISA members at UF, the importance of garba is to include as many Indians and Indi an-Americans as possible. For Tejal, the emphasis of the garba is to perform religious identiti es and duties for the Goddess. As a side note to the ISA's lack of arati located at the center of the floor at this garba was an interesting centerpiece. Despite the self-conscious effort to remove all religious aspects of the ISA garba, an aniconic image of the Goddess was part of this celebra tion. Like the Punjabi and Gujarati Navaratri events descri bed earlier, the Goddess was present at ISA in the form of a pot upon a holder with a metal coconut on top. This was cordoned off as a special space in the middle of the floor. This was the object to whic h the dancers oriented themselves. When I asked participants what they thought of the centerpiece, most replied W hat centerpiece? There wasn't an icon in there. That's not allowed. I was not able to find out furthe r information about this curious location of the Goddess, but we can see here, too, how the host(s) of an event can use culturally significant themes to circumvent normative protocol, in this case required by UF for financial reasons, in order to generate meaning for those in the know. Outsiders without this special knowledge or understandin g of the preexisting cultural repertoire would likely not find fault with the (an)iconic image of the divine feminine. The rest of the two evenings pro ceeded in similar fashion after the arati/ nonarati break, with weaving lines of raas dancers shifting partners, hitting thei r sticks together in time with the music. Since a live band at the ISA garba played the music, the tempo of the raas dances 78


increased over time, each song slightly faster than the last. Towards the end of the ISA raas section of dance, many couples had dropped out of the lines because they could not keep up with the ever-quickening pace. The GSG raas remained at largely the same tempo since its music was generated by a DJ and a computer full of Bolly wood music. I was not able to stay until the end of the GSG garba because Aditi, who drove me to the event, had to leave. I was able to stay at the ISA garba, which included an ending section of bhangra music and dance. Once this was completed, the participants found their friends and family members, collected their shoes and the sticks they had used during the raas and left the building. Some pa rticipants, mostly members of ISA, remained behind to help clean up, break down the chairs and tables that had been set up at the sides of the gym, and help pick up the pieces of broken glass bracelet s that littered the dance floor. A few participants remained on the bleacher s that had been pulled out on the west side of the room, nursing their feet which were wounded from tiny pieces of broken bracelets and blisters from the intense four hours of dancing. Conclusion These five events described in this chapter on ly scrape the surface of the diversity of ways that the Indians in Gainesville celebrate Navaratri. One might initially assume that events such as these follow certain ritual or traditional lines that promote and sustain a previously determined ritual pattern. However, we can see a great deal of individual choice bearing its weight on the performance of these rituals as well as a great deal of ritual innovation. Bell's understanding of the fluid nature of ritualized pe rformance helps us reconcile the complex interactions of ritual action and identities that weigh in during Na varatri among diverse groups of people. The Punjabi bhajan group demonstrates the way in which the ethnic and religious identities of the host provide the group with a different religious di mension. It followed what is typically done in a North Indian and specifically Punjabi worshi p context, and yet inco rporated the individual 79


religiosity of the host through th e CD-led prayer and her self-c onscious offering of food to Ram instead of Durga. The Gujarati havan is an interesting intersection of ethnic and familial-specific observance and material culture with gender-norm iconoclasm. The South Indian group showed how gendered participation differed within intradomestic networks not only through composition of the event but the way in which par ticipation was promoted through singing bhajans rendered with an English alphabet. Garba illustrated how extradomestic contexts can take ethnically specific practices and transform them into more encompassing activities in which it is more important to be pan-Indian than this-Indian. It also was a striki ng display of how clothing and adornment of the body are used to inscribe meaning for the self and for others. The immense diversity of practices and concepts duri ng these five events will be examined in the next chapter where I will make theoretical suggestions for ways to interpre t this complex set of data. 80


CHAPTER 3 ANALYSIS Introduction In the preceding chapter, I described five even ts that I classify as both intradomestic and extradomestic situations and locatio ns of social network. This project seeks mainly to show that the rituals that take place for Navaratri are dynamic creations in which a great deal of tradition is observed alongside a great deal of ritual innovation. Tradi tions and rituals are neither uniformly nor universally replicated across time a nd space. While these ideas may remain static in the imagination of performers, the ritualization of these con cepts provides new and different outcomes each time the ritual is performed. Navaratr i in Gainesville, Florida, is a prime example of the multiplicity of ways a holiday or festival can be celebrated. There are events where a localized understanding of iden tity is performed or learned about and other events where a localized kind of performance helps centralize the larger population. Ritu alizing these different events creates several places and times where pe ople can participate in various capacities. Research examining populations of Indian/I ndian Americans in a non-urban context like Gainesville is rare. These populations have not followed the rubric of te mple creation that many other populations of Indi an/Indian Americans have in urban centers in the past. Without the institution, a great deal of creativity and effo rt on the part of Gain esvilles Indian/Indian American population has generate d a diverse array of ways to celebrate Navaratri, each one serving as a place for people to perform their iden tities, but also learn other ways of being as well. Strategic choices on the part of the indi vidual, as well as the community in larger extradomestic contexts, create events that simulta neously create meaning for participants as well as adapting the sense of ritual and tradition so th at Navaratri can be appr opriately observed in the United States. 81


In this chapter, I will bring the events descri bed in the second chapter together to compare and contrast the way in which elements of et hnicity, gender and religion are important when studying Navaratri as a ritual time. I suggest th at while Gainesvilles population is unique for several reasons outlined in the first chapter, the processes and techniques utilized by this community may be found at work elsewhere in the United States and beyond. The people and events are by no means representa tive of a category of people as a whole (e.g. all Indians or all Hindus in America do this or that), but are demo nstrative of the divers ity of approaches to Navaratri that arise in a diasporic context like the United States. Also in this chapter, I will make suggestions for ways in which this body of research can be further augmented and pursued that would shed light on inte resting topics mentioned by not examined in detail in this work. As in any proj ect, this body of research is neither complete nor finished, only scratching the surface of what it is that people do. Bell and Ritualization In the first chapter, I briefly outlined the way in which Catherine Bell's approach to rituals has informed the way I view the events I observe d. However, there is much more that Bell's approach can say to help understand the way people create and use pro cesses (consciously and subconsciously) in the construc tion of intraand extradomestic rituals during Navaratri. The beginning of Bell's Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice outlines the history of how ritual has been theoretically understood. From the very beginning of religion as a category, ritual has been described as the active kind of religion, its perfect expre ssion. She notes that Durkheim's sense of ritual was a collectiv e action where a community makes meaning and understands its beliefs through act ion (1992: 20). However, the majority of Bell's discourse attempts to remove this focus on the thought/ac tion dichotomy that bleeds into belief/ritual 82


associated with religion. Throughout Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, Bell repeatedly uses ritualization as a term for the active process rath er than using ritual as a static category. She notes that ritual is an idea, a concept cultura lly created and maintained based on an almost Geertzian web of meaning. R itualization, on the other hand, is Bell's way of suggesting how acting ritually emerges as a particular cultural strategy of differentiati on linked to particular social effects and rooted in a distinctive interplay of a socialized body and the environment it structures (1992: 7-8). Despite her refreshing approach to u nderstanding action and thought as not mutually exclusive concepts to ritual or ritualization, Bell's approach is not devoid of criticism. Ronald Grimes has critiqued Bell's ritualizatio n of action as a reif ied concept in which people have no agency (2004). Throughout Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice Bell speaks of ritualization as a process that can be defined as something that creates distinctions and hierarchies of action to separate a special time from an every da y time or situation. It is a process based on culturally relevant notions of hierarchies. Bell discusses ritualization as a process which does things in and of itself, ac ting of its own accord and forcing itself upon people in general. Grimes rightly notes that, it is strange that someone who emphasizes strategic purpose would eliminate ritual actors-those who stra tegize-in such a way that actions themselves are imagined as doing the distinguishing (2004 : 127). Indeed it is interesting that the vocabulary Bell uses to explain her take on ritual as a concep t and as an action suggests ritualization is a sort of sui generis process in which people are completely absent. On the other hand, if one takes into account her article enti tled Performance (1998) the two sources in tandem provide interesting ways to understand how and why people create and imagine authenticity while exerting their own power ove r rituals that take pl ace during Navaratri. 83


Differentiation of Ritualization Bell notes that ritualiz ed action is differentiated from non-ritual action. Ri tuals are times and places that are distinctive or set apart from re gular everyday life. This view may suggest that ritual is a kind of social behavi or, and that consequently all fo rms of social behavior can be viewed as ritualized actions. This leaves the door wide open for interpretation and creates theoretical dilemmas for the scholar. What doe s and does not constitute ritual if the above statements are taken as one's basic thesis? Bell cl aims that such a question may arise, but a slight change of focus makes the approach much more a pplicable and academically fruitful: instead of finding what is and is not to be considered r itual action, one should de termine the particular circumstances and cultural strategies that genera te and differentiate activ ities from each other (Bell 1992: 74). Contextu alizing rituals and understanding ho w it is that people go about the creative ritualization pro cess ought to be the true aim of ritu al studies. Understanding how and why Navaratri is celebrated as di versely as it is in Gainesville relies on contextualizing not only what actually happens, but how people as agents di fferentiate the holiday from every day life and associate it with their sense of how Na varatri is traditionally celebrated. Ritualizing action creates a privileged distinction between mundane, or even Durkheimian profane, actions and rituals that ha ve an inherent higher status than non-ritual actions (1992: 90). Ritualized actions are not only differentiated themselves, but employ strategies to create differences that are culturally relative (1992: 101). Bell uses the example of the Christian Eucharist as an example. The Euch arist is set apart from the average meal by its less than adequate amount of food, the lack of accessibility to laypers ons and the privileged position of the clergy in this action, and the co mmensality of its performance by a congregation of members create a sense that the Eucharist is a completely different ki nd of meal altogether. Bell says: 84


Theoretically, ritualization of the meal coul d employ a different set of strategies to differentiate it from conventional eating, such as holding the meal only once in a person's lifetime or with too much food for normal nour ishment. The choice of strategies would depend in part on which ones could most effectively render the meal symbolically dominant to its conventi onal counterparts (1992: 90). The Eucharist is a strategic selection of qualiti es which move it from the everyday to a more distinct realm by utilizing specific culturally relevant themes and ways of being to produce meaning among those familiar with the cultural cont ext. The food itself, the regularity of its presentation to participants, the manner in whic h the Eucharist is distributed, who has access to this special meal and other consid erations are a part of the ritual ized action that mean something to those participating in the Eucharist itsel f. Without knowledge of these proceedings, participants would lack the sense of ritual implied in the Eucharist. The example of the Eucharist is important for severa l reasons. As Bell says throughout her book, ritualization create s a hierarchical se paration of events. The even ts as rituals themselves are understood to create and be created by a hierar chy of privileged distinctions. The people involved in the event are also actively creating and being create d by similar hierarchies. The roles that people play in the creative process, whether as hos ts, participants, observers or otherwise dictate different techniques in mitigati ng those social hierarchies. Notions of power and hierarchy involve not only the co nceptual and material elements of ritualized action, but also among the generators of rituali zed action themselves. A key que stion to this study asks how authenticity is created and mean ing understood based on what people do and who is able to do it. From the scholarly perspective, viewing the Nava ratri as a set of cultura lly relevant techniques examines one body of data. But understanding Nava ratri as asset of ritu als in terms of power makes suggestions not only for these techniques, but perhaps more so for people as active agents in the performance of thei r identities. I suggest th at the events I examined in the second chapter 85


provide ample situations to examine in terms of the power of ritual and the power inherent in ritualization. The Indian/Indian American communities of my research engaged in similar techniques of differentiating a special time and space for Navara tri through ritualized ac tion. One could argue that the delineation of space by using fabric sheets or plastic mats to set apart the ritual space from the every-day space is a method of ritual izing action. Setting this space apart at the forefront of a ritual and performi ng other specific ritualized actions in that space creates meaning among those who participate. The space itself ha s been ritualized by differentiating it but also becomes a space where further ritualiz ing actions can take place. Other techniques used by the hosts of the ev ents I attended can be seen to be acts of differentiation as well. For instance, the regula tion of food and the prohibition of certain foods during Navaratri as described by Tejal are simila r differentiations of regular every day food and special foods for distinctive times and places. In he r role as host of the event, Tejal used her own personal sense of ritual to provide a meaningful situation for othe r participants. She attributed this to be part of her Gujarati, familial traditi on. Her choice to continue this sense of tradition and make it available to the rest of her intra domestic social network is a technique, whether conscious or not, of differentiating the ritual from everyday life, but also differentiating herself from other participants. Restric tion of certain foods is not endemi c to the town in Gujarat where Tejal grew up; other parts of India are familiar with these practices. Swapna, Sumathi and two other participants at the havan described the same dietary restrictions without a prompt to do so on my part during interviews. On the one hand, Tejals own sense of tr adition regarding food ritualized the meal by making it distinctive from other non-Navaratri meals. On the other hand, one can see the food as a technique employed by Teja l to differentiate herself as host of the event 86


in which she exerted her own power to create and reinforce a food-hi erarchy for the other participants. For members of that intradomes tic social network, the food was meaningful in ways that regular meals are not. Tejals familia rity with these rules and her choice to provide them accordingly during Navaratri could be seen as a way of dominating the situation as a host and as a cultural expert at th at place and time. Perhaps the havan itself was not specifically Gujarati, but is more Tejals havan than anything else. He r choice of food, structure, language, materials and the ritual in general was a creative act, and not simply reciting a verbatim ritual vocabulary. In contrast, Swapna noted that while she was aware of the restricti ons described by Tejal, she did not follow them for every day of the fe stival. The food provide d at her lunch did not follow the same guidelines. Rather, Swapna claimed that she followed a fast in accordance with those rules for one day that fit best into her sc hedule because of the difficulty of following the rules. To Swapna, this did not create a problem. Because Navaratri is a pa rt of day to day life, despite its special time/place qualiti es as a holiday, one must adapt. Swapna said, You want to show your devotion and certain disc ipline in any way. It doesn't ha ve to be those hard and fast rules. Food, for Swapna, is not the most im portant way to create meaning and privileged distinction. Other differentiation techniques, such as the playing of the Amritvani prayer and providing the words to the group provided a more powerful approach for Swapnas establishment of the ritual as authentic in struct ure and content. The rec itation of the prayer was an action set apart from every day action by the formality of the prayer itself and the placement of the song at the beginning of the bhajan group meeting. An important prayer to Swapna, she utilized it in a similar way to Te jals use of food: using personal, meaningful, localized materials 87


within the larger, centralized unders tanding of tradition to actively create a sense of ritual, not robotically replicate pa st ritualized activities. Gender and a Ritualized Body In addition to ritualizing certain actions or structures to produ ce a sense of ritual, bodies themselves are also ritualized by utilizing th ese techniques and existing in spaces and times where ritualization occurs. Bell notes that t hrough a series of physical movements ritual practices spatially and temporally construct an environment orga nized according to schemes of privileged opposition (1992: 98). Through the ve ry bodily performance of these actions, the people as participants in these events become r itualized themselves, operating within a ritualized environment but also creating it anew with their own ritua lized bodies. It is here that the concept of ritual as performance is particularly importa nt. As one can easily see, performance is not simply action but is action in tandem with a collect ion of strategic choices that influence not only the performance as an action, but also the performer herself as we ll as the intended audience. The body itself is not just a carrier. It is not a passive vessel that is dressed up by cultural assumptions. The body is implicit in the message it carries. It can tell mu ltiple stories at once, spinning webs of meaning that rely on one another in complex ways. The multiplicity of performance approaches augments the notion of a ritualized body because the body itself does many things at once. It can create a sense of ritual through various techniques, but also attempt to subvert or change the sense of ritual by employing other techniques. This is perhaps best demonstr ated in the diversity of clot hing, in which bodies become ritualized and in turn ritualize a space through th e self-conscious choice of certain inscriptions on the body via culturally relevant styl es of clothing. Partic ipants in every even t used clothing as a way of signifying different things: age, region, ethnicity, nationality, gend er and so on. When participants dressed in certai n ways, they were simultaneously working within the understood 88


structure of how one ought to dress in that sp ecific situation (e.g. a certain kind of silk sari at a South Indian event or a chaniya choli at the various garbas) as well as reinforcing these structures. For participants w ho did not conform to that specific events sort of dress code, they were making choices that demarcated a differe nt identity or a differe nt way of controlling the space. Bell writes th at, a ritualized body is a body invested with a sense of ritual. This sense of ritual exists as an implicit variety of schemes whose deployment works to produce sociocultural situations that th e ritualized body can dominate in some way (1992: 98). I do not take domination in this sense does not mean to wield absolute and infi nite power over everyone else. Rather, domination means exerting ritual po wer over a situation. I take Bells theory to generally suggest that ritual is not a passive concept. It involves activity and agency of all parties involved. Choosing to attend, what to wear, with whom to attend, in what capacity to participate, what to provide as a host, how to structure the event, wh at is able to be inserted as a localization of a centralized ev ent and so on are all choices that suggest the agency of individuals. Ritual is never simp ly or solely a matter of routine, habit or the dead weight of tradition (Bell 1992: 92). I would continue that every part of ritual involves a choice since a ritual is constantly being cr eated, recreated, imagined and reimagined in order to maintain continuity in the dynamic flux of everyday life. To take garba as the example par excellence different participants used clothing as one strategy to dominate the sociocultural situati on in different ways. For some, it was more important to express a sense of p an-Indian-ness at this originally Gujarati event. Some female participants during the ISA garba noted how other female partic ipants either wore their chaniya cholis in the proper Guju style or not. Authen tically adorning oneself seemed to be very important to many participants wi th whom I spoke. On the other hand, some female participants 89


chose to wear a salwar kameez utilizing other strategies in th e form of clothing and adornment to dominate the situation in other ways. Though I was not able to in terview the women who chose that style of clothing, I speculate that on some level, their clothing choice was meant to signify a different level of participati on than those in other kinds of dress. Men, on the other hand, seemed to utilize clothing in yet another way, perhaps in a lack of ritualization. When men did participate, it seemed less im portant to don traditional clothing as a ritualizing act. During several interviews, wome n noted that men do not seem to be interested in dressing up or actively partic ipating in events, aside from arati. At many events, men and women spatially separated themselves into different rooms and different levels of participation. Even at the home of Usha where the co-ed Gainesville bhajan group assembled and distributed its folders of music, female participation still dominated the scene in many ways. With Bells suggestion of a ritualized body in mind, one might conclude that the female body is more ritualized than the male body at Navaratri in Gainesville, Florid a. Ritualization as a process of differentiation into privileged binary oppositions provides one way of reconciling the increased participation of women over men. Be ll identifies that binary distinctions are not always equal and often one side of the binary comes to dominate the other (1992: 102). The female hosts of intradomestic events made active choices in the way they represented themselves, their sense of tradition, and the ability of that ritual to either incorporate other ways of being or its dominance over other ways of bei ng traditional. If we take the male-female binary gender distinction to be a basic oppositional pair in the c ontext of Navaratri in which the female part is more ritualized and does more ritualizing than the male, it creates a circular logic that Navaratri is a festival in which women more often partic ipate. Without reducing this 90


argument to a chicken or the egg conundrum, I s uggest that the gender separation apparent at Navaratri attests to Bells suggestion that: Whole systems of ritual symbols and actions can be generated by means of a small number of oppositions (male-female, within-without) or reduced to a few pairs that appear fundamentaland they all prove to be base d on the movements or postures of the body (1992: 103). The predominance of women and female participati on at Navaratri and the intense and consistent ritualization of their bodi es through clothes, performance, organization and so on suggests to me that Navaratri is a special tim e and place for women in this context such that women create Navaratri performances but concep ts of woman are also created or recreated in the process. The female-male oppositional pair is asymmetrical dur ing Navaratri but is also reinforced to be asymmetrical by the agency afforded to the process of ritualization. Wo mens bodies, in regards to Navaratri, are not passive but active parts in creating and transmitting Navaratri to themselves and to others on many levels, but especially through th eir performance as ritualized bodies. Clothing is just one material element of both ritu alized action and performa nce that demonstrates human agents as active creators of both cultur al continuity and change rather than passive inheritors of a system who are conditioned from birth to replicat e it (Bell 1998: 209). Ritualizing and performing Navaratri provides the fl exibility and fluidity to create situations where differentiation and domination via di fferent strategies becomes possible. Space and Time Certain patterns of performance arose, a lthough these patterns were general and by no means universally found in all cases. The major ity of patterns relied upon the structuring of space and time upon a larger cultura l repertoire. These patterns however, are involved in the circular production of meaning inherent in ritualization and the ritualized body: Space and time are redefined through the physical movements of bodies projecting organizing schemes on the space-time envir onment on the one hand while reabsorbing 91


these schemes as the nature of reality on the other. Ritualization is the strategic manipulation of context in the very act of reproducing it (Bell 1992:99-100). I would suggest, however, that as regards my own observations, the rep roduction of context provides the ability for such strategic manipulation. Without the sense of ritual created within the space-time environment of Na varatri, situations able to be manipulated would not exist. Ritualized bodies as agents in ritual need the spatio-temporal locus in which to act. Navaratris universally observed time according to a lunar calendar cr eates a time in which ritualization can occur ac cording to culturally constructed notions of tradition. This time is a special and auspicious time in which to worship the divine feminine. Time or schedule as a pattern in Navaratri was also evident in the sim ilar progression of ritual ized acts in all but one event: singing and entertaining through bhajans or prayer, then arati, ending with food and/or social interaction. Similarly, sp aces are differentiated physically and conceptually (intraand extradomestic) where different ritualized actions can take place. The time and space associated with Navaratri are perhaps the most constant pie ces of the pattern of obs ervances. People plan their events to take place within the nine nigh ts/days of the festival. People also organize themselves in regards to different spaces set as ide for different purposes. These patterns in time and space which appear as constants arise from the ability of ritu alization to not only differentiate but also to integrate. Integration of Ritualization In the first chapter, I used a vocabulary that I felt demonstrated the domestic versus public qualities of the places of the even ts in my research. The spaces for events were inherently related to the kinds of social networks crea ted and maintained in those spaces. These two general categories of within a nd without the home allowed me to place space as the ultimate category of separation, because all other definitio ns for this division seemed to crumble when 92


held up to scrutiny. I was not able to say that gender, ethnicity, nati onality, religiosity or generational age could account for the different locations in which the people in my research created their own identities through rituals. Such binary distinctions (a se nse of us and them in all of the categories I just mentioned) were not cut-and-dry and certain ly not equal, as Bell predicts. Therefore I felt that any other delineation between these groups and events aside from the actual spatial location of the events themselves would lead the reader astray. Bell makes similar observations about ritual functioning at the localizing and centralizing levels, which I alluded to in my description of wh at intraand extradomestic situations do for the people involved. Intradomestic networks of pe ople and situations attempt to localize while extradomestic networks and situa tions centralize. In this way, ritualization of action not only differentiates, but can also integrate. Bell writes that: the orchestration of rituals in time, some reproducing local communities, others later integrating them or parts of them into larger communities, enables each unit in the system to experience both its own autonomy and its dependent place within a network of relationships with other groups (1992: 125). As I mentioned in the first chapter, the commona lity of time of Navara tri provides opportunities for a diversity of practice as Venkatachari said (1992: 182). Bell would likely agree with this based on the statement above, alt hough it is likely that she would emphasize how units use this commonality to both empower themselves as well as depend upon a larger network. Ritualizing action in intraand extr adomestic networks or situations, or, to use Bells language, localizing or centralizing provides different st rategies for both differentiation and integration. These two processes may also take place simultaneously. Garba as an extradomestic or centralizing event, creates a sense of pan-Indian-ness among its participants by both in tegrating the ethnic diversity of Indians into a Gujarati mode of being, as well as differentiating itself from nonIndian events by employing such specific clothi ng, music, dances, langu age and so on. Bells 93


first explanation of differentiation suggests a crea tion of hierarchies or distinctiveness based on oppositional binaries, and while that is present here as well, the sense of integration utilizes differentiation techniques too. While differe ntiation/integration may be its own oppositional binary, this does not mean that both processe s cannot be simultaneous to greater or lesser degrees. Navaratri as a ritual time and space is a flexible and fluid set of ritualized acts that differentiate and integrate actions and people at different levels. The flexibility and fluidity of ritualization allows for the multiplicity of perf ormance on an individual and communal level. Conclusions All of the binary oppositions I encounteredNorth/South Indian, male/female, young/old, localized/centralized and many more-were not mutually exclusive concepts in which the presence of one signified the absence of the othe r. If that were so, there would be infinite exceptions to the rule. This is why Bells sense of multiplicity is so important to my research. Navaratri as a set of rituals allows multiple ways levels and modes of participation such that gender, ethnicity and religion are important factors that rely on one another for the process of ritualization. Hindus, Jains, Muslims, Christians, and atheists can all c hoose to participate in Navaratri because the rituals are neither singular, static, nor exclusive. Localized or centralized events provide multiple times, locations and ways to participate or lead. South Indian women do not wear a chaniya choli to say that they are Gujarati, but rath er to imagine themselves as part of the centralizing integration that ritualization can create. Punjabi, Gujarati, and Tamil women can choose to participate in ways that affirm their ow n sense of ethnicity or to express their sense of belonging to a larger intr adomestic network. Perhaps all of th ese things can happen at once. The multiplicity inherent in performance of ritual an d the different techniques which ritualization can employ help to reconcile the diversity of participants and the diversity of even ts that take part in creating Navaratri in Gainesville, Florida. 94


Contributions This thesis is a beginning step towards understanding more fully the multitude of ways in which gender, ethnicity and religion interact, rely on one another, and re inforce one another in the American context. With the growing popula tion of South Asians in America, and more specifically in Gainesville, it is increasingly im portant to understand that ritualized holidays like Navaratri are not static regurgitations of what ha ppens in a South Asian context. The American context is a new and different place in which Sout h Asians must construct and reconstruct their identities. Hindu-ness and Indian-n ess are not taken for granted as they might be in India. Understanding Navaratri to be a locus for ritual ization helps in understanding how in celebrating this holiday, people are making conscious choi ces about what consti tutes tradition, how authenticity is made, and how Navaratri is in a co nstant state of flux. Wh ile tradition is imagined to be continuous, the actual ritua lized action of tradition is a resu lt of choices made by hosts and participants in events. Tradition, in every context, is an imagined and flexible concept such that Swapnas afternoon event can be cons idered continuous with a Punjabi jagran or that Tejals havan is in keeping with the havan performed by her family priests in Gujarat. Tradition is also able to be used to be subversive as well as it ut ilizes motifs from a cultura l repertoire to create meaning. This is why the centerpiece at the ISA garba can include a form of the Goddess and yet maintain its outward percep tion of secular observance as o pposed to a specific religious observance. With all of these things in mind, one can appr eciate the diversity and multiplicity inherent in an event like Navaratri. In combination with further research, this thes is provides an analysis of some of the ways in which ethnicity, gend er and religion influen ce and are influenced by Navaratri within the South Asian community in Gainesville, Florida. 95


APPENDIX A STATISTICS AND THE PEW CHARITABLE TRUSTS US Census Bureau In the United States, a census of the populati on is taken every ten years, though local state and city governments may attempt to collect census-like information more frequently. Analyzing this kind of information, which reaches an enormous number of people on a quantitative basis, provides limited insight into the makeup of the population. Though these numbers can be useful, one must be careful not to be misled by numbers, nor rely too heavily upon them. However, understanding the numbers and what they mean to ones own study are key parts of the research process. The US Census Bureau's census informati on, which was last gathered in 2000 and will again soon be started in 2010, provi des an opportunity to see a wide variety of information. Information regarding household size, economic information, racial identity, immigration and citizenship among other categories of information are collected from the entire population and is required to be submitted by citizens under penalty of law. One of the categories of classification on the 2000 census includes identity as an Asian Indi an. This term is a bit problematic in itself (as are many of the other categories under the subset Asian in which Taiwanese people are considered Chinese and other includes most smalle r countries in the Asian continent) in that it may include Sri Lankans, Bangladeshis, Nepalis and other South Asians in general who do not receive their own category for distinction on the census. In addition to this issue, some who identify themselves as Indian may do so with a qualifier of Kenyan or Trinidadian because of significant diasporic movement to parts of Afri ca and the Caribbean by Indian communities at various times in the recent past To top off this problematic term, it has only been since 1980 96


that Asian Indian has even been a choice of category (US Census Bureau 2002). This further complicates a comparative appro ach to statistical information. Also, the census does not ask questions that would acquire religious adherence information due to Public Law 94-521. In the past, inform ation regarding religion was obtained between 1906 and 1936 from religious organizations in the Census of Religious Bodies and according to the US Census Bureaus website, further information regarding religion may be obtained from other research centers featured on their webs ite (US Census Bureau 2008). While it would be nearly impossible for the government to collect such detailed and specific information of all its citizens, identifyi ng these problems show th e colloquial grain of salt with which one must take the following findings from the US Census Bureau. In the United States, Asian Indians account for less than .6% of the total population, according to the US Census Bureau. While this seems like a small percentage, Asian Indians accounted for nearly 16% of all those who claime d some kind of Asian ethnicity for their race (US Census Bureau 2002: 1). The Asian choi ces of race from the census included Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese as well as Other Asian. Asian Indian as a choice on the census encompasse s a wide breadth of possible geopolitical nationalities including countries like Nepal and Sri Lanka. Ge ographically, Asian Indians are found all over the country with the six highest population centers locate d in California, New York, Hawaii, Texas, New Jersey and Illinois. These populations have been increasing by at least a few percentage points since 1990, and as in the case of Hawaii as much as 8.8% (US Census Bureau 2002: 5). However, the 2000 cen sus questions regarding ethnic or national identity (categories identified as race according to the census itself) are not directly relatable to past censuses because 2000 was the first year that participants were instructed to mark one or 97


more races, instructions different from past censuses(US Census Bureau 2001). No doubt in combination with other reasons, this small cha nge has made it difficult to provide concrete comparative information regarding changes in As ian Indian populations. If one takes this information with a grain of salt, however, it is difficult to deny that As ian Indians, and South Asians in general, are increasing in number. Utilizing the US Census Bureaus American Fact Finder one is able to obtain 2000 census information as regards those who claimed Asian Indian alone or in combination with some other race in the Gainesville area of Florida (see Figure A-1). In including these statistics in my research, I hope to show how my ethnographic data reflect or is anomalous to the census information. From the figure below, one can see that in Gainesville, Asian Indians account for 1.24% of the total population, a percentage that is well above the national .4% for the entire U.S. population. The average age of this group, at 23 years old, is three years younger than the average age of the total population of Gainesville at 26 year s old. Few age markers are present when determining the age of the population, tho ugh the figures note that 38% of this population is 25 years or older. While it is unclear fr om census information why only respondents 25 years of age and older were considered when aski ng questions about educ ation, a staggering 82% possessed a Bachelors degree or higher. The general population of Ga inesville as a whole counts 43% of its total population to have a Bachelors degree or higher. On average, Asian Indians make a family income that is 9% higher th an the average family income of Gainesville. And lastly, the houses in which Asian Indi ans live (though 74.5% live in renter-occupied housing units) are worth 7% more than the averag e residents house. From these pieces of information, one can statistically assume that adult members of Gainesvilles Asian Indian 98


population are more highly educated than the rest of the general population, possess higher income and greater valued housing than the rest of Gainesville on average. Again, while these are statistics and averages that qualitatively l eave out the high and low ends that generate such median numbers, the group of pe ople involved in my research re flects these general statistics. Pew Charitable Trusts The US Census does not include a section concerning religious affiliation and so there are no official government statistics concerning the number of those who claim to be Asian Indians as well as Hindus, or any other race along with Hinduism or other religious group. However, by combining the US Census 2000 information for Asian Indians along with the 2007 Pew Forum on Religion and Public Lifes US Religious Lands cape Survey, we can see that these three sets of data provide compelling evidence that the ri se of Asian Indian population and the rise of Hinduism are connected. It would be easy to note that Asians in general and Indian s in specific are increasing in number in the United States and consequently ar e bringing their own religion along for the ride. In this way, immigrants are bringing an exporte d version of religion to the US. However, quantitatively and qualitatively, this claim is difficult to support. L ooking at statistics is one way to support such a claim and provide a foundation for understanding further evidence compiled through qualitative, ethn ographic research. The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life (henceforth Pew Forum),which is a subsection of the larger Pew Charitable Trusts foundation, carried out a phone-based interview project in 2007. In the Pew Forum study, 35,556 adults were interviewed from the continental United States in English and Spanish. These phone numbers were generated randomly, called an RDD sample (random digit dialing), though more than 500 additional contacts were interviewed who initially identified themselves as Hi ndu, Buddhist or Orthodox Christian for the Pew 99

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Research Centers 2007 study of Muslim Americans. These additional interv iews are noted to be necessary because of the low numbers obtained through a random sampling of phone numbers. In addition to these phone numbers, 500 cell phone specific interviews we re conducted of people who had no landline telephone, and used their ce ll phones exclusively. Because this sample showed no difference in percentages of compositi on from the landline based survey, the authors discarded this sampling. This is likely due to increasing criticism that surveys do not include the large number of Americans who do not use landline telephones (Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life 2008: 113). As a culmination of statistics from these thr ee locations of data regarding Asian Indians and religion, the Pew Forum provide s statistical data for some of the assumptions generated in the previous paragraphs. For instance, the report notes that nearly half of Hindus in the U.S., one-third of Jews and a quarter of Buddhists ha ve obtained post-graduate education, compared with only about one-in-ten of the adult population overall. Hindus and Jews are also much more likely than other groups to report high income levels (Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life 2008: 9). The report also cites that those who were raised as a Hindu are mo st likely to continue to identify as Hindu throughout the c ourse of their lives. In fact, this group of people maintains more members than any other reli gious category cited in the study. Six percent who were raised Hindu no longer identify as Hindu, where as other groups such as Judaism or Catholicism lost as many as 25 to 32% of those raised in the trad ition (Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life 2008: 30). Another interesting note looks at the Pew Forum study in ta ndem with the 2000 Census. The Pew Forum study notes that 14% of Asians as a whole identify themselves as Hindu (Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life 2008: 41). According to the 2000 Census, Asian Indians 100

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account for 14% of the total Asian category (US Ce nsus Bureau 2002: 9). While this may be a bit of conjecture, it may not be wr ong to suggest that the majority of those who identify as Asian Indian also identify as Hindu in the United States. 1 Conclusions Without being overly simplistic or essentia lizing those in my study, observations like these, in combination with the notes on the Asia n Indian population of Ga inesville as mentioned earlier, might allow one to cautiously note a few points relevant to this study. First, Asian Indians account for a greater percentage of the Gainesville, Florida popul ation compared to the national average. Second, among th is higher percentage, it is highly likely that the vast majority of Asian Indians identify as Hindu. Lastly, the Gainesville population al so reflects a higher income level and educational attainment level than the general population, suggestions supported by the Pew Forum study. Though these points may seem obvious or perhap s points to be noted in passing, I think it is relevant to see the ways in which Gainesville is similar to and different from the national population trends regarding religion and Asian In dian populations. In nearly every book or paper regarding Hinduism in the United States among people of South Asia n origin, a chapter or two is devoted solely to the re hashing of immigration history in the United States (Coward, Hinnells and Williams 2000; Dasgupta 1989; Eck 2001; Fenton 1988; Joshi 2006; Khandelwal 2002; Leonard 1997; Rayaprol 1997). While this information is interesting and certainly important to this study and other studies like it, an understanding of the st atistics and numbers of 1 It would be foolish to assume that every single person who identifies as Asian Indian in the United States is Hindu. Within my own research, participation in Hindu rituals was not limited to Hindus, but contained material objects of importance to Jainism and Sikhism as well. Actual participants also identified themselves as non-Hindus, identifying themselves as Jains or Ismailis. Therefore, while these numbers show an overwhelming majority of respondents in these surveys to be both Asian and Hindu, my research begs the question How Hindu is Hindu in this American context? Are those who participate in Hindu rituals identifying as Hindu since Jain or Sikh was not a spoken option in the survey? These questions are important, though not within the scope of this appendix. 101

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what more currently exists in the United St ates seems to be a much more fruitful and enlightening endeavor. 102

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Figure A-1. Table of information from the US Census Bureaus American Factfinder Website Regarding Asian Indians in Gainesville, Florida (US Census Bureau Gainesville city). 103

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APPENDIX B UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA ETHNICITY STATISTICS Information regarding the makeup of the stud ent and faculty population at the University of Florida (UF) is provided by the Office of Ins titutional Planning and Research (OIPR) at UF. The office keeps track of several sets of data for the universit y regarding enrollment, degrees, retention rates, staffing patterns, physical facilities, fiscal analysis, tuition, admissions and several other categories of information (Office of Institutional Planning and Research). The website for the OIPR provides several tables a nd figures to the genera l public available for download. For my project, I utilized the categories of enrollment and staffing patterns in order to make brief suggestions about the makeup of th e Asian population on campus. As I mentioned in Appendix A, all statistics ought to be taken with a grain of salt. Hard numbers do not always accurately represent people. Individuality is ofte n lost in numbers such as these, but they do provide a glimpse into the increasing importance of the Asian population at the UF campus. Student Population Utilizing Table I from the OIRP website, one can estimate that the Asian student population on campus has been growing over the last decade. Statistics included in the downloadable file from the OIRP website da te back to 1997 in Table I (UF Factbook: Enrollment Table I). In 1997, the Asian po pulation of UF accounted for 5.7% of the total student population, 6% of the unde rgraduate student population and 3.4% of the graduate student population. Since that time, the Asian populatio n has increased on campus. In 2008, Asians accounted for 7.7% of the total student populati on, 8.1% of the undergraduate student population and 4.4% of the graduate population (UF Fact book: Enrollment Table I). From these 104

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statistics, one can see that the Asian populat ion is becoming increasingly important to the University of Florida and the surrounding area. In addition to student statistics, the OIRP we bsite also provides information regarding the faculty on campus. These numbers also date back nearly a decade to 1998 (UF Factbook: Staffing Patterns Table III-2) In 1998, Asian faculty accounted for 6.6% of the total faculty on campus. In 2008, the percentage grew to 16% of the total faculty members. In addition to these numbers, the OIRP also keeps track of facu lty makeup in regards to ethnicity within the various colleges. Table III-2 labeled By Colle ge shows that since 1998, Asians have been most populous within the units of the Institute of Food and Agricu ltural Science or IFAS (which changed its name to Agricultur al and Life Sciences beginnin g in 2004), Engineering, Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Medicine. The percentage of Asian faculty in each of these colleges has grown. In 1998, Asian faculty accounted for 20.6% of the total faculty, rising to 33% in 2008. The Liberal Arts and Sciences Asian faculty has grown from 6.1% in 1998 to 10.5% in 2008, Medicine has grown from 9.6% to 30.6% and the IFAS/Agricultural and Life Sciences school has grown from 4.5% to 12.6% (Ibid.). In show ing these numbers, I hope to show that the population of Indians and Indian Americans in my study is not feebly connected to the University of Florida, but is an active and growing part of the UF population and surrounding area. Problematizing These Numbers As I have mentioned before, numbers create problems in qualitative studies. Quantitative methodology was not employed by this study and pr oviding these statistics shows some of the problems with such methods. First, these numbe rs provided by the OIRP may lead the reader astray. The term Asian is not defined anyw here on the OIRP website nor the downloadable tables from which these numbers were calculat ed. Asian can cover a whole continent of 105

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nations and people. Further, the term Asian is not qualified with residency status in America. As the US Census Bureau allows for identifying oneself as multiple nationalities at once, one wonders if the OIRP statistics represent Americans of Asian origin, foreign Asian students, or some other combination in which Asian might be included. However, my aim in showing these numbers is two-fold. First, they demonstrate the increasing need for study regardi ng growing populations in locations such as Gainesville, Florida where the University of Florida plays a large part in attracting cert ain demographics of professionals. Second, I hope to show that while my sample of middleupper-class Indian/Indian Americans was small at best, it was somewhat ch aracteristic of the larger trends within the Gainesville area. In combination with Appe ndix As US Census Bureau information, the demographic of participants in my study were not incongruous with the median population of Gainesville, Florida and the University of Florida. 106

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LIST OF REFERENCES About the University of Florida. 2009. Available from (accessed 6/11/2009). "India Cultural & Educati on Center Gainesville Fl orida." Available from (accessed 6/11/2009). New Raman Reti, Alachua, Florida. Available from (accessed 6/11/2009). Office of Institutional Planning and Research. Available from (accessed 6/11/2009). UF Factbook: Enrollment Table I. Available from (accessed 6/11/2009). UF Factbook: Staffing Patterns Table III-2. Available from factbook/iii-02_hist.xls (accessed 6/11/2009). UF Factbook: Staffing Patterns Table III-2 By College. Available from book/iii-02_coll_hist.xls (accessed 6/11/2009). "University of Florida Hist ory." 2008. Available from (accessed 6/11/2009). Bell, Catherine. 1998. "Performance." In Mark C. Taylor, ed., Critical Terms for Religious Studies, 205-221. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Bell, Catherine. 1992. Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice New York: Oxford University Press. Brooks, D. R. 1994. "The Thousand-Headed Pe rson: The Mystery of Hinduism and the Study of Religion in the AAR." Journal of the American Academy of Religion 62, 4: 1111-1126. Coburn, Thomas B. 1991. Encountering the Goddess : A Translation of the Dev M htmya and a Study of its Interpretation Albany: State University of New York Press. Coward, Harold, John R. Hinnells, a nd Raymond Brady Williams, eds. 2000. The South Asian Religious Diaspora in Br itain, Canada, and the United States Albany: State University of New York Press. Dasgupta, Sathi Sengupta. 1989. On the Trail of an Uncertain Dream : Indian Immigrant Experience in America New York: AMS Press. Davis, Megan. "Nation's Largest Hare Kris hna Community in Alachua." 2006. Available from (accessed 6/11/2009). 107

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Dempsey, Corinne G. 2006. The Goddess Lives in Upstate New York : Breaking Convention and Making Home at a North American Hindu Temple New York: Oxford University Press. Eames, Edwin, and Parmatma Saran, eds. 1980. The New Ethnics : Asian Indians in the United States New York: Praeger. Eck, Diana L. 2001. A New Religious America : How a "Christian Country" has Now Become the World's most Religiously Diverse Nation San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco. Erndl, K. M. 1993. Victory to the Mother New York: Oxford University Press. Fenton, John Y. 1988. Transplanting Religious Traditions : Asian Indians in America. New York: Praeger. Flood, Gavin D. 1996. An Introduction to Hinduism New York: Cambridge University Press. Fuller, C. J., and Penny Logan. 1985. "The Navar tri Festival in Madurai." Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London 48, 1: 79-105. Goethals, Gregor. 1996. "Ritual: Ceremony and Super-Sunday." In Ronald Grimes, ed., Readings in Ritual Studies, 257-268. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall. Grimes, Ronald. 2004. "Performance Theory and the Study of Ritual." In Peter Antes, Armin W. Geertz and Randi R. Warne, eds., New Approaches to the Study of Religion, Vol. 2. 109-138. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. Haraway, Donna. 1988. "Situated Knowledges: Th e Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective." Feminist Studies 14, 3: 575-599. Hawley, J. S. 1991. "Naming Hinduism." Wilson Quarterly 15, 3: 20-34. Johnson, J., and F. J. Costa. 1998. "Hindu Temple Development in the United States: Planning and Zoning Issues." Journal of Cultural Geography 17, 2:115-123. Joshi, Khyati Y. 2006. New Roots in America's Sacred Ground : Religion, Race, and Ethnicity in Indian America New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. Kassam, Tazim R. 1995. Songs of Wisdom and Circles of Dance: Hymns of the Satpanth Ismaili Muslim Saint, Pir Shams. Albany: State University of New York Press. Khandelwal, Madhulika S. 2002. Becoming American, being Indian : An Immigrant Community in New York City. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 108

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Khandelwal, Madhulika S. 1995. "Indian Immigran ts in Queens, New York City: Patterns of Spatial Concentration and Distribution, 1965-1990." In Peter van der Veer, ed., Nation and Migration: The Politics of Space in the South Asian Diaspora, 178-196. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Kinsley, David. 1978. "The Portra it of the Goddess in the Dev -M h tmya." Journal of the American Academy of Religion 46, 4: 489-506. Kosmin, Barry, Mayer, Egon and Keysar, Arie la. 2001. "American Religious Identification Survey 2001." in Graduate Center of th e CUNY [database online]. Available from (accessed 6/11/2009). Kurien, Prema. 1998. "Becoming American by Becoming Hindu: Indian Americans Take their Place at the Mu lticultural Table." In R. Stephen Warner, Judith G. Wittner, eds., Gatherings in Diaspora: Religious Communities and the New Immigration, 37-70. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Leonard, Karen Isaksen. 1997. The South Asian Americans. Westport: Greenwood Press. Linda, Mary F. 1999. "Constructing Identity : Hindu Temple Production in the United States." In T. S. Rukmini, ed., Hindu Diaspora: Global Perspectives, 387-394. Montreal: Concordia Univ ersity/Vear Printing. Lorenzen, David N. 1999. "Who Invented Hinduism?" Comparative Studies in Society and History 41, 4: 630-659. Melomo, Vincent H. 2005. "" I Love My India": Indian American University Students Performing Identity and Cr eating Culture on Stage." In Guiyou Huang, ed., Asian American Literary Studies, 179-205. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Mio, Minoru. 2008. Transformation of a Dance Festival and the Reshaping of Locality. Minpaku Anthropology Newsletter 25 : 1-3, Available from publication/newsletter/26.pdf (accessed 6/11/2009). Nanda, Serena. 1986. "The Hijras of India: Cultural and Individual Dimensions of an Institutionalized Third Gender Role." Journal of Homosexuality 11, 3: 35-54. Orsi, Robert A. 2004. Between Heaven and Earth : The Religious Worlds People make and the Scholars Who Study them Princeton: Princeton University Press. Pattanaik, Devdutt. 2002. The Man Who was a Woman and Other Queer Tales of Hindu Lore New York: Harrington Park Press. Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, The. 2008. "U.S. Religious Landscape Survey: Religious Affiliation, Diverse and Dynamic." in Pew Research Center [database online]. Available from pdf/report-religious-landscapestudy-full.pdf (accessed 6/11/2009). 109

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Rayaprol, Aparna. 2005. "Being American, Lear ning to be Indian: Gender and Generation in the Context of Transnational Migration." In Meenakshi Thapan, ed., Transnational Migration and the Politics of Identity, 130-149. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications. Rayaprol, Aparna. 1997. Negotiating Identities : Wo men in the Indian Diaspora New York: Oxford University Press. Sanford, A. Whitney. 2004. "The Hindu Ritual Calendar." In Robin Reinhart, ed., Contemporary Hinduism: Ritual, Culture and Practice, 123-153. Unknown: ABC-Clio. US Census Bureau. Gainesville city, Florid a Select a Race, Et hnic or Ancestry Group American FactFinder. Available from FFFactsCharIteration?_event=&geo_id=16000U S1225175&_geoContext=01000US 7C04000US12 7C16000US1225175&_street=& _county=Gainesville&_cityTown=Gainesv ille&_state=04000US12&_zip=&_lang=en &_sse=on&ActiveGeoDiv=&_useEV=&pctxt =fph&pgsl=160&_submenuId=factsheet _2&ds_name=DEC_2000_SAFF&_ci_nbr =null&qr_name=null®=null 3Anull&_k eyword=&_industry= % % % (accessed 6/11/2009). US Census Bureau. 2008. "Religion." Available from (accessed 6/11/2009). US Census Bureau. 2002. "The Asian Population: 2000." Available from (accessed 6/11/2009). US Census Bureau. 2001. "Questions and Answers for Census 2000 Data on Race." Available from (accessed 6/11/2009). Venkatachari, K. K. A. 1992. "Transmission and Transformation of Rituals." In Raymond Brady Williams, ed., A Sacred Thread : Modern Transmission of Hindu Traditions in India and Abroad, 177-190. Chambersburg: Anima. Waghorne, Joanne Punzo. 1999. "The Hindu Gods in a Split-Level World: The Sri SivaVishnu Temple in Suburban Washington, DC." In Robert A. Orsi, ed., Gods of the City: Religion and the American Urban Landscape, 103-130. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Zaidman, Nurit. 2000. The Integration of I ndian Immigrants to Temples Run by North Americans. Social Compass 47, 2: 205-219. 110

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH I received my Bachelor of Arts in anthr opology and religion from Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York in May of 2006. I obtained a Ma ster of Arts degree from the Department of Religion at the University of Florida in August of 2009. I will further my studies at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York in the fall semester of 2009 111