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Religions 2019, 10(1), 53;

Shankh-er Shongshar, Afterlife Everyday: Religious Experience of the Evening Conch and Goddesses in Bengali Hindu Homes

Sociology, Presidency University, Kolkata 700073, India
Received: 20 December 2018 / Revised: 9 January 2019 / Accepted: 13 January 2019 / Published: 15 January 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religious Experience in the Hindu Tradition)
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This essay brings together critical archetypes of Bengali Hindu home-experience: the sound of the evening shankh (conch), the goddess Lakshmi, and the female snake-deity, Manasa. It analyzes the everyday phenomenology of the home, not simply through the European category of the ‘domestic’, but conceptually more elastic vernacular religious discourse of shongshar, which means both home and world. The conch is studied as a direct material embodiment of the sacred domestic. Its materiality and sound-ontology evoke a religious experience fused with this-worldly wellbeing (mongol) and afterlife stillness. Further, (contrary) worship ontologies of Lakshmi, the life-goddess of mongol, and Manasa, the death-and-resuscitation goddess, are discussed, and the twists of these ambivalent imaginings are shown to be engraved in the conch’s body and audition. Bringing goddesses and conch-aesthetics together, shongshar is thus presented as a religious everyday dwelling, where the ‘home’ and ‘world’ are connected through spiraling experiences of life, death, and resuscitation. Problematizing the monolithic idea of the secular home as a protecting domain from the outside world, I argue that everyday religious experience of the Bengali domestic, as especially encountered and narrated by female householders, essentially includes both Lakshmi/life/fertility and Manasa/death/renunciation. Exploring the analogy of the spirals of shankh and shongshar, spatial and temporal experiences of the sacred domestic are also complicated. Based on ritual texts, fieldwork among Lakshmi and Manasa worshippers, conch-collectors, craftsmen and specialists, and immersion in the everyday religious world, I foreground a new aesthetic phenomenology at the interface of the metaphysics of sound, moralities of goddess-devotions, and the Bengali home’s experience of afterlife everyday. View Full-Text
Keywords: Bengali home; sacred domesticity; shankh; conch; Lakshmi; Manasa; shongshar Bengali home; sacred domesticity; shankh; conch; Lakshmi; Manasa; shongshar
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Sarbadhikary, S. Shankh-er Shongshar, Afterlife Everyday: Religious Experience of the Evening Conch and Goddesses in Bengali Hindu Homes. Religions 2019, 10, 53.

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