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Religions 2019, 10(2), 71; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10020071

Prayers of Cow Dung: Women Sculpturing Fertile Environments in Rural Rajasthan (India)

Department of Cultural Anthropology and Development Studies, Radboud University, PO Box 9102, 6500 HC Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Received: 5 December 2018 / Revised: 10 January 2019 / Accepted: 15 January 2019 / Published: 22 January 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Ritual and Ritualistic Objects)
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Abstract

In line with the special issue’s focus on material religion and ritualistic objects, this article focuses on the multi-sensory prayers that certain groups of Hindu women craft in cow dung at the doorstep of their residences during Divali. This yearly ritual of kneading and praying with cow dung is known as the Govardhan puja (worship of Mount Govardhan). It is generally said to be the worship of the popular cowherd god Krishna and the natural environment he inhabits. Ethnographic research into the multiple meaningful layers of women’s cow dung sculptures in the rural villages nearby Udaipur (Rajasthan) reveals the ritual is more than that. The cow dung sculptures not only reflect Krishna’s body and sacred landscape but also the local environment women share with families, animals and (other) gods. Therefore, the article seeks to answer the following questions: how are women’s cow dung sculptures built up as ritual objects, what different images are expressed in them, and what do these images reveal about women’s intimate and gendered connections with their human and non-human environment? To answer these questions the article focuses on the iconography of women’s sculptures, the performance of the ritual, and the doorstep as the location where women’s beautification of the cow dung takes place. View Full-Text
Keywords: Hinduism; India; Govardhan puja; cow dung; gender; ritual art; nature; human-nonhuman sociality; symbolic anthropology; ethnography Hinduism; India; Govardhan puja; cow dung; gender; ritual art; nature; human-nonhuman sociality; symbolic anthropology; ethnography
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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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Notermans, C. Prayers of Cow Dung: Women Sculpturing Fertile Environments in Rural Rajasthan (India). Religions 2019, 10, 71.

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