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4 - Local Traditions in Times of Change

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 November 2023

Asaf Sharabi
Affiliation:
Peres Academic Center, Israel
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Summary

Abstract

In this chapter I focus on three ritual experiences related to Mahasu: the annual major festival (Jagra), animal sacrifices, and the movement in space of Mahasu and his followers. I show that some rituals and practices are currently in the process of change, and ask who is responsible for these changes in the context of discussing the agency of gods.

Keywords: agency of gods, fairs and festivals, animal sacrifices, movements of gods

Local Rituals Fade, Gods Persevere

The Jagra festival is a very special event for Mahasu’s followers. A few days prior to the festival, people who live outside of Mahasu’s territory begin returning to their home villages. A young woman studying for her master’s degree in Solan, a man working in a government job in Shimla, a schoolteacher working in a distant village—they all come home to be with their families during Jagra. So for the men and women who work outside the village, Jagra is an opportunity to come back home, even for a short while. For those who observe their religion more strictly, it is not just an opportunity for reunion with their family or the other villagers, but also an important religious holiday. For example, Munish is a young man from the Jubbal region who was working in his first job as an engineer. When his boss did not give him vacation time to return to his village for Jagra, he chose to quit his job and come home. Jagra is the most important festival of Mahasu and the other deities in his area. It is said that Mahasu has a rule that at least one person from each family must attend Jagra.

The name Jagra is derived from jagran, which literally means staying awake (all night). During Jagra, locals celebrate the arrival of the Mahasu brothers from Kashmir to Maindrath and the establishment of their kingdom. The specific date is decided by the jyotish (astrologist), but it always falls in the month of Bhadra (August–September), between the fourth and sixth of the white fortnight (tithi). Usually the Jagra of Mahasu falls on the fourth day of Bhadra—which is also the date of Ganesh Chaturthi, a Hindu festival celebrating the birth of Ganesha.

Type
Chapter
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The Biography of a God
Mahasu in the Himalayas
, pp. 117 - 156
Publisher: Amsterdam University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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