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Experiencing the Mango Festival as a Ritual Dramatization of Hagiography

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The author traveled to the coastal town of Kāraikkāl in Tamilnadu, south India in summer 2006 in order to explore the ways in which a festival celebrating a classical Hindu female saint would “tell” the story of her life as represented in a medieval canonical hagiography that the author had previously translated. By highlighting the oral mode of “telling” as a characterization of the festival's presentation, the author signals the performative, personal, and public aspects of its rendering of her story. At the festival's center is an emphasis on the visual, not in the sense of a staged drama, but as a persistent focus on sacred images, or what the author calls “moments of awe.” The “all at once” perception experience enabled by the visual mirrors the simultaneity of experience enabled by these moments of awe inscribed by bhakti (devotion) in that they are opportunities for the enactment of worship, the engagement of participation, and the creation of a public.


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Affiliations: 1: Department of Religious Studies, Drew University;, Email:


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