Cultural complexity in South India: Hindu and Catholic in Marian pilgrimage

Margaret Meibohm, University of Pennsylvania


The cultural basis of pilgrimage has been considered by Eade and Sallnow to consist of coordinates of person, text, and place. If “ritual” or devotional practice is added, we can talk of a pilgrimage complex that travels in space and time. The shrine of Our Lady of Health in Velankanni, Tamil Nadu is a place of pilgrimage and prayer for both Hindus and Christians. Its pilgrimage complex exhibits a hybrid of Hindu and Catholic that appeals to many. Using Ulf Hannerz' conception of cultural complexity which includes the flow of culture through various frameworks and the interaction of subcultures, the hybridity of Hindu and Catholic which marks the Velankanni pilgrimage complex is examined. The nature and composition of the hybrid draws on Hindu elements, but in a trend perhaps drawn also from Hindu tradition, deemphasizes violence. Analysis reveals à la Herskovits that the exact nature of the hybrid may depend on previously existing or baseline patterns in both receiving and donating cultural environments and on resemblances between them. Change in the complex may result from the continuing influence of these trends or from factors such as the influence of modernity on both cultural environments. Cultural flow is not, however, unimpeded but is influenced by preexisting cultural patterns, is resisted, and is further affected by movement across transnational boundaries. Pilgrimage as an interplay of institution and action may itself be considered as a framework for cultural flow. ^

Subject Area

Religion, General|Anthropology, Cultural

Recommended Citation

Meibohm, Margaret, "Cultural complexity in South India: Hindu and Catholic in Marian pilgrimage" (2004). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3138054.