``To be happy'': Narrative, ritual play and leisure in an annual Bengali religious festival

Frank Joseph Korom, University of Pennsylvania


Dharmaraj, a local Bengali deity, rose to prominence in the medieval period as the result of epic narratives and liturgical texts written in his honor. As the textual tradition gradually declined in importance, so too did the worship of the deity. However, Dharmaraj is presently worshipped in a core area comprised of three districts in West Bengal. Previous research by nineteenth and early twentieth century Indologists and anthropologists focused more broadly on the composite nature of the deity, thereby providing us with a generalized, non-specific image. Yet closer investigation suggests that Dharmaraj is perceived and worshipped quite differently from district to district and village to village.^ My study attempts to rectify the non-specificity of earlier, comparative works by concretely focusing on the belief system and annual rites associated with Dharmaraj in one location. Goalpara, a small, all-Hindu village situated in Birbhum District, West Bengal was chosen because, unlike other sites, the religious festival for the deity is held at a strategic time that bridges the new year with the old. Residents of the village view their annual celebration as the most important one performed in the area for this reason.^ This dissertation examines the central role that the deity and his worship play in the religious lifeworld of Goalpara residents. After presenting an ethnography of the host community, a fieldwork-based examination of the interrelationships between medieval written texts, oral narratives (e.g., aetiological tales, memorates and personal experience narratives) and ritual action are presented to demonstrate the pervasive influence that the deity has on everyday thought and action. Finally, broader theoretical issues concerning the relationships between text and context, ritual and play, religion and leisure are raised as interdisciplinary problems in the study of religion. ^

Subject Area

Religion, General|Anthropology, Cultural|Folklore

Recommended Citation

Korom, Frank Joseph, "``To be happy'': Narrative, ritual play and leisure in an annual Bengali religious festival" (1992). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9235162.