The practice of everyday religion in Bhaktapur, Nepal

Author: 
Grieve, Gregory Price
Year: 
2002

     The subject of this dissertation is everyday religious practices in Bhaktapur ( Khwopa ), Nepal. Proceeding from the notion that religion occupies a distinctive place in the social construction of reality, this study analyzes how Newars in Bhaktapur use Hinduism's and Buddhism's pragmatic, world-building, material elements to construct their daily lives. As an interpretive tool, the dissertation co-joins Paul Mus's notion of sacred space to Michel De Certeau's theory of the commonplace in order to develop the notion of everyday mesocosms--prosaic "recipes" for making ceremonially organized social space.
     The dissertation consists of two parts. The first part, made up of chapters two and three, orients the reader by sketching Bhaktapur's history and geography. The second section--chapters four through seven--analyzes everyday religion. Using the god Bhairava as a touchstone, chapter four examines the central object of worship, godimages (loha[n]dya). Chapter five concentrates on ceremony (puja) to trace the relationship between person and deity. It argues that ceremonies are systems of ritual logic by which a mutually beneficial relationship is created with a god. Chapter six demonstrates that what makes gods venerated is "religious power" (shakti). Using the example of the "uncanny" (Jhi[n]jaa[n] mi[n]jaa[n]) religious feeling generated by tantric performances, it maintains that religious power is an emotional discourse which can be understood as a type of social sublime. Building upon chapter six, chapter seven concentrates on a "forged" goat sacrifice that was performed during Bhaktapur's 1995 Cow festival. It argues that such festivals ought to be understood as religious social fields within which various groups attempt to generate a lived world most in conformity with their interests.
     The dissertation's three major insights are: (1) religious practices require a material element; (2) Hinduism and Buddhism employ generative world-building logics; and (3) that Bhaktapur's everyday religious practices have been one of the main strategies by which modernity has been mediated, implemented, and localized. This study will provide new perspectives on Hinduism and Buddhism, the anthropology of religion, the history of religions, as well as cultural studies.

Advisor(s): 
Reynolds, Frank E., Doniger, Wendy
Department: