chapter  19
17 Pages


BySusan S. Wadley

Any analysis of Hinduism in India’s villages requires that we consider it in the contextof religion as practiced. Because of the cultural value placed on “the place to which one belongs,” these practices differ in some critical ways from the prescriptions found in the myriad Hindu texts and also from those practices found in urban areas. Moreover, examining religion in the village requires attention to the ways in which the different groups of humans resident in any one village (families, lineages, castes) interact in the organization of religious activities that encompass specialists from categories far broader than the “priests” or Bråhma~ specialists who were the primary writers of the Sanskrit texts of classical Hinduism and who are the primary functionaries in most temple rituals. Further, urban Hindu practices are likely to be more heavily dominated by Bråhma~ical practices than by the practices of the poor and lower caste. This chapter focuses on core practices of Hindu village religion while using more examples from northern India than from southern India in order to provide a more coherent capsule of village religious practices than we might get if we tried to capture the myriad variations that exist in religious practice across the hundreds of thousands of villages in India. Moreover, in the twenty-first century, the distinctions made between village (gråma), forest ( jaπgal), and city (çahr) are continually challenged by increasing migration to both urban areas and abroad as well as by a public culture and mass media that provide powerful linkages within and across regions and national boundaries.