chapter  10
15 Pages

Divine times: Goddess worship in Banāras


Hindus celebrate scores of religious rites through the course of a year. Activities during religious festivals may involve temple visits, devotional worship rites (pūjā), Vedic fire offerings (yajña, homa), fasting (vrata), and pilgrimage (yātrā). In the following chapter, I briefly describe some of my experiences during my study of two consecutive celebrations of the autumn Navarātra festival in Varanasi (Banāras). I begin with the period leading to the second year’s celebration (in 1991) and flash back to events during the previous year. I spent 18 months in India in 1990-1991, and my narrative derives from a combination of my memories, photographs, video footage, and journal entries. I wish to convey the excitement of discovery, and the challenges entailed when attempting to study a varied assortment of activities that occur in diverse locations during a relatively narrow window of time. I then utilize this description to talk about the festival cycle in Hinduism.