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Vijaya Nagarajan (completed her dissertation, entitled "Hosting the Divine: The Kolam as Embedded Ritual, Aesthetic, and Ecology in South India," at the University of California, Berkeley. She is currently Assistant Professor in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of San Francisco. She has been affiliated with various environmental non-governmental organizations both in India and the U.S. since 1981. Vijaya is co-founder and has been co-director of a "backpack NGO," the Institute for the Study of Natural and Cultural Resources, since 1986.

 

Abstract of paper given at Hinduism and Ecology conference:
Women and the Earth: The Art of Symbolic Expression

This paper explores the specific nature of the discourse on the natural world that surrounds women and their ritual lives in Tamil Nadu. The kolam is the major ritual that will be discussed in this paper; the kolam is a daily ritual practice that involves the creation of rice flour patterns on the thresholds of shrines, households, and temples; the kolam is made to evoke forgiveness from Bhu-Devi, the earth goddess. The discourses that surround this ritual emphasize the ephemeral nature of the conception of spirits in Hinduism. The occupation of space by divinities, the calling of divinities to that space, and the subsequent dismissal, departing, or abandonment of divinities in that space are all equally relevant whether the space occupied by divinities is located in the natural or cultural world. This paper attempts to frame the subtle distinctions, if there are any, between the conception of divine locatibility in the natural and the cultural worlds.

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Hinduism and Ecology conference participants

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