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Title: "Bringing back the old ways": Enacting a goddess festival in urban Singapore
Authors: Sinha, V. 
Issue Date: 2014
Citation: Sinha, V. (2014). "Bringing back the old ways": Enacting a goddess festival in urban Singapore. Material Religion 10 (1) : 76-103. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: The now-global presence of Samayapuram Mariyamman, a goddess from Tamil Nadu, has complicated discussions about her identity as a "local" deity of limited influence. This article details the contemporary veneration of the goddess in the urban, island city-state of Singapore. For the past thirteen years, her devotees in Singapore have observed a festival in her honor, christening it the "Sri Samayapuram Mariyamman Kul Varppu Celebrations" (KVC). This goddess festival is framed around the core ritual of kul varppu, a "porridge offering" to the deity, anchoring the event firmly within the votive tradition of devotional Hinduism. While this ritual has persisted in households over time, it has now been incorporated into, and stands at the center of a consciously organized, collective, goddess festival in an urban, multicultural, cosmopolitan context, and has acquired a fresh set of meanings. Its guiding principles rest in a commitment to the "ways of the ancestors," a set of customary religious practices, which have been largely "forgotten" and that are being revived for the "benefit of future generations." "Bringing back the old ways" is an idiom through which devotees articulate their revitalization efforts, manifest concretely in privileging ritual attention to folk Hindu deities. The article begins by offering an ethnographic grounding for this project, specifying the research trajectory and recording the methodological routes traveled. Next, the article narrates the form of the festival I observed in 2004 and 2005, followed by a turn to its material dimensions, emphasizing the cooking of the porridge, the reproduction of sacred space, and the movement of the deity within this. Coming to the present, the article ends by charting © Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 2014.
Source Title: Material Religion
ISSN: 17432200
DOI: 10.2752/175183414X13909887177583
Appears in Collections:Staff Publications

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