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A New Face of Durga: Religious and Social Change in Sri Lanka

Nagalingam Shanmugalingam (Author)
Synopsis A sudden rise of a goddess, namely Durga gained, popularity in the northern part of war-torn Sri Lanka. Tellippalai, a small village in Jaffna, is the cynosure of Durga worship. Following this many satellite temples came into existence in all parts of the peninsula and all over Sri Lanka. Goddess Durga generally propitiated in the ghora, terrific form, only for three days in a year during Navaratri festival, now changed her face into the bhoga, benevolent form. From the inception in the field of Anthropology, interest grew to study the religious change. At present one is able to note that the studies on religious changes focus on symbolic dimensions. Revitalization of mother goddess worship and the academic interest on these changes developed three decades ago after a lull period, from three main corners, namely, Anthropology, religious studies and feminist studies. The recent revival of interest in goddess worship can be attributed to three main factors, namely a new interest in the old matriarchal controversy, goddess symbolism amongst feminists and emergence of a new comparative religion. During this period only, the revitalization of Goddess Durga in Sri Lanka came into the scene. This study examines this symbolic change in relation to the present-day socio-cultural changes of Jaffna. "Shanmugalingam's study reflects an excellent sense of what constitutes an intriguing anthropological problem, and his work creates in the reader an involvement and a feeling of intellectual excitement in pursuing the topic to its conclusion. His actual research and data-collection seems to have followed the best traditions of anthropological fieldwork methodology : i.e. long-term, intensive, first hand interviewing and participant-observation techniques conducted in his informants' native language. Shanmugalingam's fluency in the Jaffna Tamil dialect, and his prior upbringing in the study village itself, have certainly given him excellent access to the religious phenomena he has chosen to study, as well as close rapport with informants and trance-practitioners at the various Durga temples he has visited. In this respect, the verbatim dialogues he recorded between individual Tamil worshippers and specific trance-practitioners at the smaller, outlying Durga temples in various parts of Jaffna peninsula are especially noteworthy and valuable as living documentary texts which reveal something of the actual human interactions, and the specific human anxieties and family problems, which constitute such an essential element of this revitalized Durga cult in Sri Lanka.
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About the author

Nagalingam Shanmugalingam

Dr. Nagalingam Shanmugalingam is the Founder Head, Department of Political Science and Sociology, University of Jaffna, Sri Lanka. He graduated from the University of Colombo with a first class. He gained his post-graduate research training at the Ateneo de-Manila University, Philippines. Shanmugalingam has done his Doctoral Research under the guidance of Prof. Gananath Obeye-sekere, Professor of Anthropology, University of Princeton, U.S.A. and obtained his Ph.D. degree from University of Jaffna. He possesses long practical experience in fieldwork and social surveys. Dr. Shanmugalingam has been participated in many International Conference-Seminars on Sociology and Anthropology. His research articles have appeared in International Journals and other publications. His major areas of Professional interest are sociology of Religion, community development, Culture and media. He has written many books in Tamil Language, especially culture and Social change. He received states Sahitya Award for one of his publication in 1994. In addition to his Academic excellence, Dr. Shanmugalingam is well known for his creative musical talent and other artistic innovations. Recently he has produced a Visual Anthropological Documentary film on Mother Goddess worship in Eastern Sri Lanka (1999).

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Bibliographic information

Title A New Face of Durga: Religious and Social Change in Sri Lanka
Format Hardcover
Date published: 01.01.2002
Edition 1st ed.
Language: English
isbn 8187644389
length 201p., Illustrations; Plates; Tables; Maps.