Varieties of pilgrimage experience : religious journeying in Central Kerala
Gath, Alexander David Hanson
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The thesis concerns pilgrimages undertaken by members of both Christian and Hindu communities in Central Kerala, especially in the Emakulam area. "Community pilgrimages" undertaken by Syrian Orthodox ("Jacobite") Christians are discussed in detail. These are shown to be occasions for expressing the identity and interests of Jacobites in the context of a long-running dispute which has divided Orthodox Christians in Kerala. For Jacobites, pilgrimage makes a statement about loyalty to their Patriarch and about rights of access to disputed sites. These occasions are distinguished from other pilgrimages, especially one to a famous Catholic site, which maintain broad, cross-community appeal. Parallel examples of Hindu pilgrimages of both types are described. In addition, the thesis emphasises the value of attending to experiential aspects of the pilgrimage journey. Descriptions of the pilgrimages, together with comments on the general character of experience for participants, are supplemented by personal accounts provided by individual pilgrims. A phenomenological approach is taken in order to understand the themes which emerge, in particular processes of learning and change undergone by participants.