SOAS University of London

Centre of Yoga Studies

Amy Alloco

Amy Alloco

Date: 9 February 2022Time: 7:00 PM

Finishes: 9 February 2022Time: 8:15 PM

Venue: Virtual Event Room: Online

Type of Event: Talk

Enlivening the Goddess and Feeding the Dead

This talk analyzes the spectacular festival of Mayāṉa Koḷḷai (Looting of the Graveyard/Cremation Ground) as it unfolds in and around a popular temple dedicated to the goddess Angalaparameshwari in Chennai, South India. Multiple ritual events are undertaken at a cluster of sister goddess temples in an urban neighborhood on the festival’s first night, which coincides with the new moon of the month of Masi (February-March). After midnight, ritual activities shift to the cremation ground/graveyard at the boundaries of the goddess’s precincts, where her ritual specialists fashion an enormous ash figure. Following a series of vows, sacrifices, and a vibrant procession the next day, this figure is enlivened, worshiped, and ultimately destroyed. On this day families also decorate the graves of their dead and make food and other offerings in the cemetery/cremation ground. The complex, multi-sited ritual practices associated with this festival illuminate the ongoing ritual relationships that some Hindus maintain with their dead and draw our attention to the roles of myth, decoration, ritual creativity, and ritual spectacle. This talk will both advance a close reading of the Mayana Kollai ritual process and reflect on the practices of feminist ethnography.

#ContemporaryIssues #Hinduism #Anthropology #Ethnography


Amy Allocco (Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Elon University, USA) is an ethnographer whose research focuses on vernacular Hinduism, ritual traditions, and religious practices in Tamil-speaking South India. Her most recent article, “Bringing the Dead Home: Hindu Invitation Rituals in Tamil South India” was recently published in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion. This article grows out of her current book project on ceremonies to return dead relatives known as puvataikkari to the world of the living and install them as protective family deities. More on Professor Allocco’s work can be found here:

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