Date of Award

Fall 2014

Degree Type

Honors Project

School

College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

Van Dusenbery

Abstract

Kali, the dark Hindu goddess of time and fierce Mother of the universe, has a pervasive global presence. This project traces Her from historical roots in India across borders to temples in California. A theoretical synthesis of the experiential approaches of sensory anthropology and Victor Turner's three-part model of ritual processes, the project presents an innovative approach through which to study and articulate devotion to Kali in diverse cultural contexts. Through textual research, interviews and observant participation, I analyze the process whereby devotees separate themselves from the mundane and enter liminal spaces of worship, understood both spatially and temporally. I look at devotional sensoriums, fluid networks of interconnected sensory stimulations, with specific emphasis on how they are created and experienced by devotees in liminal spaces, in addition to exploring their functionality as gateways to the goddess. Finally, the paper examines the cultural and individual variations in processes of reaggregation, of leaving the limen and re-entering the mundane, where practices of worship and experiences in devotion to Kali are interpreted.

Through this analysis, the project highlights the diversity with which devotion to Kali has been localized in different contexts, from radical preservation of conservative Hindu norms to integration into New Age spiritualities. Ultimately, the significance of this study lies in its transdisciplinary foundation and approach, influenced by concepts from global studies, theory from anthropology, and literature from the field of religious studies, to develop a holistic model through which to study, experience and more accurately illustrate the many gateways to the goddess, Kali.

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