PhD thesis: A Hindu Cult in South India and its Diaspora

Pierre-Yves Trouillet, A Social and Cultural Geography of Tamil Hinduism. The Cult of Murugan in South India and in the Diaspora, PhD thesis in Geography, University of Bordeaux III, 13 December 2010.

“Murugan is one of the gods of the Hindu pantheon, whose religious figure has been present in the South of India for at least two thousand years. Its worship is strongly associated with the cultural identity of Tamil Nadu (the « Tamil country » in the South of India), the cardinal points of which are marked by the presence of its six largest pilgrimage centres. This symbolic and geographic interaction between the temples of Murugan, the territory and the religious circulations dates back at least to the Middle Ages. It is to be found today at the local level too, either of a village or an urban area; it is to be found at the international scale of the diaspora as well, which is reinventing the geography of worship by giving it a transnational configuration. For all cases under study, the survey shows that in relation to the other gods of the Hindu pantheon, the definition of this Hindu deity has endowed it with particular symbolic characteristics, which trigger and direct human actions that are printed in the geographic space, such as the construction of temples or the devotional pilgrimages towards its sacred places. Thus the situation of its temple on the hill that overlooks the Mailam village (Tamil Nadu) depends as much on Murugan’s thousand-year-old association with peaks as on its position in relation to the places of worship of other deities. This happens to be the case in a local geography where deities, social groups and the relating spaces are both classified and classifying. In Mauritius, the famous processions for Murugan and the over representation of its temples suggest a context of assertion of the Tamil community against the Hindu majority originating from the North. It also confirms the degree of significance of the places and circulations associated to this worship, to the point of producing territorial acts.”

Keywords: India, Tamil Nadu, Mauritius, Hinduism, temple, place, circulation, territory, scale, pantheon, caste, ethnicity, diaspora, Murugan


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