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Seminars and Colloquia

Humanities and Social Sciences

Defiant Religion : Wayside Shrines in Pune 
Wed, Feb 12, 2020,   12:00 PM at Seminar Room 24 (Main Building)

Dr. Borayin Larios
Department of South Asian, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies, University of Vienna

Even if India remains largely rural, hundreds of millions of people live in cities and mega-cities across its territory. This massive urban concentration is accompanied by a number of social and material rearrangements and innovations that affect the lives of these city dwellers. From the religious perspective, in the last twenty years or so, a new “temple-building boom” along with many old temples now undergoing an “urban renewal” (Waghorne 2004) can be observed. However, the development of cities has also seen an increasing number of “wayside shrines”. By this term, I mean –as a preliminary working definition– a site of worship that is immediately adjacent to a public path, visible from it and accessible to any passerby. Using the Lefebvre’s rhythm analysis the paper looks at a number of religious sites in this area: shrines, temples, mosques, make-shift altars etc. and looks at how these multi-religious sites are produced, maintained and erased within specific biological, psychological and social rhythms, orchestrating a unique form of everyday religion. Drawing from my current fieldwork material collected in the neighborhoods of Somvār Peṭh and Rāstā Peṭh, in the city of Pune this presentation creation and negotiation of “sacred” space and the often illegal material expression of religiosity in public space. Although wayside shrines often appear in many ways as non-threatening to anyone —a reason why perhaps they have been largely ignored by both scholarship, but also not given much importance by organized religion themselves— wayside shrines are certainly an important alternative to official places of worship. These shrines are sites that challenge our common conception of “religion” and defy in many ways, the individual, the community and the state.

Dr. Larios teaches at the Department of South Asian, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies of the University of Vienna and is assistant to the Chair of South Asian Studies. He holds an MA in Religious Studies from the Universities of Fribourg and Lausanne, Switzerland and a PhD in classical Indology from Heidelberg University in Germany. He authored ‘Embodying the Vedas: Traditional Vedic Schools of Contemporary Maharashtra’ published by DeGruyter Open Access in 2017. Dr. Larios uses an interdisciplinary methodological approach, combining cultural anthropology, religious studies, and historical philology to understand the contemporary religious traditions of India. His main regional focus is in Maharashtra where he now works on religion in the public space in the neighborhoods of Somvār Peṭh and Rāstā Peṭh.