Festivals in South Asia

Celebrations of local communities

Authored by: Ute Hüsken

Routledge Handbook of South Asian Religions

Print publication date:  November  2020
Online publication date:  November  2020

Print ISBN: 9780367150778
eBook ISBN: 9780429054853
Adobe ISBN:


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While festivals are an integral and important part of South Asian public and domestic cultures, the chapter insists that festivals, even if celebrated throughout South Asia, can never be “South Asian” but are always unique to their specific local and historical setting, owing much to the religious pluralism that characterizes most South Asian regions, where Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Jains, Sikhs, Christians, and Jews coexist. Instead of providing a list of the “most important” festivals in South Asia, the chapter discusses select significant festivals according to their function and looks at festivals as local, transregional, and political events; at festivals that celebrate national identity; and at festivals as festive events. While it is true for any setting that festivals accomplish important social work, these events are always multilayered occasions with overlapping performative genres and important means to transmit local cultural knowledge—“a society’s reflection about itself”. The chapter argues that celebrations of local communities tell us much more about their local groundedness and dynamics than about their belonging to an abstract regional, national, or even “South Asian” identity.

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