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04 | Art, Ritual, and Text at Shrines in South Asia: A Cross-Disciplinary and Diachronic Investigation of the Forms and Functions of Shrines

This panel focuses on relationships between shrines and their communities in South Asia. With an interdisciplinary approach, we investigate these relationships through analyses of texts, aesthetics, historical and ethnographic material, space production, and the material culture at these sites.


· Melissa Kerin Washington and Lee University (Lexington VA, United States of America)
· Borayin Larios University of Vienna (Vienna, Austria)
· Verena Widorn University of Vienna (Vienna, Austria)


· 07/27 | 13:30-15:00 UTC+2/CEST
· 07/27 | 15:30-17:00 UTC+2/CEST
· 07/28 | 15:30-17:00 UTC+2/CEST
· 07/28 | 17:30-19:00 UTC+2/CEST

Long Abstract

In recent studies of shrines, altars, and votive offerings—throughout numerous religious traditions—there has been a vexing issue related to terminology. In this panel, we broadly apply the term shrine to designate places where exchanges between divine and devotee take place; these spaces are often accreted with materials and substances that are traces of these dynamic interactions. The material culture found at these places can be vast from paintings, metal statuary, and photographs to dried fish, grains, and relics. The materiality of the shrine—what it is made of, as well as the material objects left at these sites—is only part of the story. Some shrines have rich histories and deep connections with communities of faith. In some cases, shrines are places people have visited for centuries to increase fertility, to ask for forgiveness, to gain favor, to earn protection, and much more. Textually, altars and shrines are often carefully described and discussed in both ritual texts and hagiographic accounts where shrines often serve as backdrops for religious rites and spaces to express gratitude, among many other functions.

Organic, interactive, and layered, these often pastiche-like constructions are indices of the ever-evolving and deeply meaningful relationships between shrines and their communities. This panel invites papers that investigate these relationships and strata of material found at these complex sites throughout South Asia within its numerous religious expressions. Of particular interest are papers that include, but are not limited to, analyses of aesthetics, art history, ethnographic survey, space production, material culture, & ritual