Title: Open Systems and Cultural Complexity: The Pilgrimage Center of Pushkar

Aditya Malik
South Asia Institute
University of Heidelberg

( ) Pushkar is one of India's most popular pilgrimage centers. Its importance derives not only from its deep antiquity, but also from the fact that it is the only extant pilgrimage center in India which is dedicated to the creator deity, Brahma. The origin of the pilgrimage center is believed to lie in the performance of a vedic ritual by Brahma during the golden age. In fact, the vedic ritual (yajna) provides a model for the ideological, ritual, and topological conceptualization of the pilgrimage center (tirtha). In this paper I propose to examine how a correspondence or homology is established between "yajna" and "tirtha" and how this then permeates different levels - ritual, textual, topological, and social - of the pilgrimage center. Furthermore, I will investigate how this correspondence provides a framework for inclusion and continuity that in turn serves to create the multilayered, multifacetted cultural and religious complex of Pushkar as an example of an open system that has flourished for over two thousand years.

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