The determination of time and place in rituals

Axel Michaels

( ) The paper will focus on a subrite essential to almost all rituals following dharmashastric rules, namely the exact determination and mentioning of time and place of the participants of rituals, especially the yajamana. The subrite is regarded either as a preliminary act or as a part of the formal decision for any ritual or vow including pilgrimages, i.e. the samkalpa.

( ) Interestingly, the way and kind of precision in determining time and location have escaped scholarly attention. However, this subrite helps to understand the way how the complexity of cosmological conceptions so important in pilgrimages are reduced to a precise moment and location: the rememberance (smrti) or expression (uccarana) of time (kala) and place (desha) in certain formulas.

( ) Since the Grhya- and Dharmasutras many rituals reflect regional peculiarities. One ritualistic point is that the various regions (janapada) and villages (grama) have to be considered.Generally speaking, the samkalpa includes spatial referents such as bharatavarse bharatakhande jambudvipe...deshe... "In the land of Bharata, in the continent of Bharata, in the Jambudvipa-Subkontinent, in the region of x, y, at the bank of this or that river..."These formulas had to modified according to the place and situation.

( ) The paper will also focus on two modern developments in this regard: a) the politization of the sacred region by incorporating phrases like ramarajya or hindurastra in the deshakalasmrti;
b) the linguistic aspect that many modern priests modify the formulas by mixing Sanskrit with vernaculars, thus creating an idiom which could be characterized as "modern priestly Sanskrit".

( ) The conclusion of the paper will be theoretical: as it seems, reducing and enlarging the religious complexity of space and time follow similar rules.

Return to Submitted Abstracts List Page

Return to Pilgrimage Workshop Home Page