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Abstract

Pilgrimage to the shrines of folk deities differ little from pilgrimages to the centres of the institutionalised Gods. However, the historical evolution of a folk cult and the specific socio-cultural context of the emergence and growth of folk deities provides a different dimension to their religious space. This paper examines pilgrimage to the shrine of the folk deity, Goga that attracts followers from across faiths including Hindus and Muslims. The aim of the paper is to explore the double edged religious process at Gogamedi. First, the growing efforts by Hindu Brahmanical traditions to subdue and unsettle divergent traditions of the cult by appropriating it and promoting a monolithic religious culture; second, resistance to these unwelcomed attempts by traditional followers. For the purpose of studying the aforesaid religious processes, this paper is organised into three sections. The first section deals with the historical overview of Goga and the evolution of the religious space, Gogamedi. The second section looks into the spiritual world and customs followed by traditional pilgrims at Gogamedi, most of who belong to the marginalised sections and also upper caste pilgrims who have joined the ranks of the followers just recently. The last section scrutinises how Brahmanical traditions have interpolated non-Brahmanical and Islamic methods of worship associated with the deity in a subtle manner, and how this interpolation, over a period of time, has changed the popular perception of the deity, making him part of the Hindu pantheon of Gods. This section also analyses the response of traditional followers to the attempts of the aforesaid cultural appropriation. At a time when attempts are being made to project Hinduism as a monolithic religion, deities such as Goga are excellent examples of amalgamation and co-existence of different religions and traditions without any boundaries.

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