This blog post is an account of my work as a research assistant to Borayin Larios from 5th to 20th February 2020 for the project “Rhythms and Religions in Old Pune.” The geographical demarcation of our project is the area comprised of Somvār and Rāstā Peṭhs. In just a 0.7 sq.km radius we located 169 religious sites. Our goals for these two weeks were to mark all the religious sites in the area on Google maps and to interview the locals regarding the historical and contemporary significance of these sites. Since this project is in its incipient stage, we wanted to be as open-minded as possible, so as to let our observations in the field guide us. Our main methodological approach was ethnographical and thus inductive: our interviews were unstructured, and we engaged in participant observation and also visually documented the sites through photography. A key element of our work was mapping each of the sites on the Google map. Since these maps are open to the public to view on this blog, one can use them to identify the shifts and transformations of these religious sites in the next few years or those sites that may end up disappearing. The previous blog post on this page explains in further detail why mapping is significant for this project. Our participant observation included engaging with and observing the ritual activities at religious sites in order to attempt to understand the significance of these actions.
Throughout the duration of our fieldwork, there was consistently one question on my mind. Perhaps it is a question that does not make much sense in the South Asian context as it concerns the nature of “faith” and “belief”, but despite these being Eurocentric concepts that may not necessarily apply to the religious practices of Hinduism, I couldn’t help but wonder, how does one distinguish between belief in God or any other such being and the authority of the community, in the Indian context? I can think of four different possible outcomes to this question. (a) it could be possible that one believes in God and also obeys the authority of the community; (b) it is possible that one has no belief in God but practices religion because of the bind that it provides to the community; (c) it is possible that one has belief in God but does not answer to the authority of the community; (d) and it is possible that one does neither. Option (b) is a private issue that will not have any social consequences. Neither will option (a) cause any issues for the individual. On the other hand, if one follows options (c) and (d) and thereby rejects the authority of the community, one chooses to exclude themselves from being subject to the norms set by the community. Such a choice may lead to ostracization and the severity of the situation would depend on a case by case basis. I think that it is important to remember that what makes the Indian context even more complicated is that caste and gender restrictions already draw lines of exclusion within Hindu communities. For example, based on caste, persons could be not allowed to participate in communitarian events, or enter certain temples. They may even be denied food or water based on their caste. Menstruating women face such discrimination as well. Such involuntary exclusion is based on the community’s dictates that are primarily determined by the traditions of the area in concern. This exclusion differs from voluntary exclusion in that the individual decides to not abide by the community’s norms. I will say more about this in the last section of the blog post.
If a physical space is saturated with signs and symbols that reflect the community’s belief system, then it is likely that the individual and the community share a strong bond. This was definitely the case in the area of Somvār and Rāstā Peṭhs. I would even go so far as to call it a sacralised space, a term employed by Henri Lefebvre to describe a community’s “representational space.” (Levy: 1997, p. 39) The “members obey social norms without knowing it – that is to say, without recognizing those norms as such. Rather they live them spatially: they are not ignorant of them, they do not misapprehend them, but they experience them immediately.” (p. 39) I found this to be true irrespective of the kind of religious space that I was in during fieldwork – while most temples sported an orange flag (with or without an Oṃ symbol), most mosques and dargāhs would have on display green flags of different sizes. Besides this, the area also had many billboards that announced festivals, pūjās, or other such celebrations. Images 1 and 2 are examples of some of them.
In her paper, “Tradition in Transition,” Srinivas argues that a “return to an ethnographically driven understanding of religion in India is paramount to examine the complex role of religion in post-modern India.” (Srinivas: 2004, p. 59) Her fieldwork for the paper was conducted in three neighbourhood temples in Malleswaram, Bangalore. The research was conducted over a period of twenty-three months. (p. 57) This paper was a precursor to a book that she wrote fourteen years later titled The Cow in the Elevator: An Anthropology of Wonder (2018). In this book, her physical area of research stays the same – Malleswaram, Bangalore. The book re-evaluates the experience of ritual in terms of the wonder it produces. Unlike previous theorists of ritual, such as Victor Turner, she considers the effects of ritual to spill out into everyday life. The production of wonder, and its experience through ritual, are not confined to the event of the ritual only, its impact is meant to transform the world of the participants. In this blog post, for the sake of brevity, I will be employing just the theoretical tools from the paper “Tradition in Transition” and not Srinivas’ book. Here, she identifies three strategies employed by priests in Bangalore that signaled a shift from traditional ritual patterns and beliefs towards the incorporation of modern technologies and motifs. She finds that the priests have developed a “new grammar” to suit the era of capitalism. (p. 58) The first strategy was the use of technology in rituals, the second is the assimilation of national and/or international imagery into traditional alaṅkāra (dressing/adorning) of the deities, and the third is the “recycling” of traditional folk deities to suit the changes in the lifestyle of the urban middle class. (p. 57)
Srinivas observed the second strategy in the Mahā Gaṇapati temple, in Malleswaram, Bangalore. On Independence Day, the priest, Kashi prepared Gaṇeśa’s alaṅkāra with the colours of the tricolour. For Srinivas, this dressing symbolized a conflation of the nation-state of India with the deity Gaṇeśa and by extension, Hinduism. (p, 68) With regard to the third strategy, the “recycling” of deities, Srinivas provides the example of a small lone temple that houses Amman, a local deity of Kālī. The temple was located at the very edge of Malleswaram. (p. 69) While Amman was initially worshipped to ward off the plague and cholera, over time, as these diseases subsided in the regions, the Amman temple began to be frequented by truck-drivers who stopped here to pray that they do not get into accidents on their long journeys.
Brief Overview of Fieldwork
The purpose of invoking Srinivas’ strategies is to see to what extent they apply in Pune as well. By doing so, we will get a better understanding of the common trends in religious practices in urban India. Before doing so, I will provide a brief overview of our fieldwork. The Somvār and Rāstā Peṭhs were established during the Maratha and Peśvā rule in 1636 BCE and 1779 BCE, respectively. (Larios: 2018, p. 5) Peṭhs, or wards, in Pune initially came into being during the Nizāmśāhī rule. There are seventeen Peṭhs in total. In 1610 BCE, Marathi documents showed evidence of the existence of Śāhpur Peṭh, which is now known as Somvār Peṭh. (Kantak: 1990, p. 849) The 169 religious sites that we visited included the Succath Shelomo Synagogue, two churches, four mosques, eight dargāhs, two Śvetāmbara Jain temples, an Ayyappa temple, samādhis for Nāth yogis as well as for Gosāvīs, shrines dedicated to Akkalkoṭ Svāmī, and Sāī Bābā of Shirdi.
Syncretism within Hinduism is evident in the area. Rigopoulos has observed that in terms of Hindu traditions, Maharashtra displays an inextricable blend of Vaiṣṇavite and Śaivite traditions. (Rigopoulos: 2015, p. 1) In Pune, one does not just find different strands of Hinduism, but also a strong Islamic and Christian culture. While Islam has been in the region since the time of Khiljī dynasty (1290 BCE to 1320 BCE), Christianity came with Western missionaries that found Pune suitable for the set-up of educational institutes. In fact, one of the oldest churches of Pune is found in our area of research, “Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception,” which houses a school as well. Image 3 shows the church within the school compound. The school was set up by a Portuguese missionary with the aid of the Peśvā administration, in the year 1792.  In addition to this, Pune is home to Parsis and Jews as well, but it seems like both communities have declining populations in the region. The Succath Shelomo Synagogue was set up by Bene Israelis who claim to have come to India about 2700 years ago. During our fieldwork, we attempted to enter the synagogue, but we did not get permission to enter the building as the synagogue can only be entered by Jews. In image 4, one can see the main entrance to the synagogue. Their population has dwindled from five thousand to three hundred in just a matter of a few decades. Pune is also home to a small population of Baghdadi Jews. They pray at the Ohel David Synagogue in Camp area. 
Some of the oldest temples in the area include the Rāste Vāḍā Datta Mandir, Śrī Datta Mandir, Kālārāma Mandir, Nāgeśvar Mandir, Triśuṇḍa Gaṇapati Mandir, Śrī Siddheśvar Mandir, Lakṣmī-Nārāyaṇ Mandir, and Lakṣmīśvar Mandir. On Google maps, we have marked these sites in brown to indicate structures that are more than two hundred years old. While a lot of these temples are majestic and awe-inspiring, they are not frequented as often as some of the more popular temples in Pune such as the Kasba Peṭh Gaṇapati and the Pune landmark Śrīmant Dagḍuśeṭh Halvāī Gaṇapati. Perhaps Nāgeśvar temple, is the only temple in the area that draws a big crowd. While the churches, mosques, synagogue, and some of the bigger temples had their own private properties, many of the Hindu structures were either wayside shrines or temples within residential compounds. These shrines or smaller temples are usually run by trusts or Mitra Maṇḍaḷs. Seven out of the eight dargāhs that we found were also wayside shrines. The sole exception was the Lāl Śāh Bābā Dargāh, which had a larger structure that could accommodate more people than the other dargāhs. Personally, I was most enamoured by the Triśuṇḍa Gaṇapati Mandir. This temple was built by Śrī Bhimgirji Gosāvī Mahārāj during 1754 to 1770 BCE. (Kale: 1996, p. 125) The following two images are of the entrance of the Mandir and the deity housed within.
Before continuing, I need to define the terms “wayside shrine” and “Mitra Maṇḍaḷ”. A wayside shrine is “a site that houses a worshipped object that is immediately adjacent to a public path, visible from it and accessible to any passerby.” (Larios and Voix: 2018, p. 6) We found plenty such shrines dedicated to saints, pīrs, Gaṇeśa, Dattātreya, Mārutī, Mhasobā, among other deities. The second is a Mitra Maṇḍaḷ. These are “friend associations or societies” (Larios: 2018, p. 4) that organize the public worship of Gaṇeśa during the Gaṇeśa Caturthī celebrations. This festival starts on the fourth day of the Hindu month of bhādrapada (August/September). Usually, these groups are male-exclusive and are either athletically inclined and/or politically oriented groups that represent a neighbourhood. (p. 4) Mitra Maṇḍaḷs do not just organize Gaṇeśa Caturthī celebrations – but also shown earlier, in Images 1 and 2, they also celebrate Śivājī Jayantī, Navrātri, and other such festivals. For the most part of everyday life, not much religious activity takes place at these Maṇḍaḷs. They usually end up being places for people to meet and spend time together during the evening.
Davar and Lokhare (2009) claim that dargāhs have a strained relationship with orthodox Islam. Their argument has emerged from their fieldwork in Maharashtra. Dargāhs are a common sight in South Asia, and I do not think that their argument is applicable to all dargāhs in general. The relationship between dargāhs and orthodox Islam must vary based on local factors. Davar and Lokhare observe that dargāhs are places of healing which today act as safe havens for destitute and marginalized sections of society. Their healing practices date back to approximately five centuries ago. These dargāhs tend to be quite syncretic, as they are open to everyone. (Davar and Lokhare: 2009, p. 62) Formal Islam frowns upon the esoteric practices that take place at these sites, argue Davar and Lokhare. The dargāhs that we found in our field differed from those described by these researchers in two ways. First, most of these dargāhs were wayside shrines and therefore they were considerably smaller than the other well-known dargāhs inside and surrounding Pune. Second, there hardly seemed to be any activity (ritualistic or otherwise) at these sites. However, this could possibly be due to the fact that we did not spend enough time at these sites and the data collection is still ongoing and therefore we do not have enough information. Probably during festivals and celebrations, we would have seen more activity at these sites. The dargāhs that we found were mostly located in proximity to a mosque or within a Muslim neighbourhood. The dargāh in image 8 can be classified as a wayside shrine, while image 9 depicts a larger dargāh with a building housing the main tombs. However, this dargāh is also adjacent to the road and some of the tombs are directly accessible to any passerby and are not gated.
As observed by Larios elsewhere, often wayside shrines (both Hindu and Muslim) and Mitra Maṇḍaḷs function as identity markers. (Larios and Voix: 2018, p. 9) This was most evident in times when the air is filled with communal posturing. (p. 12) Through the months of December, January, and the first half of February, Pune was an active site for anti-CAA/NRC protests.   Despite conducting our fieldwork in the aftermath and during these protests, we did not observe explicit instances of communal posturing in Somvār or Rāstā Peṭh. We did not pursue the question of communalism explicitly during our fieldwork as we were more interested in finding out what these religious sites meant to the people that lived in the neighbourhood. In the future, we will be adding these important questions regarding communal politics to our questionnaire. One thing was clear though, the Muslims and Hindus – for the most part – lived in separate buildings. At the same time, the density of the population in the area is so high that one’s neighbouring building could end up belonging to another community. Often, mosques, dargāhs and Hindu shrines, are in close physical proximity and they even sometimes share boundaries with each other. For example, the Pensionwala Masjid shares its compound with the Ornellas High School, as well as the Nivaḍuṅga Mārutī Mandir. One of the trustees of the Mandir, Mr. Khole, informed us that it was the British who divided the land between the three communities and since then the arrangement has sustained without any communal issues. While a lot of Rāstā Peṭh leading to Nana Peṭh is home mostly to Muslims, most of Somvār Peṭh appears to be dominated by upper-caste Hindus, Marathas, Kunbis, and perhaps other OBCs. Lower castes and Dalits seemed to mostly reside in Bhim Nagar, close to Maṅgalavār Peṭh and other adjacent areas. Bhim Nagar is one of many of Pune’s slums that houses lower-caste settlements. This caste configuration needs to be further examined and supported by empirical data. As of now, my observation has emerged from cultural indicators and not any exact figures.
A large majority of the Hindu religious sites that we documented were dedicated to these four deities: Gaṇeśa, Dattātreya, Mārutī, and Mhasobā. In terms of frequency, Gaṇeśa temples and Mitra Maṇḍaḷs total up to forty-two sites; Mārutī has twenty-three sites dedicated to him; while Dattātreya has fourteen sites; and Mhasobā has eleven sites dedicated to him. Many of these shrines and temples overlap in terms of the deities that they house. For example, we would often find Mhasobā with Gaṇeśa, or Mārutī. We even stumbled upon a Gaṇeśa-Dattātreya idol, which is essentially a combination of both gods, in the basement of a residential building in Somvār Peṭh. (See image 10) Besides these four gods, Śiva temples in the area would also tally up to a high number. In addition to these gods, we found twelve shrines and temples dedicated to goddesses (devīs). Notable sites are the Tuḷjā Bhavānī Mandir and the Mandhardevī Kaḷubāī Devasthān. (See image 11) In general, most of the religious activity that we observed in the area was loosely structured. The focus was not so much on ritual as much as daily darśana followed by a quick pradakṣiṇā. Rituals primarily take place at festivals, ceremonies, or on particular days of the week. On Monday, people pray to Śiva; on Tuesday, they worship Gaurī/Pārvatī; on Thursday, they worship Dattātreya; on Friday, they worship Lakṣmī; and on Sunday, they worship Khaṇḍobā. (Rigopoulos: 2015, p. 8)
Returning to Srinivas’ article, I find that all three strategies that she mentioned, are visible in Pune as well, but with some differences. In the temples that she visited the priests were the prime agents that implemented the strategies. In Pune, I found that priests (whether Brahmin or otherwise) were not necessarily present at each and every temple, and especially not at all times, but only at the time when rituals were performed. Perhaps one of the few priests that we did encounter was at the Praśneśvar temple, which is a Śiva temple near Shree Chhatrapati Shahu Garden. Besides that, prayers and rituals at the Hindu religious sites were carried out by non-professionals. We found that our area truly displayed popular religion at play. Often we would walk into Mārutī temples to find a group of women sitting together and singing devotional songs. (See image 12) There was little formalized or professionalized religion practiced here. With regard to the first strategy, that is, the use of technology in temples, I found that the extent of the use of technology on a daily basis was limited to lighting and speakers for music or announcements. At the time of festivals, such as Śivājī Jayantī, or Gaṇeśa Caturthī, technology is used in quite an extravagant manner where grand Paṇḍaḷs are organized by different families, trusts, or other such associations. (See image 13)
With regard to the second strategy, we came across a fascinating Mārutī temple called “Bhārata Mātā Mitra Maṇḍaḷ.” (See images 14 and 15 below) This temple had two structures. While one was inside a private compound (in the midst of residential buildings), the other structure was just outside the wall that enclosed the first structure. The second structure that faced the main road was where the Mitra Maṇḍaḷ activities would take place. The Maṇḍaḷ housed a Gaṇeśa idol. While we did not get the opportunity to interview anyone here, the name of the temple was a strong and obvious reference to the imaginary territory of the ideal Hindu Rāṣṭra. Here too, like with the Mahā Gaṇapati temple in Malleswaram, we can see a direct conflation of the nation-state with Hinduism.
Such conflation was visible at other sites as well. For example, two Mitra Maṇḍaḷs in the area had been named after Subhash Chandra Bose (1897-1945), the Bengali nationalist freedom fighter who preferred violent means over non-violence to attain independence from the British. Interestingly enough, while these Mitra Maṇḍaḷs have names that invoke nationalist imagery they did not employ any explicit symbols that do the same. Many Mitra Maṇḍaḷs and temple trusts have booklets printed which shows the amount donated by each of their patrons and often photos of each of their members resembling school yearbooks. If one goes through this, one can see which individuals and political parties, or cultural organizations have financed the Maṇḍaḷ or trusts activities. Many political parties, including those that are not traditionally right-wing, support temple trusts and Mitra Maṇḍaḷs.
The strategy of “recycling” gods is found here, in Pune as well. In his PhD dissertation, Jeffrey Brackett argues that while Mārutī’s “career” began as an important village god, he has now become an everyday urban deity. One of the reasons for this development is that the worship of Mārutī does not demand long, elaborate rituals. (Brackett: 2004, p. 75-76) Mārutī devotion in Maharashtra can be traced back to Rāmdas Swami (17th century). He popularized in Maharashtra, myths about Śani and Mārutī. (p. 58-59) Today, people worship Mārutī to ward off Śani’s evil eye. Brackett observes that Mārutī becomes a god that even the Brahmins of Pune worship. (p. 80) In fact, at some point during Peśvā rule, the number of Mārutī temples being built by Chitpavan Brahmins was higher than the number of Gaṇeśa temples being built by them. (p. 80) This is striking because many of Pune’s Chitpavan Brahmin’s kuladēvatā is Gaṇeśa. Another instance of such “recycling” is the use of the pastoral god Mhasobā as a means to prevent people from littering in a particular spot. (Larios: 2018, p.9) We met a member of the “Heritage Cell” of the Pune Municipal Corporation that confirmed that this does seem to be a common practice in Pune. Mhasobā is a horned buffalo deity, of pastoral tribes in Western and South India. He is often identified as a form of Śiva or Paśupati. (Drury: 2004, p. 285.) I would argue that since Mhasobā is such a commonly worshipped god for most of Maharashtrians, especially Marathas (O’ Hanlon: 2002, p. 155), it makes sense to use him as a marker for not littering. Most people out of respect and fear of the deity would perhaps avoid littering in that spot.
Faith and Community
One of the first few wayside shrines that we had documented was an idol of Tuḷjā Bhavānī in a residential part of Somvār Peṭh. During the first week of fieldwork, we had assumed that the idol was a representation of Yellammā, another name of goddess Reṇukā typically worshipped in Karnataka, but on the second last day, we had a conversation with a local man, who informed us that the idol was a representation of Tuḷjā Bhavānī and not Yellammā. We had stopped to photography a small Mhasobā that was behind the Tuḷjā Bhavānī shrine as we had not noticed it before. While we were going about our usual business of photography and mapping, we realized that a man nearby, sitting on his motorcycle had been watching us. By this point, we were accustomed to such looks and knew that often, moments like these were an invitation for conversation. We began talking to this man. His name was Rajesh and he was from Hubli, Karnataka. His family had been in Pune for at least sixty years now. Our conversation with Rajesh was the most impactful interview for me because it confirmed for me my understanding of the relations between an individual’s faith and their community.
We asked Rajesh about how the Tuḷjā Bhavānī and Mhasobā shrines happened to be in this residential area. He responded by pointing to the adjacent building and said that the Mhasobā had been excluded from the property when the erstwhile Wada had been turned into a modern building. The Tuḷjā Bhavānī idol had been brought for a pūjā by the neighbours but had been kept outside of the building ever since. He expressed great disappointment in the way people have begun to treat the physical idols of deities. He argued that deities are taken out of their rightful places through the process of replication. His reference point here was the statues of Viṭṭhobā, Khaṇḍobā, and Tuḷjā Bhavānī, whose original places of worship (devasthāns) are Pandharpur, Jejuri, and Tuljapur, respectively. When their idols are replicated and worshipped in other physical locations, the deva is being disrespected, as its idol will not receive the same sevā that the idol in the original devasthān receives. Further, he was of the opinion that people do this primarily for two reasons. Either they desire something and bring home idols for that purpose or they set up wayside shrines or Mitra Maṇḍaḷs to show family/community wealth and influence. If one looks closely at image 18 above, one will notice that the Tuḷjā Bhavānī idol seems to be taken care of regularly – one can tell by the fresh flowers, rice, and coconut. On the other hand, if we look at image 19, it does not seem as if the idol is worshipped regularly. While the Tuḷjā Bhavānī idol may have been receiving sevā, Rajesh’s point still holds true for many other neglected shrines that we encountered.
Rajesh seemed to have given this some time and thought because he even had suggestions for us regarding how public spaces that are inhibited by shrines and Maṇḍaḷs could be better used by the municipal corporation. The money that is spent on celebrations and festivals could be spent on feeding the poor or providing beggars with blankets. He stated God resides in human beings as well, helping fellow human beings, too, is a way of showing your devotion to God, his exact words in Hindi were, “bhagavān insān meiṃ bhī rahate haim, garīb log kī sevā karṇa bhī, deva kā sevā hota haiṃ”. Towards the end of the conversation, Rajesh finally got explicit regarding politics by saying that there is no possibility of India progressing towards becoming a developed country, that is “is deś meiṃ tarakkī hone kā koī bhī chance nahī hai.” When I asked him why he thought so, he replied that the Hindu-Muslim issue takes precedence over everything else in this country. Here, by tarakkī, Rajesh meant “progress” through “development”. He argued that Pakistan was in the same boat as us and that neither nation-states would ever be able to match the level of development as the United States because of our lack of political will to focus on anything but communalism. He said that he could not even talk about his stance and opinions in public because he was certain that politicians will name and shame him in the community. To be precise, he said that they would put your name on the front page of the newspaper and defame you. Rajesh’s observations confirm the possibilities of being excluded from the community based on one’s choice to reject the authority of the community.
The reason why this conversation struck me is that it seemed like the most honest and reflective set of opinions that I had encountered on the field. Our fieldwork did yield other significant interviews but this one stuck with me the most. As an individual, he seemed like someone who partook in religious activities out of compulsion, and not out of faith. He seemed to rationalize that the treatment of deities in the public sphere was an act devoid of faith and that genuine faith is reflected in the way human beings treat each other. He was very aware of the relationship between politics and faith and the impact this has on a community’s norms and practices. I would argue that this worldview fits option (b) that I mentioned at the beginning of this post, that is the individual does not believe in god per se but obeys the authority of the community for practical reasons. One could argue that Rajesh’s perspective fits either the agnostic or humanist thinking, but I think we would have to conduct another interview to determine that. One’s faith or belief in God and the relationship with the community is a complicated one that I have attempted to understand through by separating the two things and trying to understand the different possibilities. I have not included the analysis of other South Asian religions, such as Jainism, Islam, Buddhism, etc. through this lens because this would require me to include further theoretical literature and ethnographical research on the nature of faith and community in each individual religion.
The Peṭh area is the notorious bastion of tradition in Pune. For me, the practice of tradition in the area does not seem to adhere to scriptures or any religious authority per se. Every temple, shrine, and dargāh seemed to have its own way of functioning. The only exceptions for this, I would think, are the churches and synagogue as they belong to nationwide chapters. The rituals and activities that witnessed at the religious sites were not drowned in seriousness – most of the time, everyone was relaxed, and the gatherings were rather casual. Often these spaces did seem to be used creatively. One of the Mārutī temples that we visited held Bhāratanāṭyam dance classes for young girls during the evenings. Often, closer to Rāstā Peṭh, I would see young Muslim boys relaxing outside the dargāh in their area. Temples, wayside shrines, dargāhs, etc. have always been more than places of prayer. It has been fascinating to observe how these physical locations can become sites for a host of different social activities. These contemporary practices need a closer examination to understand the way tradition is enacted now. Sociologically speaking, Srinivas’ work has been extremely useful as it proves that such a shift in tradition and ritualistic practice is a phenomenon of urban spaces.
The areas of Somvār and Rāstā Peṭhs were saturated with deities and their idols. Every few metres we encountered another small god or goddess. The area is more diverse than I assumed that it would be and all the churches, dargāhs, and other non-Hindu structures indicated this to us. Many of the religious sites that we visited were beautiful and awe-inspiring. Especially the older structures, which almost seemed to sigh with the weight of tradition and history. Sometimes they would fill me with a feeling of ebullience but sometimes, these sites would remind me of the horror, bloodshed, and politics that happen in the name of religion. This is exactly what would get me thinking about the relationship between the individual and the community and the spaces in which they reside. Overall, my experience in the field left me thinking about a lot of paradoxes: I saw elements of syncretism in the area but at the same time, I saw elements of strict orthodoxy; I saw the co-existence of communities, as well as their implicit communal posturing towards each other; I saw genuine acts of faith as well as purely political moves with regard to religious activity. There is much left to be said about the various deities in the area, the narratives that describe the origins of their worship, and the temples in which their idols are housed. But for now, this account will suffice. What I now know, for certain is that ethnographical research reveals more contradictions than theoreticians would like to admit to. This revelation has definitely enlightened me as a theoretician and practitioner of the humanities.
 The Citizenship Amendment Act (2019) was strongly opposed by Indian students and civil society activists from across the country. https://in.reuters.com/article/india-citizens-un/new-indian-citizenship-law-discriminatory-against-muslims-u-n-says-idINKBN1YH141
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Akanksha Mansukhani is a student of Philosophy who has completed her MA from the Manipal Centre for Humanities, Karnataka. Once the pandemic blows over she will begin her PhD program at the Department of Social, Political, Ethical, and Legal Philosophy at Binghamton University, State University of New York. Other than pursuing her academic interests, Akanksha likes spending time with her dogs, listening to music, and having lengthy conversations over cups of chai. She would like to thank Alok Oak, Department of Political Science, Symbiosis School of Arts for putting her in touch with Borayin Larios for this project. In addition, she would like to thank her friends, Tanvi Deshmukh for helping with translating from Marathi during fieldwork and Sneha Nair for proofreading this blog post.