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Hail to the Chief?: The politics and poetics of a Rajasthani 'child sacrifice'

Title:Hail to the Chief?: The politics and poetics of a Rajasthani 'child sacrifice'
Author:Snodgrass J.
Publication:Culture and Religion / Routledge, part of the Taylor & Francis Group
Enumeration:vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 71-104, March 2004
Abstract:In this paper, I examine a birth ritual practised by a community of low-status entertainers from the Indian state of Rajasthan known as Bhats. On the birth of sons, but not daughters, Bhats offer gifts to the Hindu god Bhaironji, a pan-Indian boss of the underworld. Specifically, they sacrifice a goat, extract its stomach, slice it open so that it forms a gaping slit, and pass their wailing newborn through the dripping opening seven times. This ritual, which I interpret as a symbolic child sacrifice, would seem to exemplify 'Sanskritisation'--the low caste copying of elite life-styles--in the way Bhats imitate dominant Hindu ideals implicit to a kingly tradition of blood sacrifice. However, I contend that this feast is unique in the way that Bhats simultaneously mimic and appropriate, subvert and contest, as well as rework and combine ritual traditions associated with both kings and priests.

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