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Collective ritual as a way of transcending ethno-religious divide: the case of Kataragama Pāda Yātrā in Sri Lanka

Author:

Anton Piyarathne

The Open University of Sri Lanka, Nawala, LK
About Anton

Department of Social Studies,
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

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Abstract

Sri Lanka has been in the prime focus of national and international discussions due to the internal war between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Sri Lankan government forces. The war has been an outcome of the competing ethno-religious-nationalisms that raised their heads; specially in post-colonial Sri Lanka. Though today's Sinhala and Tamil ethno-religious-nationalisms appear as eternal and genealogical divisions, they are more of constructions; colonial inventions and post-colonial politics. However, in this context it is hard to imagine that conflicting ethno-religious groups in Sri Lanka actually unite in everyday interactions. This article, explains why and how this happens in a context wherein essentialisations of ethnic and religious labels prevail, and relations between groups are still tense following years of conflict. Recent fieldwork in the rural village of Pānama revealed that people belonging to two different ethno-religious groups, i.e., Sinhala-Buddhists and Tamil-Hindus, tend to overcome their differences in the context of rituals that blend Hindu and popular Buddhist traditions. Building upon Turner’s notion of communitas (1969), as recently applied to the lived religion of pilgrimages (Hermkens et al., 2009), and the theory of practice of Bourdieu (McCorriston, 2011), the annual pilgrimage create space for multi-ethnic devotees to collaborate, which will be useful in creating a psychological frame for long term relationship building.
How to Cite: Piyarathne, A., (2017). Collective ritual as a way of transcending ethno-religious divide: the case of Kataragama Pāda Yātrā in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka Journal of Social Sciences. 40(1), pp.41–52. DOI: http://doi.org/10.4038/sljss.v40i1.7500
Published on 29 Jun 2017.
Peer Reviewed

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