Sense, Place and the Goddess: Devotion to Kali in Cross-cultural Perspective
Nicole Petersen [+]
Lesley University (MA student)
Kali, the dark Hindu goddess of time and fierce Mother of the universe, has a pervasive global presence. In this study, devotion to the goddess is traced from Her from historical roots in India across borders to temples in North America. Through this analysis, the project highlights the diversity with which devotion to Kali has been localized in different contexts, from radical preservation of conservative Hindu norms to integration into New Age spiritualities. In each of these diverse contexts, the sense of place is revealed as integral to the devotee’s ability to establish a connection with Kali. This essay analyzes the processes by which devotees separate themselves from their mundane reality and enter liminal spaces of worship. These spaces are understood both spatially and temporally and are characterized by devotional sensoriums (fluid networks of interconnected sensory stimulations) which are created and experienced by devotees and serve as gateways to the goddess. Finally, this essay explores the cultural and individual variations in processes of reaggregation, of leaving the limen and re-entering the mundane, where practices of worship and experiences in devotion to Kali are digested and given meaning. It is thus illuminated that the sense of place plays a significant role not only in the act of devotion, but the ways in this devotion is integrated into the rest of the devotee’s life.