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Growing Stories from IndiaReligion and the Fate of Agriculture$
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A. Whitney Sanford

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780813134123

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813134123.001.0001

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The Festival of Holi:

The Festival of Holi:

Celebrating Agricultural and Social Health

(p.121) Chapter 5 The Festival of Holi:
Growing Stories from India

A. Whitney Sanford

University Press of Kentucky

During the Hindu springtime harvest festival of Holi, devotees celebrate the renewal of social bonds and agricultural fertility because Holi festivities demonstrate the intimate ties between social and agricultural health. This chapter, which is based on the author's experiences in the Braj region of northern India, describes Holi rituals and practices in Baldeo, the center of Balaram pilgrimage. It explores Holi's comedic role in releasing social and agricultural tensions and stabilizing society but argues that defusing tensions do not resolve structural problems, and the resulting stability tends to maintain existing hierarchies. For example, anxieties over the fear of famine, that the earth will not cooperate, tend to lead to stricter controls and narratives (and practices) of domination rather than reciprocity and partnership and so make it more difficult to envision alternatives for food production. Analyzing the social role of stories of control and mastery over the earth provides insight into the reluctance to explore alternative agricultural practices.

Keywords:   Holi, Hinduism, gender, ritual, agriculture, comedy, satire, pastoral, India, Braj

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