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Encountering KālīIn the Margins, at the Center, in the West$
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Rachel Fell McDermott and Jeffrey Kripal

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780520232396

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520232396.001.0001

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Kāḷi in a Context of Terror

Kāḷi in a Context of Terror

The Tasks of a Goddess in Sri Lanka's Civil War

(p.100) Chapter 5 Kāḷi in a Context of Terror
Encountering Kālī

Rachel Fell McDermott

Jeffrey J. Kripal

University of California Press

On the east coast of Sri Lanka, the number of participants in devotionalism to local, territorial forms of the Goddess has increased dramatically during recent years. Kālī's magnetism is, however, expanding in a narrowing landscape. The war-torn east coast is undergoing stifling isolation from the wider world as separatist fighters sever telephone lines and destroy electrical transformers with explosives. The violence stems from the conflict between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the dominant armed group fighting for the establishment of a separate state, and Sri Lankan government security forces. This chapter examines the reworking of local religious life surrounding Kālī in conditions of civil war in Sri Lanka. In war-torn Sri Lanka, Kālī worship is undergoing a dramatic resurgence, with Tamil devotees flocking to her oracles both for aid in embodying and interpreting the horrible injuries of war and to perform propitiatory acts of self-mutilation. Kālī here is an angry mother goddess who must be both appeased and quite literally inscribed onto the suffering bodies of her devotees in trance and political torture.

Keywords:   Sri Lanka, Kālī, civil war, violence, oracles, devotionalism, separatist fighters, religious life, self-mutilation, trance

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