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Outward Bound with Ayyappan: Work, Masculinity, and Self-Respect in a South Indian Pilgrimage Festival

Author:

Elizabeth (Liz) Wilson

Miami University, US
About Elizabeth (Liz)
Wilson is a professor of Comparative Religion and an affiliate in the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program as well as in the Asian and Asian American Studies program.
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Abstract

The annual pilgrimage festival dedicated to the god Ayyappan has become immensely popular in the past sixty years. As many as fifty million pilgrims participate each year. This paper draws on interviews of pilgrims conducted in South India in 2012–2013. My fieldwork suggests that the increasing popularity of the event relates to the contemporary South Indian work environment, an environment in which traditional gender roles are being reshaped by the challenges posed by migration for work opportunities. Interviews of English-speaking pilgrims show that their interpretations of the pilgrimage festival highlight the complexities of manhood in a time of rapidly changing work roles for men and women. Specifically, my fieldwork demonstrates that pilgrims perceive Ayyappan as a source of aid for those who struggle to succeed as financial providers and heads of the family unit. Pilgrims anxious about the loss of traditional models of masculinity amidst rapid change find solace in the blessings the god Ayyappan yields.

DOI: http://doi.org/10.18352/rg.10136
How to Cite: Wilson, E. (Liz) ., (2016). Outward Bound with Ayyappan: Work, Masculinity, and Self-Respect in a South Indian Pilgrimage Festival. Religion and Gender. 6(1), pp.118–136. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18352/rg.10136
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Published on 20 Jun 2016.
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