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Rethinking 'Efficacy': Ritual Healing and Trance in the Mahanubhav Shrines in India


, : Rethinking 'Efficacy': Ritual Healing and Trance in the Mahanubhav Shrines in India. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 39(3): 361-379

Ritual healing has been one of the core topics in anthropology and, to a lesser extent, in psychology as well. Much of the research on ritual healing has focused on how healing works, and what factors constitute the efficacy of healing. In answering this question, scholars have focused primarily on two main factors-the symbolic significance of rituals, and the relationship between the healer and the patient. This paper explores understandings about efficacy in a context where elaborate rituals do not occur, the role of the healer is minimal, and the sufferers do not have expectations of complete wellness. In the Mahanubhav temples in India, healing is not understood as the removal of symptoms. The healing process involves amplifying unpleasant and painful symptoms, thereby 'drawing out' the illness from the body. Moreover, the temple narratives emphasize the transient nature of temple healing, where people rarely become completely well. They therefore frequently return to stay in the temple as and when their symptoms recur, thus forging long-term bond with the temple community and sect. These findings suggest that temple healing is powerful not so much for the practice of specific exorcist rituals, but for providing a refuge and a community for suffering individuals.

US$19.90

PMID: 25398665

DOI: 10.1007/s11013-014-9421-8


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