A refuge, sort of

Kodoth, Vinayan (2020) A refuge, sort of. [Video] (In Press)

Abstract

The output is a feature length documentary film, A Refuge. Research process: The focus is on the annual pilgrimage to Sabarimala, a once remote temple in southern India, which has grown exponentially over the last four decades to attract over 40 million pilgrims during the two-month period that it is open to the public. Kodoth drew on a combination of interviews, and visual ethnographic vignettes to capture how politics, economics, and media rather than a primarily spiritual impetus has gradually come to shape the nature of this pilgrimage. Research insights: The pilgrimage has in recent years become ground for contestation amongst pilgrim groups, and related organisations, revealing a mix of spirituality and mass religious mobilisation. Though the history of the place is hazy, and practices suggest very egalitarian roots in many faiths, the pilgrimage is also used by conservative Hindu groups as a mode of religious mobilisation. The marginalisation of women’s involvement in the pilgrimage has generated intense debate, and recent events around this has led to violence and judicial intervention. The Sabrimala pilgrimage also reflects the active role of media in mythmaking through movies, songs, and music videos. Whereas notions of simplicity, renunciation and non-violence once gave meaning to the pilgrimage, the current trend reflects a shift towards spectacle and consumption. This is evident in attempts being made by various stakeholders to transform Sabrimala, situated in an ecologically sensitive forest area, into a vast complex of hotels, malls and even an airport. Dissemination: Dissemination will be through submission of the film to film festivals. Screening in India is subject to certification from the Film Censor Board.

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