Karin Polit: Moving deities: an analysis of possession, performance and the concept of heritage in the Himalayas
Since the state of Uttarakhand was formed as a separate state in November 2000, the display of ritual performances during heritage festivals has become more and more popular for people from Uttarakhand. During the Mahabharata festival at the "Indra Gandhi National Centre for the Arts", New Delhi in February and March 2011 more than half of the ritual demonstrations came from this region. Most of the exhibits were shortened or adapted versions of possession rituals, and were displayed here as cultural heritage of Uttarakhand. Apart from one text-centered presentation of a local Mahabharata, all other performances were inspired or simply short versions of possession dances. Usually, the audiences for these dances are huge crowds of villagers, but in this event the audience comprised of a few interested onlookers and artists from other groups so that many performances were presented to other performers from different regions of Uttarakhand. My paper attempts to analyse the differences in style and aesthetics of the performances, with an emphasis on the display of possession and people's reaction to it. I will argue that possession and its performance plays a significant role in the self-perception of Uttarakhandis.