From Texts to Local Tradition: A Study of Sthalapurāṇas in Konkan

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Purāṇa genre of South-Asian texts with regional narratives, often transcend the boundaries of religious and social commentary. On these lines, people in Western India consider the site-specific texts or the Sthalapurāṇas to be the manuals of socio-religious commentary. Some of the literary narratives extend into the social relations and performance of religious practices in public space. The current project aims at querying the agency of the texts in Konkan, the region along the western coast of India. The study examines the network of social and ritual action that gets explained through the medieval Sthalapurāṇa stories as its narrative core. Three texts examined for this thesis describe the region in the modern districts of Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg as a part of the landmass created by a mythological character, Paraśurāma. While the narratives utilize literary strategies from the established templates of the Hindu and Jain texts, this study highlights the metanarratives in the texts that make for a dedicated discussion. An ethnographic study of the oral narratives in the region has been indispensable in mapping the shared religious meanings from the texts tied to the locale. Furthermore, the thesis follows Paraśurāma narrative to explore the relationship between the local landscape and various social groups. This project will highlight the trajectory of narrativization of the landscape from the premodern to modern times. With this inquiry, the project aims to lay bare the claim on the landscape extended through storytelling and oral narratives, which are often examples of curated narratives and selective memorialization. In that sense, the discussion segues into exploring the emotional geographies superimposed on the physical land. Paraśurāma’s role in creation of the land and populating the land with select individuals for the spread of religion, thus becomes the focus of storytelling in Konkan. The tripartite approach to examine the literary, oral, and archaeological data offers a lens to describe the landscape with rich, layered ascribed meanings through the years. This study will offer case-studies from a relatively understudied geographical area.
vernacular religion, landscape, narrative, South Asia
Kale, D. (2023). From texts to local tradition: a study of Sthalapurāṇas in Konkan (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from