When Fearful Ghosts are Married in Tulunadu
In Tulunadu those who meet a violent death fighting for a just cause may become demi-gods, or bhūtas. Here, death is a kind of apotheosis, where those who fought against injustice become divine figures after death, receiving a cult in a shrine. Quite different is the story of those who simply experienced a violent death before they even managed to get married. They return as ghosts, pretas, and their kin suffer from their absence, but still fear the pretas and try to appease them by all available means. The paradox is that when pretas manifest themselves their unwanted presence is frightening, while at the same time their absence is experienced as grief. This creates a kind of double bind, which villagers may try to resolve by celebrating the marriage of ghosts, enabling their deceased siblings to marry. This marriage induces the families of bride and bridegroom to unite in their grief, while trying to appease the young ghosts who torment them. This ritual, often held secretly, was documented by a photographer from the fisherman caste who had himself experienced similar fear when his brother-in-law, still a bachelor, committed suicide. The paper reflects on the fear he experienced, wondering if the ritual could really appease the kin.
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