Home Institution

Washington University in St. Louis

Publication Date

Spring 2013

Program Name

India: National Identity and the Arts


In Himachal Pradesh, previously isolated villages, where the local secular and sacred authorities are intertwined, are being transformed by modernization and closer connection to the rest of the Indian subcontinent. Villagers in the small Pahari town of Seepur, outside of Mashobra, are detaching themselves from the localized devta, and looking towards the Hindu pantheon and "plains" practices to become connected to the "greater" Hindu tradition. This Sanskritization, as it is currently appearing in this region, undermines local hierarchy, which revolves around localized traditions and carefully regulated worship of the local deity. This shift in the focus of the villagers from the local to the Hindu “mainstream” may provide them with more freedom from the rigidity of local hierarchy, but the hierarchy of the traditional caste system prevails in the “greater” Hindu mainstream. The pitfalls of Sanskritization in this context include reinforcing all-India caste stratification through seeking legitimacy in the context of established caste, susceptibility to political-Hindu ideology promoted by the Hindu right, and the decline of unique local culture and traditions. A case study in the village of Seepur, named after their local Seep Devta, provides insight into the markers of this transformation, its engagement with Hindu mythology, tradition, and caste. The Seep Devta temple, with its current Sanskritization, acts as both a reaffirmation and a rejection of hierarchy, with the possibility of negative consequences to follow.


Asian Studies | Community-Based Research | Family, Life Course, and Society | Place and Environment | Politics and Social Change | Social and Cultural Anthropology



Article Location