• Agriculture, Floriculture and Botanical Knowledge in a Middle Bengali Text

      Ferrari, Fabrizio M.; University of Chester (Equinox Publishing, 2016-04-20)
      This chapter offers an overview of botanical lore in Śūnyapurāṇ, a heterogeneous Bengali liturgical work attributed to Rāmāi Paṇḍit. The text celebrates the god Dharmarāj, or Dharma Ṭhākur, through a lengthy cosmogonic narrative and various ritual tracts that define the practice of Dharmapūjā. After a brief introduction about the text, its authorship and date, I will discuss the use of flowers and rice in the worship of Dharmarāj in three sections: the plucking of flowers (puṣpatolān); the birth of paddy (dhānyer janma), which includes the popular tale of the farming (kr̥ṣak) Śiva, and the auspicious song of the husking pedal (ḍheṅkīmaṅgal).
    • Devotion and affliction in the time of cholera: ritual healing, identity and resistance among Bengali Muslims

      Ferrari, Fabrizio M.; University of Chester (Routledge, 2014-12-05)
      The chapter examines the worship of the cholera goddess Olā Bibi among Muslims of Bengal. Moving from an analysis of iconographic, mythical and ritual material, I investigate how Bengali Muslims have responded to the threat of cholera from early eighteenth century. The goddess has served as a catalyst to inform local identity and to challenge external agency in matter of disorder and social control. Yet while Bengali culture has facilitated a convergence of visions and programs in time of crisis (cholera epidemics and colonialism), the recent affirmation of militant Islamism has aggressively confronted indigenous healing practices thus causing major internal collisions in matter of community ethos, and a consequential loss of vernacular knowledge.
    • Guilty males and proud females: Negotiating genders in a Bengali festival

      Ferrari, Fabrizio M.; University of Chester (Seagull Books, 2011-02-11)
      This book is a study on the Bengali Gajan festival dedicated to the god Dharmaraj
    • Hinduism and Healing

      Ferrari, Fabrizio M.; University of Chester (SAGE, 2016-02-16)
      The chapter is divided into sections exploring medical knowledge, myths, and rituals in Veda, Āyurveda, Tantra, and in folk and devotional culture.
    • “Illness Is Nothing But Injustice”: The Revolutionary Element in Bengali Folk Healing

      Ferrari, Fabrizio M.; University of Chester (American Folklore Society, 2015)
      This article seeks to reflect on how concepts such as “ritual,” “illness,” and “health” are intertwined in the practice of Bengali healers and their customers. By objecting to past and present logics that ascribe to folk healing an innate subalternity because of context (e.g., the village), mode of transmission (e.g., orality), gender and social background of votaries (e.g., low-caste, working-class sectors), my analysis discusses health-seeking rituals as an arena for revolutionary negotiations. This character is determined by the willingness of healers, health-seekers, and other-than-human entities (deities, spirits, demons, ghosts, etc.) to counter relative injustice, negotiate power, and actualize redemption by means of a radical, though often temporary, subversion of or challenge to an established order. This reading, which I derive from Ernesto de Martino’s “progressive folklore,” wishes to contribute to discourses on religious folklore as a way of expressing, and perpetuating acceptable solutions to individual and social imbalance, including the perception of illness as uneven development. Folk healing is one of the liveliest forms of people’s knowledge; the actualization of ancestral needs; and one of the most easily available and culturally understandable form of creativity, reflexivity, and education. While critically addressing the limits of using de Martino’s theories in the frame of post-colonial ethnography, I go back to his definition of culture as the result of the “victorious struggle of health over the pitfalls of disease” ([1958] 2000:25) and discuss illness and its treatment among Bengali healers and their clients as ways to experience what de Martino called the expansion of self-consciousness.
    • Introduction to Roots of Wisdom, Branches of Devotion: Plant Life in South Asian Traditions.

      Ferrari, Fabrizio M.; Dähnhardt, Thomas W. P.; University of Chester; Ca' Foscari University of Venice (Equinox Publishing, 2016-06-01)
      General introduction to the volume with an essay on the sentience of plants in South Asian traditions.
    • Introduction to Soulless Matter, Seats of Energy: Metals, Gems and Minerals in South Asian Traditions

      Ferrari, Fabrizio M.; Dähnhardt, Thomas W. P.; University of Chester; Ca' Foscari University of Venice (Equinox Publishing, 2016-10-03)
      General introduction to the volume with an essay on the debate on animate and inanimate matter in early Indian philosophical traditions.
    • The myth of the treacherous yogin

      Ferrari, Fabrizio M.; University of Chester (2015)
      The article investigates the last 20 years of Italian politics through the philosophy of Vasugupta’s Śiva-sūtra and Guy Debord’s La Société du spectacle.
    • Religion, Devotion and Medicine in North India. The Healing Power of Sitala

      Ferrari, Fabrizio M.; University of Chester (Bloomsbury, 2014-11-20)
      This volume examines notions of health and illness in North Indian devotional culture, with particular attention paid to the worship of the goddess Sitala, the Cold Lady. Consistently portrayed in colonial and postcolonial literature as the ambiguous 'smallpox goddess', Sitala is here discussed as a protector of children and women, a portrayal that emerges from textual sources as well as material culture. The eradication of smallpox did not pose a threat to Sitala and her worship. She continues to be an extremely popular goddess. Religion, Devotion and Medicine in North India critically examines the rise and affirmation of the 'smallpox myth' in India and beyond, and explains how Indian narratives, ritual texts and devotional songs have celebrated Sitala as a loving mother who protects her children from the effects, and the fear, of poxes, fevers and infantile disorders but also all sorts of new threats (such as global pandemics, addictions and environmental catastrophes). The book explores a wide range of ritual and devotional practices, including scheduled festivals, songs, vows, pageants, austerities, possession, animal sacrifices and various forms of offering. Built on extensive fieldwork and a close textual analysis of sources in Sanskrit and vernacular languages (Hindi, Bhojpuri and Bengali) as well as on a rich bibliography on the struggle against smallpox in colonial and post-colonial India, the book reflects on the ambiguous nature of Sitala as a phenomenon largely dependent on the enduring fascination with the exotic, and the horrific, that has pervaded public renditions of Indian culture in indigenous fiction, colonial reports, medical literature and now global culture. To aid study, the volume includes images, web links, appendixes and a filmography.
    • The use of snuhī in Indian medical and liturgical literature, with a note on Bengali Śaktism

      Ferrari, Fabrizio M.; University of Chester (2017-10-10)
      The name snuhī is attested since the first centuries CE in the materia medica of early āyurvedic compendia where its leaves, roots and, particularly, its milky exudation are used in preparations against a wide range of conditions. Identified with various Euphorbiaceae, oft confused with cacti, and known in English as the spurge tree, snuhī is also described as a lesser poison (upaviṣa) and used in alchemical processes to purify metals. Finally, the spurge tree is also present in vernacular traditions, where it is associated to few gods and goddesses and is used by folk healers to develop antidotes against poisonous animals. Moving from an analysis of Picchilātantra, a short premodern Bengali Śākta ritual manual, I discuss how the snuhī-tree (B. sij, siju, manasā) came to be associated to the goddess Śītalā (protector of children from fever and poxes) and her cohort in a way that is not confirmed by other textual evidence or current ritual praxis. The present study, thought based on a minor text, reflects on how scientific knowledge has informed ritual and devotional culture and on the natural permeability of liturgical praxis in vernacular traditions.