In the footsteps of the cows
The ritual of gavāmayana between ancient and contemporary India
Edizioni Museo Pasqualino, Palermo 2022
Nanaya. Studi e materiali di Antropologia e Storia delle Religioni n.5
Codified in classical Vedic times (8th-4th century BCE), the gavāmayana (‘the cow path’) was a year-long ritual session (sām.vatsarika sattra), which accompanied the succession of months of the Vedic religious calendar and ended with the celebration of mahāvrata (‘the great vow’) during the winter solstice. Marking the conclusion of the arduous ritual journey, it celebrated rebirth and consecrated the beginning of the new year. The book conducts an investigation of gavāmayana based both on a philological analysis of the texts and on a historical-religious and anthropological perspective, focusing on ancient India, but also on some contemporary practices. The mahāvrata, in particular, seems to preserve the memory of very ancient ritual practices, whose representations reveal a complex play of symbolic exchanges linked to the alternation of the seasons and the growth of vegetation, to the myth of generation through emptying and relocating, within the perimeter of the civilised world and the law, what appears disruptive and anomic (such as sexuality). In the various chapters, not only the intertwining of themes of a political nature with those related to sexuality and the promotion of fertility emerge, but also certain symbolic continuities, whereby changes in the use of cultic and ritual elements do not exhaust their values with the decline of Vedic rituality, but find new meanings in India, albeit in different historical contexts.
Igor Spanò Graduated in Philosophy at the University of Palermo, where he later obtained his Ph.D. in Philosophy. From 2007/2008 to 2010/2011 he has been Adjunct professor of Indian Philosophies and Religions and of Indology and Tibetology at the University of Palermo. He is currently attending his second Ph.D. in Cultural Sciences at the same University and is an Adjunct professor of History of Religions at the University of Trento. He is a scholar of the religious phenomena of ancient and contemporary India, and he is attentive to a perspective that combines the tools of religious sciences, anthropology, and philosophy with the philological examination of the texts of the Vedic and classical Sanskrit tradition. He has also deepened his study of traditional transgender communities in India.