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Doctoral Project

The Vedic Sacrifice (yajña) in New Public Spheres 
Silke Bechler (M.A.)

This project focuses on the Vedic sacrifice (yajña), a traditional Indian ritual, which is characterised by the act of giving oblation to the gods by spreading various offerings into the fire. One intention is to analyse, with the help of various traditional Sanskrit texts, how this very specific ritual was carried out in former times, how it later stepped out of India, and how it is currently performed at various places all over the world, whereby the flows between India and Europe will be stressed.
Nowadays, yajñas can frequently be observed in India, where they are performed for individual purposes as well as for joint reasons. Furthermore, they are carried out in India for Indian people living abroad. With the rising influence of new media and technologies, an elaborate system developed which enables emigrants to practice their religious traditions even far away from home. In this context, an increasing number of websites emerged, which now offer sacrificial services combined in individual packages or organized as joint events. Simultaneously, a rising practice of yajñas outside India can be observed. Here, they are performed for individual reasons as well as with the intention to establish an Indian community in the diaspora. At the same time, several Indian organizations (Divine Life Society, ISKCON, etc.) expanded their branches to the western world, where such rituals are now performed as public events.
Yajña is an excellent example of 'religion on stage', where a formerly socially limited, small-scale happening is transferred into a global event by means of numerous new media and technologies as – for instance – television, film, video and audio recordings, the internet, or various print media. With the aid of these channels, which have to be considered in a cultural, religious, social, and political field, previously individual purposes are shifted into a public sphere. Here, joint interests are gathered that are in turn represented in various yajñas, which are now often performed under the disguise of public welfare, frequently in the form of charity events.