Joyce Flueckiger

An Aesthetics of Excess: Gangamma Jatara in Tirupati

The purpose of Gangamma jatara is variously said to be to feed, satisfy, and heat the goddess Gangamma, whose ugram is necessary to protect Tirupati uru from hot season illnesses (especially poxes). However, the goddess’s ugram also needs to be contained, once elicited, so as not to destroy the uru. Ugram is often translated as ferocity or anger, but in the context of the jatara, “excess” may be a better translation. Through her multiplying jatara forms, the goddess expands and becomes excessive/ugra. Her heightened needs are satisfied and her ugram appropriately calibrated through a wide range of rituals, creating a jatara aesthetics of excess. This aesthetics of excess permits a similarly wide range of individual interpretation and experience of the jatara.

Growing up in India, Dr. Flueckiger received her B.A. from Goshen College and her Ph.D. in South Asian Language and Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She specializes in performance studies, with a particular interest in gender. She has carried out extensive fieldwork in India, working with both Hindu and Muslim popular traditions. Her latest book is titled In
Amma’s Healing Room: Gender & Vernacular Islam in South India (Indiana University Press: 2006). The book addresses questions of religious and gender identities and boundaries in a healing practice of female Muslim folk healers in the South Indian city of Hyderabad. She is currently writing a book on the goddess tradition and jatara/festival of Gangamma (one of seven village-goddess sisters), based on fieldwork conducted in Tirupati, south India. Her book in progress is titled: When the World Becomes Female: The Gangamma Goddess Tradition of South India. She is also the author of Gender and Genre in the Folklore of Middle India (Cornell: 1996),  and has published numerous articles on South Asian folklore and is co-editor of and contributor to Oral Epics in India (1989) and Boundaries of the Text: Epic Performances in South and Southeast Asia (1991).