Each year during the monsoon season, devotees of the Hindu Vārkarī sect take to the streets of the cities and towns of Maharashtra, to go on the vārī, a massive annual pilgrimage lasting twenty-one days. The procession of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims is not only seen but heard, as the songs written by the singer-saints of the tradition occupy nearly every moment of the journey. In this article, I examine the relationship between music and pilgrimage procession by focusing on the idea of audience - defined as both the listening public and the act of hearing itself. Rather than limiting pilgrimage to a ritual or symbolic function, I suggest that, as procession, the vārī becomes a context for audition, an open field resists the mere repetition of unchanging ideologies and symbols, and instead creates a broad cultural resonance that can sustain multiple idea simultaneously. Here, I address the idea of resonance by examining the performative nature of the act of procession itself, the repertories and styles of music that accompany the pilgrims from start to finish, and the efficacy of musical sound in shaping the diverse and changing publics that witness the journey.

Author Biography


Jaime Jones is Lecturer in Ethnomusicology and current Head of School at University College Dublin, where she teaches courses on world musics, ethnomusicology, Indian music, popular music, music and religion, and film music. Before turning to the study of ethnomusicology, Jaime trained as a pianist and composer in New York and Chicago. She completed her PhD in ethnomusicology at the University of Chicago in 2009. Recent publications include the chapter ‘Music, History and the Sacred in South Asia’ in the Cambridge History of World Music, and her 2015 article ‘Singing the Way: Music as Pilgrimage in Maharashtra’ in Ethnomusicology Ireland, Issue 3. She is also working on the monograph Music and Devotion in India for the Routledge Focus series. Jaime’s current research punk and underground rock communities in Dublin, and investigates ideas regarding place, network, and self-curation. In addition to her academic work, Jaime also served as Chair of the International Council for Traditional Music, Ireland. She is the co-founder of the Dublin Gamelan Orchestra, currently housed in the National Concert Hall of Ireland.

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