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.
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"Pilgrimage and Audience on the Maharashtrian Vārī,"
Yale Journal of Music & Religion:
2, Article 7.