Maratha - Religion



Marathas worship the god Shiva and his consort Parvati in her many guises as Devi or the mother goddess. At the same time, unlike other Shiva devotees in India, they may also worship Vishnu as Vitthal, by observing fast days sacred to both. Shiva worship is particularized by the worship of some of his specific incarnations, especially Khandoba, Bhairav, Maruti, etc., as family gods. The Devi or mother goddess is worshiped in many of her varying forms, such as Gawdi, Bhavani, Lakshmi, or Janni Devi. Marathas also worship as personal gods other Brahmanic, local, and boundary deities. They visit places of Hindu pilgrimage, such as Pandharpur. Maharashtra also has a whole line of saints who are worshiped, such as Namdev, Tukaram, and Eknath, who have written magnificent bhakti (devotional) poetry. Marathas also pay Respect to holy men who may have been of humble origin but whose personal spirituality attracts reverence. An outstanding example of such a person was Sai Baba of Shiridi. In addition to the deities just mentioned, the Marathas believe in spirit possession and the existence of ghosts ( bhutas ).


Religious Practitioners. The village temple priest may be a Brahman or a man belonging to another caste, depending on the type of temple and the deity. Temples of Vishnu, Rama, Ganapati, and Maruti generally have Deshasth Brahman priests, whereas temples of Shankar (Mahadev) Generally have a Lingayat or Gurav as a priest. Khandoba generally has a Maratha or Dhangar priest. Mari-ai or Lakshmi has a Mahar priest. Devi and Maruti also may sometimes have non-Brahman priests. At the village level, the priest at the main village temple is a recognized hereditary servant of the village. In the more important shrines, like the Vithoba temple at Pandharpur, there are different classes of priests serving a shrine, and these are all hereditary priests. The priesthood and the temple it serves are completely autonomous and not connected to any others.


Ceremonies. The life-cycle ceremonies regularly celebrated by the Marathas are birth, "mother's fifth and sixth" day after delivery, first hair cutting, an elaborate twenty-four-step marriage ceremony, of which the installation of the devak is the most important rite, and death ceremonies that follow the same rites as a Brahman funeral.

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