When the World Becomes Female

When the World Becomes Female

Guises of a South Indian Goddess
Joyce Burkhalter Flueckiger
Distribution: World
Publication date: 7/2/2013
Format: paper 336 pages, 20 b&w illus.
6 x 9
ISBN: 978-0-253-00956-2
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During the goddess Gangamma’s festival in the town of Tirupati, lower-caste men take guises of the goddess, and the streets are filled with men wearing saris, braids, and female jewelry. By contrast, women participate by intensifying the rituals they perform for Gangamma throughout the year, such as cooking and offering food. Joyce Burkhalter Flueckiger argues that within the festival ultimate reality is imagined as female and women identify with the goddess, whose power they share. Vivid accounts by male and female participants offer new insights into Gangamma’s traditions and the nature of Hindu village goddesses.

Author Bio

Joyce Burkhalter Flueckiger is Professor of Religion at Emory University. She is author of In Amma’s Healing Room: Gender and Vernacular Islam in South India (IUP, 2009) and Gender and Genre in the Folklore of Middle India.


"Flueckiger's rich and colorful descriptions of the stories, festivals, and worshipers connected with the goddess Gangamma evoke a world that previously had been accessible to very few living outside southern India. This work makes available to readers a close-up view of an extremely fascinating aspect of living Hinduism." —David L. Haberman, Indiana University, author of Journey through the Twelve Forests: An Encounter with Krishna

"Carefully crafted . . . . Through these rituals, stories and lives, the author reveals new ways of comprehending gender both at the cosmological and human level." —Ann Grodzins Gold, Syracuse University

"This is a carefully crafted ethnography on the South Indian festival of the village goddess Gangamma in the pilgrimage town of Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh. . . . Recommended." —

"[Joyce Flueckiger addresses] directly questions of the relationships between a goddess and her devotees, and the ways that those devotees play with gender." —H-Asia

"Joyce B. Flueckiger's new book When the World Becomes Female . . . is a rich and colorful analysis of the goddess Gangamma's festival and her devotees." —New Books in South Asian Studies

"When the World Becomes Female is a great addition to the academic literature on South Asian religious, ritual, devotional, and goddess traditions. It is accessible enough for use in undergraduate courses on the same or as an example of ethnographic methodology. It is always in-depth enough for graduate courses and as a resource for scholars’ and universities’ libraries." —newbooks.asia

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Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
Note on Transliteration


Part 1. Imaginative Worlds of Gangamma
1. An Aesthetics of Excess
2. Guising, Transformation, Recognition, and Possibility
3. Narratives of Excess and Access
4. Female-Narrated Possibilities of Relationship
5. Gangamma as Ganga River Goddess

Part 2. Those Who Bear the Goddess
6. Wandering Goddess, Village Daughter: Avilala Reddys
7. Temple and
Vesham Mirasi: The Kaikalas of Tirupati
8. The Goddess Served and Lost: Tattayagunta Mudaliars
9. Exchanging
Talis with the Goddess: Protection and Freedom to Move
10. "Crazy for the Goddess": A Consuming Relationship

Conclusion: Possibilities of a World Become Female

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