Author(s)Knut A. Jacobsen
KeywordsPilgrims and pilgrimages -- Hinduism
Hinduism -- Ritual
Geography and religion
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AbstractTo most scholars of Hinduism, the sage Kapila is a person associated only with ancient India and known mainly as the mythical founder of the Sāmkhya system of religious thought. This is the Kapila whose teaching is known through Yuktidīpikā, the Sāmkhyakārikā by Isvarakrsna and other Sāmkhya texts and the tradition of technical commentaries on them. In India this Kapila belongs to a scholarly tradition preserved mainly by pandits with a knowledge of Sanskrit and, for the last hundred years, also by professors in the Indian university system. In this article, the symbolic significance of one of the most important pilgrimage centres connected with Kapila, Sidhpur in Gujarat, is explored. The close connection between the sacred narratives and the rituals performed at the pilgrimage centre is a significant feature of the sacred places devoted to Kapila. At every place of pilgrimage to Kapila there are narratives about him which account for the sacredness of the place. These narratives belong to the geography of Hindu India as much as to the mythology of the Hindu tradition. The life history of Kapila is engraved in a sacred landscape. The place where Kapila was born, the place where he gave the sacred knowledge of ultimate reality to his mother, the different places where he performed tapas, the place where he killed the sons of King Sagara are all part of India's imagined landscape. The promise of the Kapila pilgrimage sites is that these places have power in themselves to remove moral impurity and grant moksa to the pilgrims. The sacred narratives of Kapila function to make this promise trustworthy.