Pennington delivers lectures at national universities in India
The trip to India offered Pennington the opportunity to continue documenting regional heritage and revival movements and folk performances in India.
Director of the Elon Center for the Study of Religion, Culture, and Society, Brian Pennington, was invited to deliver two lectures at national universities in India in January.
On Jan. 23 he gave a talk titled “Ethnography in Historical Method“ at Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal University in Srinagar in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. On Jan. 25 he was honored at the Shri Jai Narain Post Graduate College of Lucknow University, where he gave the lecture, “Religion, Heritage, and Memory in a Developing State.” Both presentations dealt with aspects of his ongoing research in the pilgrimage city of Uttarkashi in the Indian Himalayas.
Pennington, professor of religious studies at Elon, was in India to observe the Magh Mela festival in Uttarkashi for the third time. The annual event celebrates the return of the sun as it begins its travel northward following the winter solstice.
An ancient Hindu festival, in recent years it has also provided a platform for regional heritage revival movements and folk performances that Pennington is documenting. His work attracted considerable press attention locally, and he gave an interview to India’s largest circulating newspaper, Dainik Jagaran, a Hindi-language daily.
The different treatment his work received in various media was a window for Pennington into the interests of competing news markets. “The local newspapers and television stations wanted to talk about my concern for the preservation of regional practices in these remote areas," Pennington said. "The national press was much more keen to get me on record offering some kind of opinion about Hinduism itself. As a scholar and historian of a tradition I do not practice, I explained that I do not think that is an appropriate role for me.”