Revealed by Water, Hidden in Water
Indic Hydro-epistemologies of Sacred Things
This essay explores two basic trajectories of the hydro-epistemology of sacred things in Indic cultures: things revealed by water—the visible gifts of water—and things hidden in water with which we can communicate only indirectly, by touching the water. Unlike Mircea Eliade’s concept of hierophany, this represents a mode of the sacred that cannot be auto-manifest and depends on water for radiating its sacrality. While the sacred things revealed by water—the conch shell, the bana linga, the svarnamukhi shila, the shaligrama shila—are water’s gifts to the Indic religions, there are things that are hidden by water; their hiddenness maintains their secrecy and sacrality. For instance, in certain Sati pithas, the petrified body parts of Goddess Sati are said to remain submerged in water. One can only touch them indirectly, by touching the water that is in touch with the Sati’s body. This article illustrates this two-pronged epistemology of the sacred that is propelled by water in Indic religious cultures.
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