My Grandmother’s Bones


  • Harshita Mruthinti Kamath Emory University



Hindu death rituals, caste, brahmin, maila (impurity), madi (purity)


This article examines the materiality of death in the funerary rites of a Vaidiki brahmin family in Telugu-speaking South India. In this self-reflexive piece, I explore the concepts of madi (ritual purity) and maila (ritual impurity) in relation to my grandmother’s life and death, respectively. I also consider the materiality of my grandmother’s bones in the funerary rites, including the final cremation and post-cremation rituals conducted by my father and uncles in Hyderabad, Telangana in August 2013. The article concludes by reflecting on the resilience of my grandmother, a brahmin widow for more than thirty years of her life.


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Author Biography

Harshita Mruthinti Kamath, Emory University

Harshita Mruthinti Kamath is Visweswara Rao and Sita Koppaka Assistant Professor of Telugu Culture, Literature and History at Emory University (Atlanta, Georgia). Her research analyzes the textual and performance traditions of the South Indian language of Telugu with a focus on themes of religion, gender and sexuality. Her
first book, Impersonations: The Artifice of Brahmin Masculinity in South Indian Dance (University of California Press, 2019) is an ethnographic study of the Telugu dance form Kuchipudi.


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How to Cite

Kamath, H. M. . (2020). My Grandmother’s Bones. Fieldwork in Religion, 15(1-2), 98–112.