Tamil Tiger “Martyrs": Regenerating Divine Potency?

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Abstract:

Contrary to claim, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are not overwhelmingly secular in their practices. While their successes as a liberation movement have been built on organizational skills and techno-military prowess, they mobilize both the Hindu majority and a significant Christian minority within the Sri Lankan Tamil population via modalities that are deeply rooted in the lifestyles and religious practices of Tamils in India and Lanka. To grasp these capacities a reading of the deep history of Tamil civilization writ-large as well as the anthropological literature on religious cross-fertilization in Sri Lanka is essential. The weight attached to propitiatory rituals in Tamil culture inform the LTTE's burial of the dead and the building up of a sacred topography centered on their fallen (the mavirar). Just as heroic humans were deified in southern India's past, regenerative divine power is conceivably invested in today's Tiger mavirar. These facets of Tamil Tiger practice suggests that “enchantment” can nestle amidst secularized rationality in the structures of a modern political movement.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10576100590950129

Affiliations: Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia

Publication date: November 1, 2005

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