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Popular culture and religious metaphor: saints and shrines in Wakhan region of Tajikistan

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The article focuses on the study of the Isma'īlī saints (awliya) and shrines (qadamgah) in the Wakhan region of Tajikistan along with their historical context. Its essential purpose is to draw a succinct historical and ethnographic picture of shrine culture in the region and determine its religious significance in the broad frame of socio-cultural context of Wakhan. While discussing rituals associated with saint veneration and shrine visitation, it elaborates on the changing role of shrine culture in modern Wakhan and its adaptation to the newly established social and cultural circumstances after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is argued that the process of religious and cultural revival in post-Soviet Wakhan had its own distinctive element manifested in the transformation of the existing shrines into museums or 'museumization' of shrines, a process that not only changed the spatial compositions of the shrines but also enhanced their social and cultural functions.
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Keywords: Isma'īlī; Wakhan; museum-shrine; saints; shrines

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London, UK

Publication date: March 1, 2008

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