The Poojari's Daughter
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by Gillian Goslinga
color, 66 min, 2010
The Poojari's Daughter opens with flashbacks of the South Indian priestess Rajathiammal 'cutting the goat' and ritually having her head tonsured. The year is 2001; the place Madurai, Tamilnadu. Both these moments fulfill the priestess' deepest desires: to have herself filmed performing the annual goat sacrifice to the Saivite God Paandi that her famous priest father once carried out, and to renounce her family life altogether.
Using experimental film techniques that recall the work of Trinh Minh Ha, The Poojari's Daughter weaves dramatic footage of these rituals and temple life at Paandi Kooyil with Rajathiammal's moving narration of her process, interviews with close family, and brief narrations by the filmmaker. Together, these create a vivid and unforgettably intimate portrait of the devotional worlds of this remarkable woman and South Indian Hinduism.
“This film is, indeed, a brilliant attempt at conveying the richness of a female ascetic-householder. I would recommend it to students of anthropology and religious studies who are studying issues of health, healing, ritual possession, South Asian Studies, Tamil ritual life, women, and religious leadership.” — Vijaya Nagarajan, American Anthropologist, Vol. 114, No. 2
Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
"Religion and Materiality", Society for the Anthropology of Religion annual meeting, Santa Fe, NM, 2011
SVA/AAA Film, Video, and Interactive Media Festival, New Orleans, LA, 2010