The Bol Bam Pilgrimage: Reflections on a Not So Adventurous Adventure

Cora Gaebel

Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Cologne


Every year at the beginning of the rainy season, devotees of the Hindu deity Shiva collect water from ritually important water bodies across India. Orange-clad, barefooted men, women, and sometimes even children carry this water to a Shiva temple of their choice. At their destination, they or the priests pour the water over the phallic representation of the deity. While some devotees go on the Bol Bam pilgrimage as an expression of their devotion, others hope for spiritual, religious, or material rewards. This article is a rather personal account of the Bol Bam pilgrimage as performed in East India. Using personal experiences as example, it focuses on the emotional and physical struggles of the pilgrimage and their impact on the relationships between pilgrims.


Hindu Pilgrimage; Shiva; Devotion; Worship; Puri; Odisha; India; Hindu Religions

Author contact: cora.gaebel [at]

Citation: Gaebel, C., 2019. “The Bol Bam Pilgrimage: Reflections on a Not So Adventurous Adventure”, Irish Journal of Anthropology, 22(1), 126-137.