A Tale of Two Snakes: Degei and Kaliya, Ipsita Dey, GS (2267861)
This project explores the parallel narratives of Degei, the Fijian Creator God, and Kaliya, a Hindu Cosmic Being. Both Degei and Kaliya are mythological snakes living in the Nakauvadra Mountains of Fiji, influencing climate, health, and environment within the region. In my larger dissertation project, I have conducted ethnographic research investigating how Fijian and Hindu myths interweave and shape the lived experiences of farmers in Fiji today. In this presentation I outline how the divine convergence of Degei’s and Kaliya’s stories expands the Fijian vanua, an indigenous paradigm that connects humans, flora and fauna, the elements, cosmic deities, social history, and cultural memory. Indo-Fijian farmers (present day descendants of Indian indentured laborers) draw from this expanded conception of the Fijian vanua to claim a spiritual and embodied relationship with the landscape, and ultimately articulate their political aspirations for belonging in Fiji. Thus, Degei and Kaliya have become the theological backdrop for a social movement and can show us how religious histories continue to have real physical and cultural impacts on ethnic identities, environmental practices, and inter/national politics. This project leaves us all with an echoing question: what myths, legends, and folktales are we living in right now?