The kalivarjya concerning the prohibition of initiation during the celebration of the Vedic sattra rituals

  • Igor Spanò University of Palermo


The subject of kalivarjyas, their origin, and their place within Brahmanical ideology has attracted keen interest from various scholars. Indeed, the kalivarjyas constitute ‘exceptions’ to the dharmic norm that seem to invalidate the authority of the dharma itself. However, they allow us to verify how the dharma has been constantly adapted to the new requirements that have emerged with the transformations that have taken place in India over time in the religious and socio-political spheres. Among the kalivarjyas, some refer to the field of śrauta rituals, and the one concerning the prohibition of the sattradīkṣā, i.e., the initiation on the celebration of Vedic rituals of the sattra type, appears particularly interesting. Through the analysis of some ancient and medieval texts and based on the interpretations provided in the past by numerous scholars, in this study I attempt to offer some possible explanations to clarify the meaning and the origin of this kalivarjya. The explorations conducted will allow shedding new light on the way of interpreting the changes that took place in the centuries following the decline of Vedic religiosity from the ritual, juridical, and historical-political point of view. This will lead to clarifying what the bans are for, whether they are intended to preserve something from the changes themselves, and whether they are intended to preserve, or sanction established roles in society.


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Author Biography

Igor Spanò, University of Palermo

Igor Spanò graduated in Philosophy at the University of Palermo, where he later obtained his Ph.D. in Philosophy. From 2007/2008 to 2010/2011 he has been Adjunct professor of Indian Philosophies and Religions and of Indology and Tibetology at the University of Palermo. He is currently attending his second Ph.D. in Cultural Sciences at the same University and is an Adjunct professor of History of Religions at the University of Trento. He is a scholar of the religious phenomena of ancient and contemporary India, and he is attentive to a perspective that combines the tools of religious sciences, anthropology, and philosophy with the philological examination of the texts of the Vedic and classical Sanskrit tradition. He has also deepened his study of traditional transgender communities in India.

Igor can be contacted at