Publication details

Effects of Kavadi ritual on psychophysiological well-being


LANG Martin

Year of publication 2019
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description Tackling the evolutionary puzzle of extreme rituals and their potential benefits, this paper will report the results from a collaborative investigation of health outcomes of participation in one of the most extreme rituals worldwide, the Kavadi performed by Tamils in Mauritius. Extreme rituals that involve bodily mutilation and suffering entail high risks, but practitioners often claim that they convey health benefits. What is the evidence for these claims? Over a two-month period, we monitored activity and physiological responses of ritual participants and a control group, and obtained assessments of perceived health and quality of life. Performance of this physically demanding ordeal had no detrimental effects on physiological health and was associated with improvements in psychological well-being (compared to a control group). Furthermore, individuals who experienced health problems and/or were of low socioeconomic status sought more painful levels of engagement, which were associated with greater improvements in psychological well-being. We suggest several bottom-up and top-down mechanisms facilitating these effects with a special focus on auto-signaling and consecutive self-enhancement enjoyed by participants.
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