“A Very Naughty Place!” The Attraction to the Frightening Other Reflected in Narratives about Assam
According to many Hindus, travelling to Assam, in North-East India, is dangerous. The Assamese woman might trap the male outsider, using her magic to transform him into a goat and turn him back into a man at night. Unable to leave, the man would become the sex-toy of his mistress. Fear is the emotion many Hindus once felt (and still feel) about remote Assam. Still, many set off on a pilgrimage to Assam’s most famous temple – the Kāmākhyā temple in Guwahati. In many narratives, Assam, though frightening, is the source of occult knowledge for those who are prepared to cope with such awe-inspiring power. Through the analysis of several narratives about Assam, the paper advances a reflection on our notion of fear and shows how the latter is often tightly connected to attraction. The narratives are taken from several field visits by the author and her research focusing on the Kāmākhyā temple, as well as common stories from Hindu folklore. Together they explore a frightening picture of Assam. To make sense of these data, the paper evokes the notion of śakti and analyses the way Assamese women are depicted in the narratives under consideration.