▪ Indian deity
also called  Dharma-Ray  

      folk deity of eastern India having complex characteristics and obscure origins. Dharma-Ṭhākur is worshiped as the “high god” of a large number of villages of the Rahr Plains, a region that comprises the greater part of modern West Bengal state. Dharma-Ṭhākur has no prescribed form; he is worshiped in the form of stones, as a wooden votive slab, or through a pair of wooden sandals. Among other attributes he is a fertility god and a healer of disease. Worship of Dharma-Ṭhākur is correlated with sun worship, and Dharma-Ṭhākur's annual worship, known as Dharma-pūjā, has been described as a kind of sympathetic magic to make the monsoon rains begin to fall.

      Scholars are not agreed on the origins of worship of Dharma-Ṭhākur. Some find in the deity and his worship a degenerate form of the Buddha and Buddhism; others trace the cult and deity to either pre-Aryan or tribal sources. Among the neighbouring literate tribal peoples there are a number of cult practices and deities that share some of the characteristics of Dharma-Ṭhākur and his cult. The majesty and exploits of Dharma-Ṭhākur are presented in a major class of works in Bengali literature known as Dharma-maṅgal.

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Universalium. 2010.

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