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Performative Politics and the Cultures of Hinduism: Public Uses of Religion in Western India

Raminder Kaur (Author)
Synopsis The Ganapati utsava, a major festival of Western India dedicated to the Elephant Headed God, raises compelling questions about the interplay of religion, spectacle and cultural politics. In a book that spans a century of epochal history, Raminder Kaur considers how the public festival has been interwoven with everyday lives as well as the making of the modern Indian nation. The festival was mobilised as a potential vehicle for political critique in the 1890s, pre-eminently by Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Its success lay in combining entertainment with veneration, which meant that the event could not be easily prohibited by the colonial state. While the success of the mobilisation is widely acknowledged as the work of Tilak, this study shows that other, less-known community leaders were active, if not pioneering, in the festival’s more public transformations. In contemporary India, this kaleidoscopic event is of interest to various bodies: to political parties such as the Shiv Sena, the BJP, and the Congress, to media conglomerates which the sponsor competitions associated with religious rituals, and to the police and regulating organisatiions of the state which strive to keep religious festivity ’clean’ of criminality and excessive political manipulation. As the level of community life and everyday bhakti, Raminder Kaur shows that the audio-visual aspects of the festival are crucial to its enduring appeal among large section of India’s populace. This is evidence, for instance, from the emergence of martial representations of Ganapati and the development of shrine tableaux that provide commentaries on issues of historical and topical interest – such as the freedom struggle, contemporary political corruption, and the nuclear rivalry with Pakistan. As such this book deploys a single major cultural and religious event to study the variety and cultures of contemporary Hinduism, and their complex histories. It is an outstanding monograph which will interest every serious student of Indian politics, cultural history and anthropology.
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About the author

Raminder Kaur

Raminder Kaur is a Simon/Marks Research Fellow at the University of Manchester. She completed her Ph. D. on the Ganapati festival at SOAS, University of London.

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Bibliographic information

Title Performative Politics and the Cultures of Hinduism: Public Uses of Religion in Western India
Author Raminder Kaur
Format Hardcover
Date published: 01.01.2003
Edition 1st ed.
Publisher Permanent Black
Language: English
isbn 9788178240473
length xxii+306p., Plates; Maps; Glossary; Abbreviation; Bibliography; Index; 23cm.