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Divine Affairs: Religion, Pilgrimage, and the State in Colonial and Postcolonial India

Ishita Banerjee Dube (Author)
Synopsis For centuries Jagannath, the Lord of the Universe, at Puri dominated cultural and political life in Orissa. Ishita Banerjee Dube’s Divine Affairs introduces us to the fascinating story of his transformation from a tribal wooden deity, to the state deity of the erstwhile imperial Gajapati kings and of the Rajas of Khurda/Puri to Jagannath’s defamation as 'Juggernaut’ by British evangelicals and his emergence as a key symbol of modern Oriya identity. The focus of the study is the colonial and postcolonial period when Puri’s vast temple complex developed into an arena of contestation between the priests, the Rajas of Puri—in their double function as Superintendents of the temple and as Adyasevaka of Jagannath—and the secular state authorities of the colonial regime and of independent India. The study reveals that it was not only the colonial expropriation of Jagannath as a symbol of state authority, but also Brahmin and non-Brahmin agents, and in particular the postcolonial state, which undermined the ritual supremacy of the Rajas of Puri. This process culminated in the Shri Jagannath Temple Act of the year 1955 bringing to an end the Raja’s superintendence but not the ‘postcolonial predicament’ of administering eastern India’s largest religious establishment by a secular state administration. Here, the state’s inconsistencies and contradictions to regulate religious practices are caused by ‘radically different notions of improving order and efficiency and the ideal of dharma’, revealing too the enduring nature of colonial legacies. At the same time, the book also analyses Puri’s two most important socio-religious institutions: the priests, and the great annual car festival. It demonstrates the anomalies that plague Puri’s temple administrators, on the one hand, and the enduring greatness of Jagannath and the devotion of his pilgrims, on the other. The book breaks new ground and provides important insights into the embeddedness of religious institutions in political processes in colonial and postcolonial India.
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Bibliographic information

Title Divine Affairs: Religion, Pilgrimage, and the State in Colonial and Postcolonial India
Format Hardcover
Date published: 01.01.2001
Edition 1st. Ed.
Language: English
isbn 8185952884
length xiv+195p.
Subjects History