When this link was taken over by
colonial regime we see a fundamental
shift in the premise underlying the
Temple-State relationship. Certain
institutions were retained to promote
notion of the 'Compact Ideal'. Yet the
were bereft of their contextual
framework. The Gajapati raja was
removed from the throne but was g.
authority over Temple functioning.
Temple was de-linked from the ne
of resource distribution that connect
with the land. Yet it was circumscribed
and denoted as a 'separate' sacred
entity, removed from the State, an
expression of the Company regime'
benevolent tolerance of local customs
The unique situations of conflict
contradictions that marked the clash
between 'traditional' and 'modem'
systems of governance of social
institutions, form the substance of the
study of the Jagannatha Temple.
Yaaminey Mubayi is a development
consultant with experience in exploring
the social and cultural context of
governance institutions. Having
graduated Magna cum Laude from
Mount Holyoke College, USA, she
completed her Doctorate in History from
Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
as well as an MSc in Social Policy from
the London School of Economics. She
worked as a member of the Culture
team at UNESCO, New Delhi, and is
now working with NGOs on issues of
In the beginning of the nineteenth century, 'Juggernaut' figured
as the major target of Evangelicals in British Parliament against
'British connections with idolatry', whereas at the end of the
twentieth century, Puri, with its famous jagannath cult emerged
as India's best-researched 'sacred complex', superseded temporarily perhaps only by Ayodhya. The impact of the colonial
regime, however, on the temple realm and the ritual position of
Puri's Gajapatis has only recently become a focus of research.
Dr Mubayi's study consists of two distinct but strongly
interconnected major parts, viz., the precolonial development
of Gajapati kingship and its penetration by and modification
under the impact of the colonial regime. Both are connected by
an intermediate third part on early European travel accounts
and their images of 'Juggernaut'. The first chapter begins with a
short description of the different historical stages of the Gajapati
kingship which is followed by a systematic analysis of the
temple-kingship nexus under the local Khurda dynasty during
Mughal and Maratha rule in Orissa. The 'politics of patronage'
of the Khurda Rajas was characterized by a system of political
subordination and ritual dominance which allowed them not
only to survive under non-Oriya rule but also to uphold their
ritually dominant status among the feudatory chiefs of Orissa.
The second chapter 'Access, Status and Redistribution in the
Temple Realm' explores the temple as an arena of constant
contestation of hierarchy, power and authority between king and
priests. It analyses the various nuclei of power and the specific
spheres and means of contestation, e.g. access to the deity,
redistributive networks of bhoga/prasada, and illustrates them
paradigmatically by Puri's famous ratha yatra. The third chapter
depicts the early European travel books of Thomas Bowrey
and Francois Bernier and their influential accounts of Puri as
'Precursors to Colonial Policy'. The epistemology of their
descriptions of the car festival is interpreted by Dr Mubayi as a
juxtaposition of 'western norm and eastern deviants' and 'western
rationality v. eastern credulity' and as an attempt to 'feminise'
Indian society. The fourth chapter 'The Temple, the Raja and
the Colonial State' analyses the stepwise destruction of the old
Gajapati regime and the colonization of the sacred kingship of
the Khurda Rajas through their reinstallation as bureaucratically
supervised 'Superintendents' of the Puri temple. The colonial
appropriation of the temple realm through extensive documentation is exemplified by an analysis of three key documents of the early colonial period. The final chapter on 'Power and
Property: The 'Profanization' of Temple Networks' is an elaboration of further changes under the colonial regime. Its major
focus is the struggle for control over landed property and the
process of its profanization through colonial settlement policies
and litigation. The attitude of objectification and circumscription
of property was largely instrumental in the delinking of resources
from their sacred context.
Dr. Yaaminey Mubayi succeeded in demonstrating the
unbroken continuity of Puri's temple realm as a 'fulcrum of the
balance of power in Orissa' even during the colonial period.
Whereas previous studies on the 'Jagannath/Gajapati complex'
were overlaid with a sense of the dominance of royal authority
as an integrative agency, she seeks to redefine relationships of
power as possessing a certain ambiguity, of portraying a great
deal of ambivalence. In this context her interpretation and
portrayal of vamsavali chronicles, certain rituals and festivals
of Puri as an arena of contesting interests and of negotiation of
status and power are particularly revealing. Her story of early
colonial penetration of Puri's temple realm as Orissa's most
important focus of political power, its subversion and final
appropriation through bureaucratic means is equally fascinating.
Dr Mubayi therefore is certainly right to conclude her study with
a reference to C. Geertz's well known dictum that ritual is not
merely the illustration of power, but power itself.
In 1803, the troops of the British East India Company entered
Puri and took over the administration of the province of Orissa.
This led to far-reaching changes in relationships of status, rights
and access to land and structures of authority in the region.
The penetration of local institutions, particularly the temple of
jagannatha at Puri, by colonial apparatuses of controlled to the
creation of a separate discourse of power that re-contextualized
the prevailing ritual and political structures. Prior, to the advent
of the British, the long-established link between the temple at
Puri and the Gajapati kingship of Orissa (after evolving over a
period of seven centuries), was an important factor underlying
political and cultural institutions and relationships. This link
played a major role in the reformulation of these institutions in
the colonial environment. The following chapters discuss the
manner in which the temple-state relationship formed a
backdrop for the shifts and changes in the balance of power in
the region, both prior to colonial incursion and subsequently.
My study deals primarily with perceptions of order within
the social realm surrounding the temple in the pre-colonial and
early colonial periods. This order was re-expressed in the period
of the freedom movement, when issues of identity and the
politics of nationality caused a reformulation of the past with a
sense of cultural nostalgia. One such reconstruction is an Oriya
play written in the 1940s, recalling the martyrdom of Bakshi
Jagabandhu, the commander-in-chief of the Khurda raja, who
led a rebellion in 1817, against the large-scale dispossession of
the Khurda paiks (royal militia) by the new agrarian policies of
the Company government. The retelling of the 'story' of British
entry into Orissa is replete with contemporary rejection of
colonial rule and the nationalist view of the British as a defeated
culture. I will now present a section from 'Bakshi jagabandhu'
by Manoranjan Das, as I believe that it will communicate a sense
of the ritual and political linkages and hierarchies of privilege
and status which were disrupted by colonial incursion. The
centrality of the raja to these linkages and his essential connection to the maintenance of order in society, is significantly
expressed in this account.
In the jail, there are two adjacent cells. Evening has fallen. In one of the
cells, holding the iron railings, stands jayikrushna Rajaguru, Diwan of
Khurda. In the next cell, Kasturi (a dancing girl) stands in a similar
position. jayikrushna's mind was far away in the past. Kasturi's
melodious voice rises in song.
'What is the good of relating the past,
again and again the mind awakens,
and drifts far away along with the clouds, ....
KASTURI. Master! (A deep sigh may be heard from the adjacent cell) How
did all this happen, Master? (Another sigh) Master .....
JAYIKRUSHNA. (starts violently) Eh ... ?
KASTURJ. Were you asleep? Did you call out?
JAYIKRUSHNA. Not sleep but the dreams .....
KASTURJ. Dreams? Ah! Surely, Master, there is happiness only in
dreams. What dreams?
JAYIKRUSHNA. The phirangis (British) had besieged Barunei (the site of
Khurda fort) ... days went by ... twenty-one days went by ... food
and arms were finished ... the only thing that remained was the
courage and enthusiasm in the hearts of the paiks. The situation
was dangerous. Chhamu (the Gajapati raja) was undecided ...
could not perform his duty (kartavya) ... then there was an
argument between the minister (himself) and the Bakshi. The
capable Bakshi, whose ancestral right was rebellion (Biplab jara
banshasiddha adhikara) ... who had earlier made the mistake of
agreeing to a settlement with the British ... the minister tried to
make him realize his mistake, and a single mistake had a lasting
effect. The Bakshi's skill could not prevent the minister and the
raja from being taken prisoner ....
The dream context reinforces the fluidity of the situation,
when the entire structure of social and political order was
subverted on account of a single mistake by the Bakshi. This
itself indicates the interconnectedness of the land with the
raja and the aristocracy. The raja's obligation to his people and
his land was pressing upon him, yet he did not fulfil it. The
imprisoned Jayikrushna is still 'master' to the dancer, Kasturi.
thus, a glimpse from the play illustrates the dynamism that
inked and energized the structures of order and authority in
the region, as well as displays the layering of rights and status.
'his amalgam of status, privilege and reciprocity forms the
cultural context for my study.
Situated on the north-eastern coast of the Bay of Bengal, Orissa
as stood at the confluence of northern and southern cultural
and political influences. Patterns of kingship and ideology
and networks of resource distribution established since early
Medieval times led to the creation of an integrative dynamism
that energized the region. Within Orissa, its fertile coastal belt
and the surrounding semi-circular tracts of forest bound in the
rest by the Eastern Ghats, comprise geographically distinct
cultural and political zones. The social milieu depicts this
University through the existence of a dynamic interaction between
Universe groups, including tribals. Orissa has been regarded as
one of the finest examples of synthesis between tribal and
Brahmanical cultures, reflected in the crystallization of the cult
The temple of Jagannatha at Puri has been viewed as forming
nucleus of political and cultural integration in Orissa. There
are a number of references to Puri as a place of pilgrimage in the
puranas. The Anargharaghava Nataka? a ninth century play
by Murari Mishra, mentions the god Purusottama (later identified
with Jagannatha) on the eastern sea-shore. An inscription at the
saradadevi temple at Maihar in Madhya Pradesh (tenth century)
also identifies the deity Purusottama with the 'Odra' (Orissa)
country, i.e. the area around Puri. Sankaracarya is believed to
have visited Puri and founded the Gobardhana matha there in
the eight century. Caitanya lived in the temple for a number of
years in the sixteenth century and is believed to have died in
Puri. The thirteenth century poet Jayadeva, author of the Geeta
Govinda, is believed to have composed his magnum opus in the
precincts of the temple.' Thus, Puri had long been a centre of
sacred activity, even before the construction of the present temple
'Jagannatha by Anantavarman Codagangadeva in AD 1147.
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