Indian idol: Narrating the story of Krishna in Globalising contexts

    Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report

    Abstract

    This project aims to describe, explore and evaluate the impact of globalisation on an important Hindu tradition, a week-long story-telling event known as a Bhāgavata-saptāha in Sanskrit or Bhāgvat-saptāh in Hindi. The saptāh focuses on the narratives of the deity Viṣṇu and in particular, his manifestation as Kṛṣṇa. These stories are preserved in their most authoritative form in the Sanskrit text of the Bhāgavata-purāṇa. In the first part of this report I examine the traditional instructions for a saptāh which are contained in the Bhāgavatapurāṇa itself. These instructions cover the preparations for the event, the conduct of the seven-day narrative itself, and follow-up matters, including remuneration. I refer to this as the ―archetype‖. The second part of the report contains descriptions—―reflexive ethnographies‖—of two saptāh events. These took place in Vrindavan, Uttarpradesh, and in Naluna, Uttarakhand, in November 2009. I include references to other saptāhs to provide contextualisation for these two case studies. In the third part, I compare the archetype with the case studies, and identify seven major continuities: the central role of the text, temporal aspects, cost, visual prepara-tion, spatial arrangement, restrictions on the sponsor and social inclusiveness. I also identify four major areas in which the two case studies diverge from the archetype: sectarian content, the role of the local village deity (devtā), the role of the fire-sacrifice (yajña), and the use of the vernacular. In the final part, I evaluate the impact of globalising processes on both the continui-ties with the archetype and the divergences from it. Continuities and divergences are found to take place both in spite of, and because of, globalising processes. I conclude that as cultural practices become more deeply enmeshed in globalising practices, the most successful and sustainable communities will be those that are suf-ficiently empowered to negotiate their own relationships with these processes, and which are able to maintain or adapt their own identities, belief systems and cultural practices on their own terms.
    Original languageEnglish
    Commissioning bodyPOSCO TJ Park Foundation
    Publication statusPublished - 2010

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