Mamul and modernity in a South Indian temple

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Abstract

In January 1951 the Raja of Ettaiyapuram was combating the forces of modernity on three fronts. In Madras High Court, he was filing a writ petition questioning the legality of the Madras Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari) Act of 1948, which authorized the government to take over his zamindari estate. Simultaneously, Tirunelveli District Court was hearing a case brought in his capacity as hereditary Trustee of Kalugumalai Devastanam, seeking to prevent the Madras Hindu Religious Endowments (HRE) Board from assuming administrative control of the temple. Meanwhile, he had two further law-suits pending in Kovilpatti Munsif's Court, questioning the authority of the newly-formed Kalugumalai Panchayat Board on the grounds that the entire town was temple property. These dramatic events were the precipitate of more surreptitious processes, beginning at least a century and a half earlier and continuing up to the present. This paper characterises these processes from the 1803 Permanent Settlement onwards and, in particular, tries to explain why the Raja's family continues to defend its hereditary position regarding Kalugumalai temple. Its backdrop is the process of state formation following the 'peculiarly stealthy' entry of the British into India, not as a conquering army but as a commercial company
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)821-870
JournalModern Asian Studies
Volume35
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2001

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