Saturday, January 31, 2009

Thapar, Romila “Syndicated Hinduism”

Thapar, Romila “Syndicated Hinduism” in Hinduism Reconsidered ed. Gunther-Dietz Sontheimer and Hermann Kulke. Manohar, 2001, pp 54-81 [article originally published in 1985]

SUMMARY: Article briefly summarizes “what might be called Hinduism through history” and the development of modern Hinduism, which Thapar says is unique, and terms it Syndicated Hinduism. His main point is that traditional Hinduism was incredibly varied, in theology and praxis, while modern Hinduism has been modeled on Semitic religions and more streamlined, allowing for less variations. Thus there is increased emphasis on a single book, on a “founder”, and on congregational worship. This happened for several reasons, but two in particular: Christian education of Hindus (exposing Hindus to Christian religion styles) and the need in nationalism to have a single Hindu identity.

54-“The term Hinduism as we understand it today to describe a particular religion is modern…”; unlike Christianity and Islam “Which began with a founder and a structure at a point in time and evolved largely in relation to them, Hinduism…has been constituted largely through a range of relation to specific historical situations.” That’s why some prefer “Hindu religions” instead of “Hinduism”; changes in a historical dimension “are more easily seen in individual Hindu sects rather than in Hinduism as a whole” (as opposed to “linear religions” like Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity, or Islam) and so scholars have been reluctant to place manifestations of Hinduism in their historical context, emphasizing Hindu philosophy and texts.”

55-“The kind of Hinduism which is being currently propagated by the Sanghs, Parishads and Sammelans, is an attempt to restructure the indigenous Hindu religions into a monolithic, uniform religion, paralleling some of the features of Semitic religions. This seems to be a fundamental departure from the essentials of what may be called indigenous Hindu religions.”

-goal of article “is to briefly review what might be called Hinduism through history, and observe the essentials of the earliest beginnings and the innovations introduced over time.”

-linear religions “do diversify into sects, but this diversification retains a particular reference point—that of the historical founder and the teaching embodied in a single sacred text or a group of texts regarded as the canon. The area of discourse among the sects is tied to the dogma, tenets and theology as enunciated in the beginning. They are themselves as part of the historical process and of the unfolding of the single religion even though they may have broken away from the mainstream.” [PROB: SUFISM, eg] and this isn’t like Hinduism, (56) in which individual religions were made and they were assimilated into dominant sect later on by amalgamating “new forms of recognized deities, of new deities as the manifestations of the older ones, and by incorporating some of their mythology, ritual and custom.”; “what has survived over the centuries is not a single monolithic religion but a diversity of religious sects which we today have put together under a uniform name.”—“Hinduism” is just a convenient label for study, it could range from atheism to animism, though for some practitioners, it is gaining a specific meaning

56-“Hinduism as defined in contemporary parlance is a bringing together of beliefs, rights and practices consciously selected from those of the past, interpreted in a contemporary idiom in the last couple of centuries and the selection conditioned by historical circumstances,” and its groups are often “rooted in ritual practices and beliefs rather than in texts”

57-there’s no distinct starting point of Hinduism; the Vedas were originally regarded as beginning until the 1920s when people discovered the Indus civilization; no historical founder, no original text—and all this makes it easy to reinterpret it afresh when required; though some of these historical features appear in some of its sects

-The Vedic religion has Brahmans as intermediaries with gods, so it’s the beginning of brahmanic religion; (58) it had a caste system, while early on there were sects who had universal (no-caste) ethics and there was polemics between Brahmanism and sramanism (no-brahman religion); because they had to know Sanskrit for rituals, (59) brahman literacy helped them get work in “upper levels of administration and gave them access to high political office in royal courts.”; this, plus patronage for their shrines/temples by elites, gave Brahmans “exclusive status”

59-the Bhakti tradition “is sometimes traced to the message of the Bhagavad-gita” which “endorsed a radical change in that it moved away from the centrality of the sacrificial ritual [the Brahman’s specialty] and instead emphasized the individual’s direct relation with the deity. An earlier formulation of a similar idea was current through the Upanishads where the sacrificial ritual was questioned, the centrality of rebirth was emphasised with release from rebirth being sought through meditation and yoga and the recognition of the atam-brahman relationship…The Gita did however, concede that dharma lay in observing the rules of one’s own caste, svadharma, and the arbiters, of dharma remained the brahmanas.”—dharma was its key concept—and it gave rise to a number of Bhakti sects, which also varied in terms of their acceptance of Vedic traditions, caste system, and untouchability, (60) temple rites, pilgrimage performance, or asceticism

60-Bhakti groups did not come either from a shared teaching or from conversion, “they arose as and when historical conditions were conducive to their growth, often intermeshed with the need for particular castes to articulate their aspirations. Hence, the variation in belief and practice and lack of awareness of predecessors or of an identity of religion across a subcontinental plane.”, some had icons, some didn’t

-Tantric rituals became widespread in every level of society by around 1000 ce, though it is downplayed now by middle class Hindus (61) and scholars—it was originally a subordinate group practice

61-low caste Hindusim had rituals to gods that were not performed by Brahmans and included libations of meat and alcohol (what upper caste considered impure)

-there were many philosophical and belief differences—and so that’s why dharma (duty—which varies between sects) has been emphasized for understanding Hinduism; (62) though it was central only to upper caste groups—sp there’s a problem when you say dharma is central because it makes Hinduism appear in terms of upper caste religion—and that’s what Hindu missionary organizations use (like Rama Krishna Mission, the Arya Samaj, the RSS and VHP)

62-Word Hindu was used originally by the Achamaenid Persians to describe the people who lived on the cis-Indus side of the Sindhu river, later Arabs described that region as al-Hind—so at first it had a geographical and ethnic sense, then the (63) Muslim rulers started using it in a religious sense to describe those who weren’t Muslim or Christian—it was “a term of administrative convenience”—and it grouped together upper and lower castes

63-there was much religious persecution prior to Muslims coming, “The definition of the Hindu today has its roots more in the period (64) of Muslim rule than in the earlier period and many of the facets which are regarded today as essential to Hinduism belong to more recent times.”, and these new sects “often” hold wealthy patronage from Hindu and Muslim rulers and “more innovative sects were in part the result of extensive dialogues between gurus, sadhus, pirs and Sufis…”

64-when low caste hindus converted to something else assuming there’d be equality, there usually wasn’t and they retained their low caste status and identity

-Muslim rulers both helped and destroyed hindu temples, “Nor should it be forgotten that the temple as a source of wealth was exploited even by Hindu rulers such as Harsadeva of Kashmir who looted temples when he faced a fiscal crisis or the Paramara ruler who destroyed temples in the Chalukya kingdom, or the Rastrakuta king who tore up the temple courtyard of the Pratihara ruler after a ictorious campaign.”

65-when Christian missionaries came, this and colonial control made Indians who were close to these events do “soul searching” and the result was the creation of new groups (eg Brahmo Samaj, the Theosophical Society, Divine Life Society, Swaminarayan movement, etc) “which gave greater currency to the term Hinduism”; plus there was now more dialogue between upper caste Hindus and Christians than between them and Muslims “partly because for the coloniser power also lay in controlling knowledge about the colonised and partly because there were far fewer Hindus converting to Christianity than had converted to Islam.”

“The Shaiva Sidhanta Samaj was inspired by Arumuga Navalar, who was roused to re-interpret Saivism after translating the Bible into Tamil. The movement attracted middle-class Tamils seeking cultural self-assertion>”

-plus Orientalist scholars “interpreted religious texts to further their notions of how Hinduism should be constructed.”

-The ones recreating Hinduism in response to Christianity modeled their religion on Christianity; (66) “they sought for the equivalent of a monotheistic God, a Book, a Prophet or a Founder and congregational worship with an institutional organisation supporting it..The monotheistic God was sought in the abstract notion of Brahman, the Absolute of Upanishads with which the individual Atman seeks unity in the process of moksa; or else with the interpretation of the term deva which was translated as God, suggesting a monotheistic God…Unlike many of the earlier sects which were associated with a particular deity, some of these groups claimed to transcend deity and reach out to the Absolute, Infinite, the Brahman. This was not a new feature, for some Bhakti teachers had earlier pointed out the incongruity of worshipping images rather than concentrating on devotion to the deity.” [eg focus on one book is in Sikh worship]

67-unlike Semitic literature which has centrality for a book, Hindu sacred literature was passed orally and certain epic stories that existed independently were adapted to sacred literature; the focus on a sacred book didn’t arrive in Hinduism until later (says 15th ce)—“Interpolations become far less frequent when the text is written.”

-“These new religious identities of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were in part the inheritors of the odler tradition of combining social aspirations with religious expression and establishing new sects. But at the same time they were conscious of the attempt to create a different kind of religion from the past and which gave currency to the term Hinduism.”, “Traditional flexibility in juxtaposing sects as an idiom of social change as well as the basic concepts of religious expression now became problematic. In the absence of a single ‘jealous’ God…there were instead multiple deities, some of which were superseded over time and others which were created as and when required. Thus the major Vedic deities—Indra, Mitra, Varuna and Agni—declined with the rise of Siva and Visnu at the turn of the Christian era.”, though in Northern India a new deity has been created: Santoshi Ma.

-“The attitude to deity would in part support the argument that it is not theology which is important in Hinduism, but the mode of worship. The Vedic yajna has a carefully orchestrated performance of ritual with the meticulous ordering of every detail including the correct pronunciation of the words constituting the mantra. Worship as bhakti in Puranic Hinduism is more personalised and informal.”, (68) “Devotion could also be expressed in various ways. There was no requirement of uniformity in methods of worship or in who performed the ritual. There was little ecclesiastical order involved and no centralised church.”, caste frequently determined how you worship—and in this situation, conversion was irrelevant

68-creating new sects helped with caste mobility because “Imitation of higher caste norms or the dropping of caste obligations would normally not be permitted unless justified by the creation of new religious sect.”, and (69) “Gradually if a sect acquired a large following cutting across castes, it tended to become a caste in itself.”

69-However there is one agency “which could legitimately transgress the rules of caste and this was the range of renunciatory orders…most of them recruited from a variety of castes.”, though they did prefer certain castes, but generally, because they renounced all social obligations, it was open to all—though converts often retained original caste identity

70- the birth of the myth of non-violence in hinduism is “Partly” due to early Orientalists like Max Muller, (71) and partly due to emerging nationalism which, in order to maintain the “spiritual superiority of Indian culture”, emphasized non-violence (a central tenet “first enunciated and developed in the Sramanic tradition of Buddhism and Jainism” and often persecuted by Hindus; “Ghandiji’s concern with the ahimsa is more correctly traced to the Jaina imprint on the culture of Kathiawar.”)

71-there were no ecclesiastical organizations, just shrines that attracted large numbers of people—though visitors were usually from one area for each shrine; a theory for Bhakti expansion is its links to feudalism after 500 ce, (72) and its emphasis on moksa and karma was a convenient means to control people

74-“Syndicated Hinduism” [in the rest of these notes it will be referred to as SH] is what the author calls modern Hinduism, Bhrahmanical-based, in response to Christianity and Islam and links with politics and nationalism, (75) its voice is “created to support aims of majoritarianism based on a religious identity in the functioning of democracy.”—appeals to middle class because “it becomes a mechanism for forging a new identity aimed at protecting the interests of the middle-class” and it appeals to lower caste because it offers upward mobility

*75-SH “draws largely on reinterpreting Brahmanical texts of which the Gita is an obvious choice, defends the Dharmasastras and underlines a brand of conservatism in the guise of a modern reformed religion.” And it searches for a central book—it’s been focusing on the Ramayana and making Rama a founder, plus (76) ecclesiastical authority is sought, asking Sankaracaryas to make rulings; “meetings of the dharmasansads call upon dharmacaryas, sadhus and sants to give opinions on any matter of importance, which is then said to be binding even if opposed to the Constitution or the rulings of the Supreme Court of India. This is described as the Hindu Vatican.”, “worship is increasingly congregational and the introduction of sermon-style homilies on the definition of a good Hindu and Hindu belief and behavior, are becoming common at marriages and funerals and register a distinct change from earlier practice. This form of Hinduism ends up inevitably as an over-simplified Brahmanism with garbled versions of elements of Bhakti and Puranic forms of belief and practice, largely to draw in increasing numbers of supporters.”

76-plus as a proselytizing religion, SH, unlike traditional Hindusim, cannot accept a wide range of religious views as equal—so sources must be selected; (77) modern propagation of old stories with mass media “are an attempt to erode variants”

77-SH also reaches the Hindu diaspora who frequently live in Christian or Islamic countries and want a Hinduism that parallels and is “comprehensible” to their neighbors’ religions; Sanghs and Parishads increasingly hold meetings abroad

78-says SH was originally made for nationalism as a response to British; now it’s used to respond to insecurity in a changing world; says its concern for lower castes “is essentially a form of tokenism” and it is essentially endorsing middle class values

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Mehta, Pratap Bhanu, “India’s Judiciary: The Promise of Uncertainty”

Mehta, Pratap Bhanu, “India’s Judiciary: The Promise of Uncertainty” in Public Institutions in India: Performance and Design. Ed. Devesh Kapur and Pratap Bhanu Mehta, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2005, 158-193.

SUMMARY: Looks at the evolution of judicial review, judicial independence, and judicial activism in India. Examines how the judicial branch interacts with other branches of the government, its effectiveness, whether it’s increased power is a result of increased constitutionalism, and the problems the judicial branch faces.

158-Inida’s judiciary: 3-tiered, Supreme Court at the apex, each state has high court and district level courts; the Supreme Court, established 1950 (as successor to the Federal Court); it is “extraordinarily powerful”, (159) it limited Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution, and has “routinely made law; it has made public policy pronouncements; held executive bodies accou8ntable, and has directly taken over the supervision of executive agencies.”, (160) “It has cast itself as the ultimate custodian of conditional values and the highest institution of accountability.” Though “most of the [other] institutions of the judiciary remain in a permanent state of crisis”—“inefficiency, poor enforcement, corruption”

160-says the paradox of growing judicial power and increased “corrosion” was a worldwide phenomenon

160-goals for article: looks at the evolution of judicial review, judicial independence, and judicial activism in India; asserts “India is a case where judicial power more or less creates (and therefore destroys) itself.” And (161) “the episodic, uneven, and unpredictable assertion of judicial power and the structure of the Supreme Court militate against the emergence of constitutional politics.”, he adds that “the recent court decisions concerning how judges to the high courts are to be appointed, are an instance of the judiciary creating its own power. Through these decisions the judiciary has managed to secure its independence from the executive/legislature, but at the cost of shielding itself from public scrutiny; and “much of the crisis of the Indian civil justice system can be traced to an accumulation of procedural anomalies that create huge perverse incentives for judges and lawyers.”

162-contrary to the idea that federalism creates independent judicial review, (163) in India “It seems that the character of judicial review could determine the nature and scope of federalism…”; and India’s example also goes against the “separation of powers hypothesis” which says that when constitutions have “strong separation of powers amongst the various branches of government would also in all likelihood have strong traditions of judicial independence and power.”, (164) and that in parliamentary systems judicial review is weak—and the opposite is proving true in India

164-judicial review is needed for “emerging traditions of rights discourse in the court itself’; (165) in Indian society, people have been “less devoted to a civil liberties rights based discourse”, so court interventions have been legitimized “based largely on the idea that government ought to be forced to intervene in certain areas to achieve ‘substantial goals’, whose content is largely defined through the framework set out in the Directive Principles of State Policy. In doing so the courts have had to strike a balance amongst the competing rights at stake. It is far from clear that the courts have evolved any clear criteria or tests to guide competing interests (say between ‘environment’ and ‘development’) but the goals of equality have given the courts occasion to flex their judicial might.”—plus “court interventions have been widely seen as legitimate, or at least tolerated, because the representative institutions are widely seen as being immobilized, self-serving, corrupt, and incapable of exercising either their basic policy prerogatives or their powers of enforcement.”

165-Though the relationship between the judiciary and the executive/legislature “has often been contentious”, eg in the first years after Independence, the courts, against the views of the executive, aligned their view of property rights with the propertied classes and (166) impeded government land reform; they also denied due process, and was seen as opposing I. Gandhi’s agenda in the 1970s like nationalization of banks and the abolition of privy purses, and began its trend of asserting itself as the “custodian of the basic structure” of the fundamental rights elaborated in Part II of the constitution, and invalidated I. Gandhi’s election, and 1976 made a ruling that allowed for deprival of personal liberty in times of Emergency

168-the Supreme Court is an important player in Indian politics, it has “struck down hundred of central and state laws”; about half of the first 45 amendments were to limit the court’s power—it’s (169) not clear as to “who is the final arbiter of the Constitution”, see for example the Shah Bano case

170-says the Court realizes that its judgments open it up to attempts to limit the Court’s power, so “most judgments are a delicate and political balancing of competing values and political aspirations; they seek to provide a workable modus Vivendi rather than articulate high values.”—and this can explain why it gets involved in some issues and not others: they don’t like to go too much against popular opinion, (171) especially on “certain classes of religious disputes” like the Babri Masjid case that “languished in Indian courts for fifty years”, they are more prone to call executive agencies for corruption than for communal violence

171-and increased judicial review does not mean increased Constitutionalism (what the author defines as “a commitment that the interactions of actors be governed by an authoritative set of rules.”), because there’s no reason to assume “any set of rules…can be fixed and insulated from politics simply as a matter of constitutional design. When (172) we claim that some rules carry such authority we are making a statement less about constitutional design than the fact that there is a consensus in society around those rules. I take it to be the case that for constitutionalism to emerge there has to be a prior overlapping consensus on the values such constitutionalism would embody. Constitutionalism is the result of social consensus, not institutional design and is only as robust as the former.”; plus there’s little enforcement of government or judicial rulings plus rulings are seen, because average tenure on the Supreme Court is so short, as “an artifact of predilection of particular, judges rather than the court as an institution”; plus it’s unclear if decisions made by small benches override older ones by large benches—causing confusion in lower courts

174-the judicial branch has a lot of power determining which judges are let on—making it very independent from legislative and executive influence; (175) the Supreme Court has tried to prevent executive influence, (177) though it’s “less than clear that the executive produced ‘bad appointments’.”; “judicial preferences in appointments has escaped systematic scrutiny’” (175) and there also are no agreed upon criteria for what makes a good judge nor any public forums for debate on the subject

181-“…the higher branches of the judiciary are extremely reluctant to deny admission of appeals; depending on the jurisdiction as many as seventy per cent of all appeals filed will be admitted. This must be considered a tacit acknowledgement of the courts’ recognition that on the average there are prima facie grounds for supposing that the procedures of the lower courts are faulty.”, and more than half the courts’ work is “passing and assessing interim orders”, though court fees are low, ensuring easy access

-the judiciary is under financed; India has around 10.5 judges per 1 million population, “amongst the lowest rates in the world”; (182) they “do not have a natural political constituency or source of power that can be used to put pressure on the government for more funds.” And they have no support staff (not even law clerks)

182-“To describe the Indian civil justice system, especially at the level of low the Supreme Court, as being in a perpetual state of crisis, would be an understatement. As an institution, almost all levels of the judiciary exhibit what can only be described as administered chaos…Judges are excessively passive in an adversarial legal system; excessive party control allow respondents to delay cases with impunity…”, “Records of filings are mostly kept by hand, documents are difficult to trace, judges oral summarize testimony for court recorders,” judges are transferred fast; (183) “too many” delays in filing cases; deficient filings are half to 2/3, though they are seldom dismisse4d and still allowed to be seen in court (something that doesn’t happen in more efficient bureaucracies)—though deficiencies are due to incompetent lawyers, but there are no serious mechanisms for controlling incompetent lawyers; it’s very difficult, due to poor organization of info, to consolidate similar cases; (184) schedule of days cases are usually not posted until night before, making a lot of no-shows, wasting a lot of time; discovery and filing of documents happens physically in court—taking up a lot of time; they have little legitimacy to compel witnesses to appear; (185) judges are rotated every couple months between panels and every couple years between courts—causing multiple judges to learn the same case, disposal rates are very low compared to instances of non-rotating benches (which lawyers and the Bar oppose); judges are passive, allowing many extension, etc.; interim relief and easy and cheap availability of lawyers and court fees induce low settlement rate

187-reform seems to daunting to start; but when the Supreme Court was computerized in 1994, its (188) backlog of cases was reduced from 120000 to 20000

188-“The single biggest weakness of the Indian justice system is its legal profession.”; 336 lawyers/1 Million population (“apparently a high number by developing country standards”), but it is mostly poor quality, little specialization, (189) the Bar rejects most reforms, like the non-rotating bench issue which is opposed because lawyers get paid for court appearances only, and non-rotating benches would speed up process and make less court appearances—lawyers strike when reforms are proposed; (190) the Bar generally feels that commissioners and other outside people that make some rulings aren’t neutral so they avoid out-of-court settlement and aim for mostly trials; (192) plus deteriorating standards in law school and for Bar

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Fuller, C.J. “The Political and Economic Position of the Minaksi Temple Priests in the 1980s”

Fuller, C.J. “The Political and Economic Position of the Minaksi Temple Priests in the 1980s” in The Sacred Centre as the Focus of Political Interest. Ed. Hans Bakker, 1992. Pp. 205-218

SUMMARY: Examines the changes in the Minaksi temple, especially those concerning the priests, from 1976-1988. Fuller sees these changes as reflective of more general governmental, but, more importantly, economic shifts in Tamilnadu. These changes have led to improving morale as well as increased income for the priests and the temple as a whole.

205-based off fieldwork in the city of Madurai in 1976-77, 1980, 1984 and 1988: the morale of the priests in the first 2 visits was low, and they had resentment toward temple administration, the Tamil government, and the devotees; in the last 2 visits Fuller saw their morale had improved though there was little change in the actual temple, except in “ritual innovation and economic changes associated with it”

-there has been a “steady decline of anit-brahmanism in the Tamil political arena”; the AIADMK party governed Tamilnadu from 1977 to early 1988, when dismissed at the time of death of its own party leader. It was less hostile than its parent party the DMK (1967-76); (206) and generally anti-brahmanism decline for people not involved with these parties as the problems associated with brahmins—their disproportionate power over public life—was “largely resolved” and AIADMK even “began openly to court the support of the Brahmins”; in 1989 DMK was elected and “gained an absolute majority in state legislature”, but there will probably not be militant anit-brahminism: they won’t try, as they did in the 1970s, to open priesthood up to non-brahmins—Mrs. Gandhi welcomed their “emergency” dismissal in 1976

206-priests were still angry and hostile to the temple whose EO is appointed by HRCE, seeing the administration as “inefficient, incompetent, corrupt, meddlesome and ultimately illegitimate”—and interfering with correct ritual practice, sometimes in trivial ways—but their cumulating impact is “serious, because…they believe…It is persistent infraction of the Agamas which causes (or at least contributes to) modern India’s trials and tribulations, and eventually it may provoke Siva into taking revenge on the administration’s benighted officials.”—(207) and this is the consensus among priests

207-Fuller’s earlier book (1984) said priests’ demoralization was contributed to by them having “internalized many of the reformists’ criticisms of them” (direct quote from Fuller 1984, 161); eg the priestly ignorance of Agamic texts—though the reformists’ criticism was based on the fallacy that Agamas are manuals of procedure, though priests think they are as well; so now priests have their sons educated at Agamic schools (a 6 year long course) before working at the Temple—in 1980 only 1 had finished school, now 3 more have and 2 others have started; and that school has “almost doubled its intake of students and has opened a second branch”; though priests’ opinions on the value of it vary (if it actually improves knowledge of texts), there is still a minority coming to terms with reformist criticism

208-in 1980, 56 priests worked at the temple regularly, in 1988, 51; in the interim, 8 died, 1 retired, 3 left for other jobs; and it appears the numbers of young men available to work hasn’t changed

-they have been increasingly working in the US, Singapore, and Malaysia to bring in money from wealthy Indians that have moved abroad (though only 4 total are doing it, or have done it recently)

209-between 1980 and 1984 Fuller noticed a consumer boom and new affluence mostly for middle class but trickled down to the rest of community a little: more private cars and mopeds, expanded bus services, more private consumer goods like tvs and vcrs

-no financial accounts of the temple are published, but he did record temple ticket sales between 1980 and 1982 and they kept up with inflation, though the price of the tickets didn’t change between 1976 and 1988

210-in 1980s, 3 general trends of ritual innovations that are reflective of the times occurred: 1) a new scheme that allowed wealthier people to have more expensive rituals (eg agreeing to perform small rituals for a person throughout a year for a lump sum; increasing rates for expensive rituals while keeping average-costing ones the same; new ritual added for wealthy); 2) (211) a new shrine was made for common devotees which was for a very popular ritual and so brings in more people now; 3) (212) new popular rituals started without administration’s encouragement which includes, inter alia, increased popularity of Hanuman and Aiyappan ((213) Fuller suggests the strength that these gods characterize may be attractive to people who must have more personal strength as older class structure are eroding and the environment is more competitive), and these innovations increase the temple’s income too

214-throughout the temple’s history, rituals were supported by endowments; in 19th and 20th century, when some people were becoming wealthier under colonial rule, more people were able to do family or caste trusts; some old ones were taken over by administration when mismanagement occurred, and in the last 30-40 years, the administration has hardly let any new endowments be set up, and sponsorship is usually only allowed for individual rituals—consolidating temple administration’s power

215-attendance to temple has generally increased and these new visitors bring money for rituals; and priests’ income has generally increased—(216) plus it means more consistent work for priests, and not as much times simply waiting to be approached by a devotes, (217) less idle time for socializing, division between work and leisure is sharper—the priests’ role is now closer to a market-driven service than to a religious one which is shown appreciation with a financial gift—though priests deny this view

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Stein, Burton. “The Politicized Temples of Southern India”

Stein, Burton. “The Politicized Temples of Southern India” in The Sacred Centre as the Focus of Political Interest. Ed. Hans Bakker 1992, pp. 163-177

SUMMARY: Burton asserts that the common functionalist view of temples in Southern India’s history distorts understandings by separating politics from religion; he looks at how societies are wholes, in which temples are a part that cannot be separated from politics and larger forces. In particular, they are constrained by agrarian and economic conditions.

163-“Temples of the Tamil Cola kingdom were seen by historians from the 1930s onward as institutions through whose relational networks major economic processes of resource pooling and redistribution were accomplished by means of various forms of productive investment. At first, this was deploying cattle and sheep which had been donated to temples among herdsmen associated with the temple in return for which ghee and other products were obtained for use in ritual; later money endowments were deployed among merchant and banking groups in return for a portion of the stream of interest being given to the temple. In Vijayanagara times, money endowments were often deployed in irrigation investments and the enhanced income from the land used for ritual purposes.”

-“there were no—or few—records on medieval political relations and institutions that did not come from temples,” and in early Western study of that era, “sacred centres were seen to exist among a constellation of institutions around some imagined sun called, ‘the state,’” and (164) this was supported by “the presumed invariant operation of sacred socio-cultural principles embodied in vanasramadharma, according to which all groups fulfilled divinely designed purposes, seemingly innocent of political intent and participation.”, As well as the competing monarchies of the time—“Each of these forces were seen as autonomously conditioned by the presumed dynamics arising from, on the one hand, the ‘natural’ character of politics worked upon Indian monarchies in the same ways as politics worked in contemporary, medieval Europe, but, on the other hand, there were uniquely Indian forces that arose from the immemorial usages and principles of a ‘Hindu’ society. That the social standing and wealth of some individuals and groups were systematically enhanced as a result of such transactions was rarely commented upon, much less explained.”

164-most social scientists, especially those who look at India, take for granted the “enlightenment distinction between ‘civil society’ and ‘the state.’”—but Stein wants to treat societies as wholes

-stein looks at the more recent work of Champakalakshmi and Karashima; (165) with the first mistakenly identifying Brahmin settlements as urbanized, downplaying the authority of political agents; while Karashima thinks foreign rulers came into the area, but their oppressive rule caused rebellion in 15th century so they intentionally changed their tactics and started supporting temples to gain legitimacy—an (166) idea that Appadurai agreed with in 1981 and made “our clearest understanding” of power in medieval India: political constituencies were captured by taking over religious institutions, placing their own people as heads (“mahants”) of non-temple institutions (“mathas”), then having them take over temples and/or channel lords’ money into the temples—which helped both the lords and mahants gain status and so “by the later Vijayanagara age [17th ce]…distinguishing secular from sacred authority becomes meaningless,”—(167) and we must look at how and why this was necessary to gain lordship

167-Champakalakshmi is wrong in her analysis of how Indian communities were constituted

--“community is to be understood as janapada, or the Tamil nadu, not jati or sampradaya.”, “simultaneously a people and place,” “However, in addition to the sharing of sentiments and values, community is also about shared rights or entitlements over human and material resources. Thus…community pertains [in pre-modern times] to smaller, local spatial entities.” With “cultural, social, and political means for defending them”, and they continued into the 19th century; though champakalakshmi and others see community as referring to “specific religious and caste groups” and that these groups are what should be molded into civil society

168-recent scholarship on South India has shown that the “temples defined communities”, many think that bhakti ideology preserves idea of monarchy and “flourishes as much as ever as a prime ordering agency for the standing of the people—individual and collective”-- that (170) persisted “long after” kings were divested by colonial governments; Dirks 1987 pointed out that kings in Pudukkottai made gifts (“inams”) to the Kallar and non-kallar people: land, and “privileged forms of social precedence and immunities from revenue liabilities”—and this was done to reaffirm public loyalty

170-Stein’s own thesis: “…the numerous political centres of the polity appeared to be based upon internally localized social structures, usually designated as nadu during the Cola period. These were stratified and ranked, occupationally diverse, and culturally varied territories whose constituent groupings were structured according to complementary oppositions…lineage and other kinship-based affinities were internally opposed and also balanced by occupational and sectarian principles of affiliation; the interests of peasant groups were opposed and again, balanced, by the interests of herdsmen or artisanal producers; [etc.]…Moreover, the (171) enstructuration of localized, pyramidally-organized segments was obedient to and fundamentally shaped by varied social, political and cultural developments as well as by ecological, or ecotypic, conditions.”—and this conception of kingdoms should be used to understand relationship of secular and sacred authority and centres

171-In Cola times (late 10th to 13th centuries) power came mostly from agricultural production control of Brahmins and Vellalas (whose organizational structure was hierarchical); in Vijayanagara times (14th-17th centuries), power was more from wealth from trade because their land (the upper part of southern india) was drier; by the 13th century, increased urbanization and commercialization forced new groups to assert their standing and widespread social conflict ensured; (172) military organization also began growing—Cola only had small local militias and a small standing army; Vijayanagaras felt pressure to imitate 14th century Muslim invaders “and adopted firearms and imported war-horses and came to maintain larger standing forces than ever before” and so commanders got more important political roles and generalissimos sometimes took control of the kingdom; and the expanding commerce and urbanization of the time also led to increasing power for temples and they “became centres of political, administrative and commercial activities and were among the most important civil institutions of that later society.”

172-riverine kingdoms, like the Colas (and their predecessors, the Pallavas, and successors, the Pandyas) donated to “landed brahmin settlements with prestige to match their wealth”; “Later kingdoms of the dry upland region” were different, with bhakti temple religion in which (173) “local fold deities came to be transformed into major temple gods through the largesse” of kinds and chiefdoms with Brahmin communites being more rare; both eras were of segmentary states, not really centralized; though some attempts were made in Vijayanagara times to centralize the military; and Krishnadevaraya made vigorous reforms to centralize the governemtn by making Brahmins (174) administrators and fortress commanders, increasing the importance of temples and decreasing importance of Brahmin settlements as “locus of brahmin influence and culture”; but generally centralization didn’t happen and so temple entitlements were used to consolidate local power in the segmentary society

175-the British encountered entitlements early on, especially when trying to reduce their number of chiefdoms in India. Eg, Thomas Munro (c. 1800) “put his own administration in place of the chiefs whom he had extirpated as guarantor of communal rights, or inams.”, and these inams show how institutional rights were defined: in 1805 Munro saw that “over half the arable land of the Ceded Districts was” inam land and “the average rates of revenue demanded was less than one-tenth of regular land revenue values” and there were many beneficiaries from several classes, but most were religious personages, hindu and muslim, and their institutions—they got about ¼ of all inamdars—with other large groups of beneficiaries being those at the lowest end of society; “but only a few could produce documentary proof of this,” about 1/20 actually got it from “royal” authority, most got it from lesser leaders (eg village headmen) who also had inam rights

176-the common functionalist view distorts understandings by separating politics from religion; he looks at how societies were wholes, constrained by agrarian and economic conditions