Jagannatha Compared: The politics of appropriation, re-use and regional traditions in India

  • Julia A. B. Hegewald (Author)
  • Subrata K. Mitra (Author)

Identifiers (Article)


Many in Orissa, experts and lay devotees alike, think of the ‘cult of Jagannatha’ as unique, and specific to Orissa. This is not unusual because space has a special connotation in Hinduism and Jagannatha, though, technically, the Lord of the Universe, is seen by Oriyas as ‘their’ god. Similar identification of particular gods with particular spaces and people can be seen all over India. However, looked at more closely and comparatively, the political and cultural dynamic that goes into the making of the cult is more general than the cult itself. Available evidence shows that the partial process that underpins India’s regional traditions is based on mutual accommodation of rival sacred beliefs, in other regions of India as well. Based on the comparative accounts and the history of Jagannatha of Orissa, and of temples from north and south India which have been converted either by the Jaina or the Lingayat communities, the paper examines the processes of the re-use of sacred sites and material by the holders of political power and the use of such hybrid sacred objects in the making of regional state traditions.


India, Jagannatha, Hinduism, Regional Traditions, State-Formation