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Landscapes of Urban Memory: The Sacred and the Civic in India’s High-Tech City

Smriti Srinivas
Volume: 9
Copyright Date: 2001
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    Landscapes of Urban Memory
    Book Description:

    The city of Bangalore has become a center for high-technology research and production, the new “Silicon Valley” of India. It is also the site of the very popular annual performance called the “Karaga” dedicated to Draupadi, the polyandrous wife of the heroes of the pan-Indian epic of the Mahabharata. Through her analysis of this performance and its significance, Smriti Srinivas highlights cultural practices embedded in urbanization, and moves beyond economistic arguments about globalization.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9177-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Note on Transliteration and Translation
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. List of Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  8. Introduction
    (pp. xvii-xxviii)

    It was the middle of April 1995. The night was balmy, compared to the oppressive heat of the day, because the monsoons had not yet begun to lash Bangalore City. Outside the Dharmaraja Temple in the older portion of the city, there was neither a seat to be found nor place to stand as crowds of people jostled and pushed to get a view of the “Karaga” procession as it emerged from the temple.¹ Leaning against a tree facing the temple, I tried desperately to keep awake, for now it was almost 2:00 A.M. The sky was thick with people...

  9. 1 Civic Rituals in the New “Silicon Valley”
    (pp. 1-36)

    Many Cities of Bangalore Kempe Gowda, a local military chief who owed allegiance to the Vijayanagar Empire, founded Bangalore, then called “Bengaluru,” in 1537.¹ At that time, the urban center consisted of a mud fort with a settlement inside or alongside it, quadrisected by two main streets. Inside the fort and settlement were areas apportioned to different communities and social strata. Surrounding the fort was a moat, as well as separate farming and trading communities, and interwoven with these were shrines, forests, and bodies of water that gradually came to be linked to the fort and the new settlement through...

  10. 2 Models of the Garden City
    (pp. 37-66)

    The Karagajatreis broadcast every year on the state television network as well as on some private cable channels. It achieves this popularity because politicians and ministers often attend and because it is historically a key event in Bangalore. The sustained cultural importance of the Karagajatrefor communities in the City as well as its increasing relevance in new suburbs of the metropolis testifies to a public sphere that has grown in the city alongside others created by television, film, or literacy. Over a period of two months, a number of locales of the metropolis, the city, and...

  11. 3 The Urban Performative Complex
    (pp. 67-96)

    Cult centers and their performances, one of which is the Dharmaraj a Temple’s Karagajatre,reflect the changing histories of Bangalore. Their activities, like the other paths, narrations, traces, and maps described in the previous chapter, also suggest topological inputs and spatial models of the city, constructing and connecting past regimes and contemporary ones. The oral, ritual, and kinetic devices of reconnection differ from one to the other, and the Karagajatrestudied in this book is a specific case. However, seen together spatially and temporally, the cults and their performances produce the “urban performative complex,” within which the Karaga...

  12. 4 The Children of Fire
    (pp. 97-138)

    The Karagajatreis a commentary about the city’s past and present realities and a formulation about being citizens in the late-twentieth-century Indian metropolis. Some of the elements of this will emerge in the next two chapters as we follow thejatrein its temporal, spatial, narrative, and kinetic modalities. Elements include the connection of bodies of water and gardens, the breakdown of land zoning in Bangalore in the form presented by the Comprehensive Development Plans, the interpenetration of the city and the forest, and the parallelism of flows between the ritual body and the civic one. Further, as the...

  13. 5 The Primal Goddess, the Polyandrous Spouse, and Celibate Warriors
    (pp. 139-200)

    The cultic terrain of the Kaiagajatre,together with other legal and institutional interventions, opens up a realm of political action for Vahnikula Kshatriyas in Bangalore, and facilitates the construction of a wider alliance with other Backward Classes in the city. These mobilization efforts encode some elements of the terrain—fire-born ancestors, fire sacrifice, fiery lineages, and their location in the narratives and practices of key shrines in Bangalore. Specifically, the Karagajatreis embedded in topological and institutional coordinates drawn from the many urban models of Bangalore and the flows between the various axes of the performative complex that...

  14. 6 Cities and Forests
    (pp. 201-236)

    The oral epic about the origins of the Vahnikula Kshatriya community, theKaraga Puranaor theVahni Purana,is recited outside the Elusuttinakote on the night after the full moon and the Karaga procession through the City. The recitation usually begins after midnight (in 1996, for instance, the recitation began at about 2 A.M.) and goes on for two or three hours. The recitation is done by a ritual officiant known as the “Gante Pujari” (literally, “The Bell-Priest”; see Figure 23), and there can be more than one. The Gante Pujari’s family are priests of the Elusuttinakote. The person who...

  15. Conclusion
    (pp. 237-252)

    From the time of Bangalore’s founding in the sixteenth century until 1800, the model of the city was composed of three elements: the fort, the tank, and the settlement-market. Interlaced with these were forests, horticultural gardens, and other green spaces emerging from an older history of urbanism in south India. After the last Anglo-Mysore battle in 1799, a “park and garden” model that depended on the physical and social separation of the City and the Cantonment through Cubbon Park overlay this model; the Cantonment was also dotted with smaller parks, boulevards, and parade grounds. In 1949, when the Cantonment and...

  16. Appendix Survey of Vahnikula Kshatriya Households in Bangalore
    (pp. 253-266)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 267-298)
  18. Glossary
    (pp. 299-304)
  19. Bibliography
    (pp. 305-318)
  20. Index
    (pp. 319-330)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 331-331)