The upper middle classes have worked over the past century to transform the Hindu temple from a symbol of “backwardness” to a symbol of the modern Indian city. By writing books and journal articles, filing lawsuits and organizing campaigns—thereby engaging in what Sanjay Joshi calls “cultural entrepreneurialism”—individuals in this segment of society both respond to and shape an evolving global discourse on Indian modernity. This article focuses in particular on the ways in which they have worked on Kālīghāṭ, a Hindu temple and pilgrimage site in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) that was once the target of the most vehement criticisms of temple Hinduism, but is now promoted as an appropriate symbol of modern Kolkata. This case study on one prominent temple in an Indian metropolis sheds light on a process that has shaped notions of Hindu temples throughout the nation.
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An earlier version of this article was first presented at the panel “ ‘Where Class Meets Religion’: Reshaping the Middle-Class and Hindu Worlds in Contemporary India” at the American Academy of Religion annual meeting, San Diego, November 25, 2014. I am indebted to panel organizer, Jennifer D. Ortegren, co-panelists Daniel Heifetz and Nicole A. Wilson, and our respondent, Joanne Punzo Waghorne, for their comments and suggestions on this article. The research for this work was funded, in part, by the Fulbright-Nehru Student Research Program.
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