International Journal of Hindu Studies

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 61–77 | Cite as

Gaṇeśa Caturthī and the Making of the Aspirational Middle Classes in Rajasthan

  • Jennifer D. OrtegrenEmail author


This article examines the ways in which religious practices play a critical role in formulating middle-class identities among upwardly mobile Hindu women—members of what I call the “aspirational middle classes”—in Pulan, an urban neighborhood of Udaipur, Rajasthan. It focuses on ritual practices surrounding the Gaṇeśa Caturthī festival, a ten-day festival honoring the elephant-headed god Gaṇeśa, which has become increasingly popular in Udaipur in recent years. The article shows how taking up these new practices enables women to form and perform new middle-class identities within the neighborhood. Yet, as the concluding practices of Gaṇeśa Caturthī require the ritual community to leave the neighborhood for visarjan (ritual immersion of the festival image), outsiders can evaluate their performance of middle-class status and may perceive it as a display of lower-class status. In tracing the shifting meanings of festival practices, both within and beyond Pulan, the article shows how the urban neighborhood emerges as a localized religious space within which nuanced definitions of middle-class identity are constructed and made meaningful.


middle class Hinduism women aspiration Gaṇeśa Caturthī 


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ReligionMiddlebury CollegeMiddleburyUSA

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