This chapter analyzes how the Parsi theatre incubated populist anticolonial movements in South Asia from the 1870s onwards by creating and diffusing a common corpus of Hindu mythological symbols that were dispersed across regional and linguistic divides. For the first time, the diverse linguistic constituencies of India were concurrently acquainted with staged displays of a Hindu mythological past that made meaningful a complex, fractured polity—a phenomenon that circumvented elite processes of national awakening. A surfeit of gendered imagery eventually associated with communalism, Hindu militancy, and Gandhian pacifist nationalism pervaded the Parsi theatre—of selfless goddesses who suffered monumental adversity. These visual representations lay at the heart of the religious revivalism that characterized the beginnings of a radicalized nationalism. Through the reordering of classifications of true and false knowledge, religion thus generated not only the public sphere but also popular anticolonial resistance and nationhood.
- Parsi theatre