Cult of The Goddess - Social and Religious Change in a Hindu Temple (An Old and Rare Book)

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Item Code: NAU134
Author: James J. Preston
Publisher: Vikas Publishing House Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 1980
ISBN: 0706910028
Pages: 114 (16 B/W Illustrations and 7 Map )
Other Details 9.00 X 6.00 inch
Weight 290 gm
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Book Description

About the book

Orissa is a major center of Hinduism. Cult of the Goddess is an anthropological study. of religious change taking place in a Hindu Temple located in Orissa’s largest city. Here a once small neighbourhood goddess temple has suddenly grown to become the most widely attended religious institution in the city. The book explores the inner workings of this temple and illustrates the _ importance of goddess worship. Cult of the Goddess is an unusual ethnographic description of Orissan Hinduism as experienced by an American anthropologist. The book is an additional testimony to the great flexibility to Hinduism. Even under conditions of intense internal conflicts, this small shrine devoted to goddess Chandi ~ emerges triumphant. Unlike other temples that have been torn apart by internal strife, this shrine has managed to become a thriving center of popular Hinduism. Devotion to the goddess assists newly urbanized people as they adjust to new conditions imposed by city life. | Cult of the Goddess should inspire Hindus to have faith in the durability of their temples as viable institutions for the perpetuation of Hinduism in modern India.

About the Author

Dr James Preston is an Assistant Professor at the State University of New York at Oneonta where he has been Chairman of the Anthropology Department since - 1976. Dr Preston has published several articles on various aspects of Orissan Hinduism and has edited a book entitled Community, Se/f, and Identity with Dr Bhabagrahi Misra.

Dr Preston is interested in all aspects of Hinduism. He is Particularly concerned with understanding how the Hindu religion adapts to changing social and psychological conditions in India.


The study presented here is based on anthropological fieldwork conducted from 1972 to 1973 in Cuttack City, Orissa, India. It is part of the author’s larger, continuing research interest in changing aspects of Hinduism. This preliminary report represents only a portion of the data collected in Orissa. Though the original research included information on both urban and rural temples , the present study focuses exclusively on Chandi Temple in the city of Cuttack. By selecting a single institution in a large urban center it has been possible to observe the interplay of several key variables influencing religious change in India. The impact of urbanism, new secular patrons, and emerging popular styles of Hinduism on a religious institution can be profound. Many temples have declined under such pressures of change. Chandi Temple is flourishing.

Another focus of interest here is the Shakta cult of contemporary Orissa. It would be presumptuous to attempt a full study of this complex phenomenon in this short volume. Nor is there sufficient historical or ethnographic data to develop a compre- hensive picture of Orissan goddess worship. The study presented here brings together some very basic information on the topic, with particular interest in how the goddess cult becomes mani- fested at Chandi Temple. Goddess worship seems particularly suited to the needs of newly urbanized individuals.

Thus, Chandi Temple is located at the confluence of several socio-religious streams in contemporary Hinduism. It does not represent the full range of factors emerging today as prime movers that impact on religion in modern India. Other temples in different parts of the subcontinent would certainly reflect a large variety of other social, cultural, economic, and religious variables at work today. Nevertheless, it is felt that this study has certain unusual characteristics to offer the student of religious change. Chandi Temple is not a large pilgrimage center or ancient sacred complex. Yet, there are thousands of middle range, relatively recent shrines like Chandi Temple in India’s cities. None of them has been studied ethnographically in any detail. Also, significant here is the relationship of the Hindu Religious Endowment Commission to the resolution of conflicts within temples. Little is known about these new bureaucratic patrons. Particularly important is the problem of how religious institu- tions will survive as they become less dependent on economic support from landed properties. The old feudal pattern has changed and many temples are being profoundly affected by such changes.

Research on change often suffers from lack of periodic restu- dies. The present study is no exception. It is recognized that Chandi Temple has undergone many changes since 1973. The author is grateful to the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the State Uni- versity of New York for financial assistance to return to India in 1979. Though this brief journey was intended primarily for attending an international meeting, it was possible to spend seve- ral weeks in Orissa. At that time some additional information was collected at Chandi Temple. Thus, some of the impressions formulated by the author since 1973 have been tested six years later.

Fieldwork often requires special sensitivities in the researcher. These sensitivities, however, bear no fruit without the good will and kindness of many people. The author is grateful for the special assistance received by friends, government officials, and university colleagues in Orissa. They were always cordial and enthusiastic about the focus of the study. The staff at Chandi Temple spent long hours answering questions and revealing some of their deepest thoughts about the institution. The Board of Trustees, Executive Officer, and temple priests opened themselves to the scrutiny of social science research. Particular credit is due to Sri Lokanath Panda who spent much precious time explaining and demonstrating the Tantric rites associated with Shakta tradition. This study would have been impossible without his many hours of assistance.

**Sample Pages**

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