Durga and the King: Ethnohistorical Aspects of Politico-Ritual Life in a South Orissan Jungle Kingdom

By Schnepel, Burkhard | Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, March 1995 | Go to article overview

Durga and the King: Ethnohistorical Aspects of Politico-Ritual Life in a South Orissan Jungle Kingdom


Schnepel, Burkhard, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute


Introduction

Questions concerning the nature of the relations and interdependencies between the 'political' and the 'religious' domains and concerning the kind of authority held by Hindu kings have for long constituted the principal 'conundrum' (Heesterman 1978) both of Indian ideology itself and of the studies that have tried to grasp this ideology and its more down-to-earth manifestations.(1) The present article seeks to illuminate this issue by discussing ethnohistorical aspects of politico-ritual life in one specific unit of social and political interaction: the 'little kingdom'. The epithet 'little' does not refer, at least not primarily, to the size of a kingdom or to other measurable criteria. Rather, it denotes an abstract quality of a politico-ritual kind - and this quality is relational, not absolute in character. 'Little kingdoms' are, therefore, characterized by their standing in often quite fickle and changeable relations to more powerful and ritually superior kingdoms, which in this sense are 'great' though not necessarily 'large'.

In Indian studies the term 'little kingdom' was first used by Cohn (1959; 1962) in his analysis of the political system of the eighteenth-century Benares region. Stein (1977; 1980) took up the term again, when he replaced the conventional historiographical notion of the medieval south Indian state as a centralized and hierarchically organized bureaucratic polity with the model of the 'segmentary state'. Recently, little kingdoms have again occupied the attention of scholars. Thus, for example, in The hollow crown (1987), Dirks shows that the study of little kingdoms offers a hitherto neglected view on the political, economic and cultural interconnexions that existed between the lower levels of social organization (i.e. the caste system, tribal communities, or villages) and the higher ones (i.e. regional and transregional kingdoms, or the state). He also suggests that a focus on little kingdoms may shed new light on the problem of the nature of the king's authority and on the relationship between politics and religion more generally.(2)

The analysis presented in this article draws on these insights to understand the royal patronage of tribal goddesses and of the Hindu goddess Durga (or her equivalents) in various little kingdoms situated in the south of the Indian state of Orissa [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED].(3) Of central concern among these is the former little kingdom of Jeypore, which was roughly coterminous with the present-day Koraput District. This kingdom was ruled for almost 500 years by the dynasty of the so-called Jeypore Suryavamshis, who established their power in the mid-fifteenth century and managed to retain it up to modern times.

Jeypore kingdom is only one of many little kingdoms which were situated in, or had important links to, the former Orissan empire of the Gajapatis. These 'Lords of the Elephants', as their title translates, were for a long time the 'great kings' of Orissa, with their base in central Orissa. As royal patrons of the famous deity of Jagannath, whose temple in Purl is one of the four most visited places of pilgrimage in India, the Gajapatis remained nominal overlords of the multi-centred Orissan empire even in times when their actual power had been severely curbed by foreign invaders.(4)

Most of the Orissan little kingdoms were situated either in a sort of semi-circle around the Gajapati seat of power or along vital trading or military routes, which indicates their strategic importance for the empire's defence. In south Orissa, now, one finds around twenty little kingdoms. While roughly half of these were situated in the coastal plains, the other half, including Jeypore, constitute a sub-type of little kingdom which I call 'jungle kingdom'. Jungle kingdoms have two main characteristics. First, ecologically their realms were situated at some distance from the coastal plains, in the remote and inaccessible hill territories of the Eastern Ghats. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Durga and the King: Ethnohistorical Aspects of Politico-Ritual Life in a South Orissan Jungle Kingdom
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.