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The Economics of EcstasyTantra, Secrecy and Power in Colonial Bengal$
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Hugh B. Urban

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780195139020

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/019513902X.001.0001

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The Poor Company

The Poor Company

Mercantile Discourse and Its Deformations in the Bhāver Gīta

Chapter:
(p.116) 4 The Poor Company
Source:
The Economics of Ecstasy
Author(s):

Hugh B. Urban (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/019513902X.003.0005

The three sections of this chapter examine the unique use by the Bengali Kartābhajā sect of mercantile imagery in their Mint Language, first in the general metaphor of the “marketplace of the world,” second, in their unusual use of terminology drawn from the East India Company, and finally in their ingenious appropriation of the metaphors of the “Poor Company” and the “Mad Company.” The primary focus is on the economic dimensions of Kartābhajā esoteric songs. This is by no means intended to be a kind of “vulgar economism” or a simplistic reduction of religious language to material interests. To the contrary, it is argued that the social agents are not the only people capable of deploying religious myths and rituals in order to express more concrete economic or political motives, religious actors are also capable of appropriating very secular, economic, and political discourse while transforming it into a profound bearer of deeper religious or spiritual ideals.

Keywords:   Bengal, cults, imagery, India, Kartābhajās, language, mercantile imagery, mercantilism, metaphors, secrecy, sects

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