New Houses for the Gods in an Urban World
Tourists rarely consider Chennai a “temple city”, yet this major commercial center is experiencing a temple building boom. As active in building the economy as in constructing temple, new donors and devotees, who openly describe themselves as “middle class”, hold responsible positions in Chennai's modern technological, scientific, governmental, and business establishments. This chapter introduces the array of temples surveyed in Chennai and the many rituals of consecration (mahakumbhabhisheka) observed. Highlighting three new temples and their urban donors in detail, the chapter reconsiders “religion in the city”/urban religion (post Max Weber); the interplay of “tradition” and “modernity” (post Milton Singer); and old issues of economic development and Hindu religiosity. The chapter argues that significant cultural-religious changes occur in these temples, where donors and devotees reconstruct “tradition” and establish innovations in the context of space not ideology, thus creating an emerging reconfiguration of Hinduism that both rivals and parallels the much-discussed Hindu nationalism.
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