Worship and Conflict in South India: The Case of the Sri Partasarati Svami Temple, 1800-1973

Appadurai, Arjun

     This is a study of the Sri Partasarati Svami Temple, located in Triplicane, Tamilnadu. "The over-all argument of this dissertation, in its most elementary form, has two parts, one having to do with continuity in the cultural system of the temple, and the second having to do with the question of change. (1) What is the South Indian temple? By way of a highly condensed definition, this dissertation argues that, in order to merit being called a temple, an institution must fulfill three requirements: (a) as a place, or sacred space, the temple is an architectural entity which provides a royal abode of the deity enshrined in it, who is conceived as a paradigmatic sovereign; (b) as a process, the temple has a redistributive role, which in this cultural context, consists of a continuous flow of transactions between worshippers and deity . . . ; (c) as a symbol, or more accurately, as a system of symbols . . . . [it] serves to dramatize and define certain key South Indian ideas concerning authority, exchange and worship, at the same time as it provides an arena in which social relations in the broader society context can be tested, contested, and refined.
     (2) How has the temple changed? Since it is the argument of this dissertation that no essential cultural change has occurred in the temple, it follows that we must look elsewhere for indices of change. Put baldly, what has changed is not the temple as a cultural entity, but the principles which determine how to control or manage the temple."