The Idea Of India…Finally

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The Idea Of India Project Update: The Eunuch Goddess

Note: This essay was originally published on March 21st. This is an update based on a recent meeting with historian Samira Sheikh who has generously provided me with her research into the legend and contested history of Bahuchara Mata. All updates reflect insights gained from her work.

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A continuity of history has been erased at the temple of the goddess Bahucharaji. As I walk into the center of the temple I am surprised to see a dozen or so men busily working at carving and cutting away stone and cement blocks, constructing a new temple where once a classical Indo-Islamic structure had stood. The shrine complex that I had expected to see is no longer. Details »

The Idea Of India Project Update: Project Readings: Kabir: An Irrelevant Voice?

A new set of translations of the works of the Indian poet Kabir are about to be published by The New York Review Of Books.

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The Idea Of India Project Update: Project Reading List: J.J. Roy Burman Gujarat Unknown

Gujarat Unknown by J.J. Roy Burman

Professor J.J. Roy Burman, who currently teaches at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai/Bombay, India has been a crucial guide and advisor on the current phase of The Idea Of India project.

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The Idea Of India Project Update: All Faiths Bring You To The Feet Of Haji Pir

You can already see them on the roads leading up to this small town in remote Western Kutch. Pilgrims from as far away as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat are slowly, determinedly making their way to the town of Naragram in the Banni region of Kutch, Gujarat. Many are on foot and carrying the green flags that define them as devotees to the famous saint known here as Haji Pir. Dozens can be seen resting at night at local gas stations and truck stops.

Location Of The Shrine Of Haji Pir, Nakhratrana, Gujarat

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The Idea Of India Project Update: Project Related Readings: Achyut Yagnik The Shaping Of Modern Gujarat & Ahmedbabad: Royal City To MegaCity

Towards the end of this work, Yagnik’s words seem to be weighed down by a terrible despair. Though the work is a broad social science study of Gujarat’s political, economic and cultural history, one can’t help but feel that it is more an attempt to understand and explain the state’s descent into cultural xenophobia and anti-Muslim hysteria that mark its political, social and urban spaces today.

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The Idea Of India Project Update: Project Related Readings: Gilmartin & Lawrence Beyond Turk & Hindu: Rethinking Religious Identities In Islamicate South Asia

It was a William Dalrymple review, ‘India, The War Over History’, in The New York Review Of Books that first bought my attention to this work. It remains on my reading list and has already been referenced in my India project writings a few times. Gilmartin & Lawrence’s Beyond Turk And Hindu: Rethinking Religious Identities In Islamicate South Asia brings together some fine academics to offer a more complex, inter-twined reading of South Asian history, dynasties and communities.

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The Idea Of India Project Update: 10th March 2011: The Shrine Of Hazrat Syed Ali Mira Datar And The Trace Of The Devil

Her face is a mask – without expression and stone hard. Her eyes stare into the distance, oblivious to the hundreds of men and women milling about the courtyard of the shrine. In the dying dusk light, under the glare of incandescent lights from the flower sellers inside the shrine complex, she lets out a scream, her mouth turned up towards the sky, her hands pulling at her hair. She falls to her knees and scratches at the marble floor but is soon back on her feet. I sense the eyes of the crowd turn towards her, and an atmosphere of tense anticipation fills the devotees as they step away from her. She begins to run.

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The Idea Of India Project Update: 4th March 2011: Reading Rumi In Ahmedabad

Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form.

Friends are enemies sometimes, and enemies friends.

I was a tiny bug. Now a mountain. I was left behind. Now honored at the head. You healed my wounded hunger and anger, and made me a poet who sings about joy.

If your guidance is your ego, don’t rely on luck for help. you sleep during the day and the nights are short. By the time you wake up your life may be over. Details »

The Idea Of India Project Update: 2 March 2011: The Fulbright Phase Begins

After a near nine month break I am once again turning my attention to the The Idea Of India project. This phase of the project is expected to last about nine months and will concentrate on the regions of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Kerala and, time permitting, West Bengal.

I arrived in India on February 5th, but have so far been concentrating on final research discussions and meetings. In particular I have been visiting the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), and meeting with Professor J.J. Roy Burman whose work provides key details and background to my explorations in Maharashtra. In addition I have been at the Madura Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad (MICA) where Professor A.F. Mathew and Professor Rita Kothari have been assisting me with final details on sites and communities in the Gujarat region. I am affiliated with the Jamia Millia Islamia’s Center for the Study of Comparative Religions  and Civilizations in New Delhi, where Professor Madhu Khanna is acting as my referee for the work. Details »