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Contested Ritual Property. Conflicts Over Correct Ritual Procedures In A South Indian Visnu Temple

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Chapter Summary

This chapter examines a case of conflicting agenda among the participants in ritual events, namely the conflicts between two rivaling groups over ritual performances within a particular South Indian Hindu temple. For the last 150 years there have been fierce fights between the proponents of two sects over their ritual rights and duties within the temple, and over the distribution of ritual honours. These contestations are constantly expressed by accusing the other of 'doing it wrong', or of 'performing the wrong action'. However, these 'mistaken' deviations from 'normal' ritual procedure are not interpreted as such by all ritual participants, but only by one of the two groups vying for precedence within the multilayered ritual landscape of the temple. Teṉkalai and Vaṭakalai sects are found not only in the Varadarāja Perumāḷ temple, but in almost every important viṣṇuite temple in TamiḻNaṭu.

Keywords: ritual rights; TamiḻNaṭu; Teṉkalai; Vaṭakalai; Varadarāja Perumāḷ temple; viṣṇuite temple



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