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'God is with the patient people': festival, class and interreligious engagement

posted on 2023-06-09, 19:53 authored by Raminder Kaur KahlonRaminder Kaur Kahlon, Syed Mohammed Faisal
In this chapter, we consider the extent to which, in the course of preparing for and celebrating religious festivals, relatively rigid ethno-religious categories disassemble and reconfigure themselves according to the specifics of positionality, locality and temporality. The main focus is on people who self-identify as Muslim in two contrasting localities where the festival dedicated to the Hindu god, Ganesh, is celebrated in Mumbai. Our argument goes beyond the polarities of Hindu-Muslim communalism and communal harmony to consider in more depth the ambivalence or ‘deep interconnections’ that (non-)involvement in the Ganesh festival might raise. By drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, we aim to reassess arguments about, on the one hand, narrow communally drawn lines, and on the other, an uncritical expression of syncretic celebrations. Our focus is on Hindu-Muslim interrelations, but our aim is also to go beyond the ideological understandings of these terms as evident in the resurgence of Hindutva politics and processes of Islamicisation in India for such phenomena have only contingent and tangential bearings on the proximal lives of the vast majority of diverse communities in the city. Indeed, on-the-ground realities reveal that people may not even foreground ‘Hindu’ or ‘Muslim’ in their self-identifications, but deploy other categories that allude to an intersection of caste, region, sect as with ‘UP se’ or ‘from UP’, Kutchi Memon, Bohra, Ismaili. The multiple identities that are evident in the city also have a particularity to Mumbai as one of India’s foremost commercial and ethnically diverse metropole: a city that while distinctive, is also influenced by its commercial overtures, perennial migration, and the Maharashtrian region in which it is located in which the Ganapati festival has a phenomenal presence. After a brief overview, we will consider two areas of the city to consider the extent to which, and how, residents of Islamic backgrounds participate or do not participate in the festival as the case may be.


Publication status

  • Published

File Version

  • Accepted version


Oxford University Press

Book title

Religions, Mumbai Style: Events-Media-Spaces



Department affiliated with

  • Anthropology Publications

Full text available

  • No

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes


Michael Stausberg

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