This book is the first to describe in detail a community of potters working for the Jagannatha Temple in Puri, and to explore how the role of temple servant affects the potters' understanding of their work and of themselves. As a pilgrimage centre of national importance, supported by the patronage of successive regional dynasties and by fervent popular belief, the Jagannatha Temple requires earthenware in great quantities for the creation and distribution of the sacred food that is an integral feature of daily ritual and pilgrimage. Three hundred potters participate as temple servants in maintaining the temple's ritual cycle by performing their divinely assigned task. This study, conducted in 1979-1981, observes the potters' technical prowess, sustained by devotion, but also examines the tensions within their relationships to more powerful temple servants and authorities. The role of the potter as temple servant is at once glorious, as demonstrated by texts and personal interpretations of the potters' divinely-appointed service, and pathetic, as shown in the brutality of caste-based hierarchy and cash-based exchange penetrating the modern temple's daily operations.
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February 28, 2012
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