chapter  4
19 Pages

Gods and goddesses in the ritual landscape of seventeenth and eighteenth-century Kāñcipuram

WithUte Hüsken

Kañcipuram is an old religious centre in South India, situated around seventy kilometres west of Chennai, the capital of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Up to the end of the seventeenth century, the temples of kañcipuram had been supported by rulers who sponsored plural religious traditions that coexisted and flourished side by side, as is evident from many temple inscriptions. This mutual bond was broken from the late seventeenth century by political instability, which left Kañcipuram, its temples and inhabitants impoverished due to disorder and war. The removal and return of the ritual images around the turn of the eighteenth century resulted in significant change to ceremonial schedules reflecting evolving power dynamics within and between the temples. Kañcipuram is one of the seven sacred cities for Hindus, with many monumental temples and small shrines. Historical events which determined the fate of Kañcipuram are remembered performatively, being enacted during the rich ritual schedules of the temples in the city.