chapter  8
17 Pages

Of kings and gods: The archive of sovereignty in a princely state


In 2000, my father Udai Pratap Deo, the last offi cially recognized “ex-ruler”1 of the former princely state of Kanker in central India, passed away. In the following year, I (a history teacher in a Delhi college) was especially recalled by the community elders of the Gond2 peoples in Kanker to participate as my father’s successor in the two biggest annual festivals of their ancestral deities. The fi rst of these festivals, held in January, is called madai, and the second, held in October, is the Dasehra.3 In these festivals, the “raja” of Kanker plays a very signifi cant role. During the celebrations of these festivals, scores of ancestral deities and their peoples assemble at the palace of the former ruler of Kanker. The descendants of the rulers, still widely called and seen as raja, propitiate these deities.