Modern Indian Kingship

February 2003
7 black and white, 5 line illustrations
288 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
World Anthropology
James Currey

Modern Indian Kingship

Tradition, Legitimacy and Power in Jodhpur

Marzia Balzani

Addressed not only to those interested in the culture and politics of present day India, but also to those more generally concerned with theories of kingship and ritual and the complex fate of postcolonial nation states.
This work is a significant contribution to the study of kingship and the ritual process, two longstanding areas of anthropological debate both within and beyond South Asia.
The Deregulation of Princes Act 1971, was designed to bring to an end the last vestiges of kingly rule in India. Part of a political process begun under British rule, the Act took away the royal privileges of the maharajas and sought fully to integrate them as citizens in a modern democracy. But today, a form of kingship persists in India even though legally kings no longer exist. Many former maharajas continue to exercise considerable power and influence at both local and national levels. This study is an examination of the proceses by which royal power has survived and been transformed within modern India.
Focussed on the city of Jodhpur in the nothern state of Rajasthan, the study looks in particular at a set of ritual practices by which royal power is legitimated and consolidated through appeals to a fluid notion of tradition. Drawing upon fieldwork and archival research, this study brings together the disciplines of anthropology and history; it locates its ethnographic examples within broad comparative historical and religious contexts. states.

Series editors: Wendy James & Nick Allen

Keywords: World Anthropology,


The strength of this publication clearly lies in the thoroughly researched and excellent archival material. SOCIAL ANTHROPOLOGY
Here all the virtues of an interdisciplinary approach are on display ...a telling analysis of the ways in which traditional ritual still serves political purposes. - Antony Copley in ASIAN AFFAIRS
This is a welcome social anthropological study of kingship without kings in today's Rajastan, India, conducted by an observant woman and anthropologist on a subject clearly male- run and controlled...a welcome substantive ethnography on the intriguing and enduring lore of the Indian maharajas. - R.S. Khare in ETHNOS
Balzani mortally undermines, we may hope, illusions of ritual traditions as stable and unchanging. The author provides a rare view of dynamics of selection in relation to Jodhpur royal ritual performance. - Pamela Price in JOURNAL OF THE ROYAL ANTHROPOLOGICAL INSTITUTE
As contemporary South Asia globalises and glocalises, fine-tuning its identity, scholars increasingly acknowledge that 'tradition remains a part of the present' (p 3). Marzia Balzani's study makes a rich contribution to this debate through an ethnographic lens focused on Rajasthan's tourism-savvy royals in Jodhpur. ...The ethnographic analysis of Indian kingship is embellished with useful methodological comments. Balzani evidently collected much more material than could be incorporated. What is included holds together well, and demonstrates the emergence of new royal customs and constantly contested rituals through five interconnected case studies. These also elucidate the concept of the modern Indian state, a much-neglected topic compared with ancient Indian kingship. ...The book is meticulously referenced and indexed, and contains an excellent detailed glossary and bibliography. - Werner Menski in CONTEMPORARY SOUTH ASIA

Also in Series