SOCIAL DYNAMICS IN A RELIGIOUS MILIEU: THE SEVAYATS OF THE JAGANNATH TEMPLE AT PURI
In face of present day forces of industrialization, urbanization and changing social configuration, personal worship, worship in temple, guidance of spiritual authorities and pilgrimage, though popularly assumed otherwise, continue to inform and shape the values of Indians. A case in point is the Shri Jagannath Temple, at Puri, Orissa (constructed after 1135 A.D.), prominent and popular till today, upholds the composite culture of India for more than 900 years. This paper is about the Sevayats of the Jagannath Temple at Puri, the ritual functionaries of the temple. For around nine centuries, in the face of social, economic and political ups and downs, the Sevayats have survived and emerged as the most faithful and the truest upholders of this enigmatic religious tradition. This paper primarily concentrates on all these Sevayats of Jagannath Temple. It also tries to describe in today’s context, their socio-economic status, their view about themselves and the temple, and their position in the temple and the society. This paper is not intended to provide a historical account of the temple, nor does it try to analyse the temple as a whole. Looking at the broader society the paper tries to establish the linkages between the Sevayats and the greater society, and how the Sevayats are responding to the broader forces of change. The focus is on the nature of the changing organisation and functioning of the Sevayats, where the past will be used only as a point of reference
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