Alexandria Digital Research Library

Changing representations of Hindu identity in Mumbai : culture and ethnicity in the Indian international society for Krishna consciousness

Robison, Claire Catherine
Degree Grantor:
University of California, Santa Barbara. Religious Studies
Degree Supervisor:
Barbara A. Holdrege
Place of Publication:
[Santa Barbara, Calif.]
University of California, Santa Barbara
Creation Date:
Issued Date:
Religion and South Asian studies
Hindu traditions
Transnational Religious Networks
South Asia
Gaudiya Vaishnavism
Dissertations, Academic and Online resources
Ph.D.--University of California, Santa Barbara, 2016

My doctoral dissertation is an ethnographic study of a Vais&dotbelow;n&dotbelow;ava Hindu community in Mumbai, India: the Chowpatty temple community. The Chowpatty temple community identifies itself as part of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), a modern, transnational branch of the Gaud&dotbelow;iya Vais&dotbelow;n&dotbelow;ava tradition. My study examines the complex array of factors that have led the 7000+ members of this community from diverse Indian backgrounds---particularly Gujarati, Maharashtrian, and South Indian---to become part of a transnational Hindu organization that derives from sixteenth-century Bengal but was institutionally developed in the United States in the second half of the twentieth century. While many in North America view ISKCON as a Western New Religious Movement (NRM) with a predominantly European-American "convert" population, ISKCON's primary source of growth over the past two decades has been in India.

The ISKCON Chowpatty community in particular has managed to position itself as an increasingly central actor in India's Hindu public spheres, wielding vast economic assets, political influence, and---more recently, in Mumbai---a posh identity endorsed by corporate business leaders and Bollywood film stars. ISKCON's rise in Mumbai and other contemporary urban Indian settings over the past few decades, through a range of multimedia productions and civic engagements, has not only changed the ways in which the organization is perceived in India, but it is also changing the ways in which a number of urban Indians view and practice Hindu traditions. This has important political ramifications, due to the organization's affiliation with the soft Hindu right that bolstered Prime Minister Narendra Modi's recent election, and it also has important religious ramifications in defining a new form of urban Hindu identity.

My study employs ethnographic methods to analyze the factors that have contributed to the ISKCON Chowpatty community's successful entry into Mumbai's Hindu public spheres, focusing on the organization's strategies to reach targeted middle-class and elite audiences in the city through its educational programs, festivals, dramatic performances, and other multimedia productions. In this way, Mumbai's ISKCON followers partake in a complex form of urban cosmopolitanism that is grounded in transnational networks but also assertive of a religio-cultural traditionalism that seeks to de-center the "West" and establish India's role as a key player in processes of globalization.

Physical Description:
1 online resource (636 pages)
UCSB electronic theses and dissertations
Catalog System Number:
Inc.icon only.dark In Copyright
Copyright Holder:
Claire Robison
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