Princely India Re-imagined
A Historical Anthropology of Mysore from 1799 to the present
By Aya Ikegame
Routledge – 2012 – 216 pages
India’s Princely States covered nearly 40 per cent of the Indian subcontinent at the time of Indian independence, and they collapsed after the departure of the British. This book provides a chronological analysis of the Princely State in colonial times and its post-colonial legacies. Focusing on one of the largest and most important of these states, the Princely State of Mysore, it offers a novel interpretation and thorough investigation of the relationship of king and subject in South Asia.
The book argues that the denial of political and economic power to the king, especially after 1831 when direct British control was imposed over the state administration in Mysore, was paralleled by a counter-balancing multiplication of kingly ritual, rites, and social duties. The book looks at how, at the very time when kingly authority was lacking income and powers of patronage, its local sources of power and social roots were being reinforced and rebuilt in a variety of ways.
Using a combination of historical and anthropological methodologies, and based upon substantial archival and field research, the book argues that the idea of kingship lived on in South India and continues to play a vital and important role in contemporary South Indian social and political life.
"The nine chapters of this diligent reworking of a PhD thesis probe the rituals and ideas on which Indian kingship was founded, the way in which such things changed under British rule and the survival of “kingly” practices in the twenty-first century…The book is immensely conscientious and meticulous. Authorities are cited relentlessly…The book displays its author’s remarkable talents: assiduous scholarship, the patience and listening skills of a dedicated ethnographer, a first degree in architecture and enviable linguistic ability." - Pacific Affairs: Volume 86, No. 4 – December 2013 - Institute of South Asian Studies, Singapore Robin Jeffrey
"The present reviewer recommends this book to all who are interested in understanding the contribution of precolonial South Asian patterns of segmentary power towards the evolution of modern Indian democracy. Most importantly, the book will fascinate all those desiring a sharper understanding of how extra-European social expectations about governance and modes of popular participation in administration interact with European institutions and ideas of liberal politics in shaping the formation of democratizing public life and global political modernities." - Milinda Banerjee, Presidency University, Kolkata, H-NET 2013
"Aya Ikegame’s book will certainly become a major source of material for debates of these kinds in future. This fine monograph will, I am sure, be well-received by both historians and anthropologists." – Anthony Good, University of Edinburgh, The South Asianist
1. Introduction 2. The Palace 3. The Politics of Honour 4. Educating the Maharajas 5. Becoming Gentlemen 6. Marriage Alliances in Imperial Space 7. The Capital of Raajadharma: modern space and religion 8. Dasara, Durbar, and Dolls: multi-dimensionality of public ritual 9. The king is dead, long live the king!
Aya Ikegame is a research associate for the ERC-funded OECUMENE project ‘Citizenship after Orientalism’ at the Open University, UK. She has co-edited The Guru in South Asia: new interdisciplinary perspectives (Routledge, 2012) with Jacob Copeman.