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Title: Larger Than Life: Space, Politics, and Ritual in Mumbai’s Ganesh Chaturthi Festival
Authors: Mariwala, Anoushka
Advisors: Papapetros, Spyros
Certificate Program: Urban Studies Program
Class Year: 2021
Abstract: Ganesh Chaturthi is a ten day long Hindu festival celebrating the birth of the elephant-headed god Ganesh – the remover of obstacles and patron of learning – and his arrival on earth. Every year in India, tens of thousands of participants flock to pandals (temporary altars) to pay their respects to, and seek the blessings of, iconic statues of the god. Then, on the tenth and final day of the festival, Ganesh Visarjan (Ganesh immersion or dismissal), crowds gather to join a mass procession that travels through the city and culminates at the seafront for a ritual immersion of the idol. Most research on the festival is sociological or theological, I attempt here to analyze it spatially, through the dialectic of fixity (the normative and pre-meditated) and looseness (the spontaneous and exceptional). The thesis defines and investigates fixity and looseness of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival using Roger Caillois’ theory of the festival and Michel Foucault’s conceptualization of heterotopia. This ethnographic project investigates the spatial implications and political appropriations of the festival at three scales: first, at the regional and urban scale, second, through human architecture – including the animate, mobile mass of participants and city infrastructure, and finally, via small-scale objects that make up the material culture of the festival. Through this exploration, I offer a nuanced approach to study of the festival that is not defined by the temporary, transgressive, or subversive disorder as it has historically been theorized, but rather, as a more normative phenomenon, subject to order, that reveals and perhaps even intensifies, existing urban conditions. I thus present the festival as a mutable, ever-changing phenomenon that is simultaneously created, sustained, and renewed by the city of Mumbai.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Architecture School, 1968-2023

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