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Diaspora of the Gods: Modern Hindu Temples in an Urban Middle-Class World
by:Joanne Punzo Waghorne
Many Hindus today are urban middle-class people with many religious values in common with their professional counterparts in America or Europe. Just as so many modern professionals continue to build new churches, synagogues, and mosques, contemporary Hindus attend to the construction and maintenance of their religious institutions wherever their work and...
Many Hindus today are urban middle-class people with many religious values in common with their professional counterparts in America or Europe. Just as so many modern professionals continue to build new churches, synagogues, and mosques, contemporary Hindus attend to the construction and maintenance of their religious institutions wherever their work and life takes them. In Diaspora of the Gods, Joanne Punzo Waghorne traces the changing religious sensibilities of the Hindu middle class. Waghorne leads her readers on a journey through the world of the new Hindu middle-class, focusing on their efforts to build and support places of worship. She invites the reader into the neighborhoods of Chennai to view often-innovative new and renovated temples constructed in a sometimes seemingly incongruous urban environment. Her journey, however, does not end there. The cousins and brothers--literal and figurative--of temple patrons and devotees in Chennai are constructing divine houses abroad that are remaking the religious panorama of the United Kingdom and the United States. Waghorne leads us into the London neighborhood of Tooting, climbing upstairs in a former warehouse to see a Goddess temple constructed from plywood painted in trompe l'oeuil to create all of the features of a proper temple. Elsewhere in London, we meet the God Murugan in an almost hidden temple immured within the stone shell of a former Church and another Goddess whose temple is tucked inside a lovely white church on a quiet street. In Washington, a multiplicity of Gods shares a glorious white temple in an otherwise ordinary suburban neighborhood. Waghorne offers detailed comparisons of these temples, and interviews temple priests, devotees, and patrons. In the process, she illuminates the interrelationships between ritual worship and religious edifices, the rise of the modern world economy, and the ascendancy of the great middle class. This is the first comprehensive portrait of Hinduism as lived today by so many both in India and throughout the world.
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