Deepa Das Acevedo

Assistant Professor of Law, LawUniversity of Alabama

Award Information

2010 IDRF Program

AnthropologyUniversity of Chicago

Legislating Hinduism: Temple Access and Religious Reform in Contemporary Kerala

The opening of temples to Hindus of all castes constitutes one of the Indian government’s most sweeping and most widely accepted efforts at bringing Hinduism into line with the liberal, egalitarian ideals of independent India. Kerala is especially significant in this regard for having enacted the first “temple entry proclamation” (1936) permitting untouchables into hitherto prohibited sacred spaces, a fact noted by Keralites and other Indians as being in keeping with the strongly progressive social and political agendas of successive Keralite governments. And yet, Keralite Hindu temples and especially their priests are noted for their orthodoxy and attention to ritual detail. This project will use two cases pertaining to temple entry at the state’s richest and most popular temples, the Vaishnava institutions at Guruvayur and Sabarimala, as focal points in a larger discussion of state involvement with religious belief and practice. In exploring these cases and their aftermath, this research will engage with important debates about the limits of liberalism in strongly heterogenous societies, the juridification of religion, and the development of legal concepts.