Performance, Place and Cross-Religious Participation

This research considers the extents to which in the course of religious performance in the multi-ethnic city of Mumbai, relatively rigid ethno-religious categories disassemble and reconfigure themselves according to the specifics of neighbourhood residences.

The main focus is on Maharashtra’s foremost festival associated with the Hindu elephant-headed god, Ganesh (locally known as Ganapati). This annual festival is renowned for its large spectacles, community collaboration, neighbourhood relations and competitions, and elaborate processions to the sea or other watery abodes on the final day. Raminder Kaur has already conducted substantive research on the festival (Kaur 2003). But one area that she did not substantively cover was the extents to which non-Hindus participate (or do not participate as the case may be) in this major urban event. By conducting participant-observation combined with semi-structured interviews and digital photographic/film recordings in three neighbourhoods in south Mumbai selected according to the ethno-religious mix of residents, the research will consider inter-communal relations during what may be described as an ‘effervescent’ collective space; the extents to which non-Hindus participate in the urban festivities; the manner in which non-Hindus engage with the preparations and proceedings of the public Ganapati festival, and implications thereof; and reasons as to non-participation and the extents to which this is connected to the communalisation of place and identities in the city.

Project by Raminder Kaur, University of Sussex