Demoting Vishnu: Ritual, Politics, and the Unraveling of Nepals Hindu Monarchy

Paperback | December 15, 2015

byAnne T. Mocko

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At the turn of the millennium, Nepal was the world's last remaining Hindu kingdom: even the most skeptical of observers could hardly imagine that the institution of the monarchy could ever be in jeopardy. In 2001, however, Nepal's popular King Birendra was killed in the royal palace. The crownpassed to his brother Gyanendra, but the monarchy would never fully recover. Nepal witnessed an anti-king uprising in April 2006, and over the course of two years, an interim administration systematically took over all the king's duties and privileges. Most decisively, beginning in the summer of2007, the government began blocking the king from participating in his many public rituals, sending the prime minister in his place instead.Demoting Vishnu argues that Nepal's dramatic political transformation from monarchy to republic was contested - and in key ways accomplished through - ritual performance. By co-opting state ritual, the king's opponents were able to attack the monarchy's social identity at its foundations, enablingthe final legal dissolution of kingship in 2008 to take place without physically harming the king himself. All once-royal rituals continue to be performed, but now they are handled by the country's President - a position created in 2008 to take over state ceremonial functions. Ex-King Gyanendra Shahcontinues to live in Nepal, is permitted to move about the country and abroad, but is no longer king in any respect.Mocko's book theorizes the role of public ritual in producing Nepal's state ideology. It examines how royal ritual once authorized kings to serve as the privileged apex of national governance and how, in the 21st-century, those rituals stopped serving the king and began instead to authorize rule bya party-based "head of state." Demoting Vishnu illustrates how upheaval in ritual contexts undermined the institutional logic of the monarchy, demonstrating in very public ways that kingship was contingent, opposable, and ultimately dispensable.

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At the turn of the millennium, Nepal was the world's last remaining Hindu kingdom: even the most skeptical of observers could hardly imagine that the institution of the monarchy could ever be in jeopardy. In 2001, however, Nepal's popular King Birendra was killed in the royal palace. The crownpassed to his brother Gyanendra, but the mo...

Anne T. Mocko is Assistant Professor of Asian Religions at Concordia College.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.68 inPublished:December 15, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0190275227

ISBN - 13:9780190275228

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments1. Introduction2. The Rise and Fall of the Shah Dynasty3. Succession rituals and the 2001 crisis4. Reinforcement Rituals I: Seeing the Sacred Vest5. Reinforcement Rituals II: Gaining the Goddess's Blessing6. Reinforcement Rituals III: Celebrating the Nation's Patriarch7. ConclusionAppendix A: Proclamation of the House of Representatives (18 May 2006)Appendix B: List of Formal InterviewsAppendix C: Glossary of Nepali Terms with Devanagari-Script EquivalentsBibliographyIndex