Regional Cultures

Learning Goals:

The Jagannatha Cult: This was the best example of regional cultures growing around religious traditions. Jagannatha which literally translates to ‘the lord of the world’ is a name for Vishnu. This cult is found in Puri, Orissa. Till date, the local tribals make the wooden image of the deity, which suggests that the deity was originally a local god which was later identified with Vishnu.


One of the important rulers of the Ganga dynasty, Anantavarman, decided to erect a temple for Purushottama Jagannatha at Puri, in the 12th century. In 1230, subsequently, king Anangabhima III dedicated his kingdom to the deity and proclaimed himself as the ‘deputy’ of god.

With the increase in the importance of the temple as a pilgrimage centre, its authority in social and political spheres also increased. All the dynasties who conquered Orissa tried to gain control over the temple. Some such rulers were the Mughals, Marathas and the English East India Company.They felt that gaining control over it would make them acceptable to the local people.

The Rajputs and their Heroic acts

The region that constitutes present-day Rajasthan was called Rajputana by the British in the 19th century. Though the name Rajputana may suggest that this was an area that was inhabited only or mainly by the Rajputs, this is only partially true. Many groups in the northern and central parts of India identified themselves as Rajputs. Also, there are people other than Rajputs who live in Rajasthan. The Rajputs, however are often recognized as contributing to the distinctive culture of Rajasthan.

There was close link between the cultural traditions of Rajasthan and the ideals and aspirations of the rulers. Most of the present-day Rajasthan was ruled by various Rajput families, from the 8th century. One such ruler was Prithviraj.

The ideals of the Rajputs

These rulers firmly believed in fighting valiantly and choosing death over surrender/defeat. The memories of the rulers were preserved by way of poems and songs which were recited by specially trained minstrels. These poems and songs also served as a role model for others to follow. Even ordinary people were inspired by these stories which often depicted dramatic situations and a range of strong emotions- from loyalty to anger.

Women’s position

Women often found a place in these stories either as

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