The Varkari Sampradya, a 700-hundred-year-old philosophical movement in India's west-central state of Maharashtra, has been increasingly lauded by conservative forces in the state as a standard bearer of Hindu and ethnic Marathi tradition. More appropriately, the movement should be understood as a key site of identity contestation and widely ranging social criticism. In this essay, the author recounts his field experiences of the Varkari Sampradya and his observations of its massive annual pilgrimage in light of current and historical struggles to control signification of the movement's public meaning.
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