Gods in the Bazaar

The Economies of Indian Calendar Art

Gods in the Bazaar


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Book Pages: 448 Illustrations: 156 color illustrations Published: April 2007

Author: Kajri Jain

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Art and Visual Culture > Art Criticism and Theory, Asian Studies > South Asia

Gods in the Bazaar is a fascinating account of the printed images known in India as “calendar art” or “bazaar art,” the color-saturated, mass-produced pictures often used on calendars and in advertisements, featuring deities and other religious themes as well as nationalist leaders, alluring women, movie stars, chubby babies, and landscapes. Calendar art appears in all manner of contexts in India: in chic elite living rooms, middle-class kitchens, urban slums, village huts; hung on walls, stuck on scooters and computers, propped up on machines, affixed to dashboards, tucked into wallets and lockets. In this beautifully illustrated book, Kajri Jain examines the power that calendar art wields in Indian mass culture, arguing that its meanings derive as much from the production and circulation of the images as from their visual features.

Jain draws on interviews with artists, printers, publishers, and consumers as well as analyses of the prints themselves to trace the economies—of art, commerce, religion, and desire—within which calendar images and ideas about them are formulated. For Jain, an analysis of the bazaar, or vernacular commercial arena, is crucial to understanding not only the calendar art that circulates within the bazaar but also India’s postcolonial modernity and the ways that its mass culture has developed in close connection with a religiously inflected nationalism. The bazaar is characterized by the coexistence of seemingly incompatible elements: bourgeois-liberal and neoliberal modernism on the one hand, and vernacular discourses and practices on the other. Jain argues that from the colonial era to the present, capitalist expansion has depended on the maintenance of these multiple coexisting realms: the sacred, the commercial, and the artistic; the official and the vernacular.


Gods in the Bazaar is a landmark publication on Indian calendar art. . . . This volume is an essential element of a scholarly Indian or South Asian visual culture collection. . . .” — Dan Lipcan, ARLIS/NA Reviews

“[Jain] productively employs some of the work of scholars of South Asian religion, art history, and visual culture to explain how these calendars and framing pictures ‘work.’ These are the most accessible and successful discussions in this hefty tome. The willingness of the publisher to include so many illustrations, most of them in full color, greatly enhances the book.” — John E. Cort, Religious Studies Review

“Jain’s exhaustive research shows, and Gods in the Bazaar proves to be an incredibly detailed, informative, occasionally surprising piece of work. It in undoubtedly a collector’s item, that can be quoted often and referred to endlessly. That in itself is worth its place on any bookshelf.” — Sree Ramachandran, M/C Reviews

“Kajri Jain’s study is a highly remarkable venture into the everyday world of Indian calendar art. It is certainly enriching not only for scholars and students of India but far beyond area studies. . . . The rich ethnographic approach of this book is innovative and fresh. . . . The range of discussions in this book is immense and enlightening, also because they take us into concrete fields of inquiry of the partly highly abstract and theoretical excursions. Jain has incorporated, in a way as eloquent as her language and analytical clarity, 156 coloured images that accompany the arguments. They are not just illustrating the argument but generating a life and space of their own, thus turning into ‘informants’ or ‘gatekeepers’ of kinds.” — Christiane Brosius, Social Anthropology

“Kajri Jain’s volume is a tour de force of image and text, dexterously woven together. . . . Focusing on the ubiquitous Indian art form, calendar imagery, she writes with evocative and compelling flair. . .” — Raminder Kaur, Journal of Anthropological Research

Gods in the Bazaar is replete with glorious color illustrations, providing a feast for a reader’s eyes and much material for thought. . . . Jain is to be commended for her meticulous research and provocative insights, which mark this study of bazaar arts.” — Joanna Kirkpatrick, Visual Anthropology

Gods in the Bazaar is a rich and sophisticated treatment of visual culture in India. . . . Through close reading and ethnographic exploration, Jain provides a compelling account of the way in which these images permeate everyday life and animate the meaning of modernity in postcolonial India. . . . Jain makes an exemplary contribution to the scholarship on how popular art forms intertwine with quotidian practices and gain both meaning and value across communities and over time. . . . Kajri Jain’s book is replete with beautiful collection of images ranging from gods and goddesses, to divine babies, to national icons.” — Radha S. Hegde, Anthropological Quarterly

“[A] world full of surprising diversity, economic ingenuity, and artistic acumen both from the author and her subject.” — Stefaan Van Ryssen, Leonardo Reviews

“[T]here is no doubt that the author has written a most interesting, illuminative and valuable book on the calendar art of India, which is bound to serve as an authoritative source of reference to scholars and lay people alike for a long time to come.” — Singaravelu Sachithanantham, Asian Anthropology

“Jain is thoroughly engaged in the literatures of South Asian art history, history, and anthropology, and she makes sustained interventions in religious studies. Her book should command the attention of scholars in all of those disciplines and would be of use in both undergraduate and graduate classes studying modern South Asia. . . . [T]he strength of Jain’s account argues forcefully that an understanding of Indian visual culture is essential to an understanding of Indian public culture as a whole.” — Karin Zitzewitz, Journal of Asian Studies

“This book is groundbreaking for modern Indian visual culture.” — Ajay Sinha, Art History

“A virtuoso examination of the ‘luminous banality’ of calendar art. In mapping the moral economy of bazaar Hinduism, it provides a history of much of twentieth-century India and predicts much of what might happen in the present century.” — Christopher Pinney, author of “Photos of the Gods”: The Printed Image and Political Struggle in India

“In this groundbreaking book, Kajri Jain analyzes the ‘frames of value’ surrounding the contemporary Indian genre of mass-produced prints often known as bazaar art, ‘lurid, pungent, frequently tatty’ colored images of gods displayed on calendars. Recognizing that the value of these printed images to their viewers far exceeds their literal material value or the value that we might be tempted to assign to them in artistic terms, in a rich and vivid analysis based on firsthand research in the calendar-art industry Jain deals with their many values—social, political, religious, aesthetic, historical, affective, and libidinal. Gods in the Bazaar makes a significant theoretical contribution to globalizing our notion of aesthetic experience; in the sensuous and sacred economies of calendar art, what appears to be lurid and tatty can also be moving, precious, and exciting. Jain’s deft weaving of art history, aesthetics, anthropology, and the study of popular visual culture is a tour de force and deserves a wide readership among students of all image-making traditions around the world.” — Whitney Davis, Professor of History and Theory of Ancient and Modern Art, University of California, Berkeley


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Kajri Jain is Assistant Professor in the Departments of Film Studies and Visual Arts at the University of Western Ontario. She previously trained and worked as a graphic designer in India.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Notes on Style vii

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: Calendar Art as an Object of Knowledge 1

Part 1. Genealogy

1. Vernacularizing Capitalism: Sivakasi and Its Circuits 31

2. When the Gods Go to Market 77

3. Naturalizing the Popular 115

Part 2. Economy

4. The Sacred Icon in the Age of the Work of Art and Mechanical Reproduction 171

5. The Circulation of Images and the Embodiment of Value 217

Part 3. Efficacy

6. The Efficacious Image and the Sacralization of Modernity 269

7. Flexing the Canon 315

Conclusion 355

Notes 375

Works Cited 409

Index 427
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3926-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3906-9
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