The King’s Three Bodies : Essays on Kingship and Ritual book cover
1st Edition

The King’s Three Bodies
Essays on Kingship and Ritual

ISBN 9781032000534
Published April 9, 2021 by Routledge
338 Pages 21 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This collection of essays deals with the rituals of kingship and royalty in India, Africa and Europe from the social anthropological and ethno­historical points of view. It discusses the dialectical entanglements of rituals conducted for and by kings (including, ‘little kings’ and ‘jungle kings’) with the wider social, political, cultural, historical, religious and economic contexts in which they were embedded.
Part I begins with a triangular comparison of kingship among the Shilluks of East Africa, the Gajapatis of eastern India and kings in Renaissance France. The essay entitled the ‘King’s Three Bodies’ makes use of Ernst H. Kantorowicz’s classical study, The King’s Two Bodies in medieval political theology and extends it, not only in terms of the numbers of bodies that are found to be significant, but also theo­retically. Another significant essay in this part looks at the unexpected but significant theoretical impact of social anthropological studies of acephalous, segmentary lineage societies in Africa on Indian historiography. The second part of this volume consists of three chapters dealing with the royal patronage of tribal and Hindu goddesses in Eastern India, while the third part presents studies on sleeping (and dreaming) kings and on the power of dead kings, a discussion of A.M. Hocart’s dictum that the first kings must have been dead kings.

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Table of Contents

PART I. Royal Authority And The State  1. The King’s Three Bodies: Royal Effigies in Southern Sudan, East India and Renaissance France  2. African Polities and the Pre-Modern Indian State PART II. Kings, ‘Tribes’ and Goddesses  3. Tutelary Deities: The Royal Patronage of Tribal Goddesses  4. The Hindu King’s Authority Reconsidered: Durgā-Pūjā and Dasarā in a South Orissan Jungle Kingdom  5. Contact Zone: Ethnohistorical Notes on the Relationship between Kings and Tribes in Middle India PART III. Of Sleeping And Dead Kings  6. ‘In Sleep a King . . .’: The Politics of Dreaming in a Cross-Cultural Perspective 7. ‘The First Kings must have been Dead Kings’: A.M. Hocart on Kingship and Ritual

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Burkhard Schnepel is Professor of Social Anthropology at the Martin Luther University in Halle, Germany. His main theoretical and thematic interests are political rituals in India, especially in Orissa, and the history of the Indian Ocean world, especially Mauritius.


The idea of little kingdoms emphasizes a hitherto neglected but significant structural feature of state formation and the state in pre-modern India...This is a splendid collection of essays trying to see the regions and localities as the sites of the reproduction of kingship and states insofar as the ground realities and networks of relations constantly influenced their shaping.

-Prof. Bhairabi Prasad Sahu (Department of History, University of Delhi)