ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Divine Sovereign and Our Predicament

The Mortal God: Imagining the Sovereign in Colonial India by Milinda Banerjee, Cambridge University Press: India, 2018; pp 422 + 12, 995.

Milinda Banerjee’s book, The Mortal God: Imagining the Sovereign in Colonial India, offers an in-depth study of multiple facets ­reflecting the ways in which people perceived the sovereign figure and their authority. It brings out the historical and political interpretations of supreme rulership in South Asia, focused in colonial India, during the 19th and 20th centuries. The cover of the book depicts the Maharaja or Prince of Cooch Behar with ordinary citizens and activists in the backdrop, symbolising the evolution and transition of the concept from the royal lineage to the will of the people as the ultimate source of the overriding power.

The primary occupation of the author had been to explore and analyse how the idea of a singular monarchical sovereign figure based on the notion of the “king can do no wrong” gradually underwent a remarkable transformation, percolating down to the level of the masses. The book presents a fresh departure from the conventional idea of monistic or centralised governing authority by vividly describing the role of the subaltern groups, including the marginalised in colonial India, as capable of exercising the ultimate potential of cardinal rulership.

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