Temples of Modern India: Religion, Nehruvian Developmentalism, and the Construction of the Nagarjuna Sagar Dam

Publication Date

April 2019


Phillip Wagoner, William Pinch


History (HIST)


English (United States)


This thesis consists of three chapters concerned generally with the role of religion in the development of irrigation technology in South India, but situated by the Nagarjuna Sagar Dam as a case study. Temporally each chapter stretches over the early modern and modern periods, and one chapter extends into the late medieval era. This longue durée approach, ultimately spanning as much as nine centuries, is appropriate for understanding the religious connotation of mega-dam construction in the 20th century. Despite its long temporal reach, the thesis is primarily concerned with the two decades following India’s independence in 1947. I use a wide range of primary sources throughout the thesis including 12th-century temple inscriptions, 19th-century British colonial reports, letters, and manuscripts, and 20th-century autobiographies and photographs. It is my goal to place these temporally varied sources in conversation with one another in order to engage with late medieval, early modern, and modern understandings of dams and irrigation technology.

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