Hinduizing from the Top, Indigenizing from Below: Localizing Krishna Rituals in Southern Ghana

in Journal of Religion in Africa
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Abstract

This essay reports on an aspect of Ghana's emerging Hindu religious experience; the localizing of the worship of Krishna, a Hindu deity and a globally circulating emblem of spirituality, in the context of the Radha-Govinda temple community in Accra, Ghana's capital. Representing the Ghanaian portion of International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), this community seeks to perpetuate the Caitanyite Vaisnava heritage in this African worshipping society by implementing its policy of 'Hinduizing' local communities. Local worshippers are receptive to this new religion but do not succumb to the pressure to become Hindus in ISKCON's sense. They are resilient and invest this cultural import with local religious meanings, pressing its rituals into service as spiritual ammunition as they respond to pre-existing challenges and the new limitations that contemporary social transformations have imposed on them. The essay demonstrates how the meanings of lay practitioners who we often assume to be powerless, rather than ISKCON and its powerful local elite agents, largely shape the trajectory of the worship of Krishna in Ghana.

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