The Poor Company

Hugh B. Urban

in The Economics of Ecstasy

Published in print December 2001 | ISBN: 9780195139020
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199834778 | DOI:
 The Poor Company

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The three sections of this chapter examine the unique use by the Bengali Kartābhajā sect of mercantile imagery in their Mint Language, first in the general metaphor of the “marketplace of the world,” second, in their unusual use of terminology drawn from the East India Company, and finally in their ingenious appropriation of the metaphors of the “Poor Company” and the “Mad Company.” The primary focus is on the economic dimensions of Kartābhajā esoteric songs. This is by no means intended to be a kind of “vulgar economism” or a simplistic reduction of religious language to material interests. To the contrary, it is argued that the social agents are not the only people capable of deploying religious myths and rituals in order to express more concrete economic or political motives, religious actors are also capable of appropriating very secular, economic, and political discourse while transforming it into a profound bearer of deeper religious or spiritual ideals.

Keywords: Bengal; cults; imagery; India; Kartābhajās; language; mercantile imagery; mercantilism; metaphors; secrecy; sects

Chapter.  9365 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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