This short essay intends to describe two specific features of the complex engagement between Jagannåtha and evangelical Christianity
in nineteenth-century Orissa.1 British missionaries stationed there produced a voluminous body of literature on Jagannåtha that sought to transform the deity into a myth of Hindu monstrosity. The word “juggernaut,” with all its metaphorical connotations, is a product of this process of evangelical mythography. Drawing on Roland Barthes’s semiological analysis of French bourgeois culture,2 I will first delineate the evangelical myth known as juggernaut. In the second section of the article, I will draw attention to the indigenization of Christianity in Orissa. Evangelical tracts circulating in the region often advertised Jesus Christ as “the true Jagannåtha” as opposed to the false one who resided at Puri.3 Focusing on some such Oriya tracts and the autobiographical writings of the first Oriya convert to Christianity, Gangadhar Sadangi, I will describe the ways in which nineteenth-century Oriya evangelical literature drew on pre-colonial narrative traditions to articulate a dissent from Hinduism.
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