In the durbar ceremony, the monarch, wearing formal dress and jewels, heard petitions, displayed himself and his aura ( darshan ) to his people, and exchanged gifts to mark reciprocal relationships and obligations between the Indian monarch ( raja ) and his/her subjects. Its semi-circular seating arrangement made manifest guests’ social positions in the hierarchy. The traditional durbar gift exchange of special clothes embodied continuity and the incarnation of political and social systems through the raja’s body. Joanne Punzo Waghorne writes that the gifted special clothes exchanged (brocades, robes, etc.) were imbued with a particular sanctity (Waghorne 21).  Bernard Cohn notes that in this exchange “clothes literally are authority . . Authority is literally part of the body of those who possess it. It can be transferred from person to person through acts of incorporation, which not only create followers or subordinates, but a body of companions of the ruler who have shared some of his substance” ( Colonialism 114). Recent studies have shown, however, that the robes were often made in a kind of factory system and often never worn by the monarch, but the ceremony sustained a mythic mutual incarnation of monarch and subject (Gordon).


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