ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

The landscape of assemblies and circulations – Itinerant markets in the Deccan region


Soni Firdaus - University of Hyderabad, Sociology, Hyderabad, India


25 – Thinking with markets: Practices and codes of engagement in South Asian economic milieus


‘Jatras’, ‘yatras’, ‘urus’ and ‘melas’ have long been an essential feature of the historical landscape and constituted central places of exchange and religious activity in the Deccan. Apart from the peasants, communities that were traditionally spatially mobile in varying degrees formed an important component of these assemblies called the jatra, where they have been congregating for various purposes – be it the exchange of goods, services and trade; as a part of their religious practices; and also as a gathering for intra-community activities like holding caste panchayats.

This paper draws from a long ethnographic engagement with the Jatra at Malegaon in western India, which is hailed as the largest fair of South India. The activity of the annual fair or the jatra at Malegaon is organized around the deity, namely, Khandoba, of the nomadic pastoral and ‘lower’ castes, the occasion serves as an important pilgrimage site, a regional market for the sale of horses, donkeys and camel among other trades. Beyond agrarian imaginaries, illustrating a landscape of the sprawling web of itineraries of jatras in the region, the paper highlights the role of these assemblies in the political economy of the Deccan with a focus on the economic milieu of the jatra at Malegaon.