This book seeks to analyse the kaleidoscopic images through which Krsna-Jagannatha has been represented by European travellers and scholars.
Recalling the ancient relationship of the Syrian Christians to Hindu Culture, Part I brings to centre stage commonly ignored parallelisms between Jagannatha and Thomas the Apostle. Such analogies are clearly suggested in the Syrian Christian traditions collected by Europeans from the late Middle Ages. Athanasius Kircher (1601/2-1680) made abundant use of these sources, albeit grossly distorted, for his alleged reconstruction of the diffusion of Christianity in Asia.
Since the 18th century, the cult of Jagannatha was accommodated by European scholars to their conceptions of history. The foundation myth of the cult was interpreted in this perspective. In the process, as shown in Part II, meaning has been drastically deflected.
A very different picture emerges when several versions of the Jagannatha myth, unhampered by the inherited models of interpretation, are brought together and compared. Part III attempts to capture the coherent unity arising from the narratives. The book provider access to this inner unity and sheds new light on the problems engendered by persistent efforts to ensure the viability of historical reconstruction.