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Ticku, R., Shrivastava, A. and Iyer, S.

Economic Shocks and Temple Desecrations in Medieval India


Abstract: Economic downturns can create conditions for mass uprisings that threaten an authoritarian ruler. Religious authority can provide the ideological force needed to solve the collective action problem that hinders a revolution. When co-option is infeasible, the ruler can respond to economic shocks by suppressing the religious authority of the popular religion. In this paper we provide empirical evidence of this response in medieval India. Using centuries of geo-referenced data we document a positive relationship between weather fluctuations and the destruction of Hindu temples under Muslim rule. Specifically, during periods of large weather fluctuations the likelihood of a Muslim State desecrating a Hindu temple increases by about 1 percentage point (relative to the baseline of 0.7%). We explore various mechanisms that could drive the ruler’s response and show that regime stability is the likely explanation for this relationship. The paper contributes to our understanding of the behaviour of authoritarian regimes in diverse societies.

Keywords: Religious repression, Regime stability, Weather shocks, Temple desecration

JEL Codes: D74 N35 N45

Author links: Sriya Iyer  


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