Sociology of Religion in India 0761997814, 0761997822, 2003017873, 8178292556, 8178292564

464 23 3MB

English Pages [360] Year 2004

Report DMCA / Copyright


Sociology of Religion in India
 0761997814, 0761997822, 2003017873, 8178292556, 8178292564

Table of contents :
Series Note
Part I: Religion, Society and National Identity
1 - Visions of Nationhood and Religiosity among Early Freedom Fighters in India
2 - National Integration and Religion
3 - Religion and Economic Development
4 - The Indo-Islamic Tradition
5 - Ethnic Process and Minority Identity: A Comparative Study of Muslims and Christians of UP
Part II: Sects, Cults, Shrines and the Making of Traditions
6 - Manipur Vaishnavism: A Sociological Interpretation
7 - The Factor of Anti-Pollution in the Ideology of the Lingayat Movement
8 - The Immortal Cowherd and the Saintly Carrier: An Essay in the Study of Cults
9 - Emergence of Shrines in Rural Tamil Nadu: A Study of Little Traditions
Part III: Religious Conversion in India: Some Sociological Issues
10 - Some Neglected Aspects of the Conversion of Goa: A Socio-Historical Perspective
11 - The First Protestant Mission to India: Its Social and Religious Developments
12 - ues of Christianity in Colonial Chhattisgarh
13 - Emancipation through Proselytism? Some Reflections on the Marginal Status of the Depressed Classes
Part IV: Religion Beyond India’s Borders
14 - Religion and Language in the Formation of Nationhood in Pakistan and Bangladesh
15 - The Influence of Indian Islam on Fundamentalist Trends in Trinidad and Tobago
16 - Religious Resurgence in Contemporary United States: A View from India
Related Readings in the Sociological Bulletin
About the Editor
About the Contributors

Citation preview


THEMES IN INDIAN SOCIOLOGY SERIES EDITOR: B.S. BAVISKAR OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES Volume 1: Sociology of Gender Editor: Sharmila Rege Volume 2: Urbanization in India Editor: R.S. Sandhu Volume 4: The Indian Diaspora Editor: N. Jayaram Volume 5: Tribal Communities and Social Change Editor: P.M. Chacko Volume 6: The Family through Abstract and Lived Categories Editor: Tulsi Patel Volume 7: On Civil Society: Sociological Contributions Editor: N. Jayaram





Sage Publications New Delhi Thousand Oaks London

Copyright © Indian Sociological Society, 2004 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage or retrieval system without permission in writing from the publisher. First published in 2004 by Sage Publications India Pvt Ltd B-42, Panchsheel Enclave New Delhi 110 017 Sage Publications Inc 2455 Teller Road Thousand Oaks, California 91320

Sage Publications Ltd 6 Bonhill Street London EC2A 4PU

Published by Tejeshwar Singh for Sage Publications India Pvt Ltd, typeset in 10 pt Goudy Old Style by Star Compugraphics Private Limited, New Delhi and printed at Chaman Enterprises, New Delhi.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data The sociology of religion in India/editor, Rowena Robinson. p. cm.—(Themes in Indian Sociology; 3) Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. Religion and sociology—India. 2. India—Religion. I. Robinson, Rowena. II. Series. BL2003.S63


ISBN: 0–7619–9781–4 (US–Hb) 0–7619–9782–2 (US–Pb)



81–7829–255–6 (India–Hb) 81–7829–256–4 (India–Pb)

Sage Production Team: Proteeti Banerjee, Abhijit Chakraborty and Santosh Rawat


CONTENTS Series Note


Foreword by C.N. Venugopal




Introduction Rowena Robinson


PART I: RELIGION, SOCIETY AND NATIONAL IDENTITY 1. Visions of Nationhood and Religiosity among Early Freedom Fighters in India Proshanta Nandi 2. National Integration and Religion A.R. Desai 3. Religion and Economic Development M.S.A. Rao 4. The Indo-Islamic Tradition A.R. Momin 5. Ethnic Process and Minority Identity: A Comparative Study of Muslims and Christians of UP Nirmala Srinivasan PART II: SECTS, CULTS, SHRINES AND THE MAKING


37 54 68 84



6. Manipur Vaishnavism: A Sociological Interpretation Kunj Bihari Singh 7. The Factor of Anti-Pollution in the Ideology of the Lingayat Movement C.N. Venugopal 8. The Immortal Cowherd and the Saintly Carrier: An Essay in the Study of Cults Ursula M. Sharma




9. Emergence of Shrines in Rural Tamil Nadu: A Study of Little Traditions L. Thara Bhai


PART III: RELIGIOUS CONVERSION IN INDIA: SOME SOCIOLOGICAL ISSUES 10. Some Neglected Aspects of the Conversion of Goa: A Socio-Historical Perspective Rowena Robinson 11. The First Protestant Mission to India: Its Social and Religious Developments D. Dennis Hudson 12. Issues of Christianity in Colonial Chhattisgarh Saurabh Dube 13. Emancipation through Proselytism? Some Reflections on the Marginal Status of the Depressed Classes N. Jayaram


199 231


PART IV: RELIGION BEYOND INDIA’S BORDERS 14. Religion and Language in the Formation of Nationhood in Pakistan and Bangladesh Tanveer Fazal 15. The Influence of Indian Islam on Fundamentalist Trends in Trinidad and Tobago Nasser Mustapha 16. Religious Resurgence in Contemporary United States: A View from India Ananta Giri


Related Readings in the Sociological Bulletin


About the Editor


About the Contributors












he Indian Sociological Society (ISS) was established in December 1951 by Professor G.S. Ghurye and his colleagues in the Department of Sociology at the University of Bombay. The ISS soon launched its biannual journal, Sociological Bulletin, in March 1952. Since then the journal has appeared regularly for the last 50 years. Started on a modest scale, each issue of the journal usually did not contain more than a 100 pages. During the initial years, the print order did not exceed a few hundred copies. The Bulletin has now matured into a respected professional journal both nationally and internationally. Since 1989 it is a fully refereed journal admired for its academic content and the high quality of its production. Very few professional associations in India and other developing countries have been able to achieve and sustain the kind of scholarly reputation acquired by the Sociological Bulletin. The ISS celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 2001, and to mark the occasion, it decided to publish a series of seven volumes, called Themes in Indian Sociology, based on articles published in the journal during the last five decades. When the proposal was placed before the Managing Committee of the ISS, it received wholehearted support and several colleagues came forward to help implement it. The 100 issues published during the period contained about 500 articles on a variety of subjects concerning society and culture in India and abroad. The authors’ list included almost all the leading

names in Indian sociology and social anthropology. For the students of sociology and allied disciplines, it was a virtual goldmine of sociological knowledge. Some of the essays were considered landmarks in the development of the discipline and had acquired the status of ‘classics’ in sociological literature. Unfortunately some of the issues were out of print and scholars faced difficulty in consulting them for study, teaching and research. The Managing Committee decided to republish some of the seminal essays in suitable volumes under appropriate themes to make them easily available. The Committee identified a number of scholars who were specialists in their respective fields, and asked them to edit these volumes. Senior colleagues well-known for their expertise in different fields were asked to act as academic advisors and to write appropriate forewords for the volumes with which they were associated. Each editor has selected 10 to 15 articles related to his/her theme, arranged them in a meaningful sequence, and written a comprehensive introduction to place the articles in the context of the overall development of the field. The editor has also given a list of articles related to the field but not included in the volume, discussing briefly what they contain and why they could not be included. This has made each volume a self-contained guide to the concerned field. We have great pleasure in offering the following seven volumes under the series: 1. The Sociology of Gender. Editor, Sharmila Rege. Foreword by Karuna Chanana. 2. Urbanization: Sociological Contributions. Editor, R.S. Sandhu. Foreword by V.S. D’Souza. 3. Sociology of Religion in India. Editor, Rowena Robinson. Foreword by C.N. Venugopal. 4. The Indian Diaspora. Editor, N. Jayaram. Foreword by S.L. Sharma. 5. Tribal Communities and Social Change. Editor, P.M. Chacko. Foreword by K.S. Singh. 6. The Family through Abstract and Lived Categories. Editor, Tulsi Patel. Foreword by A.M. Shah. 7. On Civil Society: Sociological Contributions. Editor, N. Jayaram. Foreword by Satish Saberwal.





I hope these volumes will be useful to students, teachers and researchers in sociology, social anthropology and other social sciences. I would like to record my thanks to Omita Goyal and her colleagues at Sage Publications for their wholehearted support to the project. I am grateful to my colleagues in the ISS who came forward to work on these volumes as editors and academic advisors. This is a result of their willing cooperation. B.S. Baviskar Series Editor Themes in Indian Sociology



The sociology of religion developed in the West around the writings of August Comte, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber and a number of others. Since then, it has received additional inputs from cognate disciplines such as theology, history, anthropology, psychology, hermeneutics and psychoanalysis. The writers from these fields include E. Troeltsch, Rudolf Otto, William James, Werner Stark, Arnold Toynbee, Marcel Mauss, Mircea Eliade, C.G. Jung, H.G. Gadamer, A.R. Radcliffe-Brown and B. Malinowski. In India writers from history of art, ethnography, Indology and social anthropology have contributed to the making of the sociology of religion. These outstanding individuals include J.H. Hutton, C.V.F. Haimendorf, A.K. Coomaraswamy, B.K. Sarkar, G.S. Ghurye, N.K. Bose, Louis Dumont, Iravati Karve, M.N. Srinivas and T.N. Madan. Apart from books published on the subject, the research essays included in the leading Indian academic journals in sociology have lent prestige to it. In diachronic terms, religions in India have provided an ‘ecumenical’ framework. These religions include indigenous (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism) and exogenous (Islam and Christianity) types. While these religions have been often susceptible to antipathy or hostility towards each other, on their own terms they have accommodated numerous social groups by welding them together. In spite of the differences in doctrine, ritual and aspiration, they have maintained a dialogical relationship. This

has led to some understanding of each other’s stance; it has indeed been a process of striving towards co-existence. I have given below a few examples to show that this trend has continued upto the present. Common patterns of thought have linked the Upanishads to Jainism and Buddhism: they de-emphasized ritual concerns and instructed men and women to pursue self-discovery. Hindu-Sufi interactions in north India modified the rigours of religious orthodoxy, in order to promote a feeling of mystic oneness of all. The common people in the north have been drawn to this syncretist faith, in spite of the rise of communal politics. Early Christianity exerted a gentle influence on the southern Bhakti sects, which in due course nurtured fellow feeling and devotion to a benign deity. The nineteenth century agencies of reform—Brahmo Samaj, Arya Samaj and so on—derived their organizational patterns from the Christian missions, especially in educational and medical welfare. In turn, the Indian churches have modified their liturgy in keeping with Indian culture. Besides, the Hindu ideal of renunciation has had some bearing on the rise of Christian ashramas, which are engaged in an innovative practice. Dr Rowena Robinson, the editor of this volume, has judiciously selected the research essays and arranged them thematically. The chosen essays delineate the different facets of the Indian religious phenomenon. In her comprehensive introduction she has suggested new points for discussion among the concerned academicians. She has stated that today the sociology of religion stands at a crossroads. It is no longer seen as a central concern of sociologists. She has referred to globalization and other macrolevel processes which are a challenge to the integrative role of religion. She has also commented on the resilience of religion in returning to a crisisridden society, in one form or the other. Dr Robinson has stated that there is an increasing threat to human freedom through fundamentalist or communal tendencies at the turn of the twenty-first century. These movements have subjected sections of people, especially women, to repression. Some of the essays included in this volume highlight these aspects. I hope that discerning readers will appreciate her good work. Professor C.N. Venugopal



I record my thanks to Professor B.S. Baviskar for inviting me to edit this Golden Jubilee volume and for all the guidance and suggestions he has given the editors from time to time. I am appreciative of the effort he has put in to bring these volumes out on time and for his challenging me to complete the task to the best of my ability in a relatively brief period. I am very grateful to Professor C.N. Venugopal, senior academic advisor for this volume, who was kind enough to read the manuscript in the very short space of time that was available and offered many valuable suggestions and comments that have added considerably to the worth of the volume. I am happy that he was also able to make the time to write the Foreword. I would like to thank Nirbhay Lumde, student at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, who made my job infinitely easier by painstakingly scanning on to computer page after page of a number of the essays in this volume. I also thank Tanushree Mazumdar, who helped by photocopying articles from the various issues of the journal. I am very grateful to Professor Sharit Bhowmik who helped me to issue several of the relevant volumes of the journal from the Mumbai University library and made some suggestions regarding articles suitable for inclusion. Discussion with him also helped define for me the focus and purpose towards which the volume should be geared.




would like to begin by thanking the managing committee of the Indian Sociological Society and particularly Professor B.S. Baviskar for giving me the honour of editing this Golden Jubilee Volume. When Professor Baviskar put before me, at the December 2000 conference of the Indian Sociological Society in Thiruvananthapuram, the details of the proposal to bring out thematic volumes using essays from the Sociological Bulletin of the last 50 years I was quite excited by the project. It seemed to me a wonderful idea to do this and, being mindful of the ups and downs that a journal’s history often has, I viewed the project as ample challenge. Subsequent discussion with colleagues at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, where I teach and at Mumbai University led me to a deeper appreciation of the goals, relevance and possible areas of utility of these volumes. They celebrate an unbroken continuity—50 years of a project of interaction and academic intercourse in the life of Indian sociology. That is taken for granted. But their value is not only of the moment, as it were. It is likely to be much more lasting.

There has been much discussion over the last years about the problems of teaching sociology in Indian universities and colleges. Sociology, it has been noted, often suffers in the teaching at the graduate and undergraduate levels due to lack of faculty, funds, regularly upgraded syllabi and teaching materials. The problem of access to literature has been a critical issue that has often been brought up, particularly by those in regional universities and colleges in the smaller towns. Insufficient library facilities haunt many universities and colleges and with the crunch in funds the problem is becoming only more acute. The Sociological Bulletin has the distinction of having an enormous reach. It is likely to be the one sociology journal that most departments and colleges do get access to, even if they rarely see any others. Academics use it to keep themselves up-to-date and perhaps to recommend articles for students to read. Even so, it is not necessary that the entire collection is available at all places. Even the IIT Bombay, for instance, only has volumes starting from 1978. Moreover, for teaching purposes, collections of articles according to theme would prove immensely useful. When one looks for such collections of material to teach a course in say, the sociology of religion or the family, one is hard put to find anything to depend on. Precisely because the reach of the Sociological Bulletin is high and it is a journal well-known throughout India and even abroad, such volumes comprising collections of its essays are likely to have immense popularity. They not only bring together materials of worth but chart a certain history of the subject, a pattern of its study and the way in which that pattern has changed over time and with the infusion of new elements, new ethnography, new methods and new theories. The different perspectives in a particular area come together and offset and contrast with each other. Differences are highlighted and the merits of varied methods and theories can be compared. For teaching purposes this is of tremendous value. It is also of value for the research scholar, for it stimulates and channels the interest in a particular field. One can see the growth and development in the field, one can see the kinds of questions once asked and now being asked. One can perceive trends and gauge what remains to be done. Gaps become visible and areas of future and further interest are highlighted. The location of one’s own interests and work is facilitated. It seems to me, therefore, that this is a project of some significance and worth in the history of Indian sociology, as it were, and I am happy to be associated with it.


THE SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGION The volume that I was assigned centres around the subject of the sociology of religion. Professor C.N. Venogopal took his role of guiding the shape of the volume very seriously and offered several very useful and interesting suggestions and comments. He has also contributed a thoughtful Foreword to the volume. To keep the title simple and to be able to include a range of articles within the broad subject area, I decided to call the volume Sociology of Religion in India. While the sociology of religion is a subject I am deeply interested in, that interest is not shared by many sociologists or anthropologists today. Religion has fallen from the centre of academic research interests, that core now being occupied by themes such as environment, gender and, crucially, development. Few consider religion of great relevance for study. Theorists of modernity had written off religion in the 1950s and 1960s (see Eisenstadt 1966; Inkeles and Smith 1974; Lerner 1962). It had appeared to them to be, like other identities centred around ethnicity, caste or language, on the wane. Religion would be confined in the modern world, if it persisted at all, to the realm of the private. The public apparition of religion that rose in many developing and developed countries, long after modernization’s last whistle, was something later theorists had to contend with (Appadurai 1997; Das 1990, 1995; Dube 1988; Sacks 1991). It was acknowledged that secularism has its limitations and that ethnic and religious identities rarely disappear with modernity. Rather, modernity refashions religious identities in various ways and, in fact, can lead to a resurgence of faith under particular conditions. The last decade or so of globalization resurrects all the old debates of modernization anew (Appadurai 1997; Singh 2000). In a global economy and culture, is the world likely to end up looking more and more similar? Is the modernist dream of one world, one market and one culture likely to materialize? Or is globalization likely to promote particularistic identities of various kinds, now enabling them to be projected onto a much larger map facilitated by modern communication technologies? The trajectory of development has shifted enormously, and religion, as I shall try to show, may be playing a much more important role than has been imagined. It will have to be taken seriously even by those engaged in issues of development and gender for its implications spread far and wide.


Let me say that, as concerns South Asia, it appears to me that religion is likely to play an increasingly significant role in the cohesion and operation of identities on a global scale. That role has already begun to be played and its importance will only grow. In the case of India, as I have argued in greater detail elsewhere, caste and language, for instance, now have a limited capacity to bring about the global unification or division of Indians. Their power to fabricate again and ever anew the boundaries between imagined groups cannot match that of religion. Religion, more than any other identifier in India, has the capacity to battle it out in the global (cultural) market. Religion and religious boundaries in India (and South Asia in general) have resonance with religious divisions in other parts of the world. The language used by Hindutva ideologues against Muslims and Islam matches that used for Islam by Christian fundamentalists. While globalization does promote the homogenization of cultures in certain areas, it also promotes fears and suspicions among many local and regional cultures of cultural hegemony. Threats to national, religious and cultural identity are experienced or perceived to be experienced in the increasing penetration of regions by the interaction through money, migration and markets, travel and tourism, communication and commerce which has come about as a result of globalization. The perception or invention of threats to cultural autonomy lead to a reinforcement of efforts to celebrate and consolidate one’s identity. The sociological understanding of the impact of religion and global forces on and against each other emerges from Singh (2000: 270). In the realm of the non-material culture, values, beliefs, rituals and religious practices, it is observed that globalization only enhances the consciousness of cultural identity. This process is aided by an increase in cultural self-consciousness … as …[communities] come into contact with other cultures. Communication media are made use of to extend the scope of coverage of cultural celebrations and rituals across local, regional or even national boundaries. The ethnic diaspora only reinforces this urge for celebration of one’s cultural identity. Religious identity is marked by the growth of temple building and the construction of places of religious worship by migrant communities everywhere. Rituals, rites and even priests travel across the globe in the service of religio-ethnic communities cut off from their countries of origin. 18 ROWENA ROBINSON

Sectarian violence between Hindus and Muslims in India can have reverberations among members of these communities in Pakistan, Bangladesh or even across the seas, in the United States. Hindu–Sikh violence or conflict has a similar capacity for resonance across the globe. The resurgence of religious identity on a global scale can be indexed by a large number of other instances. We only have to surf the Internet (a symbol of global communication, par excellence) and we should be able to chart the spread of fundamentalist and revivalist movements and sects. Fundamentalist Christian, Hindu and, to some extent, Islamic sites jostle for attention on the Net. Thousands log on to these sites and chat-rooms show up the various nuances of religious revivalist attitudes that participants bear. The perception of threats to one’s religious and cultural identity has often led to protests of various kinds, particularly in the developing world. The Iranian Islamic opposition to the United States way back in the 1970s is familiar to all of us. Globalization and the penetration of global channels of communication and global markets have increased such threats and the extent and spread of such conflicts and protests. In India, the Hindu Right has led protests against the liberalization of the economy and the present course of India’s development on various grounds. The highly commercialized Miss India and Miss World competitions are opposed on the grounds that they denigrate Indian womanhood. There is opposition to fast foods on the grounds that these contain beef or beef extracts, there is opposition to foreign television channels on the grounds that these threaten Indian culture and ethos, ‘family values’ and tradition. The construction of Indian culture by the religio-political organizations, which have been leading these battles, is manifestly Hindu. However, the point is that religion is deeply implicated in contesting particular ideas and patterns of development. These protests pack in certain notions of gender and construct (Indian) female identity in particular ways. It has often been noted by scholars that modern fundamentalist movements usually have immensely illiberal notions about women and their operation and ideas, more often than not, leading to a containment if not curtailment of the freedoms and activities of women (Sangari 2000; Uberoi 1996). The working of the Taliban in Afghanistan is the most notorious, though not the only, contemporary example of the implications of fundamentalist attitudes for women. Religion cannot be ignored, therefore, except at our peril. It is not only the traditional sociology of religion that must re-turn to its manifestations in the contemporary world, but increasingly, as social science has begun INTRODUCTION 19

to realize, sociologists of development, of gender or of politics must factor it into their accounts. From such a point of view, this volume is of great value. As we shall see, the articles selected do not only look at ‘religious customs’ or ‘traditions’ in an isolated environment. Issues of considerable importance are thrown up, such as conversion or national identity or sectarian conflict, that bear not only upon local or regional contexts but have wider implications as well. Before moving on to the essays themselves, let me say a little about notable trends in the sociology of religion in India in particular. It would not be untrue to say that the sociology of religion of India has concentrated largely on Hinduism. The study of India was, therefore, and has been, for a long time, the study of Hindu India. This notion often led both to the reification of Hinduism and the marginalization and neglect of non-Hindu groups and communities. This is not surprising given the historical roots of disciplines such as sociology, anthropology and history and the pattern of their development in India. The modern anthropological and sociological discourse on religion in India had links with colonial frameworks both empirically and theoretically. Indology was the father of the colonial scholarly discourses; the work of Hutton and others in colonial administration collecting vast amounts of data on India and Indians added the necessary empirical substance. For anthropology, fieldwork, deriving from the school of Malinowski and inspired by the work generated in Africa, was the basis of the discipline. The ‘text’, that constant of Indological knowledge was eschewed in favour of the ‘context’, the field. One may like to discern in the early structural-functional approach and the folk-civilization continuum model used in the study of religion (Marriott 1955; Radcliffe-Brown 1922; Singer 1972; Srinivas 1952), the merging of anthropological and Indological traditions. Both tribal and village community studies of a very long period (that had their separate and merged, complicated and intricate intellectual trajectories in African village studies, legal and Indological discourses on India and Marxist writings) linked the empirical field-based data (lists of castes and communities, deriving in turn from census constructions and roots) with the textual tradition, the ‘great’ and the ‘little’ traditions, the ‘civilizational’ and the ‘folk’, the ‘universal’ and the ‘parochial’. The overarching frame appears to have been provided by some attempt to search for the unity of the ‘East’, as it were, the principle by which the entire civilization was structured; the logic according to which it functioned. Indology provided that principle in the twinning of caste and 20 ROWENA ROBINSON

Hinduism. Caste became the major link bonding the little field studies with the textual models; even the centrality that the village community got in the studies of the 1950s linked the village to the ‘great Sanskritic tradition’. India was Hindu and Hinduism was caste. The Dumontian perspective, in sociology and anthropology, for instance, which dominated the study of Hinduism for so long gave centrality to an upper-caste, essentialized version of Hinduism and treated it as synonymous with India. It is clearly very difficult to understand Christianity or Islam, for instance, in this model. Where was the great ‘Indian’ tradition to which these could be linked? New models or the reworking of old models had to be considered. The field-based traditions of the 1950s and 1960s gave way to the structuralist approach of Dumont.1 Dumont unambiguously saw the study of India as lying at the confluence of Indology and sociology and re-turned to the text as the source of indigenous categories of meaning. The notion of subjective meaning entered the field. It was not just ritual that was important but ideas of karma/dharma known to the villagers from wandering priests, bards and the like. Veena Das’ Structure and Cognition and The Word and the World, R.K. Jain’s Text and Context, Khare’s Hindu Hearth and Home, Madan’s NonRenunciation, Heesterman’s The Inner Conflict of Tradition, Pocock’s study of religious beliefs and practices in a Gujarat village, Fuller’s work on temple priests in Madurai, Parry’s Death in Banaras, Diana Eck’s work on the Hindu cosmos, Susan Wadley’s work on Sakti, Ann and Daniel Gold’s works on Hindu pilgrimage all chart the course of this opening up. Hindu cosmic thought and structure was at the centre of studies in the sociology and anthropology of religion. Fuller’s book The Camphor Flame summarizes some of these trends very well. Dumont’s work was, thus, highly influential and threw wide open the text/context debate, but he privileged the text and cognitive models derived from them, thus centring on an upper-caste, essentialized version of Hinduism, and treating this, as already noted earlier, as synonymous with India. It has been suggested how this tradition, grounding itself in the belief that the spirit of India is essentially Hindu, has not only led to a reification of Hinduism but also to the marginalization of non-Hindu groups and communities. Again, the India versus the west debate that Dumont launched opposed the two without any hope or possibility of comparative study. A historicized and grounded approach to the study of religion did not obviously develop because India was the static land of religion, where the play of power and the dynamics of change were, with pun intended, immaterial. A living INTRODUCTION 21

culture was thus rendered still. No sense emerged of the development of religious faith or practice. Hinduism (and then other religions as well) was discussed as a mature, full-blown faith originating in a single (textual/ Brahmanic) source rather than embedded in social, material and political contexts. What the essays in this volume bring out amply is that we need to historicize popular religion and ground it in regional, spatial and temporal realities. Finally, the way in which non-Hindu communities were brought within the boundaries of study was by viewing them though the lens of caste, that essence of Indian social structure. So, we have studies framed by the question: is there caste in non-Hindu communities? Certain forms of ritual such as life-crisis rituals, for instance, came in for a good deal of attention because they could be captured through the conceptual category of ‘syncretism’. When the study of caste among Christians or Muslims, for example, became one of the main problematics, it allowed in the idea that Christianity and Islam in India were somehow not quite authentic. Conversion was another issue fraught with all sorts of difficulties. For one, the assimilative model used to study Hinduism pre-empts any effort to analyse reconversion movements or to understand the ways in which Hinduism ‘converts’ and to compare or contrast it with models of conversion from other traditions. The idea that certain religions such as Islam and Christianity have an internal drive to convert also prevented one from understanding the historical circumstances of conversion, the various different strategies adopted and the ways in which religion articulates with power in certain regimes, which cannot be replicated elsewhere. What this volume tries to do is to select articles from the Bulletin which do not fall altogether into the kind of traps delineated above. Certainly, we shall perceive the shaping of trends and some of the deficiencies in the working out of various models. However, I would venture to suggest that most of the essays that have gone into this book try to question some of the received notions, try to work their way around critical problems, attempt to throw open some important debates and make an effort to deconstruct some taken-for-granted concepts. In this introduction, I shall endeavour to draw attention to the inventiveness of the articles and to enable the reader to perceive the central issues that are being addressed by the volume as a whole. In the end, the volume not only provides a wealth of material but also opens up a host of interesting questions that are worth a closer look and further debate.


THE PAPERS AND THE THEMES Obviously not all the articles on religion and related issues could go into one volume and I have already suggested some of the concerns that ordered the choices made. At the end of the volume I have listed the articles on religion that are not part of this volume, and a reader may refer to them in the Sociological Bulletin if s/he chooses. No very strenuous effort has been made to include articles from every decade of the Bulletin’s history; rather, the effort was to include the best and all that is most relevant from the point of view of the discipline’s current research trends and scholarly interests. However, there are articles from every decade of the Bulletin’s publication, once we take into account the fact that issues centred around religion themselves appear to have entered somewhat late on the Bulletin’s map. The first article appeared in 1962. If later decades seem to be somewhat disproportionately represented, this has more to do with changes in academic research interests than with any editorial bias. Certainly, the first decades of the Bulletin’s history seem to be dominated more by family and caste, the two early staples of Indian sociology. Articles in the Bulletin have been varied enough to give us the opportunity to explore issues across different religious traditions, though no attempt was made to achieve any kind of proportional representation. Turning to the organization of the essays selected for this volume, since so many pieces were being brought together thematically, to facilitate easy reading it seemed appropriate that the volume should be divided into certain sections according to some broad areas and themes. No artificial equivalence in the number of essays in the different sections has been sought, and, as may be expected, some sections are broader than others. There are five essays dealing with religion and the themes of religion, society and ethnic and national identity. Nandi’s essay takes up the study, in historical perspective, of the orientations of some of the most important of India’s nationalist leaders. While he does not analyse the relative success or failure of their contribution to the nationalist struggle, the aim is to understand the ways in which they conceptualized India’s cultural and religious diversity and thought about religious interaction in the land. It is of considerable importance to give some thought again to the issues Nandi raises. As the forces of fundamentalism seem to be increasing in strength, the original impulses that led to the declaration of India as a secular republic need recollection. As Nandi discerns, the early leaders INTRODUCTION 23

did not feel that Islam or any other religion was a threat to Hinduism. Their view was that religious and cultural interaction gave India greater solidarity. Further, their understanding was not baseless but had its roots in the de facto assimilation and integration that had been part of India’s past for centuries. Various groups had come and made India their home, retaining their distinctiveness but contributing to the cultural richness and diversity of the country. In other words, the liberal emphasis of India’s Constitution is not an alien import, but draws on ancient traditions of absorption and tolerance. Desai and Rao deal with classic themes that we need to be reminded of now. With liberalization and globalization the economy has been thrown open and the various questions regarding the role of religion and ideology in economic growth are significant. With the rise of religious nationalism on the subcontinent, doubt is cast on the policies with regard to religion that successive Indian governments have opted for since Independence. Rao’s essay takes up the classic theme of Weber’s views on Hinduism and economic development and may be one of the most succinct and comprehensive critiques of the Weberian theory available. The increasing commercialization of religion and the irreligious character of commerce in these days when markets, money and profiteering seem to prevail throw open once again the question about whether Hinduism really obstructs economic growth. Certainly, attention is drawn to the need for new answers, driven by empirical observation. Desai’s trenchant critique of the central Congress government’s (1960s) policy to use religion to promote national integration is a sharp admonition to us on the negative role religion can play in public life. What we are seeing today in India—the increasing hegemony of Hinduism and the rise of religious revivalism of every sort—clearly have some roots in early governments’ policies. Desai’s early warning needs to be recalled now. In multi-religious societies, there often occur deep conflicts between religious groups and, especially under conditions of rapid social change and the frustration of socio-political and economic expectations, tensions grow. There is something to think about here also for the anti-secularists (see Madan 1992; Nandy 1985) who argue that it is through and from religion that India should proceed to build a humane society. Srinivasan’s essay explores at a micro-level the creation of boundaries between different groups and the coming into being of identities— national, communal or minority—that have played such a critical role in the history of the making of India. Comparing Muslims and Christians in post-1857 Uttar Pradesh, she traces the historical processes that led to 24 ROWENA ROBINSON

the slow establishment of the theory of the Muslim nation and separatist ambitions and, for the Christians, the consolidation of a relatively confident and distinct minority identity. Muslims were initially opposed only to Bengali Hindus, members of the Indian National Congress. However, shifts in Uttar Pradesh political alliances and economic fortunes brought them on the side of the League and in favour of Partition. Christians, more inward-looking, fought several internal battles against white supremacy in their churches and finally took the slow but clear path towards a degree of indigenization and commitment to the Indian nation. The point is that the different paths were a product of the different kinds of struggles that had to be waged and the historically differing social and economic contexts of the groups. The trajectory of ‘communal’ identity is not something we can take for granted: it is critically shaped by historical circumstance. Momin’s essay takes up the theme of the study of Islam in India and argues that if we have to capture the nuances of Indian Islam we need to rework the paradigm of the ‘Great’ and ‘Little’ traditions. This model is difficult to apply in India, where the diversity of traditions cannot be subsumed under such all-encompassing categories. He summarizes Dube’s (1965) effort in reclassifying Indian traditions and offering a six-fold categorization, but argues that even this more complex model offers no space for the study of Indian Islam. He proposes that we speak of an Indo-Islamic ‘Great’ Tradition and an Indo-Islamic ‘Little’ Tradition. The interesting aspect of this model is that it does not classify allIndian Islam as a ‘Little Tradition’, opposing it to the ‘Great Tradition’ of universal Islam. This would put Indian Islam in an essentially derivative category and expose it to the danger of being viewed as a ‘deviation’ from the ‘Great Tradition’ of universal Islam. His formulation is much more historically grounded and recognizes the validity of a sociological category of the ‘Great Tradition’ of Indo-Islam which is a complex amalgam composed of many threads. It includes the writing and work of scholars and artists who migrated to India from Central and West Asia from the thirteenth century onwards, the ideas and poems of Sufi mystics and saints, and the musical, linguistic and literary traditions that developed out of the interaction between Muslim migrants, converts and the indigenous society. There are four essays in the section on sects, cults, shrines and the making of traditions. They have been selected because they bring out some very important aspects of the lived traditions of religions. Rather than speaking of religion in an ahistorical manner, the essays show an INTRODUCTION 25

exciting consciousness of the shifts in religious traditions over time, shaped by variations in social and political circumstances. Far from being treated as a religion that arises as a ‘full-blown faith’ from the textual traditions, Hinduism, in particular, is deeply historicized in the essays by Kunj Bihari Singh, C.N. Venugopal, Ursula Sharma and L. Thara Bhai. The essay by Kunj Bihari Singh on Manipur Vaishnavism and the one by Venugopal on Lingayatism are both exciting from this point of view. Singh’s essay, in fact, reminds us that Hinduism has also had a certain history of hegemony and has not always spread through painless ‘assimilation’. In Manipur, Hinduism was adopted by the state and with it came the hegemony of the Bangla language. Many rare Meitei puranas and manuscripts were destroyed because they were once perceived as a hindrance to the spread of the faith. However, there were other variants of Vaishnavism that spread through modes of singing and devotional meetings. The most important was Chaitanyaite Vaishnavism, which spread through Manipur in the third quarter of the thirteenth century and it is this sectarian tradition that thrives to date. The point to remember is that Hinduism and even caste are not always and everywhere the ‘givens’ of the Indian religious landscape, as they have been understood in the work of Dumont, for instance. We need to differentiate between different sectarian and cultic traditions and work our way to a historical understanding of the ways in which these spread through different regions at different points of time. In Manipur, for instance, it was as late as in the second quarter of the eighteenth century that through the efforts of the king’s preceptor, a Bengali Brahmin and follower of Ramananda named Santidas, attempts were made to organize Meitei society on caste lines by giving recognition to the Meiteis themselves as Kshatriyas and instating the immigrant Bengali Brahmins as the Brahmins of Meitei society. L. Thara Bhai’s short essay has been included in the volume because it gives us a vital glimpse into the creation of new religious ‘traditions’. The idea that all Hindu traditions, indeed all traditions, are ancient and hoary receives an invigorating jolt when we perceive how new ‘traditions’—in the form of shrines commemorating extraordinary personalities—are established and institutionalized, and we observe something of the processes involved therein. The essay by Ursula Sharma brings out a critical facet of Hindu popular religion. ‘Immortal Cowherd and Saintly Carrier’ takes us to an analysis of a crucial organizational principle of popular Hinduism—the cult. It is difficult to study Hinduism through the idea of the ‘church-sect’ 26 ROWENA ROBINSON

opposition, so important in the study of Christianity. Though sects exist, many Hindus do not adhere to any sect and to study their traditions another category is needed. Cult, Sharma argues, is the operational method of studying popular Hinduism and cults are quite different from Christian sects because they are not exclusive groups. The groups of devotees within different cults may overlap with each other and it is not dogma as much as the object of worship itself that forms the unifying principle of the group. Sharma describes the institutionalization of two cultic traditions in Kangra and the role played by temple priests in the spread of the cults. She puts forward several ideas for studying cultic traditions. Folk legends, literature, iconography and the narratives of different groups of devotees would give the cultural dimension of cults. One needs also to look at the structural dimension by viewing the relationship between temple priest and disciples, the network of exchanges of offerings and sacred ritual items at any cultic centre and the ‘spread’ of the cult in terms of such exchanges. Venugopal’s essay on the ‘anti-pollution factor’ in the ideology of the Lingayat movement brings out a very significant aspect of Hinduism— the historical formation and development of sects. The essay locates for us the level at which the concept of conversion can be made relevant in the study of Hinduism. It is at the level of conversion to and from ‘sects’ that one can make use of the concept. Venugopal demonstrates that sects are different. We should not view them only in terms of their operation as just another caste in Hindu society, but perceive their ideological differences with the mainstream. Historical analysis does show that over time the Lingayat movement adopted some of the aspects of caste Hinduism. Endogamy became a practice and pantheistic beliefs prevailed, despite the leanings towards monism. However, ideological differences remained and these are fairly important in distinguishing the Lingayats from caste-Hindu society. For instance, the significance accorded to work and the development of a puritan ethic ensured the entrepreneurial success of many Lingayats. The rules of ritual pollution are significantly relaxed among Lingayats, rituals are simplified and there is no sacrificial cult. Most importantly, the stress on the purity of the Linga makes Lingayats different from caste society. Lingayatism rejected ritual pollution and predicated itself on the purity of the Linga arguing that the Linga, symbolizing Shiva, is ever pure. Hence anyone who wears the Linga on the body becomes everlastingly pure. INTRODUCTION 27

The next set of essays is centred around the sociology of conversion, the dynamics of interaction between missionaries and indigenous populations in different parts of the country, the varied modes of the constitution of identity and the drawing of boundaries consequent upon these diverging forms of social and religious interaction. Within each of these one catches the murmurs of other queries. One of the original questions is of course that of origins: where did different religions come from, at what points in history, from which parts of the world and out of what impulses or motives. In a word, why? Is mission activity, as it is popularly treated, an undifferentiated category, an essential force which is understood merely in the naming of it? For instance, what were the meanings and implications of missionary activity in the sixteenth century? Did these remain the same, for example, into the nineteenth century? The sociology of conversion in India has not yet been written, though limited efforts in this direction have been made. It was in 1977 that Oddie raised the issue of conversion to religions such as Buddhism, Islam and Christianity in South Asia, posing the problem in these words (1977: 1): We know something about the origins of these religious communities in South Asia; yet, in spite of the way in which their subsequent growth and interaction has affected the region’s history, we still know very little about how and why they developed in the way they did, how they attracted or enrolled adherents, why they experienced different rates of growth and why some of them are larger and more influential than others. Since several articles in the Bulletin over the years have addressed the issue of conversion and discussed the recent furore in the public and political arena over the issue of conversions, it seemed appropriate and relevant to allow the years of sociological investigation into these concerns to tell their own story. Hudson, Robinson and Dube, talking of different Christian denominations, bring a vital historical perspective to bear on the issue of conversion. Their pieces problematize the notion of conversion itself and show that mission worked very differently in different contexts and regimes. Strategies of conversion varied with historical period and political regime. Hudson and Dube’s essays deconstruct for us the concept of conversion and demonstrate that adjustment to and incorporation of a new faith could actually be quite different from what missionaries anticipated or desired. 28 ROWENA ROBINSON

Dube raises enormously important questions regarding the relationship between state and church in the British period and shows that the bonds were never direct or unambiguous. Both Dube and Hudson talk of the ‘reception’ of the message. Conversion is not an automatic process, completed or understood by the inclusion of a convert’s name in missionary baptismal records. It is a problematic issue and the translation and use of mission materials in indigenous languages often show up the mismatch of the missionary’s message and the convert’s comprehension. Robinson’s piece on Goa describes, in a sense, the well-known demon face of conversion. However, she takes up the issue that ‘force’ was used to bring about conversions and argues that whatever were the limits the regime placed on the inhabitants, agency was exercised in adopting the new religion. While the links between church and state in the mission efforts that permitted certain kinds of sanctions to be imposed on the populace could not be replicated elsewhere (for instance in the British period), they did not work without rupture in Goa and both rebellions and concessions marked the regime. She also points out that we need to explore missionary motives as well in order to be able to understand the strategies they adopt. Mission in sixteenth century Goa was critically linked to political affiliation and rule, in a way it never needed to be during the British period. Economic domination was the key to British rule and it is no wonder that its links with mission activity were often uncertain or indistinct. Jayaram’s essay raises issues concerned with the search for economic and political mobility and social dignity and respect through conversion. The popular notion that conversion that seeks anything other than ‘spiritual’ benefits is ‘false conversion’ is itself clearly a false one. The sociological perspective on conversion does not only see it as a ‘change in heart’ but understands it as a process with deeply material and social implications. The essay deals with mass conversions among the lower castes and points to the heterogeneity among Dalits. Jayaram, after a careful cross-examination of the data, concludes that all such attempts to achieve dignity through conversion must ultimately fail. The castes retain the stigma of their inferior status even within the religions they adopt and only organization on a class basis can lead to their emancipation. The essays taken together bring out the rich dividends that a comparative overview can pay. The historical particularities of mission are brought out, but attention is also drawn to underlying similarities that permit broader generalizations. In the British period, for instance, conversion INTRODUCTION 29

was often a way of coming to terms with a rapidly changing social, economic and political universe and the inevitable upheaval this brought. In fact, conversion to Christianity was only one of the ways in which groups responded to the shifts; conversion to Islam, Sikhism or the reformed Hinduism of the Arya Samaj or diverse sects were other modes. The new legal system offered another recourse for groups and individuals put in difficult circumstances by the socio-economic transformations underway. Conversion is therefore not a speciality of one or another religion, nor is it the only possible mode of social emancipation, to use Jayaram’s term. There are three essays on religion outside India, which have historical or reflective and theoretical significance for us in India. It was felt important to include these in the volume because they enable the comparison of trends in Indian society with other countries and societies. India is not the only country where the revival of religion is being seen in recent times. It is possible to look at and learn from other experiences, both theoretically and practically. Globalization has brought about an immense increase in the interaction of cultures internationally and there are also reverberating effects in national and regional situations. There is a tendency for Indian sociology and many Indian journals to be ‘inward-looking’ and it is exciting that the Sociological Bulletin should give representation to those voices that have actively sought (and continue to do so) their fields elsewhere. Giri’s essay raises important points of comparison of fundamentalist trends in the US and India. The US is facing variants of Christian fundamentalism, but there are also more reformative and liberal movements. In India we have a similar kind of contradictory movement. Sometimes, the fundamentalists of the two countries are locked in battles against each other. Fundamentalism, according to Giri, cannot be fought unless there is active intervention. There has to be an adoption of appropriate stances; the process of giving up chauvinism without abandoning faith is not automatic. In saying this, Giri critiques and goes beyond Madan’s (1992) influential take on the place of secularism in India. If Madan argues that South Asian societies need to realize that secularism may be compatible with faith, he puts forward no suggestions about how this realization is to be achieved. Giri, drawing from the possibilities of the American situation, argues that an interpretive posture is required: it is necessary to understand the aspirations for spiritual renewal captured by contemporary religious movements, while continuing to fight religious bigotry. 30 ROWENA ROBINSON

Fazal also looks at religion in the macro-perspective, charting its role in the making of Pakistan and Bangladesh. His probing essay explores the place of religion in the constitution of the national identities of Pakistan and Bangladesh and finds that there are interesting shifts and contradictions in the attributes of national identity, brought about by fluctuating political circumstances. Muhajirs in Pakistan provide a brilliant illustration. When in alliance with the Punjabis, they were the powerful bearers of the identity of the Pakistani nation as primarily Muslim. Now, however, bereft of their power, they have started claiming to be the ‘fifth nation’ of Pakistan along with the Punjabis, Sindhis, Pashtuns and Baluchs. In Bangladesh, it was language rather than religion that first defined the nation. Post-liberation, however, religion reappeared as the basis for national cohesion. The essay successfully deconstructs the ‘two-nation’ theory and shows that historical and political circumstances critically determine which of the multiple identities borne by groups (or individuals) will emerge centre-stage at particular moments. Mustapha explores the various Muslim groups in Trinidad and Tobago and their historical links with India as well as with Africa and the Middle East. He argues that it is Indian Islam that has had critical influences on the shaping of trends in Trinidad and Tobago and this is because of migration patterns and the continuing role that training in India plays for Islamic scholars of this region. Islamic fundamentalist trends are compared with Christian fundamentalism in the West and we realize again how much these movements are similar to each other and even feed off each other. The globalization of religion is also the globalization of religious battles. Interestingly, Mustapha’s essay points to the fact that ‘fundamentalism’ is itself not a uniform category and fundamentalists of even one religion divide themselves into a fascinating array of postures. There are militant and non-militant varieties and those with political aims and ambitions as opposed to those with only theological ones. It is important to be reminded of this diversity. Quite often, sociologists, particularly in the South Asian context, are prone to using categories such as ‘communalism’ or ‘fundamentalism’ in a monolithic fashion, suppressing differences that might be quite important in the shaping of religious and political interaction between groups in particular historical contexts. All in all, the essays do not regurgitate received notions but are serious attempts to raise new issues or pursue old ones from different perspectives. Ideas about ‘ethnicity’, or ‘cult’ or ‘sect’, about ‘conversion’, ‘communal INTRODUCTION 31

identity’ and ‘fundamentalism’, about ‘tradition’ and its constitution— all receive fresh insights and novel interpretations. A strongly ‘grounded’, historical perspective, sensitive to the shifts and changes brought about in faith, identity and tradition over time, characterizes the essays in the volume. I am confident that the collection will be of immense use to students, teachers and research scholars interested in India and religion.

NOTE 1. Marxist interpretations of Indian religion have not been abundant in sociology or anthropology. Historians Kosambi (1962) and Bipan Chandra (1984) are among the most important writers on religion to use the Marxist framework. However, in this volume papers by A.R. Desai, Nirmala Srinivasan and N. Jayaram put forward shades of a Marxist perspective.

REFERENCES Appadurai, Arjun. 1997. Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Bose, N.K. 1975. The Structure of Hindu Society. New Delhi: Orient Longman. Chandra, Bipan. 1984. Communalism in Modern India. New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House. Das, Veena. 1977. Structure and Cognition. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. ———. (ed.). 1986. The Word and the World: Fantasy, Symbol and Record. New Delhi: Sage Publications. ———. (ed.). 1990. Mirrors of Violence. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. ———. 1995. Critical Events. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Dube, S.C. 1965. ‘The Study of Complex Cultures’ in T.K.N. Unnithan, Indra Deva and Yogendra Singh (eds), Towards a Sociology of Culture in India. New Delhi: PrenticeHall. ———. 1988. Modernization and Development. London: UNU and Zed Books Dumont, Louis. 1988. Homo Hierarchicus: The Caste System and its Implications. Chicago: Chicago University Press. Eck, Diana. 1983. Benaras: City of Light. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Eisenstadt, S.N. 1966. Modernization and Protest. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall. Fuller, C.J. 1984. Servants of the Goddess: The Priests of a South Indian Temple. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ———. 1992. The Camphor Flame: Popular Hinduism and Society in India. Princeton: Princeton University Press.


Gold, Ann. 1988. Fruitful Journeys: The Ways of Rajasthani Pilgrims. Berkeley: University of California Press. Gold, Daniel. 1987. The Lord as Guru. New York: Oxford University Press. Heesterman, J.C. 1985. The Inner Conflict of Tradition. Chicago: Chicago University Press. Inkeles, Alex and David Smith. 1974. Becoming Modern: Individual Change in Six Developing Countries. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Jain, R.K. 1976. Text and Context. ISHI, UK: ASA Studies. Karve, I. 1961. Hindu Society: An Interpretation. Poona: Deccan College. Khare, R.S. 1976. The Hindu Hearth and Home. New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House. Kosambi, D.D. 1962. Myth and Reality: Studies in the Formation of Indian Culture. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. Lerner, D. 1962. The Passing of Traditional Society. Glencoe IL: The Free Press. Madan, T.N. 1992. ‘Secularism in its Place’ in T.N. Madan (ed.), Religion in India, pp. 394–409. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. ———. 1996. Non-Renunciation. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Marriott, M. (ed.). 1955. Village India. Chicago: Chicago University Press. Nandy, Ashis. 1985. ‘An Anti-Secularist Manifesto’, Seminar 314: 14–24. Oddie, G.A. (ed.). 1977. Religion in South Asia: Religious Conversion and Revival Movements in South Asia in Medieval and Modern Times. London: Curzon Press. Parry, Jonathan. 1995. Death in Banaras. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pocock, D.F. 1973. Mind, Body and Wealth: A Study of Belief and Practice in an Indian Village. Oxford: Basil Blackwell (reprinted as part of the The Hinduism Omnibus, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2003). Radcliffe-Brown, A.R. 1964[1922]. The Andaman Islanders. Glencoe IL: The Free Press. Sacks, Jonathan. 1991. The Persistence of Faith: Religion, Morality and Society in a Secular Age. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson. Sangari, K. 2000. ‘Gender Lines: Personal Laws, Uniform Laws, Conversion’ in Imtiaz Ahmad, Helmut Reifeld and Partho Ghosh (eds), Pluralism and Equality, pp. 271– 319. New Delhi: Sage Publications. Singer, Milton. 1972. When a Great Tradition Modernizes. New York: Praeger. Singh, Y. 2000. ‘Is Globalization a Threat to Regional and Local Identities’ in Imtiaz Ahmad et al. (eds), Pluralism and Equality, pp. 239–70. New Delhi: Sage Publications. Srinivas, M.N. 1952. Religion and Society among the Coorgs of South India. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Uberoi, P. (ed.). 1996. Social Reform, Sexuality and the State. New Delhi: Sage Publications. Wadley, S. 1975. Shakti: Power in the Conceptual Structure of Karimpur Religion. Chicago: Chicago University Press.







Some 50 years ago an ancient civilization broke away from the yoke of colonialism to become a newly independent sovereign democracy called India. That august occasion heralded the beginning of one of the most remarkable chapters in human conditioning as a multi-ethnic, multicultural society, with myriad religions, languages, castes, creeds, rituals and customs, faced the challenge of preserving her unity and nationhood while upholding the essential principles of democracy. It was not an easy process. There were many successes for India as well as some failures, and moments of glory as well as those of frustration. Despite some unsuccessful secessionist activity by a small segment of her population, India, to date, has politically remained a unified democratic entity. This record of success is in contrast to those of other multi-cultural, multi-ethnic or multireligious societies, as in the Balkans, northern Ireland, Middle East or Africa which either split up, faced intense rivalry and violent conflict in *Originally published in the Sociological Bulletin, vol. 48, nos 1 and 2, 1999, pp. 135–49.

their ranks, or were given over to autocracy or dictatorship of one kind or another. This success in India is despite the fact that there were, and still are, many social cleavages and factions within the Indian society, as well as questionable social customs and practices. Reform-minded Indian leaders such as Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar and Mahatma Gandhi, consistently fought against these impediments by calling attention to the pristine values of India, the people’s dharma—the fundamental laws of existence, conscience, and sense of justice, succeeding in their mission more often than not. But, to begin with, there were certain underlying characteristics of the land and the people of India that made the experiment successful. These may be delineated as the socio-cultural diversity of the land, the assimilative weltanschauung of the largest segment of the population, for example, the Hindus, and the role of Indian leadership.

CONCEPT: NATIONALITY/NATIONHOOD Before the perspective of the founding fathers is surveyed, it is expedient to refer to the concept of nationality/nationhood as it is being used here. Nationality or nationhood indicates a legal and/or political relationship, often accompanied by an emotional allegiance, on the part of an individual toward a state. The imagery of nationhood for a people may include, among others, a commonality of origin, ethnicity, customs, tradition, and language(s), as well as those who consider themselves members of a nationstate or are capable of forming a nation-state. Although in most cases nation-states have defined geographical boundaries, there may exist extraterritorial aspirations on the part of some due to some actual or perceived unjust omissions or commissions of the past, as was the case with formerly colonized countries whose boundaries might have been established in terms of exigencies of conquest or some other political machination. In the modern sense of the term, the idea of ‘nationhood’ is of recent origin, not in vogue prior to 1925 (for a detailed account of the evolution of the concept, see Hobsbawm 1992). Following a major theoretical statement by the political scientist, Paul R. Brass (1991), the concept of nationhood, like that of nationalism, is seen not as a ‘given’ but as a social and political construction (also see Nandi 1996: 178–79). This is particularly true for a colonized country that is in the midst of a struggle to throw off 38 PROSHANTA NANDI

the yoke of oppression imposed by an alien ruler. In this sense, nationhood is not inherent in a group of people but rather is the result of a social, political and emotional interaction among people who consider themselves members of a given ‘nation’, the freedom and sovereignty of which is theirs to achieve, preserve and protect. As an eminent British historian (see Brown 1994: 155) comments on Indian nationhood: A sense of nationhood could not rest on geography, religion or language, as it so often seemed to in Europe. In India’s circumstances it must be forged consciously out of a commitment to political liberalism which would unite Indians and transcend earlier divisions and loyalties.

INDIA—A LAND OF VERITABLE DIVERSITY The singular thing about India is that you can only speak of it in the plural. This pluralism emerged from the very nature of the country; it was made inevitable by India’s geography and affirmed by its history. There was simply too much of both to permit a single, exclusionist nationalism (Tharoor 1997: 51). India is, perhaps, one of the very few countries in the world, the other being the United States of America, that truly merits the label of a pluralistic society. The physical features of the country and her socio-cultural antecedents render a simple, monistic conception of truth, faith, dogma or world-view as an anathema. Truth in India is multifaceted and so are the various approaches to it. This characterization of the country fits in well with the dualistic philosophical tradition of Eastern civilizations that abhors an absolute system of values (see Mehta 1978; Nandi 1980). The pluralism referred to above is almost without bounds. Persuasions of every kind—political, religious, philosophical, ideological have coexisted in India since time immemorial. Being the birthplace of four major religions—Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism—a variety of philosophical and intellectual traditions developed and thrived in her hospitable soil. Add to this complex the impact of Islam and Christianity, and nearly 200 years of colonial rule, and what one gets is a socio-cultural kaleidoscope in the shape of a country. Diversity is operative in its fullest VISIONS OF NATIONHOOD



exuberance. Tharoor (1997: 9) quotes the noted British historian, E.P. Thompson, to underscore this diversity: All the convergent influences of the world run through this society: Hindu, Moslem, Christian, secular; Stalinist, liberal, Maoist, democratic socialist, Gandhian. There is not a thought in the West or East that is not active in some Indian mind. Indian diversity defies formulations. Not only Hindus, who belong to numerous castes and sub-castes and worship different gods and goddesses, but also the Christians, Muslims and Sikhs of India are given to the diversity of orientations within their own religious ranks. For hundreds of years, these diverse groups have 1ived together, and in harmony. As Tharoor (1989: 133–34) notes: Until politics intervened Indians simply accepted that people were all sorts of different things—Brahmins and Thakurs and Marwaris and Nairs and Lingayats and Pariahs and countless other varieties of Hindu, as well as Roman Catholics and Syrian Christians, AngloIndians and Indian Anglicans, Jains and Jews, Keshadhari Sikhs and Mazhabi Sikhs, tribal animists and neo-Buddhists, all of whom flourished on Indian soil along with hundreds and thousands of other castes and sub-castes. Indian Muslims themselves were not just Sunnis and Shias, but Moplahs and Bohras and Khojas, Ismailis and Qadianis and Ahmediyas and Kutchi Memons and Allah alone knew what else. These differences were simply a fact of Indian life, as incontestable and as innocuous as the different species of vegetation that sprout and flower across our land. And these differences are functional. Every individual in India knows his/her distinctive place in society, and there is no danger of him/her being lost in the melting pot. As Tharoor (p. 134) further notes: We Indians are open about our differences; we do not attempt to subsume ourselves in a homogeneous mass, we do not resort to the identity-disguising tricks of standardized names or uniform costumes or even a common national language. We are all different; as the French, that most Indian of European peoples, like to put it, albeit in another context, vive la difference.


UNITY BASED ON DIVERSITY The leaders of yesteryear were realistic enough to appreciate that in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society, such as India, it would not only be impossible but unnatural to expect ‘perfect’ unanimity. Their mission was not to eliminate diverse and pluralistic religious and cultural traditions but to transform them into a functional consensus in regard to the national goal. This was aptly noted, for example, by Pherozeshah Mehta (1845– 1915), a Congress leader from the minority religious community of Parsis, who, while addressing the nation as the chairman of the Reception Committee of the Fifth Indian National Congress in Bombay, emphasized the need for recognition of the growth of the national idea among the Indians ‘not in spite of, but precisely on the basis of an infinite diversity of races and creeds’ (see Rao 1969: 20). As we can easily see, despite all internal divisions, India has succeeded in retaining her integrity.

KEY TO INTEGRATION Integration, in common parlance, constitutes the coming together of various segments into a unified cohesive whole (Encyclopedia of Sociology 1974: 141). A plurality such as a society may be said to have functional integration if its members carry on or engage in cooperative activity, and moral integration if they share some values and have some consensus (see Loomis 1970: 125). In this perspective, the key to integration is cooperation, and it is through this means that a society is sustained. Others have held, however, that whether the behaviour is in cooperation or in conflict is not all that important to be an ongoing concern for a society as long as people share a common culture that makes behaviour predictable. Rose (1962: 9–10), an eloquent interpreter of symbolic interaction, held that a society was only possible when people, through learning of a culture, were able to predict each other’s behaviour most of the time and could gauge or adjust their own behaviour to the predicted behaviour of others. This proposition is especially true for a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-cultural society to be able to survive in all its diversity. The willingness of a native or dominant culture to be open to other influences, its






sensitivity and sense of accommodation to truths and values as others see them, and the perspective of its elite are crucial in either facilitating or deterring promotion of such a context. Like nationalism, integration or the lack of it is not a ‘given’ but is the result of the socio-political context. What is the key to the overall triumph of the forces of integration over those of disintegration in India? This essay takes the position that in large measure the answer can be found in the assimilative, all-encompassing and eclectic religious tradition in India which guided her throughout much of her long and checkered history. Liberalism, tolerance and acceptance of the ‘others’ were the hallmarks of this tradition. No religion was deemed small or insignificant. All were true. The humanistic liberalism underlying this spirit was, perhaps, best articulated by India’s Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902) at Chicago’s World Parliament of Religion in 1893. Scornful of religious bigotry and fanaticism, Vivekananda (quoted in Pandit 1996: 117) declared that all religions were equally worthy of respect: I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration but we accept all religions as true. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and nations of the earth. I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites who came to southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny. I am proud to belong to the religion which has sheltered and is still fostering the remnant of the grand Zoroastrian nation. To underscore the spiritual oneness of mankind, Vivekananda then recited a few lines of a hymn which he along with millions of others repeated every day: ‘As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, O Lord, the paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to thee.’ It is this tradition which formed the core of the philosophy of the founding fathers of pre-independent modern India. It is also this that led the pacesetters of India’s freedom struggle to transcend the barriers of caste, region, language and religion. The common goal of attaining freedom generated, in all corners of the land, a nationalistic fervour that eschewed narrow parochialism. This liberal, all-encompassing fervour may 42 PROSHANTA NANDI

be considered akin to the American anthropologist Redfield’s (1955) concept of the ‘grand tradition’ of India. The spirit of assimilation and brotherhood alluded to above is, perhaps, the result of the rich diversity of the Indian subcontinent itself—the snowbound Himalayas, rocky Deccan plateau, fertile Indo-Gangetic plain, mighty rivers criss-crossing throughout the land, tropical rain forests, arid deserts, lush coastal plains, and seas in the deep south—all of which have given birth to different lifestyles and cultures. Hordes of migrants and invaders throughout the last millennium who settled in India brought along their religion, culture, philosophy, lifestyle, language, technology, cuisine, art and architecture. The hospitable spirit of the land accepted them all and created a ‘multi-dimensional tapestry of stunning richness and depth, as bewildering as it is compelling, as subtle as it is exuberant’ (Nehru n.d.: 6). Perhaps the greatest tribute to India’s eclectic catholicity was rendered by the Nobel laureate Bengali poet of India, Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941), when he wrote in Sanchayita (1969: 506–7): keho nahi jane kar ahobane kato manusher dhara doorbar shrote elo kotha hote, somudre holo hara hethai arjo, hetha anarjo, hethai dravid chin shok-hun-dal pathan moghul ek dehe holo leen Paschime aaji khuliache dwar Setha hothey sabey aane upahar Dibe aar nibe, milabe milibe, jahe na phire aiyee bharater maha manaber sagar teere Roughly translated by the present author the verse reads as follows: No one knows at whose call Arrived waves of humanity in tumultuous currents And became absorbed in the ocean [of India]. Here are the Aryans, the Un-Aryans, the Dravidians, The Chinese, Sakas, Huns, Pathans, and Moghuls All merging into one entity. Giving, taking and sharing; Getting together and assimilating The gates in the West have opened Wherefrom people bring gifts No one turning away from the sea shores Of the great humanity of India VISIONS OF NATIONHOOD



It is suggested, therefore, that the founding fathers of modern India as well as the freedom fighters were imbued with a liberal ideology that welcomed one and all to India as expressed by Tagore in this classic poem. Rabindranath Tagore and Mohandas Gandhi (1869–1948), perhaps, more than anyone else, helped foster and rejuvenate India’s ancient cultural heritage during the first half of the twentieth century. Each in his own way raised the consciousness of generations of Indians, and shaped India into what she is today; Tagore—with the beauty and sparkle of his literary masterpieces, music and art, and Gandhi—with his asceticism, religiosity and identification with the impoverished masses of India. As pointed out by Nehru (1946: 405): Tagore, the aristocratic artist, represented essentially the cultural tradition of India, the tradition of accepting life in the fullness thereof .... Gandhi, more a man of the people, almost the embodiment of the Indian peasant, represented the other ancient tradition of India, that of renunciation and asceticism .... Both Tagore and Gandhi, contemporaries as they were, became instrumental in revolutionizing Indian thinking. They both shared the belief that India’s shackles were homemade and that only Indians could shatter them. In personal orientation and philosophy, however, Tagore and Gandhi were so very dissimilar. As Fischer (1950: 128–29) has noted: ... Gandhi was the wheat field and Tagore the rose garden, Gandhi was the working arm, Tagore the singing voice, Gandhi the general, Tagore the herald, Gandhi the emaciated ascetic with shaven head and face, Tagore the large, white-maned, white-bearded aristocratintellectual with a face of classic, patriarchal beauty. Gandhi exemplified stark renunciation, Tagore felt the embrace of freedom in a thousand bonds of delight. Despite their dissimilarity, both Tagore and Gandhi venerated each other. It was Tagore who conferred on Gandhi the title of Mahatma, and it was Gandhi who called Tagore the great sentinel. Often, when despair struck Gandhi, he would sing a song composed by Tagore: ‘If no one hears your call, then walk alone, walk alone.’


LEADERSHIP’S ESPOUSAL OF SECULARISM Despite the numerous social cleavages intrinsic to India, a secularist ideology permeated the speeches and writings of the founding fathers and the freedom fighters of modern India from Mahadev Govind Ranade (1842– 1901) to Jawaharlal Nehru (1889–1964). This essay picks up, somewhat selectively, a group of Indian social and political luminaries who fought for India’s freedom from the British. The ideology and rhetoric professed by them championed secular values, unity and brotherhood between different groups. Bipin Chandra Pal, a Bengali nationalist and one of the cohorts of the trio popularly known as Lal-BalPal, that is, Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal, asked a question of seminal importance around the turn of the century: ‘Can, acute diversity, as in the matter of religion, be sublimated into a unity by the adoption of idealistic cosmopolitanism?’ Writing a lead article in Bande Mataram, a Calcutta journal in 1903, Pal emphasized factors other than the purely spiritual, and saw an answer emerging from the growing awareness of the concepts of rationality, reality, spirituality and universality. The evolution of Indian unity, Pal thought, could be realized only through an intimate acquaintance with the character and spirit of the five great spiritual systems in India, that is, those of the Hindus, the Muslims, the Buddhists, the Christians, and the Zoroastrians. The unity of India, to Pal, was to be found in an intangible awareness experienced by her people, and was far more than a mere geographical expression (see Pal 1969: 35–37). In much the same vein, Tagore exhorted his countrymen not only to achieve unity within the country but also to cultivate universal values wherein the East and the West might live together. Visionary as he was, the poet dreamed of a brotherhood of mankind, and alluded to the contributions of Ram Mohan Roy, M.G. Ranade and Swami Vivekananda whose genius lay in the realm of assimilation, harmony and creativity (Tagore 1909). Given the diversity alluded to earlier, especially of religious belief, it was considered expedient that religion be given a minimal role in the development of national policies. The potentially divisive nature of religion was well understood, as also was the fact that religious conflicts could be the bloodiest. Once the political issues were addressed without alluding to religious differences, people, it was thought, would be free and uninhibited to pursue their religious beliefs, thus creating a rich, healthy and functional diversity. VISIONS





HINDUS AND MUSLIMS: A COMMONALITY OF INTERESTS Given the controversy generated today in India by terms such as ‘Hindutva’ and ‘fundamentalism’, it is of interest to note that Hindu leaders of yesteryear, some of whom were conservative and staunch, did not perceive a minority religious belief such as Islam as a threat to their own religion. M.G. Ranade (1842–1901), a western Indian Brahmin who served as a judge in Bombay, for example, held that it was wrong to regard Muslim rule in India as a period of humiliation and sorrow. Modern India, he thought, was the result of a joint human endeavour across religions, tribes and creeds. He believed that Muslim contact brought political strength, better administration and even greater solidarity to India. (... the contact between Mohammedans and Hindus) brought about a fusion of thoughts and ideas which benefited both communities, making the Mohammedans less bigoted and the Hindus more puritanical and more single-minded in their devotion. If the lessons of the past have any value, one thing is quite clear, viz., that in this vast country no progress is possible unless both Hindus and Mohammedans join hands together ... (Ranade 1969: 93–98). In his presidential address at the Indian National Congress in 1909, Madan Mohan Malaviya (1861–1946) gave a clarion call for unity across religious beliefs and criticized both Hindus and Muslims who preached discord and disunity. The founder of the Banaras Hindu University and a staunch Hindu himself, Malaviya quoted Veda Vyasa wishing happiness on all: ‘May all enjoy happiness; may all be the source of happiness to others; may all see auspicious days; may none suffer any injury’. From his high presidential pedestal, he proclaimed: That is the ideal which the Congress has placed before us all since the moment of its birth. I am a Hindu by faith, and I mean no disrespect to any other religion when I say that I will not change my faith for all the possessions of this world or of any other. But I shall be a false Hindu, and I shall deserve less to be called a Brahmin, if I desired that Hindus or Brahmins should have any advantage as such over Mohammedans, Christians, or any other community in India. 46 PROSHANTA NANDI

How ennobling it is even to think of that high ideal of patriotism where Hindus, Mohammedans, Parsees and Christians stand shoulder to shoulder as brothers and work for the common good of all ... we cannot build up in separation a national life such as would be worth living; we must rise and fall together (Malaviya, as quoted in Rao 1969: 38–41). In India Divided, Rajendra Prasad (1946; quoted in Rao 1969: 76–84), the first President of the Indian Republic, brought out an articulate account of the impact of Muslim rule on India. Written when he was incarcerated by the British in an Indian jail, Prasad pointed out that Muslim rule in India was not a history of continuous conflict and wars between Hindus on the one side and Muslims on the other. He noted that: Between 1193 and 1526, there sat on the throne of Delhi no less than 35 Sultans belonging to five dynasties. Each of these dynasties professed Islam and each was replaced in its turn by another Muslim dynasty. Of the 35 monarchs who sat on the throne, no less than 19 were killed or assassinated not by Hindus but by Mussalmans. Rajendra Prasad discerned a history of cooperation between Hindus and Muslims. While Aurangzeb employed many Hindu generals, Shivaji, his Hindu rival, had a number of Muslim military officers who held important positions. Shivaji’s navy had at least three Muslim admirals. Prasad noted further: I have mentioned these instances only to show that Muslims fought Muslims more than they fought Hindus and that it is a wrong and one-sided view of history to imagine, as has been done by some persons, that during the long period of over six hundred years, they were constantly engaged in wars against the Hindus whom they were oppressing all the time, leaving a legacy of hate and bitterness, the effects of which have not been and cannot be obliterated or forgotten. On the concept of ‘nationhood’, Prasad quotes an eminent Muslim scholar, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (Rao 1969: 89), who in a speech in 1885 spoke in the following manner: From the oldest times, the word Nation is applied to the inhabitants of one country, though they differ in some peculiarities which are VISIONS OF NATIONHOOD



characteristic of their own. Hindu and Muhammadan brothers, do you people any country other than Hindustan? Do you not inhabit the same land? Are you not burnt and buried in the same soil? Remember the words ‘Hindu’ and ‘Muhammadan’ are only meant for religious distinction, otherwise all persons, whether Hindu, Muhammadan, or Christian, who reside in this country belong to one and the same nation. Prasad was convinced that Hindus and Muslims shared a common heritage and traditions. When outsiders came to India, they brought changes along with them, but they themselves got transformed in the process. This was, indeed, a unique event in history. While retaining their religious identity, these different groups became part of a grand mosaic—more than what can be called a melting pot. Cognizant of the antagonism between the Hindus and the Muslims in the late 1930s and early 1940s in India, which he saw as largely being engineered by the British, Abul Kalam Azad, the President of the Indian National Congress in 1940 cautioned the country against undermining India’s national solidarity. He saw much in common between the two communities—Hindus and Muslims. In his presidential address of 1940, Azad (1969: 73–75) observed: Eleven hundred years of common history have enriched India with our common achievements. Our languages, our poetry, our literature, our culture, our art, our dress, our manners and customs, the innumerable happenings of our daily lives, everything bears the stamp of our joint endeavour. There is indeed no aspect of our life which has escaped this stamp. Azad further cautioned both the communities: ... if there are ally Hindus amongst us who desire to bring back the Hindu life of a thousand years ago and more, they dream, and such dreams are vain fantasies. So also, if there are any Muslims who wish to revive their past civilization and culture which they brought a thousand years ago from Iran and Central Asia, they dream also and the sooner they wake up the better. Azad had only one vision of the Indian nation—united and indivisible— which, in his judgement, neither fantasy nor scheming could separate or dismantle. 48 PROSHANTA NANDI

CULTURAL UNITY It was, perhaps, left to Jawaharlal Nehru, the spiritual son of the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, to articulate in rational terms the essence of Indian unity. The India of his dream was a synthesis of the spiritual values of India and advancement promised by science and technology. He traced Indian history from the days of the Indus Valley Civilization, narrating the story of innumerable peoples from outside, who brought along their language, religion, lifestyle and culture. All of these made a deep impact on India and, yet, India retained her own identity. Nehru (1938) pointed out: Like the ocean, she received the tribute of a thousand rivers, and though she was disturbed often enough and storms raged over the surface of her waters, the sea continued to be the sea. It is astonishing to note how India continued successfully this process of assimilation and adaptation. It could only have done so if the idea of a fundamental unity were so deep rooted as to be accepted even by the newcomer, and if her culture were flexible and adaptable to changing conditions. The unity that Nehru referred to was based not on religion, but culture. And the culture was anything but exclusive. As Nehru further characterized the culture of India: That culture was not exclusive or intolerant to begin with; it was receptive and adaptable, and long ages of pre-eminence gave it deep roots and a solidity which storms could not shake. It developed an aristocratic attitude which, secure in its own strength, could afford to be tolerant and broad-minded. This very toleration gave it greater strength and adaptability. Going through history, Nehru recounted how Christianity came to India in the first century after Christ long before it came to Europe, and received a warm welcome. The Jews arrived next, followed by Zoroastrians who were driven out of Persia. Then came the Muslims who found full opportunities to propagate their faith on the soil of India. Nehru noted that there was no conflict except on the frontiers, and only when Muslims VISIONS OF NATIONHOOD



came as conquerors and raiders. Of course, during their colonial rule in India, the British tried to drive a wedge between the Hindus and Muslims by stressing those religious differences which brought them into conflict with one another. No other Indian, perhaps, spoke and wrote as much as Mohandas Gandhi on the concept of India’s unity. According to a leading educationist, D.S. Sarma (1956), ‘He did far more than anyone had ever done before in Indian history to weld together, in one compact whole, the various sections of India’s population—Hindus and Muslims, caste Hindus and outcastes, and town-dwellers and the village folk.’ Gandhi did not see the introduction of other religions in India or, for that matter, outsiders settling in India as destructive to India’s unity and integrity because he was convinced that India had always had a facility for assimilation. He forcefully asserted: Hindustan belongs to all those who are born and bred here and who have no other country to look to. Therefore, it belongs to Parsis, Ben Israels, to Indian Christians, Muslims and other nonHindus as much as to Hindus. Free India will not be a Hindu raj; it will be [an] Indian raj based not on the majority of any religious sect or community, but on the representatives of the whole people without distinction of religion .... Religion is a personal matter which should have no place in politics (Gandhi in Harijan, quoted in Rao 1969: 50–53). Gandhi was a universalist who applied the same principles of ethics and morality across the board. He saw no distinction between one religion and another or between people and people, no matter what sect, community, religion or nation they belonged to. When he returned to India in 1914 from South Africa, he found an impoverished and stratified society being crushed under the wheels of British colonialism. His sense of ethics called for a moral regeneration not only of India but also Britain. In order to fight the British, he wanted India to be strong and united. Through his speeches, writing and action, he campaigned against untouchability, caste and class antagonism, and conflict between Hindus and Muslims. He not only wanted to free India politically but also morally and socially.


TRUTH IN ALL RELIGIONS The sub-heading of this section comes from one of many of Gandhi’s writings. He reinvigorated a unique feature of Hinduism by his pleading for universal brotherhood based on respect and regard for diverse religions (known in Sanskrit as sarvadharmasamanatva). This call for respect is based not just on goodwill but on moral principles. In a peaceful society, mutual respect for one another’s religion is indispensable. The free impact of ideas, Gandhi held, was not possible under any other condition. Different religions to him were like beautiful flowers from the same garden. He spoke out openly against bigotry and lack of understanding of the true nature of religion: It is a travesty of true religion to consider one’s own religion as superior and others’ as inferior, All religions enjoin worship of the ‘one God’ who is all-pervasive .... Various religions are like the leaves on a tree. No two leaves are alike, yet there is no antagonism between them or between the branches on which they grow (see Rao 1969: 143–50). Belief in one God and seeking spiritual bonding with God is the quest of all who are religious. All faiths, Gandhi held, constituted a revelation of truth and he saw truth in all religions. However, these truths are received by mortals who are less than perfect. Hence, the question of the comparative merit of one religion over another does not arise, Thus, it is imperative for a religious person to be open and tolerant of others’ religious truths.

CONCLUSION This essay highlights a belief in assimilation, adaptation and inclusiveness that characterized the orientation of a select group of Indian leaders who can be called both the founding fathers of modern India as well as leaders of India’s struggle for freedom. It must be understood that the purpose of this essay was neither to analyse the success or failure of each of the




notables referred to herein nor to evaluate their overall contribution to the freedom struggle. Rather it was to promote a sense of how they reacted to people, viewpoints, and religions unlike their own. The evidence suggests that among the Indian leadership, there existed an overwhelming support for opening the doors to incorporate the ideas brought home from outside or, at least, to give them an opportunity for growth and development. Only a strong and secure culture can do this. India has provided ample testimony to being such a culture throughout the ages. This is all the more evident in view of the overall rejection by the people at large of any fundamentalist type of belief system in India.

REFERENCES Azad, Abul Kalam. 1959. India Wins Freedom—An Autobiographical Narrative. Bombay: Orient Longman. ———. 1969. ‘The Communal Problem’ in R.V. Ramachandrasekhara Rao (ed.), Indian Unity—A Symposium, pp. 73–75. New Delhi: Publications Division, Government of India. Brass, Paul R. 1991. Ethnicity and Nationalism. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications. Brown, Judith M. 1994. Modern India—The Origins of an Asian Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Encylopedia of Sociology. 1974. Guilford, Conn.: The Dushkin Publishing Group, Inc. Fischer, Louis. 1950. The life of Mahatma Gandhi. New York: Harper and Row. Hobsbawm, E.J. 1992. Nations and Nationalism since 1780—Programme, Myth, Reality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Loomis, Charles P. 1970. ‘In Defense of Integration: For One Nation and For One World’. The Centennial Review 14(2), Spring. Mehta, Asoka. 1978. Perception of Asian Personality. Calcutta: S. Chand and Co. Nandi, Proshanta K. 1980. The Quality of Life of Asian Americans. Chicago, IL.: Pacific/ Asian. ———. 1996. ‘Socio-political Context of Sikh Militancy in India’. Journal of Asian Studies 31(3–4): 178–90. Nehru, Neena. n.d. India—Continuity in Change. New Delhi: Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India. Nehru, Jawaharlal. 1938. ‘The Unity of India’, Foreign Affairs (January). ———. 1946. The Discovery of India. Calcutta: Signet Press. Pal, Bipin Chandra. 1969. ‘The Modern Deal’ in R.V. Ramachandrasekhara Rao (ed.), Indian Unity—A Symposium, pp. 73–75. New Delhi: Publications Division, Government of India. Pandit, Bansi. 1996. Hindu Dharma. Glen Ellyn, IL: B and V Enterprises, Inc.


Ranade, M.G. 1969. ‘Our Common Interests’ in R.V. Ramachandrasekhara Rao (ed.), Indian Unity—A Symposium, pp. 93–98. New Delhi: Publications Division, Government of India. Rao, R.V. Ramachandrasekhara (ed.). 1969. Indian Unity—A symposium. New Delhi: Publications Division, Government of India. Redfield, Robert. 1955. ‘The Social Organization of Tradition’. The Far Eastern Quarterly 15(1), November. Rose, Arnold M. 1962. Human Behaviour and Social Processes. Boston, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin Company. Sarma, D.S. 1965 (1956). ‘The Father of the Nation: The Life and Teachings of Mahatma Gandhi’, reprinted in Martin Deming Lewis (ed.), Gandhi—Maker of Modern India?, pp. 9–14. Boston: D.C. Heath and Company. Tagore, Rabindranath. 1909. A Greater India. Madras: Ganesh and Co. Pvt. Ltd. ———. 1969. Sanchayita. Calcutta: Vishwa Bharati Granthan Bibhag. Seventh edition. Tharoor, Shashi. 1989. The Great Indian Novel. New Delhi: Penguin Books. ———. 1997. India—From Midnight to the Millennium. New York: Harper-Perennial.







The present essay attempts to examine some of the hitherto inadequately explored issues connected with the problem of ‘National Integration of India and Religion’. It also strives to focus attention on the valuable observations of eminent sociologists who have specialized in the Sociology of Religion and have made profound observations on the functions of religion as an integrative factor in society. The paper thus hopes to contribute to the clarification of some aspects of this burning issue in India. Recently government spokesmen have expressed grave anxiety over the ascendancy of disruptive and anti-social elements and forces in Indian society. The representatives of the ruling party argue that there has been in recent decades a general loosening of social relationships and increasing emphasis on careerism and a more materialistic approach to life. Some of the older bonds which kept various *Originally published in the Sociological Bulletin, vol. 12, no. 1, 1963, pp. 53–65.

groups and classes together have lost their hold. The sense of cohesion and national purpose which was created by the experience of a common struggle for freedom has largely ceased to operate, and individuals and groups are more concerned with sharing in the rewards of power and patronage than with facing the challenge of national reconstruction enriching the national heritage (Report of the Committee on Religious and Moral Instructions 1960: 8–9). And further, It is not unusual that when a people attain freedom suddenly after long years of bondage, they are inclined to become self-willed, arrogant and inconsiderate. In such situations good manners are easily set aside and young people tend to express the first flush of freedom in license and rowdyism .... With the passing away of the old, aristocratic society of the nineteenth century, much of the graciousness and charm of social behaviour and human relationships has largely disappeared. To outsiders we often give an impression of being impatient and ill-mannered. Both in private and public life, we observe that due to mutual suspicion and prejudice, and preconceived notions and false ideas, much avoidable friction is caused .... We have been loosing our manners rather rapidly and it is necessary that we should recover them (ibid.). They thus argue that the various groups constituting Indian society have become selfish and opportunist and have started exerting pressures of various undesirable types for their sectional and sectarian demands and rights forgetting their sense of duties and obligations. India, as a result of the quarrels and squabbles of these selfish, rowdy, unmannerly and materialistically oriented groups and individuals, is becoming a cauldron of warring forces thus paving the way for national disintegration and decline. If total disintegration of the Indian society is to be prevented, it is imperative that these fissiparous tendencies are checked, the demoralization that is creeping in is prevented, the degeneration of liberty into licence is halted and the impatient and selfish cry for rights and facilities is curbed. And further, according to these spokesmen, there is an urgent need to foster moral and spiritual values to replace the growing selfish and materialistic ends, to inculcate a sense of duties and obligations in place of the NATIONAL INTEGRATION



growing clamour for rights and comforts, to promote a spirit of self-sacrifice, discipline and obedience instead of a mood of assertion, protest, and an exhibition of bad manners. To fulfil such a need is paramount if the Indian Nation is to be prevented from being torn to pieces. According to the ruling party, ‘National Integration’ has therefore become an urgent necessity. It is also veering round to the view that Religion will play a vital role in bringing about National Integration. The ruling party feels that Religion will be a great asset to the Government in bringing about integration by fostering ‘common values’, by ‘tension-management’ and by operating as a ‘mechanism of social control’, restricting, reducing or eliminating the negative tendencies deviating from institutionalized patterns. The Government of India is attempting to create opinion in favour of the views held by them on the need for ‘national integration’ and also the positive function of religion in achieving this task. Radio, cinema, press, public platforms and other media of mass communication are utilized to spread the view of the government. Seminars and Conferences are held to popularize these ideas. Commissions are formed to set out in detail concrete procedures and programmes to achieve national integration and also to find ways and means to use religion in furthering this task. With the growing realization that religion is to play a vital role in national integration, the government has started encouraging directly or indirectly, movements and programmes where religion can be pressed to the service of various social activities. The incorporation of Sadhu Samaj in Bharat Sevak Samaj, the practice of broadcasting religious and devotional songs every morning from the All India Radio, the efforts to popularize religious festivals, Bhajan Mandalis and various religious functions and ceremonies, a new glorification of the spiritual essence of India’s past culture through press, publications, films, art revivals and art panegyrics are all indications that the government is slowly but increasingly using religion in order to achieve ‘national integration’. With a view to press the services of religion in the educational field, a Committee of Religious and Moral Instructions was appointed by the Government of India in 1959. The Committee has submitted its Report wherein it has been stated that religion should be introduced by the government in the educational field to build up morale, character, a higher sense of values and a self-sacrificing spirit among the youth who will be the future citizens of India and hence play a vital role. According to the Report, the main reason for the many ills of our society is the slow disappearance of the hold of religion over people. The Report states, 56 A.R. DESAI

As we close, we are bound to say that many ills that our world of education and our society as a whole is suffering today, resulting in widespread disturbances and dislocation of life, are mainly due to the gradual disappearance of the hold of basic principles of religion on the hearts of people. The old bonds that kept men together, are fast loosening, and the various new ideologies that are coming to us, and which we are outwardly accepting without inwardly digesting their meanings are increasingly worsening the situation. The only cure, it seems to us, is in the deliberate inculcation of moral and spiritual values from earliest years of our lives. If we lose these, we shall be a nation without a soul; and our attempts to imitate the outer forms of other lands, without understanding their inner meaning, or psychologically attuning ourselves to them, would only result in chaos and confusion; the first signs of which are already very distinctively visible on the horizon (Report of the Committee on Religious and Moral Instructions 1960: 20–21). The Committee has, as a result, recommended that a scheme of religious instruction be incorporated in our educational framework.

II The background of how the problem of ‘national integration’ has acquired importance and how religion is viewed as a vital element for achieving it may be understood on the basis of the following points: 1. The problem of ‘national integration’ in India and religion has been posed primarily by the government. It is therefore not an academic or intellectual problem to be discussed or debated by academicians and intellectuals over seminar tables endlessly. The problem has, however, acquired a serious practical significance and the analysis and handling of it one way or the other will have far-reaching consequences for the country. 2. That the problem has been posed by the government creates another point of grave significance. The government will handle the problem and try to use all the powers at its command, and the resources at its disposal to act upon it. Unlike numerous NATIONAL INTEGRATION



other programmes sponsored by private individuals or voluntary groups, this programme will have the sanction and the authority of the state and the backing of the coercive machinery of the government. Hence an adequate and clear understanding of the full implications of the programmes and policies of ‘national integration and religion’ becomes extremely urgent and necessary. 3. Unfortunately in India, the predominant mode of discussion among intellectuals is pragmatic and not fundamental. The discussion never comes to grip with the basic implications of the slogan, the idea and the programme mooted by the government and the reasons for the government to moot it. As for example, there is no discussion why the Congress, which has been in the saddle for the most part from the time India achieved Independence and which has shaped the economic, political, social and cultural destiny of Indian society raises a cry that Indian society is disintegrating and National Integration has become the basic necessity today. These discussions are carried on within the matrix of the acceptance of the validity of the propositions made by the government. Their only concern is to help clarify the ways and means of implementing the programme. The discussion on national integration and the place of religion in bringing about this integration has also, barring a few exceptions, followed the same pattern. The problem of national integration and the role of religion in achieving it raise certain fundamental issues which should be discussed threadbare before the government is permitted to execute programmes to implement its own policies and goals. It is submitted here that some of the basic issues involved in the programme of national integration in India and the utility of religion in helping the same have not been raised at all or been fundamentally examined. It is also submitted that the carefully scrutinized findings of eminent scholars and theoreticians have been ignored or have not been fully examined and taken account of by both political leaders as well as those scholars who provide necessary justification for the programmes considered by the government as necessary and urgent. It is submitted here that a large number of very close basic problems have not been even adequately posed in the general discussion on ‘national integration and the role of religion’ in India.


III Questions that arise with relation to national integration and the role of religion deserve to be carefully answered before the desirability of the government programmes and policies is accepted. What is national integration? Is integration per se desirable or integration of a particular pattern acceptable? As Professor Merton has rightly pointed out, the concept of integration is plainly a ‘formal concept’. A society may be integrated around norms of strict caste, regimentation and a docility of subordinated social strata, just as it may be integrated around norms of open mobility, wide areas of self-expression and independence of judgement among temporarily lower strata’ (Merton 1957: 44). Further as Professor Bidney points out, ‘Integration per se is not an absolute good and its value depends upon the end or objective, which the integration is meant to achieve’ (Bidney 1953: 394). Unfortunately the concept of national integration has emerged in India in a negative manner. Society is disintegrating. Therefore it should be integrated. The positive socio-economic content, the specific institutional structure and the content of relation between state as an integrating agency and the groups and individuals constituting the society have nowhere been adequately indicated. This has a grave implication in the sense that the state may through the agency of its coercive machinery evolve a pattern of social integration which would basically transform the nation into a regimented society, wherein the dispossessed and under-privileged strata may be suffocated and smothered and religion used to dull the vigilance and kill the resistance movements to improve their lot. Professor Bidney has rightly pointed out that Psychologically, it is understandable that wholeness or unity should be valued highly in an age which is characterized by fractionalism and social crisis and the concept of integration should appear to be a magic-formula, so to speak, for resolving our socio-cultural dilemmas. Upon critical examination, however, it soon becomes apparent that integration apart from its relation to some dominant end or objective, has no cultural significance. In evaluating any given culture the essential problems are how it is integrated and for what it is integrated, not is it integrated? The quest for wholeness and unity




is not intelligible apart from some specification of the value of a given form of unity in relation to other forms (ibid.: 400). The discussion on national integration in India is carried on apart from its relation to some dominant end or objective. The problem of content of national integration and purpose of national integration is mostly overlooked in the stormy and loud discussions about the need for national integration and the louder charge that fissiparous forces are gaining ascendancy and chaos and confusion ‘are very distinctively visible on the horizon’.

IV The purpose of this paper, however, is to explore the relationship between national integration and religion and to indicate the findings of eminent scholars on the subject. As the government is increasingly veering round to the view that religion has to be utilized for bringing about national integration, a serious discussion is necessary to answer a few pertinent questions pertaining to the integrative functions of religion. Some of the very crucial questions which demand adequate answers may be formulated thus: 1. Is religion necessary for creating or sustaining the integration of society? If yes, is it necessary for integration in all types of society and under all conditions? 2. What type of integration is fostered by religion? 3. Does religion play disintegrating functions in society? If yes, when and how? 4. Does religion foster integration through its body of beliefs, body of rituals or through its institutional organizations? 5. In a society like India, where people are composed of many different religions and denominations having different beliefs, contradictory rituals and distinct, rigid institutional arrangements, can religion play an integrating role? 6. Does religion foster integration among its own followers or does religion play an integrative role for the entire society?


Similarly the questions precisely formulated by Professor Johnson are also pertinent to the Indian setting. They are: 1. What effects, if any, does religion have on other aspects of society—kinship, economy, political system, stratification? Do different religions have different effects? In what ways are the effects of religion functionally? 2. In what ways, if any do these other aspects of society affect religion? And further, can secular values not integrate a society? If they can, is society in need of religion? It is unfortunate that during the last few years, the discussions floated by the government as well as by large numbers of learned scholars and intellectuals do not squarely answer these crucial questions pertaining to the social functions of religion. In fact an atmosphere favourable to ‘religion’ on the basis of what Professor Merton calls ‘large, spaceless and timeless generalizations about the integrative functions of religion’ is being generated in India. Merton’s criticism of a group of sociologists who formulated such facile generalizations about integrative functions of religion deserve to be noted as they have a greater relevance to the state of affairs in India. According to Merton, these authors tend to single out only the apparently integrative consequences and to neglect its possibly disintegrative consequences in certain types of social structure. You consider the following very well-known facts and queries. 1. When different religions co-exist in the same society, there often occur deep conflicts between several religious groups. In what sense then, does religion make for integration of ‘the’ society in numerous multi-religious societies? 2. It is clearly the case that human society achieves its unity (insofar as it exhibits such unity) primarily through the possession by its members of certain ultimate values and ends in common. But what is the evidence indicating that ‘nonreligious’ people, say in our society less often subscribe to certain common ‘values and ends’ than those devoted to religious doctrines? 3. In what sense does religion make for integration of the larger society, if the content of its doctrine and values is at odds with NATIONAL INTEGRATION



contents of other, non-religious values held by many people in the same society? (Merton 1957: 29). The political leaders and the intellectuals who support the present view that religion plays an integrative role or that it should be actively pressed for establishing national integration have not, to the best of the author’s knowledge, squarely confronted or produced sufficiently valid arguments and facts to meet these preliminary objections raised by R.K. Merton. In fact, they ignore the abundantly known historical and contemporary material about the gigantic religious wars, communal carnage and riots and even the partition of India on religious grounds. It appears they want to consciously or unconsciously ‘blot’ out the entire evidence which proves uncomfortable to their belief that religion plays an integrative role. With a view to arrive at an objectively correct answer about the integrative or disintegrative functions of religion and the conditions under which religion will play one or the other role, it is necessary to understand what outstanding scholars have to say on this problem. Unfortunately in India, the sociology of religion is still in its infancy. Barring a few scholars, systematic and methodical sociological studies of religion and its functions in Indian society have not been developed. However, this subject has been studied at considerable length by European and American scholars. Very valuable, empirical studies as well as analytical explorations have been made by a large number of scholars about the rise, growth and functions of religion in various societies. These scholars have indicated on the basis of concrete studies, under what conditions religion plays an integrative or disintegrative role. Those findings may prove useful to objectively assess whether in India, the conditions exist for religion to play an integrative role. J.M. Yinger, an outstanding sociologist of religion, has in an admirable manner tried to summarize the findings of the various scholars and has indicated the conditions under which the integrative role of religion will be minimum and negative. If these conditions exist in Indian society, we can at least, prima facie, arrive at the tentative hypothesis that the ‘role of religion in national integration’ will be minimum or negative. We can then be more careful in preventing the utilization of a force which might have a adverse effect on the establishment of national integration. We will briefly indicate what Yinger calls those conditions under which religion will play a disintegrative function in society. 1. In societies where more than one religion is practiced (Yinger 1957: 67). 62 A.R. DESAI

Indian society very clearly possesses this condition. In it numerous religions are practised. In fact almost all the major religions like Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Jainism, Judaism and a large number of tribal religions with their diverse and conflicting beliefs, contradictory and antagonistic rituals and a variety of institutional arrangements coexist within the Indian society. Thus the first group of conditions wherein religion cannot play an integrative role for the entire nation classically exist in India. 2. When the established expectancies of the members of a society are frustrated. These refer not to some absolute level of need, but to the satisfactions that the members of a society have come to expect (ibid.). According to Yinger when ‘such expectations are denied, those who feel frustrated’ may evolve another religion, change religion or may become anti-religious and thus react against the frustration and struggle to realize their expectations. Does such a situation exist in India? Even a cursory observation leads us to the conclusion that in India such conditions exist in a very acute manner. After Independence, the story of the Indian society may be succinctly summed up as a story of desperate pressures of various groups whose ‘established expectancies’ have met with frustration. The rise of neo-Buddhism in western India, the growth of the Dravida Kazhagam Movement in the South, the story of Christian conversions among tribal peoples, the various revivalist movements among various Hindu and Muslim groups, along with the growing secular struggles of various strata of the people to counteract the forces which are frustrating their expectancies reveal abundantly that Indian society today possesses the second group of conditions which according to Yinger are favourable for religion playing a disintegrating role in society. 3. When social change reduces the appeal of the ritual and belief systems, what will give one generation a sense of unifying tradition may alienate parts of another generation, who have been subjected to different social and cultural influences (ibid.: 68). Can one deny that this condition exists in Indian Society? India is in the throes of a most far-reaching social transformation. The Constitution has laid down that the foundations of social structure will be based on equal worth of individual, irrespective of the distinctions of caste, religion, NATIONAL INTEGRATION



sex, race and other factors. It has also laid down that the social structure of the Indian people will be reshaped for the welfare of individuals and groups on this earth and not prepare them for welfare in the other world. A gigantic battle has begun to recast the traditional social institutions and group formations in the new mould founded on the concept of the equality of individuals. In fact Indian humanity has plunged into the greatest social change which has thrown all traditional rituals and belief systems into a melting pot. 4. When mobility from society to society is greatest; and the corollary, when a society is composed of members who were socialized to different patterns of behaviour. Even when the mobility is among societies sharing the same basic religious system, there are bound to be local variations in the religious traditions, and the heterogeneous society will have wider range of personality systems to integrate (ibid.). Do these groups of conditions apply to Indian society today? The only answer can be in the affirmative. Society in India is composed of multitudes of communities and sub-societies. They are all constantly intermingling. They are all being subjected to cultural and institutional changes. Members of Indian society are today socialized to a wide variety of patterns of behaviour. Socializing process for rural and urban, educated and uneducated, upper classes and lower classes, industrialized groups and nonindustrialized groups, for men and women, for different regional groups, is very varied. With growing acceleration of mobility of members and groups of Indian society these conditions will accentuate. The inability of religion to function as a positive force in national integration, even on these grounds is becoming more and more evident. The growing mobility acts as a factor to accentuate disintegrative functions of religion. 5. When a society is sharply divided into classes, or other hierarchical divisions, and this is strongly felt as an oppressive fact .... If religion cannot ‘explain away’ the differences in income, power and prestige on the basis of its own principles it is less able to serve the function of integrating society (ibid.). Is Indian society sharply divided into classes and other hierarchical divisions? And is this not strongly felt as an oppressive fact? Who can deny this fact? Further, has there been a tendency for class divisions to 64 A.R. DESAI

weaken after Independence? The observations of D.R. Gadgil on the situation of India that has emerged after a decade and half of Independence and as a result of economic planning adopted by the ruling party reveal the trends of changes in class stratifications. They are worth noting as they vividly and realistically reflect the trends in class stratification in India after Independence. The most remarkable feature is, perhaps, the apparent contradiction between the behaviour of important economic indicators. Some of these point to no improvement in the basic situation. The availability, per capita, of the most important components of food consumption in the country, viz., cereals and pulses, was no better in 1958 than it was in 1953. The employment data considered in both aspects, urban and rural, indicate a definitely deteriorating situation. The advance results available from Second Agricultural Labour Enquiry show that between 1951 and 1956, there was a fall in selfappointment and a rise in number of persons offering themselves for wage employment in the Rural Areas. There is nothing to indicate that the situation in this regard has improved since 1956– 1957 (Gadgil 1961: 135). And further Whereas there appears to have been some increase in per capita national income during the period, the results of this have been evidently spread very unevenly over society and the economy. The cities have profited as compared with the agricultural regions. The rich agricultural regions have done well, but not the poor ones and in all agricultural regions, it is only the top farmer strata that appears to have made any net improvement in their position. Agricultural labour has distinctly deteriorated in its position and this most probably, is also what has happened in the case of rural artisans and casual labour, and labour employed in unorganized industry, trade and transport. The earnings of factory labourers have not made any significant progress if 1959 is compared with 1951. The salariat which, next to labour, is important in the cities, appears to be in a stagnant even slightly difficult position. It is only the traders and, the industrialists, who have consistently done well and among them, the bigger and those in the largest organized business appear to have done best (ibid.: 137). NATIONAL INTEGRATION



The observations of D.R. Gadgil clearly indicate that conditions for integrative functions of religion do not exist in India. There are other conditions too indicated by Yinger. However, it is not possible to go into such detail within the scope of this essay. In brief the findings of the eminent students of the social functions of religion based on their intensive studies of various societies, both past and present and ably summarized by Yinger are very clear. Religion, under the conditions prevailing in India will play a disintegrative role. To sum up, it can be stated that there is overwhelming evidence which indicates that the conditions in India are inappropriate for utilizing religion as a mechanism of national integration. And still the ruling party is increasingly utilizing religion as a part and parcel of its policy of preserving and strengthening the type of society which it is attempting to construct in India. The design of the social structure which it is creating is increasingly becoming distinct. The picture of it has been drawn very vividly and in clear print by Gadgil. It is a social structure based on the sharpening of class stratification. Yinger has also pointed out that religion in the context of a society sharply divided by class divisions and in which division is strongly felt as an oppressive fact may play a very useful purpose, viz., to ‘prevent a stratification system from being felt as an oppressive fact’ (Yinger 1957: 68). One wonders whether the desire of the Government to use religion as an active force is actually an attempt to press it into service as an agency to ‘prevent the stratification system’, which it is evolving, ‘from being felt as an oppressive fact’ for those who are oppressed under it, and whose protests are slowly mounting, creating the problem of ‘Law and Order’ for the preservation and efficient functioning of the class society which it has been generating under its policy of mixed planning. Is God and Priest being pressed in the service of the Policeman to restrain the protests against inequalities and exploitation generated by the growing ‘acquisitive society’. The concept of ‘national integration and integrative role of religion’ requires very fundamental exploration. The slogan appears catchy, attractive and plausible but as Barrows Dunham has wisely observed: There is something about abstract ideas which makes them an invitation to mendacity. It is not that they are general and may thus refer to a multitude of individual things. It is rather that, being abstract, they have lost a direct reference to things; and so long as they are kept in that state, they cannot tell us what precisely were 66 A.R. DESAI

the things they once referred to .... Deception arises from that fact that when social concepts are maintained as abstractions, they can be arbitrarily defined. A small group of men can seize the concept, fasten upon it an interpretation favorable to themselves, and propagate the new meaning through every avenue of speech. The concept, however, retains its social tone. There results then a merging of the social tone with the new and twisted meaning, and people begin to accept as valid for all society what is really but the secret interest of a special group (Dunham: 293–94). A serious and fundamental discussion on the problems of ‘religion and national integration’ has become urgent. The purpose of this essay is to draw attention to the gravity of the problem and to initiate a more basic and forthright discussion on its various aspects.

REFERENCES Bidney, D. 1953. Theoretical Anthropology. New York: Columbia University Press. Dunham, Barrows. 1947. Man against Myth. Boston: Little, Brown, and Co. Gadgil, D.R. 1961. Planning and Economic Policy in India. Bombay: Asia Publishing House. Merton, R.K. 1957. Social Theory and Social Structure (revised and enlarged edition). New York: Free Press of Glencol. Report of the Committee on Religious and Moral Instructions. 1960. Ministry of Education, Government of India. Yinger, J.M. 1957. Religion, Society and the Individual. New York: MacMillan.







There hardly exists writing on the relationship between religion and economic development which does not owe something to Max Weber’s formulations. Two of his main theses are of interest theoretically and practically: first, his formulation of the specific relationship between the Protestant ethic and the rise of the spirit of capitalism in sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe, and secondly, his contention that the ethic of the major Oriental religions was not conducive to capitalistic development in Asia. Both these issues have given rise to wide-ranging controversies, resulting in the growth of a large body of literature. This essay,1 however, does not attempt to review them in detail. Its purpose, rather, is to evaluate generally the different aspects of the complex problem of the relation between religion and economic development, and more particularly, to examine the connection between Hinduism and economic growth. *Originally published in the Sociological Bulletin, vol. 18, no. 1, 1969, pp. 1–15.

At the risk of over-simplification, I shall classify the views about Weber’s Protestant ethic hypothesis under four heads. In the first place, there is the view that it was not Protestantism but Catholicism or Judaism which was responsible for the rise of capitalism. Thus Rachfahl and Brentano believed that the spirit of capitalism originated even before the Reformation, that is in the religious circumstances provided by Catholicism. Sombart, in his earlier writings, held a similar view, although he departed from it later. These writers, however, did not deny the part played by religion in the origin and development of modern capitalism but only disagreed with Weber that Protestantism was its specific cause. It is noteworthy that Weber himself considered the views of Rachfahl, Brentano and Sombart in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1958a: 185–86, 190–93, 200ff). Second, it was argued by H.M. Robertson (1933: 31–32), for instance, that the relationship between capitalism and religion was viewed through the wrong end of the telescope by Weber.2 He pointed out that the Protestant ethic was the result of a rising, capitalistically-minded middle class. R.H. Tawney (1926) and J.B. Kraus (see Samuelson 1961: 21–22), however, posited a two-way relationship between religion and economic development: the economic transformation of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries transformed the religious outlook while the new religion of the Puritan sects cleared the way for the more forcible expansion of capitalism. A third view posits that there is no connection between religion and economic action, and that the rise of capitalism can be explained without reference to religion. This was forcefully expressed by Samuelson (1961: 21–22). His study of the development of capitalism in most of the European countries and in the USA led him to conclude that factors other than religion were involved in the promotion of trade, industry and capital formation. For instance, he accounted for the development of the iron industry in England, which Weber had attributed to the initiative of the Quakers, by such factors as technical education, family relationships, and the industrious personality. Fourth, some critics, while not totally rejecting the contribution of religion to economic growth, have considered other factors to be more crucial. H.R. Trevor-Roper (1964), for instance, has emphasized the local origin of entrepreneurs as being more decisive to capitalistic growth than religious affiliation. He has shown that the distinguishing feature of the economic elite of the seventeenth century was not religion but that they were not the natives of the country in which they worked. Christopher Hill (1967) has stressed the interaction between politics and society as RELIGION



the formative factor, not ignoring the part played by Protestantism in economic and scientific advance. The controversy, as is clear from the above brief account, is largely confined to historical rather than to contemporary studies of the causal links between Protestantism and Capitalism. Weber, of course, admitted that when once capitalism had come to stay it became independent of the drive from Puritan ethic. In recent years, Weber’s main thesis has entered a second phase of investigation, i.e., there is a shift of focus from an analysis of the direct causal connections between Protestantism and capitalism to that of the broader transformative tendencies of Puritanism in terms of modernization. This has been illustrated by the recent publication of a collection of essays edited by Eisenstadt (1968). This subject has been excluded, however, from the scope of the present paper.3

II While Weber’s thesis of the Protestant ethic has largely remained historical, his second formulation in regard to the Asian religions has acquired a practical interest, especially with the post-War appearance of the problem of economic development in the ‘underdeveloped’ Asian countries. Milton Singer (1966) distinguishes three phases of the application of Weber’s thesis to Asian countries. The first phase has to do with Weber’s own studies of Asian religions. The second phase of the argument developed when students of specific Asian religions found counterparts to a Protestant ethic, viz., rationality, profit-motivation, hard work and thrift, entrepreneurial groups and bureaucratic organization, in these religions. The third phase concerns the total ideological and structural transformations, designated as ‘modernization,’ with which economic development and some kind of Protestant ethic may or may not be associated. As already mentioned, the last phase is outside the scope of this paper. I shall deal with the first two phases, which are interrelated. Weber’s own studies showed that the Asian religions were lacking in the inner-worldly asceticism of Protestantism in the West.4 In their studies of specific Asian religions, sociologists have kept in mind the Protestant analogy and have sought to identify certain religious elements either as facilitating economic growth or hindering it. Ralph Pieris’ study of Buddhism in Ceylon (1968) 70 M.S.A. RAO

shows that Buddhist philosophy, unlike Protestantism which aimed at eliminating any dualism between secular and religious life, emphasized precisely the separateness of the two worlds. For the Buddhist real salvation lies outside the things of the world. Thus the other-worldliness‚ of Buddhism, according to Pieris, had inhibiting effects on economic development. The major studies which have attempted to relate Hinduism with economic growth in India are by two economists, K.W. Kapp (1963) and V. Mishra (1962). Kapp examines certain general beliefs and the values of Hinduism, such as belief in rebirth and law of karma (cosmic causation) in order to show their significance for economic development. He states that the belief in cosmic causation leads to increased feelings of fatalistic helplessness, and to the view that human experience is transitory and illusory. The heavy premium that Hinduism placed on magic and astrology denied history its transformative role in social and economic development. Kapp concludes that the rigid deterministic character of Hinduism obviated the one basic requisite of economic development, namely, the conviction that man makes his own history. Mishra’s conclusions are similar. He finds that the other-worldliness of Hinduism stressed the release from the cycle of rebirth, and this, he believed adversely affected economic growth. Before I take up the views of Kapp and Mishra on the relation between Hinduism and economic development for detailed examination, it is essential to point out a general limitation in the attempts (of Weber and others) to look for elements of Protestant ethic in Asian religions. The units of comparison here do not belong to the same level. While Protestantism is a sect, Buddhism and Hinduism are religions; each comprising a number of sects. The former is also reformative in its orientation. Hence the units of legitimate comparison ought to be Protestantism and one or other of the reformatory sects of Hinduism. Similarly, Hinduism ought to be compared not with Protestantism but with Christianity. In a review of Kapp’s book, I (1963: 18) pointed out that it was hazardous to deduce from abstract ideas of higher Hinduism values which are either favourable or unfavourable to economic development. Milton Singer in his review article on the same book (1966) was also sceptical of hypothetical and deductive conclusions arrived at by Kapp. Singer pointed out that, in the first place, realistic consequences could not be deduced from the basic beliefs, values or motives torn from their concrete social and cultural contexts, Second, he also drew attention to the failure of such approaches to specify conditions and magnitudes under which the conclusions which they arrive at can claim validity. RELIGION



There are other limitations of the hypothetico-deductive approach which arise out of its over-simplified view of Hinduism: It tends to equate the Brahminical model with the whole of Hinduism. It is not even the Brahminical model as it actually existed but as depicted in the sacred literature. Hinduism includes diverse models based on different varnas and systems of values. Thus the values of Vaisyas are likely to be more favourable to economic action than those of the Brahmins. In fact, Hindu texts themselves prescribe different codes of behaviour for different varnas. Another serious shortcoming of the deductive method is that it treats Hinduism as consisting of a set of ideas which is fixed for all time, and unrelated to the vicissitudes of the social and cultural life of the people. Professor Ghurye has conclusively demonstrated the fallacy of such a notion. In his book Gods and Men (1962) he has clearly shown that the ‘climate of the age’ influences the type of Godhead favoured. He demonstrates that religious ideas are products of newly-discovered social interactions and that they are expressions of needs and activities of cultural groups. With characteristic erudition, Ghurye scans diverse source materials in different periods of Indian history to marshall evidence in support of his hypothesis. Among other things, he has shown that the worship of Ganesha in Poona served a political need, and that the female deity (devi) bridged the gulf between the folk and the elite in Bengal and other parts of India. These limitations of the hypothetico-deductive approach apart, it is essential to call attention to the sort of naivete displayed by social scientists in their interpretations of such abstract ideas as karma, maya. dharma, moksha, etc. It must be realized at the outset that determination of the meaning of these terms is largely a question of interpretation. There are six systems of Indian philosophy besides three non-Vedic Schools, and the meaning of these terms not only differs from one system to another but it is also held to be controversial. Thus the meaning given to a term in one school of thought ought not to be taken as representing the general world-view of Hinduism. For instance, when Kapp (1963: 42) lays down that the illusory nature of human experience is an important tenet of Hinduism, he is unconsciously adopting, I believe, the interpretation of Shankara which is only one of the three major variants of Vedanta. Kapp, however, identifies it with the Hindu metaphysics in general. If he had known the views of Ramanuja and Madhva, both of whom postulated that the world is real, he would perhaps have deduced a more positive basis for economic development. 72 M.S.A. RAO

The extent of the naivete is also revealed at another level. Terms such as dharma, karma and mithya are used conceptually in the language of the darsanas (the six systems of Indian philosophy). The word mithya, for instance, is used ordinarily to mean that the world is illusory or unreal. But students of Vedanta and Shankara know that mithya, which is a technical term, means that Brahman who is nirguna (without attributes) is not the cause of the world, but it is maya, which is superimposed on Brahman, that is the cause of world. Shankara does not deny the reality of the existence of the world. Thus, a social scientist who understands by mithya the unreality of the existence of the world, and who derives further propositions from it for economic development causes amusement in the circles of the darsana scholars. The hypothetico-deductive approach assumes that the otherworldliness of Hinduism is incapable of producing a positive ethic for profit-seeking activities and accumulation of capital. But even at the purely a priori level, two points may be made regarding the relationship between other-worldliness and its negative effects on economic development. First, it may be recalled that many critics of Weber, and Samuelson in particular, have pointed out that economic growth had occurred in many countries, such as Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Sweden, long before the Reformation, that is, when these countries were predominantly Catholic. Samuelson (1961: 102–21) notes that Catholic Belgium was the first country to industrialize after England. Similarly, Portugal, an entirely Catholic country was in the vanguard of the great expansion of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It is obvious that Catholicism which is an other-worldly religion, in contrast to the this-worldly asceticism of Protestantism has not blocked the way to economic development. If this hypothesis is true, then it might be asked why should Hinduism, accepting for the sake of argument that it is other-worldly, be thought of as hindering economic development? Perhaps, the argument really runs as follows: there is no economic development in India and the other-worldly character of Hinduism must have been its cause. But such an argument begs questioning, for it tries to attribute lack of economic development in India to merely religious factors instead of seeking an explanation in terms of other factors. Second, it cannot be asserted that spiritualization of economic activities, as in the case of Protestantism, is always a necessary precondition of economic development. Writing in 1935 A. Fanfani, a Catholic of Milan observed that the spirit of capitalism is foreign to every kind of religion, and that capitalism did not arise because Protestantism turned work into a RELIGION



‘calling’, as Weber believed, but because in practice it separated labour from religious life and thus helped to free economic behaviour from the inhibitions of religion. It follows then that the duality caused by the supposed other-worldliness of Hinduism does not necessarily hinder economic growth. Another element of complication needs to be pointed out in the context of inferring from religious beliefs either positive or negative economic consequences. For instance, it is commonly asserted that karma, meaning fatalism, hinders individual initiative. But rarely has the question been asked whether the notion of karma enters the thought process as a cause or as an afterthought. Goheen et al. (1958: 1–12) suggest the latter possibility in a somewhat different context. More often, when a person fails to succeed in business, he rationalizes his failure in terms of karma rather than thinks of it in advance. Conversely, when he achieves success, he hardly attributes it to karma. Hence, it is difficult to trace the causal relationship between religious beliefs and human motivations, for what is presented as a cause might well be a justification.

III In view of the many limitations pointed out above, it is futile, if not misleading to hypothetically deduce values affecting economic growth from religious ideas. A sociologically more meaningful approach would be to consider the relationship between religion and economic behaviour in the empirical context of interests and activities of people. S.C. Dube, (1965) rightly observes that in considering Hinduism in relation to economic growth, the character of the former as it is practised by the common people is more important than its metaphysical aspects. However, it is necessary to ask the following questions: how far do such ideas as dharma and karma influence the activities of the people? Which sections or groups do they influence more than others? What is their significance? It is also important to note that religion provides only one of the sources of values that affect motivations of people with regard to their economic activity. Economic activities cover a wide range of people’s behaviour and attitudes. These include people’s attitude to work, time, money and savings, their occupational choices and commitment, and their ability to

74 M.S.A. RAO

adjust themselves to the bureaucratic organization. Those engaged in the fields of industry and commerce are expected to possess an entrepreneurial spirit. Economic activities also have relevance for cosmopolitan habits and styles of life. Thrift and austerity are valued as promoting savings. But savings have to be put to productive uses if economic development is to be a self-perpetuating process. Hence decisions regarding reinvestment assume significance. It is necessary to see which values and interests arising out of religious ideas either promote or hinder which aspect of economic activities. Such empirical investigations are likely to yield better insights into the relationship between religion and economic behaviour than a discussion of the issue in hypothetical terms. Milton Singer’s study (1956) of cultural values in India’s economic development brings out clearly the importance of an empirical approach. He points out that the values and motivations usually associated with the materialism of the West also exist in India. These, he emphasizes, coexist in the world-views of the ordinary Indian. Singer finds support for his argument in the philosophy of renunciation of Gandhi and other Indian leaders based on the discipline of action in the service of others. This form of asceticism, he suggests, may indirectly perform positive social and economic functions in the transfer of property from one generation to another, in redistributing wealth from the rich to the poor, and even in the accumulation of wealth. Singer’s essay gave rise to further discussion in which J. Goheen, M.N. Srinivas and D.G. Karve participated (1958). While Goheen had doubts about whether profound dualism between the values of ordinary life and the values of contemplative experience in Indian thought could be overcome, Srinivas adduced evidence to show that the peasant does have a tradition of practical values. He also pointed to the secular role of ascetics, and showed how Tilak sought sanction for the positive action expounded in the Gita as against the other-worldly and fatalistic meaning of karma. The foregoing discussion then shows that Hinduism (or Hindu culture) emphasizes the this-worldly aspect as much as it does the other-worldly aspect, and that the dualism referred to earlier exists more in theory than in practice. It also points out that the basic ideas of Hinduism, such as karma and dharma are being constantly reinterpreted to suit different situations.




IV We have so far considered the relationship between economic activities and the basic ideas and beliefs or tenets of Hinduism. But the latter also includes ritual observances and practices, and a consideration of these in relation to economic activities presents a different perspective on the relationship between religion and economic action. The hypotheticodeductive approach tends to consider only the basic tenets and beliefs as constituting Hinduism to the exclusion of ritual observances and practices. In order to highlight the latter in relation to economic activities, I shall make a few observations regarding two ritual practices: vows and votive offerings. Vows are classified as conditional and unconditional. The former invoke the assistance of deities or saints in achieving a specific objective or benefit. They take different forms, such as fasting, offering special worship either by personal attendance or by sending a Money Order meant for a specific ‘service’ to the deity or saint, or sacrificing a goat or a fowl. Such vows go under the general name mannat in Haryana. There are also regular forms of worship of such gods as Satyanarayana and Anant which are popular among the industrial workers of Bombay. They constitute a category of rituals called vratas. Some deities require only a visit from their devotees as a vow. For instance, those who take vows to Vaishno Devi in Jammu have only to visit her, and this is a difficult pilgrimage to make. The same is true of Aiyappan in Shabarimala in Kerala. The pilgrims might take an additional vow of circumambulating the temple by rolling on the ground or by prostrating at every step. This is recognized as a special form of service (seva). However, the benefits which the pilgrim seeks are often mundane and material. Among other things these include attaining wealth, having children (especially male children), success in business undertakings and improvement in worldly prospects. Normally, a man depends on his domestic deity—wherever the institution of domestic deities obtains—for getting most of the wishes fulfilled. But this does not prevent him from seeking the favours of other deities. If he does not achieve success after taking a vow before a particular deity or saint, he changes his deity, sometimes even crossing the boundary of sect if not religion in the process. Thus Hindus worship Muslim or Christian saints and gods. Thurston notes that the Komatis (merchants) living in Vizagapatnam relaxed their faith in favour of the celebrated Muhammadan saint who lies buried by the durga on the top of the hill which 76 M.S.A. R AO

overlooks the harbour. He is considered to be all-powerful over the elements in the Bay of Bengal, and many a silver boat or a purse (mudupu) is presented at his shrine by Hindu ship-owners after a successful voyage. Those Komatis who are no longer boat-owners revere the Muslim saint and make vows to him for success in civil suits and recovery from all sorts of maladies (see Thurston 1909: 341–45). Votive offerings form specific aspects of vows, referring to the presentation of symbolic objects and raising memorials to a deity or a saint in return for a specified benefit. Votive offerings could also take the form of thanksgiving. Ghurye quotes an instance from history: a pillar bearing an inscription dated A.D. 861 at Ghatiyala near Jodhpur has as its head four images of Ganapati facing the four quarters. The inscription states that the monument was put up to invoke the grace of Ganapati for the success of the business enterprises of the local traders. The monument was erected by a group of banias (merchants) and the blessing asked for was success (siddhi) in business (Ghurye 1962: 72). Building a temple, is a prominent activity of the Jains who are predominantly commercial, and it is interesting to investigate whether this is in any way related to votive offerings. A Gujarati proverb says, ‘A Vaishnavite spends his money on kitchen (food) and a Jain on stone (temple).’ The this-worldly character of Hinduism is reflected not only in vows and votive offerings but also in a whole range of ritual observances and practices. A few of these are: the institution of domestic deity; observance of certain festivals such as Ganesh Chaturthi and Tij (in North India); worship of Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth, during Diwali; fasting on Sivaratri and Janmashtami; some forms of ancestor worship; visits to some pilgrim centres; and ashtottara (offering prayers 108 times) and Kotyarchana (offering prayers 10 million times) which are collectively organized in towns and cities. Another aspect of Hinduism which needs to be stressed in this connection is the proliferation of saint-centred institutions. For instance, the worship of Saibaba of Sirdi in Maharashtra, who is believed to be a Muslim but worshipped mainly by the Hindus, has developed into a cult. It is believed that Such saints, some living and some dead, but considered to be alive by their followers, have supernatural powers to fulfil any wish of their devotees. I have adduced some scattered evidence to show how the ritual observances and practices emphasize the this-worldly aspect of Hinduism. They offer promise and assurance to people to improve their economic lot, and hope to those who have failed in business. RELIGION



It is necessary to consider in this connection an argument that the practice of invoking the assistance of functional deities through gift and prayers to achieve success in business belongs to the realm of magic and not to that of religion. For instance, Pieris while illustrating the point that magic is not conducive to rational ethic of worldly behaviour, notes that in Sri Lanka, officials and businessmen often take astrological advice before making important decisions. In Calcutta, businessmen who are the prominent worshippers of Kali place their account books before the image of the deity on the Bengali New Year’s Day. He argues that the ‘desire for worldly success with divine assistance does not impart any religious quality to secular activity, the latter being an autonomous domain which neither bestows merit nor brings ultimate salvation’ (Pieris 1968: 257). Pieris maintains that secular morality associated with Calvinism is less likely to take root where the religious life is insulated from the temporal. Consequently, the highly irrational world of magic intrudes into everyday economics without imparting any sanctity to worldly activity. Herein lies the antinomy between religion and magic. The latter seeks mundane, technical and utilitarian rather than mystical contemplation by withdrawal from society (1968: 256). It must be noted, against Pieris’ distinction between magic and religion that the two are not exclusive classes of practices and beliefs but exist with a variety of different combinations. Further, magic is regarded as an aspect of religious belief and practice that takes its special force from the recognition of supernatural or divine power in many societies (see Yalman 1968). It is particularly difficult to distinguish between the utilitarian and mystical rituals in Hinduism. Frequently, a devotee prays not only for a prosperous life on earth but also for salvation after death. In the example of the vratas, cited earlier, a worshipper is not only promised success and prosperity in this world, but also paradise after death. In common parlance, mundane prosperity is considered to be the result of accumulated ritual merit. It should also be noted that non-Sanskritic rituals get linked to the Sanskritic practices and beliefs in the process of Sanskritization. Hence we may conclude that the ritual practices seeking the divine assistance in achieving a specific objective belong to the realm of religion and they seek to establish a bridge between the mundane activity on the one hand and the spiritual and supernatural beings on the other. Contrary to popular belief, these rituals emphasize the this-worldly aspect of 78 M.S.A. RAO

Hinduism, which has been ignored by those who have written on Hinduism and economic development. The foregoing consideration of ritual practices emphasizing the thisworldly character of Hinduism acts as a corrective to the hypotheticodeductive view of the other-worldliness of Hinduism. But this worldliness of Hinduism does not by itself guarantee a positive orientation to economic action. From the point of view of the Protestant ethic hypothesis, however, unless the this-worldly character results in this-worldly asceticism, religious ideas do not figure as factors determining the ethic governing economic activities. Whether ritual practices either produce or reflect an outlook for the positive pursuit of economic activities is a question which requires empirical investigation. It might be suggested, however, that they do contribute to a pious outlook.

V We may now turn our attention to the secondary religious or sectarian movements which are reformatory in character, in order to see whether they have produced a set of values which has actually generated economic growth. Once again the hypothetico-deductive study of Hinduism and economic development tends to focus its attention on the basic and general ideas and beliefs as contained in the main texts rather than considering reformatory movements. An investigation of the latter is more relevant than the former because it is in the context of reformation that a new set of values is likely to emerge, as it happened in the case of Protestantism. Veerasaivism or Lingayatism is one of the earliest twelfth Century A.D. sectarian reformatory movements which rebelled against the Brahminical orthodoxy in north Karnataka. Its followers constituting 20 per cent of the population are mainly concentrated in the present Mysore State. It attacked the concept of ritual pollution which is basic to Brahminical Hinduism, and adopted the practice of wearing a lingam on the neck which made possible for the follower to be in a constant state of ritual purity. This and a few other elements of Veerasaivism had favourable effects on the different aspects of economic activities. C. Parvathamma in her paper ‘The Socio-economic Drive in Veerasaivism’ (1968) notes that the Veerasaivas had attracted the attention of the Western observers as the Puritans of the East. Veerasaivism advocated vegetarianism and teetotalism and insisted on having avocation for RELIGION



everyone including God. With its motto that ‘work is Heaven’ it gave manual labour dignity. Thus, Lingayats are seen engaged in such diverse occupations as leather-work, cultivation, trade and white-collar jobs. Veerasaivism also upheld the ethic of a useful and active life on earth and systematic self-control, which promoted austerity. Parvathamma found the Lingayats of Kshetta, a village in Mysore, as being enterprising in diverse fields of economic activities. She also found them very receptive to innovations. Veerasaivism engendered an enterprising spirit among its followers by introducing a liberalizing ethic. Empirical studies of this nature, showing whether reformatory sectarian movements have produced an ethic congenial to economic activities are lacking, In this connection, however, a few suggestions could be made. In a study of the social background of the small-scale industrial entrepreneurs in Delhi (Srinivas et al. 1966), it was found that the Sikhs belonging to the Namdhari sect showed a positive attitude to austerity leading to savings and systematic work. It is useful to investigate the relationship between the ethic of this sect and different aspects of the process of economic development. Prarthana Samaj, a religious society established in Bombay in the 1860s attempted to reconcile Hinduism with the spirit of progress and to rationalize it. M.G. Ranade, one of its founders, was a critic of the bhakti movement, and preached, according to N.G. Chandavarkar, values of Hindu Protestantism (Kumar 1968: 121–22). It would be fruitful to investigate the impact of this reformation on the economic activities of its followers. Similarly, implications of other reformatory movements such as the Brahmo Samaj, Arya Samaj, and Shri Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam among the Tiyas of Kerala, need to be examined. It is also relevant in this context to study minority religious groups in relation to their spirit of enterprise, as there is some evidence to show that they tend to be more enterprising than the majority religious groups. For instance, C. Jayawardena (1966: 211–41) observes that minority Hindu groups in British Guyana have been able to evolve an ethic which is congenial for activities related to economic development. However, it is necessary to realize that in a situation of migration, political factors and conditions of insecurity play an important part in encouraging such groups to be economically more active. Minority status itself may make for harder exertion among them. Further, the fact that people have migrated to other regions and countries is itself an indication of their adventurous spirit. 80 M.S.A. RAO

Lastly, economic development might be seen in relation to religious institutions,5 besides ideas and beliefs, rituals and reformatory movements and minority religious groups. Religious institutions such as temples and monasteries have been associated with programmes of economic development. Burton Stein (1959: 60) has drawn attention to the fact of Hindu temples in South India following the practice of utilizing money endowments to develop new facilities for irrigation. With regard to the Tirupati temple, one of the richest temples in India, he notes that during the sixteenth century the temple owned over 100 villages and derived a substantial sum by way of money endowments. Both these resources were utilized by the temple to develop irrigation facilities around Tirupati. The institutional growth of the temple was closely associated with and dependent upon the programme of agricultural development which the temple carried out. Burton Stein also notes how the temple management realized the economic value of consecrated food and how it legitimized trade in consecrated food. Consecrated food was sold even by priests to pilgrims. Thus the ability to convert food into money permitted the temple’s functionaries to contribute about one-fourth of the money endowment during 1509–68. In recent years it has been found that the management has invested money in transport, has established educational institutions, hospitals and hospices, and has created other welfare facilities. The case of the Tirupati temple illustrates the part played by religious institutions in economic development.

VI In this essay, I have attempted to demonstrate the nature of the complexities involved in the re1ationship between religion and economic development. I have pointed out in particular the kinds of limitations that the hypothetico-deductive approach to the study of the relation between Hinduism and economic development suffers from. Its results have been untenable and misleading. There is, therefore, a necessity to formulate problems which permit empirical investigations and I have suggested the lines on which these might be studied. We might be guided in this attempt by two considerations. First, we should consider the outcome of the debate over the Protestant ethic hypothesis. A certain consensus that has emerged in this connection is that Protestantism as a RELIGION



reformatory movement, inter alia, contributed to a social climate which encouraged various aspects of economic development in some European countries and there was no one-to-one relationship between Protestantism and the rise of capitalism. Second, it is important to realize with regard to the Asian religions hypothesis that va1id comparison would be between the Protestant ethic and a reformatory sect of Hinduism rather than between Protestantism and Hinduism.

NOTES 1. This essay was presented as a working paper on the theme ‘Religion and Economic Behaviour’ in the panel ‘Religion and Modernization’ at the Eighth All India Sociological Conference, Agra, 1–3 September 1968. The other two themes of the panel were ‘Religion and Social Change’ and ‘Religion and Secularism’. I am grateful to Professor M.N. Srinivas for his comments on an earlier draft of this paper. I thank my colleague Dr Veena Das for some useful suggestions. 2. It is well-known that Marx put religion in the category of the superstructure which was determined by the structure of relations of production. Weber had the Marxian view at the back of his mind and contested it in his The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1958a). 3. It formed part of the second theme of the panel, viz., ‘Religion and Social Change’ at the conference (seen note 1). 4. See, for instance, Weber (1958b: 337): It was lacking in precisely that which was decisive for the economics of the Occident: the character of economic striving and its accomplishments in a system of rational inner-worldly ethic of behaviour e.g., the ‘inner-worldly asceticism of Protestantism in the West’. 5. I thank Dr A.M. Shah for suggesting this dimension of the problem.

REFERENCES Dube, S.C. 1965. ‘Cultural Problems in the Economic Development of India’ in R.N. Bellah (ed.), Religion and Progress in Modern Asia. New York: Free Press. Eisenstadt, S.N. (ed.). 1968. The Protestant Ethic and Modernization. New York: Basic Books. Fanfani, A. 1935. Catholicism, Protestantism and Capitalism. London: Sheed and Ward.

82 M.S.A. RAO

Ghurye, G.S. 1962. Gods and Men. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. Goheen, J., M.N. Srinivas and D.G. Karve. 1958. ‘India’s Cultural Values and Economic Development: A Discussion’, Economic Development and Cultural Change 3: 1–12. Hill, Christopher. 1967. Reformation to Industrial Revolution. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson. Jayawardena, C. 1966. ‘Religious Beliefs and Social Change: Aspects of the Development in British Guiana’, Comparative Studies in Society and History 2: 211–41. Kapp, K.W. 1963. Hindu Culture, Economic Development and Economic Planning in India. Bombay: Asia Publishing House. Kumar, Ravinder. 1968. ‘The New Brahmins of Maharashtra’ in D.A. Low (ed.), Soundings in Modern South Asian History. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson. Mishra, V. 1962. Hinduism and Economic Growth. Bombay: Oxford University Press. Parvathamma, C. 1968. ‘The Socio-economic Drive in Veerasaivism’. Paper presented at the 8th All India Sociological Conference, Agra. Mimeo. Pieris, R. 1968. ‘Economic Development and Ultramundainiety’ in Eisenstadt (ed.), The Protestant Ethic and Modernization. New York: Basic Books. Rao, M.S.A. 1963. ‘Review of Hindu Culture, Economic Development and Economic Planning in India by K.W. Kapp’, Yojana 17: 18. Robertson, H.M. 1933. Aspects of the Rise of Economic Individualism—A Criticism of Max Weber and his School. New York: Kelley and Millman. Samuelson, K. 1961. Religion and Economic Action. Translated by E.C. French. London: William Heinemann. Singer, Milton. 1956. ‘Cultural Values in India’s Economic Development’. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 305. ———. 1966. ‘Religion and Social Change in India: The Max Weber thesis, Phase Three’, Economic Development and Cultural Change 14. Srinivas, M.N. and M.S.A. Rao et al. 1966. ‘A Sociological Study of Okhla Industrial Estate’ in Small Industries and Social Change. Delhi: UNESCO. Stein, Burton. 1959. ‘The Economic Function of a Medieval south Indian Temple’. Journal of Asian Studies 14: 163–76. Tawney, R.H. 1926. Religion and the Rise of Capitalism. London: John Murray. Thurston, E. 1909. Castes and Tribes of Southern India, vol II. Madras: Government Press. Trevor-Roper, H.R. 1964. ‘Religion, the Reformation and Social Change’ in G.A. HayesMaCoy (ed.), Historical Studies. London. Weber, Max. 1958a. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. London: Charles Scribner’s Sons. ———. 1958b. The Religion of India. Translated by Hans Gerth and Don Martindale. New York: Free Press. Yalman, Nur. 1968. ‘Magic’ in International Encyclopaedia of Social Sciences. New York: Free Press.






The Islamic conquest of India was accomplished in the second decade of the eighth century with the fall of Sind and its cultural integration with the Muslim empire. The establishment of Muslim rule in India brought in its train the conversion of a large segment of the local Hindu population. A small number of these conversions was motivated by the desire and the possibility of change in social status through state employment and patronage. Forcible conversion was an exception rather than the rule. The process of conversion which began with the advent of Muslim rule in India should be seen in the context of the social and cultural conditions prevailing in medieval Indian society. The Islamic message of equality and universal human brotherhood was of immense appeal to those sections of Indian society which were groaning under the oppressive weight of the caste system. Added to this fact was the humanitarian approach of the Muslim mystics who attracted millions of people to the fold

*Originally published in the Sociological Bulletin, vol. 26, no. 2, 1977, pp. 242–58.

of Islam. The Sufis set up their khanqahs (hospices) in the midst of areas inhabited by the poor and the oppressed, ate and lived like them and conquered their hearts with their powers of understanding, compassion and humanity. With the settling down of Muslims in India there ensued a process of interaction between Islam and Hinduism. Hindu influences crept into Muslim society through intermarriages between the Arab traders and soldiers and the local Hindu women. On the other hand, the converts to the new faith brought with them their ancestral beliefs and practices, their occupational hierarchy and their caste consciousness. Moreover, the various immigrant groups which settled in India in the wake of the Muslim conquest imbibed the local mores and traditions. This aspect of cultural adaptation has been neatly characterized by Misra (1974: 59– 65) as indigenization. The Muslim mystics played a significant role in the indigenization process. They maintained that Islam should be presented to the Indian people in their own cultural idiom. The Sufis, especially of the Chishtiya order, were the first among the Muslim intellectual elite to interact closely with the Hindu masses. They had an attitude of tolerance and understanding towards Hindus and Hinduism. The success and popularity of the Chishti saints throughout the country was largely due to the fact that they understood the cultural traditions and religious attitudes of the Indian people. They also adopted many Hindu customs and ceremonies (Nizami 1961: 178–80). The Sufi ideal of service to humanity as the essence of faith held a tremendous attraction for the masses. Shaikh Nizamuddin Awliya, a prominent Chishti saint of Delhi, used to say that the highest form of devotion was helping the poor, the distressed, and the downtrodden. Shaikh Hamiduddin Sufi, a disciple of Shaikh Muinuddin Chishti, settled in a small village and led the life of a peasant. He dressed like a typical Indian peasant and was a strict vegetarian. Most of the mystic khanqahs were established outside the caste cities in the midst of the lower sections of the Indian population (ibid.: 261). The Sufis learnt the local languages and conversed with people in their own dialect. This helped in removing the barriers of caste, class and creed. Significantly, the Bhakti movement which emerged as the torchbearer of Hindu-Muslim cultural syncretism in later years was considerably influenced by the humanistic viewpoint of the Sufis.


ISLAMIC TRADITION IN THE INDIAN MILIEU Elsewhere I have attempted (Momin 1976: 5–9) to apply Robert Redfield’s concepts of little and great tradition to the historical evolution of a composite Hindu–Muslim culture. Redfield has characterized these twin traditions as ‘currents of thought and action’. The little tradition consists of folk, unwritten, regional customs and features; the great tradition, on the other hand, consists of the philosophical-literary articulation and reflection of the elite groups. There is a constant interaction between the two traditions (Redfield 1955: 56). The problem with Redfield’s formulation in the Indian context is that the tremendous ethnic, religious and linguistic diversity of the country cannot be adequately subsumed under a single, all inclusive little or great tradition. To rectify this, Dube (1965: 404–26) has offered a six-fold classification of traditions. They are: (a) the classical tradition; (b) the regional tradition; (c) the local tradition; (d) the western tradition; (e) the emergent national tradition; and (f ) the subcultural traditions of special groups. Dube claims that this framework has the merit of being applicable in a comprehensive manner to all sections of Indian population. However, Dube’s classification does not take into account the Indo-Islamic tradition which has an all-India spread and is a product of the historical interaction between Islam and Hinduism in the Indian subcontinent. Yogendra Singh (1973: 66–80) has dwelt at considerable length on the various aspects of the Indo-Islamic tradition, but his formulation is rather inadequate. He speaks of the Islamic Little tradition which, to my mind, does not exist independent of its regional context. The history of the evolution of Indo-Islamic tradition dates from the arrival and settlement of Muslim communities in India since the eighth century. It evolved out of the processes of indigenization and conversion. The Muslims of foreign extraction who settled in India imbibed the local customs and traditions. On the other hand, the converts carried over many cultural features of their earlier faith. The Indo-Islamic tradition has two distinct but interrelated aspects: The Indo-Islamic Little tradition, and the Indo-Islamic Great tradition. The former consists of certain folk customs, rituals and institutions, which are not indigenous to the Islamic faith. Some are even antithetical to its cardinal tenets, such as the existence of caste-like groups among Indian Muslims as well as of numerous beliefs and practices which have been 86 A.R. MOMIN

borrowed from the local Hindu population.The Indo-Islamic Great tradition, on the other hand, consists of the religious and philosophical views of the Sufis, as well as in a certain composite style of art and music, literature and architecture, all of which have a synthetic and syncretic flavour. Besides the Muslim mystics, the Muslim kings also played a significant role in the evolution of the Indo-Islamic tradition.

THE INDO-ISLAMIC LITTLE TRADITION The fact that Indian Muslims have retained a large number of cultural items and features belonging to their pre-conversion days is evidenced in the persistence of beliefs and rituals that are at odds with the Islamic Great Tradition. The Malkans, who are converts from Rajput castes, visit Hindu temples for personal ceremonies and greet each other in the Hindu manner. The Churihars of the Ganges valley worship the Hindu deity Kalka Mai. The Mirasis of north India worship Durga Bhawani. As late as the nineteenth century some Muslims of Bengal worshipped Krishna and Durga. The Khanzada Muslims of Rajputana did not participate in any Hindu festivals or rites, but Brahmins continued to perform their marriage ceremonies. Some Vaishnavite converts retained Hindu social exclusiveness and refused to eat with other Muslims (Aziz Ahmad 1964: 159–60). The Rajput Muslims, as late as the nineteenth century, were not much different from Hindu Rajputs: they practised female infanticide and intermarried with other Rajputs only (Misra 1974). The persistence of Hindu beliefs and practices among Indian Muslims has been documented by sociologists and anthropologists. Thus, in a recent review of empirical studies on patterns of kinship, marriage, and family among Indian Muslims, Imtiaz Ahmad (1976) concludes by saying that the customs and rituals observed by the Muslim communities at the time of marriage are adaptations of the customs and rituals observed by the Hindus within the region. Caste, which is a pervasive phenomenon in Indian social structure, has not left the Indian Muslims unaffected. The caste system is characterized by certain basic features like endogamy, occupational specialization, status hierarchy, and belief in ritual purity and pollution. Sociologists and social anthropologists who have studied the structure and functioning of caste among Indian Muslims point out that the first three features THE INDO-ISLAMIC TRADITION 87

exist in the social structure of Indian Muslims; the notion of purity and pollution is quite weak, determined as it is by regional factors. Another important characteristic of the Hindu caste system, which is not found among Muslims, is the ideological sanction or justification of status inequalities based on birth. In fact, the egalitarian ideology of Islam is opposed to the notion of a pre-ordained hierarchy which is the backbone of caste. The over-all conclusion, therefore, is that there exists a system of caste among Indian Muslims but it differs from the Hindu model in certain crucial respects. The existence of this system is due to the acculturative influence of the surrounding Hindu environment (Imtiaz Ahmad 1973; Dumont 1972). The problem of the existence of caste-like groups among Indian Muslims has to be seen in a historical perspective. The Arab historian-philosopher, Ibn Khaldun, has noted that the people of pre-Islamic Arabia were overly conscious of superiority based on birth and descent. The dominant motif of pre-Islamic Arab solidarity was asabiva (group centredness). Though Islamic egalitarianism struck at the roots of this group centredness, it could never be totally obliterated from Arab consciousness. In the course of time, when the Arabs emerged as conquerors and rulers, this deeply entrenched sentiment reasserted itself and found expression in Arab imperialism based on racial superiority. This phenomenon was evidenced in the seventh century when the Arabs marched into distant lands as conquerors. The conquest brought in its wake interaction with the subdued groups as well as their conversion to the new faith. However, the converts could never get a status equal to that of the Arabs. The Iranian Muslims came to be known as mawali (subservient) and the Spaniards as biladivun (natives). This distinction gradually led to the emergence of a stratified society. Coupled with this was the fact that the Iranians, who were also very conscious of status gradations, brought with them their traditional ideas of hierarchy and nobility. To quote Ansari (1960: 29): The division of Persian society into four major groups has been continuous since the Avestan period. These four classes, of priest, warrior, commoner, and serf, correspond almost identically to Indian varna .... Islam, though proclaiming the message of equality and universal brotherhood, had to surrender in the face of established and deep-rooted institution of social segregation in Persia. In India the zenith of Muslim power was witnessed during the thirteenth century. The Turkish and Persian rulers of the Delhi Sultanate were very 88 A.R. MOMIN

conscious of their racial superiority. They did not like the idea of appointing the local Muslims in high civil and military posts. Both Iltutmish and Balban treated the Indian Muslims with contempt and ignored even merit among the non-Turks (Ashraf 1959: 62–63; Nizami 1961: 105). The soldiers, poets and scholars of foreign extraction who settled in India in the wake of the Muslim conquest, looked down upon the local Muslims. They lived a secluded life in separate localities and married only among themselves (Majumdar 1960: 608). The question of the existence of caste among Indian Muslims also related to the process of indigenization. This is reflected in the immigration and settlement of the Pathans in the fifteenth century. They formed the core of the soldiery and second-tier nobility under the Sultans during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. By the close of the fifteenth century, the Pathans, who originally had an egalitarian tribal structure, developed a military-rentier, land oriented oligarchy. This brought about changes in their social relationships and kinship organization. It created a hierarchy according to which the surplus from the land was shared and the command handed down (Misra 1974: 59–65).




The Imperial Gazetteer of India (1907) mentions the division of Muslim communities in India into Ashraf and Ajlaf. The former included four ethnic groups of foreign extraction: Sayyid, Shaikh, Mughal, Pathan. The Ajlaf, on the other hand, included the artisan and service castes including weavers, cobblers, butchers, potters, bangle-sellers and scavengers. These castes are converts from Hinduism and have retained their pre-conversion occupations. The untouchable castes like the scavengers are not allowed to enter mosques or shrines. Other Muslim castes normally do not accept food from them. Both the Ashraf and Ajlaf castes are hierarchically arranged. Several observers have noted the tendency among the low castes to emulate the lifestyle, behaviour patterns, and manners of the high castes, mainly with the motivation to rise in the social hierarchy. This tendency should seem natural in view of the affluence, power, and prestige commanded by the high castes in the Muslim social structure. Cora Vreede de Stuers (1968: 6) has referred to this process as Ashrafization. She has THE INDO-ISLAMIC TRADITION 89

rightly drawn a distinction between Ashrafization, which is a mechanism of status mobility, and Islamization through which Muslim groups attempt to distinguish themselves from non-Muslims by purifying themselves of the supposedly un-Islamic customs and practices. The customs, habits, and rituals of high-caste Muslims, who serve as a reference model for the aspiring members of low castes, need not necessarily be Islamic in character. Nevertheless, they are adopted by the mobile groups in order to identify themselves with Muslims of high social rank and partake of the honour and privileges accorded to the latter. Ansari (1960: 38) has called such individuals and groups pseudo-Ashraf. Zarina Ahmad reports that in Uttar Pradesh, ‘As soon as a lower class Muslim makes money, he puts his women in purdah (a practice observed only by the Ashraf), starts going to communal prayers in the mosque and goes to Mecca for pilgrimage’ (Zarina Ahmad 1962: 332). There is a consequent change in occupation, caste surname, manners, and marriage relationships. Some castes, which are converts from Hinduism, have claimed foreign ancestry. The Julahas (weaver caste) in eastern Uttar Pradesh call themselves Ansari Shaikhs and claim to be descendants of Abu Ansar, a companion of Prophet Muhammad. The butchers similarly call themselves Quraishi Shaikhs (Imtiaz Ahmad 1976: 329). The convert Kayastha caste has transformed itself into Shaikh Siddiques, claiming descent from Abu Bakr Siddique, a close companion and father-in-law of Muhammad (Imtiaz Ahmad 1973: 157–94). With changes in the socio-economic structure caused by industrialization, urbanization, and social mobility, as well as by certain legislative measures introduced by the government, a number of high-caste groups among the Muslims find it difficult to engage in, or continue with, their traditional occupations. At the same time, some of the traditionally lowcaste groups have become economically and politically dominant. In some cases, the sheer force of circumstances has led the high-caste groups to take to the occupations of the low-caste groups, occupations they considered lowly and unseemly in the heyday of their power and affluence. This phenomenon somewhat parallels what Majumdar (1958: 336–39) has described as the process of de-Sanskritization in Hindu society. Majumdar has stressed that the concept of de-Sanskritization is far more significant and suggestive in understanding the dynamics of social change in India than that of Sanskritization. A somewhat similar process, de-Ashrafization as I have called it elsewhere (Momin 1977), is underway in contemporary Muslim social structure in India. It indicates a tendency among high-caste Muslims to adopt the 90 A.R. MOMIN

customs and features of the traditionally low-caste groups which have become economically and politically dominant. Change of occupation in line with that of the low-caste groups and a willingness to establish marital relations with the latter, as well as changes in the pattern of interaction and commensality, are some of the most important features of the deAshrafization process. I formulated this concept in the course of my field study of social stratification among the Muslims of Bhiwandi, an industrial township in Maharashtra. Bhiwandi is one of the few industrial and urban centres in the country where Muslims dominate both numerically and economically. The Muslim population of the town is divided into two major ethnic groups: Kokni Muslims who claim to be descendants of early Arab migrants, and Momins, who are descendants of the Julaha (weaver) caste of Uttar Pradesh. Whereas the Kokni Muslims are the indigenous residents of Bhiwandi, the Momins are an immigrant group, having left their native place in the aftermath of the Revolt of 1857. The Kokni Muslims and the Momins constitute two distinct ethnic groups. The former are generally fair in complexion. They speak Kokni, a dialect which is structurally akin to Marathi, the language spoken by the local Hindus, but has a large stock of Arabic and Persian words. Their womenfolk observe strict purdah. Until recently, they used to deal in forest produce, paddy and dairy products. Consequently, they were quite well-off. The Momins, on the other hand, speak Poorbi, a dialect of Hindustani, the lingua franca of the country. There are sub-divisions among them, but they constitute an endogamous biradari (fraternal community). After their arrival in Bhiwandi over a century ago, the Momins started working on the handloom, which was their traditional occupation. They were economically and educationally backward; they had the proverbial rustic simplicity. Initially, the attitude of the Kokni Muslims towards the Momins was largely one of contempt and derision; their occupation was considered lowly and unclean. On account of their affluence and contact with British forest officers, the Kokni Muslims quite early took to westernization and modern education. In 1921 an influential and enterprising businessman from amongst the Momins took the bold step of installing power looms in Bhiwandi. Initially, this was resented by the community as it was feared that it would result in automation and the resultant unemployment of thousands of handloom weavers. However, the resistance got weakened as many more went in for the power loom. It consequently led to an industrial revolution in the town. During the last 15 to 20 years industrialization has transformed the economic base of Bhiwandi. It has emerged as a flourishing centre of THE INDO-ISLAMIC TRADITION 91

the textile industry in Maharashtra. The Momins, who were hitherto poor and backward, emerged as an economically dominant group. The rise of the Momins to affluence and prosperity coincided with an unexpected decline in the economic resources of the Kokni Muslims. Certain legislative measures introduced by the State Government deprived them of their virtual monopoly of forest contracts. Forest contracts now began to be allotted to cooperative societies instead of individuals. Since the forest business was the backbone of the economic structure of the community, this development affected the Kokni Muslims deeply. At the same time, the Kokni Muslims were struck by the rapid prosperity and advancement of the Momins. This, as well as the economic reverses suffered by the community, gradually led to a change in their attitude towards the power loom industry. They began to feel that if they did not take advantage of the situation they would lag far behind. Old prejudices and status consciousness die hard and it is interesting to note that the first Kokni Muslim, Haji Mian Patel, who took to the power loom industry was scoffed at and called a Julaha by his own people. Gradually, however, as they began reaping the harvest, a good number disposed of their rice fields and vacant premises in order to install power looms. Portions of the large Kokni houses were let out to Momin as well as to Gujarati and Marwari businessmen for the same purpose. Industrialization made a dent in the segregation and concentration of the Kokni Muslims who used to be clustered in separate localities. There has consequently been a good deal of interpenetration and the old isolationism is gradually giving way, creating more chances of intermingling and interaction. The Momins, who have emerged as an economically dominant group, have also advanced considerably in education. Though the attitude of the Kokni Muslims has undergone certain changes and there is now considerable interaction and mutual awareness between the two groups, there has been no case of intermarriage between the Kokni Muslims and the Momins. However, with improved living conditions in Momin households brought about by prosperity, education and a measure of westernization, some Kokni Muslims are prepared to give their daughters in marriage to eligible Momin boys. There are signs that before long hesitation and apprehension on this score will wither away and there will be regular marriages between the two groups. The above discussion underscores the point that the Kokni Muslims who belong to the traditional Ashraf category have been compelled by changed circumstances to take to the supposedly lowly occupation of the Momins, who would fall in the Ajlaf category. Not only that, they are 92 A.R. MOMIN

also prepared to establish marital relations with the latter. This change in attitude has been effected by the rise of the Momins to affluence and prosperity brought about by industrialization. This constituted the crux of the de-Ashrafization process. Some scholars have noted that the Ashraf-Ajlaf dichotomy into which the Indian Muslim population is supposedly divided, does not offer a realistic and adequate picture of status gradations and caste distinctions among Muslims at the regional level. Thus, Imtiaz Ahmad (1966: 268– 78) has observed that this dichotomy is comparable to the varna system among the Hindus, but its relevance for understanding the local or regional rank of castes is considerably limited. At the regional level, the social groups among Muslims are ranked on the basis of mutual interaction. He concludes by saying that the Ashraf and Ajlaf categories do not constitute meaningful units of distinction for the study of social stratification among Indian Muslims. This conclusion is substantiated by empirical observations. In Eastern Uttar Pradesh, the rank of each caste, with the exception of the Sayyids, is based on its position within the local economic and political structure. The Shaikhs, who would rank below the Sayyids according to the traditional hierarchy, occupy a position equal to the Rajput Muslim, a group whose Hindu antecedents are still widely known (Imtiaz Abroad 1973: 157–94). Normally, the Ashraf or the high-caste groups among Muslims consider it beneath their dignity to give their daughters in marriage to the Ajlaf. However, in Takli, a village in the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra, this pattern is reversed. The Patels, who are descendants of Hindu converts and therefore fall in the Ajlaf category, do not consider it fitting to establish marital relations either with the Sayyids or the Pathans (Patel and Momin 1977). I suggest that the Ashraf-Ajlaf dichotomy may not be treated as indicative of existential categories, having a uniform, all-India spread; instead, the focus should be on the regional manifestations of caste distinctions and the way they are being undermined by the impact of industrialization, urbanization, educational expansion and politicization. However, for the purposes of understanding and examining these changes, the Ashraf-Ajlaf dichotomy may be treated as an analytical one. The twin processes of Ashrafization and de-Ashrafization, which can help us immensely in the analysis of socio-cultural change in Muslim social structure, are derived from this analytical dichotomy. What I wish to emphasize is that it is not the empirical, existential dichotomy of Ashraf and Ajlaf but the analytical THE INDO-ISLAMIC TRADITION 93

and heuristic one which is meaningful in the context of change in contemporary Muslim social structure in India.

THE INDO-ISLAMIC GREAT TRADITION The interaction between Islam and Hinduism also found expression in certain religious views and philosophical reflections, as well as in art and music, literature and architecture, all of which had a synthetic and syncretic flavour. This aspect of the Hindu-Muslim cultural confluence comprises the Indo-Islamic Great tradition. When the Mongols destroyed the Islamic cultural centres of Central and Western Asia in the middle of the thirteenth century, a large number of poets, scholars and artisans migrated to Muslim India and were patronized by the rulers of the Delhi Sultanate. It was in this pluralistic and syncretic atmosphere that the poetry of Amir Khusrau and a composite style of music and architecture developed. Contrary to the contemporary style of Persian poetry in India, Khusrau sang of his native land, its flora and fauna, and its women. He completely identified himself with Indian culture. He also composed verses in Hindvi, a prototype of Urdu and Hindi. Khusrau’s syncretism was but a reflection of the tolerant and broad-minded attitude of the Sufis, whose approach was influenced by the humanistic concept of ontological monism (wahdat-al-wujud). This doctrine believes at the metaphysical level in the essential oneness of all existence and at the human level in the unity of mankind. The Sufis and their disciples looked at the Indian Great Tradition with sympathetic eyes. Thus, Dara Shikoh, who was a devotee of the Qadiriya order, believed that the Upanishads and the Vedas are divinely inspired. He went so far as to regard the Upanishads as the mainspring of all monotheism (Aziz Ahmad 1964: 191–96). Mirza Mazhar Jan-e-Janan, who was a Naqshbandiya saint, also regarded the Vedas as divine revelation and Hindus, who had their revealed scriptures and prophets like other people of the Book, as monotheists. He even condoned idolatry among them as a means of concentration on God (ibid.: 138–39). Even Shah Abdul Aziz Dehlavi, who belonged to the fundamentalist Waliullahi household, regarded Krishna among the Awliya (saints) (ibid.: 139). The mystics incorporated quite a few elements and features of the Hindu tradition into the corpus of their liturgy (Aziz Ahmad 1969: 34–43). 94 A.R. MOMIN

One of the most forceful expressions of the Indo-Islamic Great Tradition is to be found in the development of a composite style of Indian music. Indian music, immensely rich as it was, made a deep impression on the Muslim immigrants: Under the benevolent patronage of the Delhi Sultans, and with the encouragement of the Chishti saints, a new style of music came to flourish in north India. The main credit for this cultural synthesis goes to Amir Khusrau. He tried to amalgamate the Persian and Indian systems of music. He also invented a number of melodies. Later, several indigenous styles of music developed in Jaunpur, Gwalior, and Gujarat (Ikram 1964: 191–96). The syncretic influences engendered by the process of indigenization also shaped a composite style of architecture. The local Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist styles were incorporated into the architectural designs of palaces, forts, and shrines (Tara Chand 1936: 229–57). Another embodiment of the Indo-Islamic Great Tradition is the Urdu language. Of its 55,000-word vocabulary, 42,000 are of purely Hindi stock and the remaining 13,000 come from Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, English and other languages (Mahmud 1949: 35). In the development of Urdu it is interesting to note that the earliest known sentences of Hindvi, the early form of Urdu, are found in the mystic records. In all probability, the birthplace of Urdu was the khanqah of the medieval Sufis (Nizami 1961: 264). In its similes, metaphors, and idioms, Urdu enshrines the finest aspects of the indigenization process. Another interesting aspect of the development of Urdu is that a host of Hindu poets and writers contributed to its richness. Such illustrious litterateurs as Daya Shankar Naseem, Tribhuvan Nath Hijr, Jagat Mohanlal Rawan, Dattatreya Kaifi, Tilokchand Mahroom, Josh Malsiani, Chakbast, Firaq Gorakhpori, and Prem Chand are household names in Urdu literature. The Indo-Islamic Great Tradition is also reflected in the Muslim contribution to Hindi literature. No adequate account of the development of the Hindi language may be written without listing the contributions of Ras Khan, Rahiman, and Mulla Vajhi.

ISLAMIZATION The process of syncretism and synthesis which was encouraged by the Sufis, was not always a smooth affair. Off and on there was a reaction against syncretic attempts, especially from the fundamentalist ulama, who THE INDO-ISLAMIC TRADITION 95

wanted to cleanse Islam of all foreign accretions. To a large extent, this was a reflection of the perennial tug of war between the Sufis and the ulama. Whereas the ulama emphasized scholastic formalism and doctrinal shibboleths, the Sufis underscored service to humanity as the essence of religion. Even some mystic orders, such as the Naqshbandiya, reacted against the spread of un-Islamic tendencies among the Muslims during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Thus, Khwaja Baqi Billah (1563– 1603) and Mujaddid Alf Sani (1564–1624) rose against the Hinduization of Islam in India. The latter was particularly opposed to any cultural fusion between Islam and Hinduism. Shah Waliullah Dehlavi (1703–62) who was mainly responsible for the regeneration of Islam in India, was also opposed to excessive syncretism. He, however, avoided the extreme position which was taken by his later followers. Sayyid Ahmad Barelvi, who was a disciple of Shah Abhul Aziz, launched the movement of the Mujahideen. One of its principal objectives was to purify Islam of all the extraneous elements borrowed from Hinduism as well as from other sources. It developed into a religiopolitical organization with a network of centres in villages and towns (Aziz Ahmad 1969: 9–10). The Ahl-i-Hadith movement, which emerged in the nineteenth century, and the Tableegh movement, which originated during the early part of the twentieth century, were opposed to all innovations (bida) and regarded them as antithetical to the spirit of Islam. The various revivalist movements which emerged from time to time were influenced by the puritanical ideas of the Arab reformer, Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab. One of these movements was launched by Haji Shariatullah in Bengal during the nineteenth century. The Faraidi movement, as it later came to be known, spread among the Muslim peasants in Bengal. Such was the historical backdrop for the process of Islamization. Islamization has been used in two major senses. First, it denotes the tendency among Indian Muslims to drop customs and features which are held to be un-Islamic. Second, it refers to the historical process in which many Hindu communities and castes borrowed cultural features of the Muslims like dress, food habits, and customs. The Kayasthas, Khatris, the Pandits of Kashmir, and the Amils of Sind are said to have Islamized themselves this way (Singh 1973: 79–80). However, in this sense, the use of the term Islamization is not appropriate because the various Muslim groups which settled in India did not have a uniform lifestyle. Moreover, their diverse lifestyles cannot be equated with the Islamic one. The first use of the term is sociologically significant. The process of Islamization, the historical background of which I have sketched above, 96 A.R. MOMIN

is still underway in the Muslim social structure in India. It can be observed among the Meos of Rajasthan, for example. The Meos were converted to Islam in the fifteenth century, but they continued with their traditional Rajput practices. After Independence, they have awakened to a new sense of identity. They began giving up Hindu practices and took to Islamic ways. They built new mosques; they have changed their style of dress and have begun to eat meat. Aggarwal (1966: 159–67) who has studied the changing pattern of Meo social life says that, ‘It is not at all an exaggeration to say that the Meos have adopted more of Islamic practices in the last 17 years than they had in the previous 450 years.’ Generally, Islamization has been regarded as the handmaiden of economic and social mobility: it involved attempts on the part of individuals and groups to rise in the economic and social hierarchy by adopting the supposedly Islamic customs and practices of the high-caste Muslims. In this sense, the process is structurally akin to Ashrafization. The process of Islamization entails certain cultural and religious factors which are embedded in the broader religious or pan-Islamic identity of Indian Muslims. Mines (1975: 404–19) rightly pleads for an approach which treats Islamization as a cultural, rather than a structural, phenomenon. In his study of Islamization among the Muslims of Tamil Nadu, he has observed that the Muslim Tamils have lived in a harmonious relationship with their Hindu neighbours for centuries, but in recent years have sought to differentiate themselves culturally. In the process they have undergone Islamization and have emerged as a distinctive ethnic community in Tamil Nadu. He points out that while commonly, ethnicity is explained in terms of an adaptation to political and economic competition, Muslim ethnicity in Tamil Nadu has emerged in response to internal needs to establish and maintain their religious identity. In my own study of social stratification among the Muslims of Bhiwandi, I found that Islamization among the Kokni Muslims was a reflection of their attempts at establishing a religiocultural identity within the matrix of the larger Indian Muslim community.

CONCLUSION In the foregoing I have suggested the framework of the Indo-Islamic Little and Great Traditions. The framework is historical in character and can be fruitfully employed in the analysis of significant processes like THE INDO-ISLAMIC TRADITION 97

Islamization, Ashrafization, and de-Ashrafization. I have maintained that though the processes of Ashrafization, and de-Ashrafization are parallel, it is the latter that can serve as a major indicator of change in contemporary Muslim social structure in India. Finally, I have pointed out that the Ashraf-Ajlaf dichotomy cannot be accepted as an existential and empirical one because, for one thing, it has no uniform all-India spread and, for another, it does not throw sufficient light on the regional variations of Muslim social stratification. The dichotomy, however, can be employed as an analytical, heuristic one in order to understand and examine the nature, extent, and direction of change among Indian Muslims. Generally, there have been two trends in the study of the social institutions and customs of Indian Muslims. Some scholars have relied exclusively on historical records and census reports, without considering the question whether the empirical situation accords with the historical account or there are significant deviations from it. The Ashraf-Ajlaf dichotomy, which was taken from historical literature, was uncritically employed to examine caste distinctions at various levels. However, the empirical situation at the regional or local level quite often does not conform to this ideal dichotomy and in fact presents quite a different picture with regard to social stratification. The second approach concentrates exclusively on field research, without linking the field data with the historical background of the region or the country as a whole. It tends to explain institutions and processes in the light of the empirical material alone, or worse still, to relate the anomalies and complexities of the empirical situation to various aspects of the Islamic Great Tradition. This approach has dominated certain sociological and social anthropological studies of caste among Indian Muslims. Regrettably, this approach does not take into account the fact that historical circumstances have been very crucial in shaping the social structure and cultural features of Indian Muslims. I have tried to bridge the gap between these two approaches. My contention is that it is only through a juxtaposition of historical and empirical perspectives that we can gain a realistic and adequate understanding of Muslim social structure in India.


REFERENCES Aggarwal, P.C. 1966. ‘A Muslim Sub-Caste of North India’, Economic and Political Weekly 1(3). Ahmad, Aziz. 1964. Studies in Islamic Culture in the Indian Environment. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ———. 1969. An Intellectual History of Islam in India. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Ahmad, Imtiaz. 1966. ‘The Ashraf-Ajlaf Dichotomy in Muslim Social Structure in India’, The Indian Economic and Social History Review 3(1): 268–78. ———. (ed.). 1973. Caste and Social Stratification among the Muslims. Delhi: Manohar Book Service. ———. (ed.). 1976. Family Kinship and Marriage among Muslims in India. Delhi: Manohar Book Service. Ahmad, Zarina. 1962. ‘Muslim Castes in Uttar Pradesh’, The Economic Weekly 14: 325– 57. Ansari, Ghaus. 1960. Muslim Caste in Uttar Pradesh: A Study in Culture Contact. Lucknow: Ethnographic and Folk Culture Society. Ashraf, K.M. 1959. Life and Conditions of the People of Hindustan. Delhi: Jeevan Prakashan. Chand, Tara. 1936. Influence of Islam on Indian Culture. Allahabad: The Indian Press. de Stuers, Cora Vreede. 1968. Parda: A Study of Muslim Women’s Life in Northern India. Essen: Van Grokun and Co. Dube, S.C. 1965. ‘The Study of Complex Cultures’ in T.K.N. Unnithan, Indra Deva and Yogendra Singh (eds), Towards a Sociology of Culture in India. New Delhi: PrenticeHall. Dumont, Louis. 1972. Homo Hierarchicus: The Caste System and its Implications. London: Paladin. Ikram, S.M. 1964. Muslim Civilization in India. New York: Columbia University Press. Mahmud, Syed 1949. Hindu Muslim Cultural Accord. Bombay: Vora and Company. Majumdar, D.N. 1958. Caste and Communication in an Indian Village. Bombay: Asia Publishing House. Majumdar, R.C. 1960. The Delhi Sultanate. Delhi: Bhartiya Vidya Bhawan. Mines, Mattison. 1975. ‘Islamization and Muslim Ethnicity in South India’, Man 10: 3. Misra, S.C. 1974. ‘Indigenization and Islamization in Indian History’, Secular Democracy VII. Momin, A.R. 1976. ‘The Muslim Intellectual in India’, Islam and the Modern Age 7(4): 117–40. ———. 1977. ‘Muslim Caste in an Industrial Township of Maharashtra’, in Imtiaz Ahmad (ed.), Caste and Social Stratification among the Muslims (second revised edition). Delhi: Manohar Book Service. Nizami, K.A. 1961. Some Aspects of Religion and Politics in India in the thirtheenth Century. Delhi: Idara-e-Isha’ at-e-Adabeiyat (new edition published by Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2002). Patel, M.A. and A.R. Momin. 1977. ‘Caste among Muslims: The Case of Takli’, Times of India, 16 January. Redfield, Robert. 1995. ‘The Social Organization of Tradition’, Far Eastern Quarterly 15: 13–21. Singh, Yogendra. 1973. Modernization of Indian Tradition. Delhi: Thomson Press.




Indian ethnicity, as elsewhere, has been more of a paradox than an enigma.1 Crystallization of group consciousness into political identities such as regionalism, linguism, communalism etc., owes as much to British colonialism as to the genesis of Indian nationalism.2 To causally delink one from the other is to falsify history. The relationship, however, is not one of contingency but of a dialectical interaction between the two. The decision to adopt a secular state in 1947 was indeed a strange choice, though not an inexplicable one. It came at a time when the subcontinent was going through the trauma of partition protocols with its Islamic neighbour, culminating in violent Hindu-Muslim riots. Stranger still, was the 1956 linguistic parcelling of the country. This doomed the cause of a monolithic national identity even before it was born. The greatest of the paradoxical milestones is the inherent contradiction between secularism and democracy. The numerical preponderance of Hindus in the newly established institutions of development apparently made a myth of the equal opportunity dogma for the smaller religious groups, ambiguously termed as minorities.3 Hence, rather than getting relegated to *Originally published in the Sociological Bulletin, vol. 33, nos 1 and 2, 1984, pp. 99–122.

the footnotes of history (as visualized by the architects of modern India like Nehru), the resilience of ethnicity became a paradigm of everyday life. Its far-reaching ramifications within the framework of political economy are an outcome of diverse factors, the foundations of which were laid in the early nineteenth century with the British annexation of India. Before we proceed with the substantives, some sensitization to theoretical developments in the domain of ethnicity is attempted below.

I ETHNICITY: SOME THEORETICAL ISSUES What is ethnicity? Is it an objective category or a subjective process of awareness stemming from certain environmental conditions? These considerations have been a matter of prolonged and persistent debate among the specialists in the field. The clash of viewpoints arises mainly from a controversial conceptualization of the ethnic phenomenon. Scholarly opinion has been divided between the Primordialists and Instrumentalists over the nature of motives underlying ethnic dynamics. Primordialists like Geertz, Enloe, etc., view ethnicity as ‘natural’, ‘given’ and an a priori reality. Hence the formation of political identity from parochial loyalties is believed to be conditioned by natural law. The familiar view that piety and politics are inseparable in Islam is a classic case of the primordialist perspective. The unwarranted extrapolation of an ideology into identity based on certain aprioristic assumptions, however, leaves much to be desired in the light of empirical truths.4 Conceiving ethnicity as an emergent process of power struggles, the Instrumentalists believe that cultural factors are epiphenomenal to the process under concern. The phenomenon of ‘unmeltable ethnics’ is believed to be either conflict of interests between and within states or vintages of class societies that pass off with socialism (Glazer and Moynihan 1963; Schrag 1973; Stalin 1935). However, the widening hiatus between theory and reality in the light of ethno-national resurgence as a viable model for self-determination and progress has exposed the existing lacunae and has suggested an urgent need for rethinking as well (Srinivasan 1982). One such attempt at ETHNIC PROCESS AND MINORITY IDENTITY 101

revamping prevailing theories has been undertaken in this paper by adopting a phenomenological approach to the study of ‘ethnicity’ as a social reality. Ethnicity is one way of defining social reality and hence a social construct of the human mind. Such as definition remains taken for granted so long as the reality is perceived to be the same (Berger and Luckmann 1966: 194–204). However, any change in the reality as experienced and perceived by the people calls for a new stock of categories to redefine the new reality and identify the self with it.5 Phenomenologically viewed, such a process of redefinition constitutes the generation of new knowledge, so as to resolve the contradictions inherent between theoretical and practical aspects of everyday life. Changes in reality-definitions can be necessitated by the autonomy of ideological influences (impinging on material structures) or due to contradictions within the material infrastructure or both at the same time. Customary monocausal theorizing of ethnicity (as either collective conscience or political praxis) had unfortunately mystified the reality that is inherently multi-definitional. In order to encapsulate the multiple dimensions within the analytical scope of a single theory, our focus shifts to the structuralist notion of totality (of social structures), and the formula that contradiction within a single structure cannot be located exclusively at one level, but is compounded by contradictions specific to every other level of the structure that is determined in the last instance by the economy (Althusser 1969). The phenomenon of over-determination of structures as elucidated by Althusser makes the totality not a two-tier deterministic affair but one of multiple layers, each with its own momentum in the historical process of society as a whole. For instance, secularism as an egalitarian ideology contradicts communalism; the contradictions, however, must not be located in the class character of the state alone, but also in other structures of production that are still in pre-capitalist formations such as the feudal dependency of Muslim refugee labour on non-Muslim landlords or in the social basis of political parties, etc. Thus, the totality perspective of the nation-state also functions as the historical critique of the mode of production and its uneven spread over the relations between the various structures of society (Poulantzas 1973). The mediating force however is the material relations and the social class practices articulated by individuals in terms of caste, religion, region or language to confront or conquer similar forces from other layers of the social structure. Ethnic processes are therefore to be viewed as class practices articulating new definitions of a reality so as to seek new identities as power groups.6 The term ‘class’ 102 NIRMALA SRINIVASAN

is used here in the political sense and not as a cataloguing category. ‘It is defined by men as they live their own history and, in the end, this is the only definition’ (Thompson in Das 1984: 1616). The ethnic process in India is made up of a multi-structured layer of such definitions including communalism, linguism and regionalism, prompting Anil Seal to wonder: ‘In so shapeless, so jumbled a bundle of societies, there were not two nations, there was not one nation, there was no nation at all. What was India—a graveyard of old nationalities and the mother of new nationalisms struggling to be born’ (Seal 1971: 339). Given the fact that ethnic structure is itself composed of many contradictory layers of pressure groups, any study of ethnic process must attempt to unravel the eth-class forces underlying the dynamic change from one level of identity to another, imparting a collective character to the group itself.7 Accordingly, in this paper, we shall see the compounded effect of various structural determinants (both at the level of beliefs and behaviour) that impinged on a ‘reality’ so as to project Muslims and Christians as two polar models of national minorities—the former as the prototype of a volatile, violent, hostile and fanatic minority and the latter as peace-loving, non-violent, assimilatory and progressive. Our analysis shall be a comparative study of Muslim and Christian communalism during the nationalist movement in Uttar Pradesh.

II MUSLIMS AND CHRISTIANS: PROFILES OF HISTORY SINCE 1857 The present state of Uttar Pradesh constituted part of the North West Provinces and Oudh under the British Raj. Until British annexation of Oudh in 1856, it came under the dynamic rule of the Nawabs. Lucknow flourished as the cultural and political epicentre of the Nawabi empire and had a distinctive character of its own that displayed a greater elan for court culture and communal harmony than palace politics. Nawabization was a dominant symbol of collective identity for the Lucknowas and the famous ‘tehzib’ of Lucknow constituted its core. Such an ethos of an integrated culture was however non-existent outside Lucknow. To ETHNIC PROCESS



highlight the unique and eschew the general is to over-simplify the history of ethnicity in the province as a whole. Yet to overlook the peculiarities of Lucknow’s ethnic profiles under a general sweep is to miss the quintessence of communal history relevant to our enquiry. We shall therefore adopt the judicious via media, so that geography and sociology do not work at cross-purposes. Nostalgia for the bygone days is ubiquitous to all native Lucknowas. However, today we see an emaciated phenomenon in the British India Association of taluqdars and the ‘two-penny’ wasikdaris.8 As a political recluse cut off from its 1ogical environment, ‘nawabi’ nostalgia for art and music continued to impress upon the minds of Lucknowas even during the height of communal fury gripping the rest of the United Provinces in the early nineteenth century. Lucknow was therefore described by Murphy as a low-tension city (Murphy 1953). However, it goes to the credit of Sir Henry Lawrence, the Commissioner of Oudh in the Mutiny days, to have discovered that an unmistakable veneer shrouded the aura of aesthetics and grandeur which prompted him call it ‘Husk Culture’.9 Hence the court culture was an illusory (not false) image of the real that resulted in reifying people’s identity from their everyday existence. To explode the myth is to study the structural forces that projected Lucknow and the rest of the United Provinces as dichotomous models of communal relations. At the time of British annexation of Oudh, Lucknow was under the minority rule of Shia Nawabs.10 As rulers, the patronage of the Nawabs since Siraj-ud-Daula’s days seemed to have not been influenced by considerations of birth and faith (D’Souza 1982). Recorded history indicates that despite its smaller size, the Muslim Community of the North West Provinces and Oudh had been ‘as a whole more influential, more prosperous and better educated than co-religionists in any other province of British India’(Seal 1971: 303). The community was mostly town-dwelling and of the rural Muslims, many were landlords unlike the typical Muslim peasant of Bengal. The annexation followed by the Mutiny disempowered the Shia Nawabs and brought in certain major administrative changes that had a far-reaching economic and political impact. These were as follows: 1. The consolidation of land under the Thomason’s Land Settlement Act created a new class of landed aristocracy (among whom were Hindus, Rajputs, Kayasthas, Shia nobles and Sunnis as well) known as the ‘taluqdars’. Realizing their political clout the British 104 NIRMALA SRINIVASAN

did not punish them for their disloyalty during the upheaval. On the contrary, they were blessed with generous titles of hereditary rights over land. Thus access to power shifted from the cultural precincts of the Court to ownership of land and titles. 2. The political ascent of Sunnis (who were larger in numbers than Shias) was marked by the outbreak of the first Shia-Sunni riots in 1888 known as the Azan Case. This was indeed an incredible development on the communal frontier because during the Nawabi days Sunnis and Hindus are believed to have been keen participants in the celebration of Muharram.11 The anti-Shia stance of Sunnis marks the beginning of sectarianism in Lucknow and is a direct outcome of the downfall of Shia hegemony over local culture. This has to be viewed against the backdrop of the rift between Shias and Sunnis from the days of the Prophet. 3. Hindu-Muslim politics had not emerged even as a nascent phenomenon because the Hindu taluqdars shared local dominance and common culture with Muslim taluqdars most of whom were converts. Besides taluqdars interestingly, Muslims and Hindus had not emerged as competitive forces even in the domain of public service. Inspite of being outnumbered by Hindus, ‘the Muhammadans as a class belong to the middle and higher strata, the latter possess much more than the share of government employment which their numbers would give them and are comparatively a thriving and energetic element in society’ (Lyall 1882: 337). Unlike Muslims, Christians were perceived by the people of the province as alien to the local Court culture and etiquette. They were the ‘outsiders’, all the more because of identification with the British conquerors. Roman Catholicism entered Oudh as the religion of the Irish soldiers stationed in the British garrisons at Agra and Meerut. Siraj-ud-Daula’s patronage of the Catholic Missionaries resulted in the offer of 20 bhigas of land at Golaganj where the first Catholic Church was established, only to be destroyed by rebellious natives in 1857. The subsequent expansion of the army called for more military chaplains and hence two Catholic churches, one at Hazratganj and the other at Dilkusha came up (D’Souza 1982). A Church historian comments that ‘the British conquest of India from its very beginning had opened new era of the history of the Church in the whole of India. It was very profitable to missionary work in the country’ (D’Souza 1982: 58–59). As Muharram symbolized the relationship ETHNIC PROCESS



between Hindus, Shias and Sunnis during the preceding era of benevolent Asiatic despotism, so Christianity as an Indian mission stood like an apostle of colonialism in the subcontinent. Thus when Major General Sleeman (Commissioner of Delhi) enquired from Fr Gregario on the progress of the church in conversion, the priest replied, ‘what progress can we ever hope to make among a people who the moment we begin to tell them of the miracles of Christ talk of those infinitely more wonderful performances of Krishna’ (Sleeman 1893: 337). Protestantism enjoyed the patronage of the Raj more because it was the religion of the Crown, whereas Catholicism was the faith of the soldiers in Her Majesty’s army. Stories of the better protection and care given to Protestant churches after the 1857 uprising and grievances of discrimination expressed by Catholic priests have been recorded in early missionary chronicles. The Protestant missionaries did not however confine themselves to the garrisons. Their proselytizing spirit started as a people’s movement in Allahabad with 25 missionaries (Hollister 1956). In a matter of two years between 1857 and 1859, the mission had already spread to Meerut, Agra and Lucknow despite the setback of the Mutiny. Incidentally, the first convert in Lucknow was from a Muslim family (Hollister 1953). The phenomenon of conversion is a splendid illustration of structural over-determination. The Christian converts were in a way an alteration of one caste into a community, though in terms of religious hardware, there was a well-defined rift between Hinduism and Christianity. The contradiction between the new world view (of Christianity) and the old one (as low-caste untouchables) could be partially resolved by seeking a new identity, with an alien group. Conversions therefore symbolize the spillover effects of caste into eth-class identity under the guise of a new religion. It was political at one level (vis-à-vis the Hindu upper castes) but cultural at another level (vis-à-vis the missionaries) at least in the initial stages. The process was further intensified with the launching of Christian mass movements, spearheaded by the Mazhabi Sikhs and Sweepers in the United Provinces, where an entire caste group or a ‘biradari’ sought baptism from Protestant missionaries.12 A rough estimate of mass-movement converts shows them to have constituted nearly 70 per cent of the total Protestants of UP at one time (Pickett 1969). Most of them were the rural poor and landless tenants, justifying Karl Kautsky’s observation of Christianity as a proletarian protest movement. Many of the converts in the North West Provinces and Oudh were also from the class of artisans, 106 NIRMALA SRINIVASAN

masons and village smiths. The increasing exploitation of the taluqdars, besides the growth of competition from British manufacturing industries led to greater oppression of the village poor, among whom the Christians suffered more on account of the ostracism from their village kin. Loss of local parochial identities coupled with impoverishment exerted enormous pressure on the Church to combine evangelization with economic emancipation of the poor Christians. Though an unintended consequence of mass movements, a new employer-employee relationship soon materialized within the Church hierarchy between the clergy (most of who were ‘phirangis’) and the local laity (Hollister 1953). By the beginning of the nineteenth century, Christians of UP were brought under the protective canopy of the parish priest. The dovetailing of religion with occupation gave rise to the famous ‘compound culture’ that is characteristic of Indian Christians even today. Nevertheless, to a large extent, the churches were not self-supporting enterprises, but were cases of the ‘bondage of the Indian church to western theology, worship, western money and personnel’ (Philip 1978: 23–81). This was true of Protestants, Roman Catholics and the Anglican missionaries, though the patrons were America, Rome and England respectively. The job opportunities provided by the Church were neither exclusively agricultural nor rural-based. Rural-urban migration of Christian sweepers, de-classed tenants and artisans usually began among the second or third generation of converts, necessitated by internal and external factors. Significant among the internal factors was the increasing pace of westernization as a lifestyle of the ‘compound’ people. Even the natives who often took to missionary work soon adopted the westernized mode of living and thinking, propagated by the leadership of bishops and priests. The ensuing crisis was not merely one of leadership but of economic sustenance of the community of artisans and workers in their effort to try and afford the lifestyle of the priests. This had far-reaching social consequences because the church like a modern nation-state was an allpervasive, self-sufficient experience for a Christian under the authority of the clergy. The search for more funds prompted the missions to open more English schools. Christians were readily enrolled to be natives in blood but English by tongue. On their part too, the native Christian found it to be a promising venture for the betterment of living standards which were believed to be befitting for a member of the ‘compound’. Thus, the onset of English education mutually benefited the clergy and the laity. As a glaring contrast, many Muslim artisans, traders and craftsmen who could no longer withstand the onslaught of competition from the ETHNIC PROCESS



West had to give up old trades in search of alternatives, chief among which was agricultural labour (Dutt 1960). The town-to-village exodus of Muslim artisans offers a striking contrast to the reverse flow in the case of Christians. The rich and influential Muslim landlords were the first generation to take to English education whereas, among Christians, the first generation of literates were descendants of village carpenters, smiths, masons and sweepers (Hollister 1953; Pickett 1969). In 1881, the religious break-up of population in the North West Provinces and Oudh was 86.3 per cent Hindus, 13.4 per cent Muslims and 0.11 per cent Christians as compared to 91.4 per cent, 6.2 per cent and 2.3 per cent respectively in Madras Presidency.13 Such was the sociological landscape of UP when English education became the cynosure of all eyes. As compared to the three Presidencies, the North West Provinces and Oudh had a recognizable time lag in taking to western education. But as far as Lucknow was concerned, in 1793, a French Catholic by the name of Claude Martin had set up the La Martiniere College where all were treated alike, without any protective discrimination to Catholics (D’Souza 1982: 77). Soon English education began scoring well in the scales of power and prestige for the local aristocracy. In the growing competition for education in the second half of the century, Muslims of upper India ... were more ready to avail themselves of its benefits than the Hindus were. As far as Muslims being averse to English education, whatever may be the case in Bengal or elsewhere, it is not so in Oudh (Seal 1971: 306).

REGIONAL COMMUNALISM For UP as a whole, in 1901, 11 per cent of urban Muslims had high school education in English as compared to 19.26 per cent of urban Hindus (Seal 1971: 307). Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and his brainchild, the Mohammadan Anglo Oriental College set up in 1877, played a pioneering role in the English education of UP Muslims. Rewards of education were directly reflected in employment too. The Census figures for 1911 and 1921 on employment by religion in UP demonstrate clearly that Muslims were either over represented or proportionately well represented in comparison to Hindus not 108 NIRMALA SRINIVASAN

only in government employment, but in every major category of employment both in the modern urban sectors of the economy and in elite sectors of the traditional rural economy (Seal 1971: 307). As a contrast, the 1921 Census of Agra and Oudh shows that in terms of employment Indian Christians were even worse off than Anglo-Indians, not to speak of Hindus and Muslims. However, paradoxically enough, in the same year (1921) for the age group of 15–20 and over 20, Christians (including Eurasians) topped the literacy figure in UP in general. Accordingly, the greater lack of fit between education and employment among Christians than among Muslims is explicable in terms of (a) higher rate of dropouts among Christians due to impoverishment and inability to afford higher education, and (b) the selective encouragement of the Church to middle and elite Christians for educational achievements. Thus contrary to the proletarian profile of the Church, during the height of British Imperialism, the Church in India was used ‘to legitimize an unjust social order by providing religious comforts to their rich and middle class patrons’.14 In fact, records indicate appeals made by lay Christians to the British Government for consideration of communal awards on par with Muslims and Hindus. Strange as it may sound, Church imperialism of the West generated contradictions within itself by widening the rift between clergy and laity, thereby eroding the patron-client relationship that was once the backbone of the Christian community. With the onset of the nationalist movement the Indian Missions (particularly Protestant) were poised on the threshold of a class war within the Church, details of which we shall see subsequently. Until 1921, Muslims of UP presented a very paradoxical profile in terms of their communal outlook. At the regional level it was one of a compromising attitude with the Hindus of UP, but one of hosstility vis-à-vis the Hindus of Bengal, the majority of whom were members of the Indian National Congress. Unlike in UP, Bengali Muslims had suffered a systematic decline in fortune, be it in land ownership, education or employment. The birth of the first Muslim organization called the National Muslim Organization was an effort by Bengali Muslims to redefine their sagging self-image vis-à-vis the Hindus, who incidentally were the vocal force of INC (Seal 1971). Their opposition to Congress was not a wholesale condemnation of Indian nationalism, but an effort at a renewal of their own communal solidarity to prevent further decline as compared to the Hindus. During the initial stages, however, the influence of Bengali Muslims as a political entity was not very meaningful to Muslims of UP in the light of ETHNIC PROCESS AND MINORITY IDENTITY 109

their own definitions of reality in which their dominance was still a force to reckon with. In fact, in the foundation of a branch of the British India Association (of the taluqdars of Oudh) at Aligarh in 1867, Sir Syed aspired to build a strong regional identity of Hindu-Muslim unity, not for political purposes, but for progress and prosperity. His opposition to the principle of selection for public services through competitive examinations was mainly because they would give a very unjust advantage to Bengalis. No wonder then, that when the rest of UP was reeling under the Cow Riots in 1905, the Avadh taluqdars upheld the Nawabi traditions of communal camaraderie by refraining from violence. And understandably so, because the cow as a symbol of political practice was not phenomenologically relevant to their entrenched class interests in the local arenas of power and privilege. As in the case of Christians, the growing affluence of the Muslim landlord and intelligentsia widened the gap between them and the impoverished masses, among whom many skilled artists, artisans and craftsmen took to cultivation. But unlike the Christian elites, Muslim elites faced threats not from the mass within but from the classes without. These were mainly the highly literate Kayasths of Oudh and Benaras who were a minority within the Hindu castes (Robinson 1974). In the first Kayasth Conference in Allahabad, a decision was taken to support the Congress and its nationalist movement mainly as a means of using their literary weapons for the articulation of sectional interests in the forum of national politics. In no way did the emergence of Kayasth Sabhas make any serious dent in the communal placidity of the rest of UP until the mid-nineteeth century.

FROM REGIONALISM TO COMMUNALISM However, the opposition posed by Bengali Muslims to the Congress held a very strong appeal for the political sensibilities of UP Muslims under the leadership of Sir Syed. The thrust on regional solidarity of Muslims provided the springboard for the identity development of Muslim communalism. The transformation of the Muslim identity from regionalism to communalism was mainly due to the following reasons: 1. The Congress demand for local self-government which made Sir Syed aware of the eternal minority status of Muslims (due to smallness of size) in local representation. 110 NIRMALA SRINIVASAN

2. The language movement of Benaras and the widening rift between Urdu and Hindi. The Kayasths of Oudh and UP in general became strong exponents of the Hindu-Hindi cause in 1900. 3. Consequently, the Kayasth support for Hindi snowballed into the Muslim opposition to the Congress that was made up of Kayasth members mainly from Allahabad, Lucknow and Benaras. The birth of Muslim communalism as a political force in UP was mainly the outcome of the multiple dialectics between religion, region and language, within the overall colonial pattern of economy. This is elaborated below: 1. There was unevenness of regional developments between Bengal and UP as reflected in the class structure of Muslims in these two provinces. 2. The ideological spillovers from Muslim communalism of West Bengal into the regional consciousness of the UP Muslims was in total contradiction to their existential reality of ethnic harmony. Yet, they responded negatively to the nationalistic demands of the Congress for local self-government because of the politicization of the Kayasths and the consequent Muslim anxiety to mobilize their interests. Thus the political praxis of Muslim communalism was mutually determined, primarily by ideological and then material factors. It was as if an ideology (from Bengal) was on the lookout for a praxis (that materialized in HinduMuslim separatism) in UP. 3. The growth of indigenous Hindu capital in sugar and textiles in UP emerged as a new economic force to contest established landed interests. The structure of the taluqdari pattern of land administration provided fertile terrain for action of any sort, be it sectarian, communal or secular politics. The biographies of the then Raja of Mahmudabad, a Shia by faith, and of the Hindu Raja of Balrampur demonstrate this dilemma between public and private identities as part of the burgeoning eth-class process towards acquisition and accumulation of power.15 As for the subsequent nature of communal relations in UP, opinion is sharply divided among scholars. Following Reeves, Brass maintains that Lucknow continued to remain a de-communalized zone of the United Provinces, because politics was based on the clash of class interests and ETHNIC PROCESS



not communal identities (Reeves 1936). However, recently some historians have disputed the nationalistic claims of the Lucknow Pact of 1916 and even the Khilafat Movement (Hasan 1981). In our view, class is a political identity that is forever in the process of ‘becoming’ and never identifiable in an apparent form of ‘being’. Hence to dichotomize ‘class’ and ‘communal’ as ‘secular’ and ‘ethnic’ politics, is to distort theory and oversimplify reality. The Sunni merchants of Lucknow broke into riots with Hindu Banias (traders) over the issue of the use of the public park in Aminabad for religious rites. The underlying cause, at one level, that triggered off the riots was of course the competitive basis of merchant capitalism among Sunnis and Hindu traders clashing with each other in market relations. At another level, it was the struggle between Sunni capitalism and Shia feudalism that led to the worst ShiaSunni riots in 1933 in Lucknow when the rest of the country was at the peak of the nationalist movement (GAD 1935). The growing contradictions arising out of power polarization between the Hindu and Muslim intelligentsia and between them and the feudal classes was another dimension of the problem during the transition from colonialism to nationalism. The compound effect of all these factors was the Sunni-dominated Muslim League and the Shia sympathy for the Congress. The introduction of Islam as a new cultural dimension to Muslim politics was a contribution of the Muslim ulema and their pan-Islamic vision of Muslim identity. Strongly opposing the two-nation theory the ulema of Deoband, Nadwa and Firangi Mahal of Lucknow initially supported the Congress as a tactical move to defeat the British Raj through the Khilafat cause. While articulating the revivalist symbols of Islamic faith, the ulema feared no threat to the religious identity of the Muslim ‘umma’ in India, so long as Hindus left the Shariat alone. Until this stage, Muslim revivalism was also ‘inward looking’, like the case of Christians under the leadership of the Indian clergy. However, when ‘Khilafat’ became a fiasco with Gandhi’s withdrawal, the Muslim masses, organized on a religious basis within the Congress, were left aside. This provided the much-needed mass base to the Muslim League (see Table 5.1). Convinced of the Congress failure to protect the Islamic cause underlying the Khilafat issue, the ulema withdrew their opposition to the two-nation thesis of the Muslim League. However, the political party alignments and the Announcement of Communal Awards in 1936, followed by elections in 1937, proved in a way counter-productive to the revivalist efforts of the ulema and completed the emergence of Muslims as a separatist minority. 112 NIRMALA SRINIVASAN

Table 5.1 Sociological Profile of Political Parties in Lucknow in 1930 The National Agriculturalist Party Members (NAP)

The Indian National Congress Members (INC)

Hindu and Muslim taluqdars of Avadh

Hindu and Muslim lawyers and other educated middle classes


Hindu industrialists of UP (sugar and textile industry), Hindu masses and Muslims who were enticed by the ulema to join the Congress for the Khilafat struggle

Muslim League (ML)

Ehrar League Party (EL)

Old boys of AMU Sunni ulema dominated (mostly of Lucknow educated Sunnis) and also some Shia taluqdars of Avadh, eg. Raja of Mahmudabad

Source: Unpublished Ph.D. thesis of the writer: 1982. ‘Patterns of Minority Identity: A Lucknow Study’. New Jawaharlal Nehru University.

After 1936, when the announcement of separate awards was made followed by the 1937 general election and Jinnah’s open plea in the cause of Pakistan, a dramatic change was witnessed in party membership and its sociological profile (see Table 5.2). As a strange contrast, the Congress that seems to have played an enigmatic role in the communal development of Muslim identity, promoting an unexpected dialogue between the Christian masses and Gandhi’s nationalism. Dependence on western money had made the clergy into an exploitative aristocracy at the cost of the native Christians. In an effort to liberate the Church from western imperialism, steps towards self-support movements were initiated by some native clergy and educated middleclass Christians to whom Gandhi’s symbols of nationalism appealed as a movement to de-westernize control over the ownership of the church and its property (Prestler 1936). Hence, the politicization of the Christians surfaced as a power struggle within the Church; to some extent the then prevailing ecclesiastical notion of state (for instance, Rome for Catholic and America for Protestants) lost its relevance as a meaningful definition for the Indian Christians, on the threshold of searching for a new identity that would resolve conflicts within the Church and between the Church ETHNIC PROCESS



Table 5.2 Changing Profiles of Party Basis in 1937 The NAP


Taluqdars of Oudh, Professional and both Hindu and educated Hindus Muslim (some of whom, as the Kidwais of Bara Banki, left the Muslim League on the question of Partition and joined NAP or INC) Hindu industrialists

The Muslim League

Ehrar Party

Muslim professional and middle class. Lawyers who were with the INC joined after 1937

Sunnis (fundamentalists) who were Wahhabis. They believed in purification through the idiom of Islam.

Muslim masses (who were already exposed to religious implications of national politics since Khilafat but were let loose upon its abortive fiasco. The ML leaders found a fertile terrain among them

Hindu masses Source: Unpublished Ph.D. thesis of the writer: 1982. ‘Patterns of Minority Identity: A Lucknow Study’. New Delhi: Jawaharlal Nehru University.

and the nation. Such an identity was discovered in the ethos of Indianization through indigenous models for administration, financial control, worship, prayer, ecclesiastical practices and missionary lifestyles (Amalorpavadass 1973; Hollister 1953). Thus ‘ashrams’ replaced Church compounds, and ‘sunyasis’ took over from ‘padres’ and ‘fathers’. The pastoral praxis of indigenization was the most significant symbol of Christian communalism emerging at the time of the emerging Indian nationalism. At a time when Hindus and Muslims were deeply involved with the issue of the communal awards, etc., in UP as a whole, Christians were engaged in the self-supporting movement for the Churches. This process of self-criticism and enquiry, of which the Lucknow Methodists were at the vanguard, left hardly any scope for the Christian clergy to dabble in politics of either the nationalist, communalist or separatist variety because of the possible threats to their hegemonic rule from within. In the event of British withdrawal, Hindus and Muslims lacked communally organized sources to fall back on unlike the Christians, sustained by Church property. Hence 114 NIRMALA SRINIVASAN

the latter had no infrastructural ‘push’ to motivate them into political practices on communal lines. On the contrary, the end of the British Raj created hostilities among laymen leading to the genesis of mass awareness about Church Imperialism and Christian Socialism as novel categories of thought. Since the colour line divided the church hierarchy, with the white clergy dominating, the nationalist slogans of the Congress held a special significance for Indian Christians and their downright protest against White Imperialism in the Church (Shaw 1983). The self-supporting movement spearheaded by the Lucknow Conference of Methodists not only demanded indigenization of church authority, but also the de-westernization of Christianity in India. Like the Muslim Wahhabis, the drive towards religious purification was directly linked with the symbols of Indianization and was, hence, anti-British in its orientation. Thus the report of the self-support plans reads thus: The culture of Indians expects celibacy and poverty of its re1igious classes, the sadhu being the ideal. Villagers lack any religious sympathy with a Christian clergy shuttling to and fro in jeeps and demanding ten times the average earnings of the landless labourer of the parish. There is no use in attempting to achieve self-support with an ecclesiastical order founded and nurtured under conditions that no longer exist (Prestler 1936: 9). Hence the rank and file of the community became an internal pressure group creating distinct class lines within the Church, which, in turn, sharpened the crystallization of consciousness on eth-class lines. As a striking contrast, the Islamic revivalist overtones of the Muslim League had Hindu nationalism as its frame of reference, and very rarely touched upon the subject of Muslim poverty or mass control of resources, for fear of losing its Muslim base to a Congress that dabbled with socialism. Therefore, the Christian mass politicization was dominated by mass notions of Church equality and democracy. The Muslim masses in contrast were swayed by the ideological influence of the Muslim landlord, lawyer and ulema. The establishment of the Bhartiya Christiya Sevak Samaj by Bishop Chitamber, even as early as 1905, marked the genesis of the mass uprising in the Church movement. Caught in the unexpected whirlwind of indigenization, the clergy readily accepted the implementation of all cultural trappings of Indianization so long as these did not de-link the Church structurally from foreign missions ‘who are our coworkers’.16 Hence the ETHNIC PROCESS



adaptation of Hindu ‘Kirtans’, ‘Bhajans’ or Muslim ‘Qawwalis’ to Church prayers, use of many Hindu rituals in liturgical services, and retention of Indian names for Christians, etc., (John et al. 1981). However, to the protagonists of the movement that comprised the lay members (of particularly the non-English or vernacular Churches) and the Indian clergy (possibly with a view to usurp the place of ‘white’ clergy), such symbolic changes had no appeal, so long as ownership and authority remained with the western missions. To the Christian masses under the sway of Gandhi’s nationalism, Indianization was incomplete without economic independence from western missions. Church Imperialism and Christian socialism therefore became the rebel voices breaking the long peace within the compound. Even the Catholics who were latecomers to ‘compound upsurge’ adapted their liturgical services and worship to the vernacular language after the Vatican II Council in 1963 (Flanery 1975). It is interesting to note that the Indianization of Catholic missions was much more cultural and ornamental in its manifestation. Ritualism as a part of religious practice is stronger in Catholicism than in Protestantism. Probably therefore, one can understand the natural affinity of Catholic revivalism for ritual adaptations as elements of change. This was in total contrast to the radical politicization of the Methodist Churches which is going on even today as a means of democratizing Church power and property rights, owing to the ‘internal colonialism’ of the governing body of the present Methodist Churches (members of which were once the pioneers of self-support moves), The denominational differences between Catholics and Protestants in the process of Indianization is most clearly seen in the following observation made after a survey of the Christian Ashrams: ‘I find to my dismay that most Catholic Ashrams are far more interested in liturgical questions than in social questions’ (Taylor 1981). Church pluralism and dialogue with Hinduism became themes for Catholic action only recently. However, both Catholics and Protestants have now realized the need for liberation theology in India. For the new Christian leaders, national identification is a matter of Christian participation in the process of nation-building which is not just the exercise of voting rights of citizens but a share in the arenas of power, privilege and prosperity with the rest. The ‘inward looking’ community is therefore made to change with strong appeals to become ‘outward’. In other words, it is an appeal to break off the conventional umbilical cord attached to the father-figure of the priest and look upon the state as the benevolent institution (Devanandan 1959). No wonder the Indian Christians refused the need for reservations and quotas in 1947, though they 116 NIRMALA SRINIVASAN

were repeatedly pleading for such communal awards in 1921, 1931 and 1936. Probably their refusal could also stem from the confidence reposed in all cultural groups (be they majority or minority) by Article 19 of the Indian Constitution that guarantees freedom of religion. Revivalism of faith was the common thread that ran through the entire course of ethnic processes, crystallizing into the communal identities of Muslims and Christians of UP. Though similar, the two were not identical; the unique and distinct character of each was a product of the whole in dialectical relation to the particular; the ‘particulars’ were historically conditioned, and hence the ‘generals’ also differed. Thus the Indian Muslim suffered the stigma of Partition; the Indian Christian emerged, uneasy but apparently confident of his nationalistic orientations. To conclude in the words of Berger, ‘man who possesses power is in a position to know better when it comes to finalities of other people’s lives. Nevertheless, the exercise of power means to make choices—and supersede the wishes and definitions of reality of others whose power is less’ (Berger 1974: 254–55).

NOTES 1. The definition of ‘ethnicity’ is part of the conceptual discussion in this essay. For the present, it is enough to accept it as interaction of culture groups in a common sociopolitical context of a state. Politics is the essence of ethnic conflict both within and between two groups. Ethnicity cannot be therefore divorced from political processes of which the formation of democratic nation-states happens to be one. The conventional usage of ethnicity in the anthropological context of race and migration is inadequate to conceptualize contemporary developments of multi-ethnic confrontations in the third-world countries. Also in a country like India (unlike Sri Lanka or Malaysia where racial or religious lines do not overlap), the criss-crossing of cultural identity is a familiar phenomenon so the term is used contextually (as communalism, linguism, tribalism, regionalism etc.) rather than univena1ly. 2. Nationalism is used in a dual sense: (a) as primordialism actualizing into an independent nation-state, e.g., Israel. So Jews become nationalities, and (b) as a territorial entity with a unified government and an overarching nationalist symbol, free from the emotive appeals of ethnicity. Here ‘nationality’ does not mean the political status of citizenship attained by a single culture group but a number of them within a democratic framework as plural groups, e.g., Asian and African Republics gaining independence from colonial empires. In this essay, nationalism is used in the second sense. ‘Communalism’ is popularly used in a derogative way for a form of Hindu-Muslim fanaticism in India. However, there is no place for pejorative in this essay. It is defined






5. 6.




10. 11.

12. 13. 14. 15.

simply as a political process of mobilization of a religious group to form a new identity or redefine an old one vis-à-vis the other groups in a democratic state with a parliament elected through popular franchise. Thus numbers and power become the ultimate criteria of determining minority and majority as integrated wholes. The fact that the term continues to enjoy academic and official recognition shows the vestigial remains of colonial thinking in independent India. In short, minority is a misnomer in the country (Srinivasan 1982). I say ambiguous because neither at the objective nor at the subjective levels, do Hindus or non-Hindus form a homogenous monolith. Caste, sect, language, region and, of late, political parties divide and unite Hindus as much as non-Hindus. Particularly interesting is the linguistic identification of Hindus with Hindi and Muslims with Urdu on the eve of the Indian National Movement as discussed by Paul Brass in Taylor and Yapp (1978). The process of redefinition may be at the level of the individual or for the group. For the former, see G. Psathas (1973). For group identity models, see Berger et al. 1973. The term ‘class practices’ is used in the Poulantzian sense of ‘the purposive organization of classes using power, ideology and market for achieving their respective class interests’ (Poulantzas 1973: 86). The term ‘eth-class’ has been used by Milton Gordon to refer to the phenomenon of class identities within a single ethnic group, or across barriers of ethnicity resulting in the formation of interest-groups such as the Muslim weavers’ organization in UP. See M Gordon (1976). The present membership of the British India Association of taluqdars is 456, of whom 356 are Hindus and the rest Muslims. Wasikdars are the pensioners who receive ‘Wasika’ or pension from the Trusts of the Nawabs of Lucknow. ‘Two-penny Wasikdars’ refers to some who draw a meagre 35 paise per month as a matter of prestige. There are nearly 1500 Wasikdars in Lucknow. Thomas Metcalf (1979). Hence, Metcalf’s lavish use of Lawrence’e epithet ‘husk culture’ for Lucknow. The core was one of political fusion and fission at the intra and inter-group level that operated under a veneer of Nawabi tehzib (etiquette and politeness in matters of public relations). This accounted for the contradictory presence of secularism, communalism and sectarianism in Lucknow. Imperial Census of India, 1869. According to it, Shias numbered 34,550, Sunnis 115,371 and Hindus 161,729 (UP State Archives, Lucknow). Hollister (1953). Muharram is the first month of the Muslim lunar calendar and is observed as a month of mourning to commemorate the martyrdom of Ali Hussain at Karbala, where he was treacherously murdered by Abu Bakr in the struggle for succession to prophethood. The Shias acknowledge Ali as their last prophet. The sectarian animosity has, however, taken the form of political rivalry between Iraq and Iran which feeds into the regional and local contexts in Lucknow. J.W. Pickett (1969). The phrase ‘Biradari church’ is used by the author to indicate the en masse conversion of castes or sub-castes to Christianity. Imperial Census of India, 1879. (UP State Archives). Richard Taylor, ‘From Khadi to Kavi: Towards a Typology of Christian Ashrams’ as cited in John, Amaldoss and Gopal Sauch (1981). Both these rajas were philanthropists to the cause of education; their concern was however confined to the promotion of interests of their own kinsmen. Thus, the Raja of Mahmudabad lavished his generosity on the Mohammadan Anglo-Oriental College


at Aligarh. He was one of the ‘old boys’ of the Aligarh group that later emerged on the springboard for Muslim separatism under the leadership of the ‘young boys’. See Robinson (1974). The Raja of Balrampur was one of the richest donors to the Kashi Vidyapeeth (which later emerged as the Benaras Hindu College) and also the Hindu College at Allahabad. The above dimension of their ethnic personalities was, however, non-existent in their capacities as taluqdars of Avadh and members of the British India Association, where they presented the common cause of landed property. See Thomas Metcalf (1979). 16. Amalorparvadass (1973: 77). Indianization is both a cultural and political process. In its former sense, it comes closer to the Hindu styles of ritual worship.

REFERENCES Abercombie, Nicholas. 1980. Class Structure and Knowledge: Problems in the Sociology of Knowledge. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Akzin, Benjamin. 1964. State and Nation. London: Hutchinson University Press. Ali, Meer Hasan. 1974. Observations on the Musalmans of India. London: Oxford University Press. Amalorparvadass, D.S. 1973. Approach, Meaning and Horizon of Evangelization. Bangalore: National Biblical Catechetical and Liturgical Centre. Althusser, Louis. 1969. For Marx. London: Allen Lane and Co. Berger, P. 1974. Pyramids of Sacrifice: Ethics and Social Change. London: Allen Lane and Co. Berger, P. and Thomas Luckmann. 1966. Social Construction of Reality. Harmondsworth: Penguin Press. Berger, P. Hansfried Kellner and Brigetie Berger. 1973. Homeless Mind. New York: Random House. Brass, Paul. 1978. ‘Elite Groups, Symbol Manipulation and Ethnic Identity among Muslims of South Asia’ in Taylor and Yapp (eds), Political Identity in South India. London: Curzon Press. Cohen, Abner (ed.). 1974. Urban Ethnicity. London: Tavistock Publications. Das, Arvind. 1984. ‘Class in itself; Caste for itself: Social Articulation in Bihar’, Economic and Political Weekly 19(37). D’Souza, D. 1982. The Growth and Activity of Catholic Church in North India, 1757–1858. Unpublished doctoral thesis. Lucknow University. Devanandan, P. 1959. ‘Christian Participation in Nation-Building’, Religion and Society 6(4). Dumont, Louis. 1964. ‘Nationalism and Communalism’, Contributions to Indian Sociology 7. Dutt, Romesh. 1960. The Economic History of India, Vols 1 and 2. New Delhi: Publication Division, Government of India. Emerson, Rupert. 1962. From Empire to Nation: The Rise of Self-Assertion of Asian Peoples. Boston: Beacon Press. Enloe, Cynthia. 1973. Ethnic Conflict and Political Development. Boston: Little Brown.




Flanery, Austin (ed.). 1975. The Counciliar and Post-Counciliar Documents. Rome: St Paul’s Publication. Geertz, Clifford (ed.). 1967. Old Societies and New States: The Quest for Modernity in Asia and Africa. New York: Free Press of Glencoe. Glazer, N. and P. Moynihan. 1964. Beyond the Melting Pot. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Gordon, Milton. 1976. Human Nature, Ethnicity and Class. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Gramsci, Antonio. 1977. Selections from Political Writings 1910–20. New York: International. Hasan, Mushirul (ed.). 1981. Communalism and Pan-Islamic Trends in Colonial India. New Delhi: Manohar Publications. Hollister, J.N. 1953. The Shias of India. London: Luzac and Co. John, T.K., M. Amaladoss and G. Gispert-Sauch. 1981. Theologizing in India. Bangalore: Theological Publications. Lenin, V.I. 1929. Collected Works, Vol. 21. Moscow: People’s Publishing House. Lyall, Alfred. 1882. Asiatic Studies: Religious and Social. London: John Murray. Metcalf, Thomas. 1979. Land, Landlords and British Raj in 19th Century India. Berkeley: University of California Press. Murphy, Gardner. 1953. In the Minds of Men: A Study of Human Behaviour and Social Tensions in India. New York: Basic Books. Naidu, Ratna. 1980. Communal Edge to Plural Societies: A Comparison of India and Malaysia. New Delhi: Vikas. Pickett, W.J. 1969. Christian Mass Movements in India. Lucknow: Lucknow Publishing House. Philip, T.V. 1978. ‘Church in India’, Religion and Society 25(3): 23–81. Poulantzas, N. 1973. Political Power and Social Class (tr. Timothy O’Hagen). London: Sheed and Ward. Prestler, H. 1936. Self-Support Plan for Churches. Lucknow: Lucknow Publishing House. Psathas, G. (ed.). 1973. Phenomenological Sociology: Issues and Applications. London: John Wiley and Sons. Reeves, P.D. 1936. ‘Class or Communal Platform in UP.’ (unpublished). Robinson, F. 1974. Separatism among Indian Muslims: The Politics of United Provinces 1860– 1923. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Scharg, Peter. 1973. The End of the American Future. New York: Simon and Schuster. Seal, Anil. 1971. The Emergence of Indian Nationalism. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Shaw, A J. 1983. Appeal of Gandhi to Christians: Christians and Social Change in India. Lucknow: Lucknow Publishing House. Sharar, Abdul H. 1975. The Last Phase of an Oriental Culture (trs and eds Harcourt and Hussain). London: Paul Elek. Sleeman, M. 1893. Rambles and Recollections, Vols 1 and 2. London. Srinivasan, N. 1980. Identity Crisis of Muslims: Profiles of Lucknow Youth. New Delhi: Concept Publishing House. ———. 1982. ‘Patterns of Minority Identity: A Lucknow Study’, unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Stalin, J. 1935. Marxism and the National Question. Moscow: Progressive Publishers. Taylor, R. 1981. ‘From Khadi to Kavi’, in T.K. John, Amaladoss and Gispert-Sauch, (eds), Theologizing in India. Bangalore: Theological Publications.


Taylor, D. and M. Yapp. 1978. Political Identity in South Asia. London: Curzon Press. Thompson, E.P. 1968. The Making of the English Working Class. London: Harmondsworth. UP State Archives. 1935. Lucknow: Government Administrative Department. Weber, Max. 1969. ‘Ethnic Groups’ in T. Parsons and E. Shils (eds), Theories of Society, Vol. 1. New York: Free Press. Wink, Walter. 1975. The Bible in Human Transformation. New York: Philadelphia Fortress.








Manipur, a small Indian territory nestled between Assam and Burma, is the ancient home of the Meiteis, who though ethnically Mongoloid have now become staunch Vaishnavites and have thus contributed their share in the history of Hindu culture. Though the birth of Hindu tradition in Manipur can be traced to the Mahabharata wherein there are references to the Chitravahana dynasty whose patron deity was Siva, Vaishnavism arrived here many centuries later. Vaishnavism took root during the time of Kyamba, a fifteenth century Meitei king, who received a Salachakra1 of Vishnu as a gift from the Pong king Keengkomba of Burma. In the Meitei manuscripts, though the worship of Vishnu by a few Brahmins is mentioned, we do not find any mention of the king or his subjects being converted to the new faith. The appearance of Brahmins in Manipur in the fifteenth century may be due to the rise of Muslim power in Bengal and the subsequent repression and religious persecution of the Hindus there. In the next century, sporadic migration of Brahmins from the adjoining districts of Bengal and Assam into the valley of Manipur took place. But since the beginning of seventeenth century more and more Brahmins *Originally published in the Sociological Bulletin, vol. 12, no. 2, 1963, pp. 66–72.

began to migrate into the valley of Manipur, living with the Meiteis and sharing with them a corporate life by adopting Meitei ways of living, language, and customs, and even worshipping non-Hindu Meitei deities. In other words, Vaishnavism in Manipur may be said to have arisen from the cross-fertilization of two religious forces—Hinduism and that of the Meiteis. There is no evidence so far of conversion of the Meiteis to Vaishnavism during the seventeenth century. It was from the beginning of the eighteenth century onwards, that the spread of Vaishnavism in Manipur became established. In A.D. 1704 a Brahmin called Nimbarka2 came to Manipur and spread the new faith. The then king Charairongba and the members of the royal family were the first Meiteis to be initiated into the Vaishnava form of Hinduism by the said Brahmin who became the preceptor of the royal family. The new Vaishnavite faith was known as Nimandi, which is, of course a term commonly used for the Nimbarkas. The spread of Vaishnavism during the time of Charairongba was slow and tardy; the cults of Krishna and Radha could not attain much depth and the Nimandi Vaishnavism did not last long. This is probably because it is the least important of the six Vaishnava sects (Monier-Williams 1951: 97). Nimandi Vaishnavism received a death-blow at the hands of one Bengali Brahmin named Santidas from the adjoining district of Sylhet, now in Bangladesh, who came to Manipur in the second quarter of the eighteenth century. He associated himself closely with the Meitei king and became a preceptor of the latter. He was a follower of Ramananda3 and introduced the worship of Rama and Hanuman. It is rather surprising that Sita who is worshipped as divine consort universally in India was not given much adoration despite the introduction of the Rama cult in Manipur. With the revival of the Krishna cult, which will be dealt with later on, the worship of Rama received a temporary setback, but that of Hanuman continued and is active even to this day. As we find in rural Maharashtra and the Deccan (Ghurye 1962: 231), in Manipur also, Hanuman is worshipped as a specific deity. Coming to the activities of Santidas, we find him deviating from the radical reforms introduced by his sect. It is a well-known fact that Ramananda, the founder himself, made no distinction between Brahmins and other caste members provided they were the devotees of Vishnu (Bhandarkar 1928: 94). Another reform, which must be traced to Ramananda, was the use of the vernacular for the propagation of the new creed. But Santidas, on the one hand, put more emphasis on the organization of caste by establishing the recognition of the Meiteis as Kshatriyas and the 126 KUNJ BIHARI SINGH

Brahmin immigrants and their descendants as forming the Brahmin caste within the Meitei society. On the other hand, he raised a strong objection to the propagation of religious fervour through the medium of the Meitei language. In the then existing Meitei Puranas, he saw a stumbling block to his mission. Through his instigation, Garib Nawaz (also known as King Pamheiba, he succeeded King Charairongba and was Meitei king from 1709–48) ordered the burning of all the existing rare manuscripts, and in their place was introduced the Bengali literature. However, the Rama cult which reached its pinnacle during the time of Garib Nawaz and was propagated for a few years by his sons, met a powerful rival which uprooted it during the third quarter of the eighteenth century A.D. This rival was the Chaitanyaite Vaishnavism of Bengal. Broadly observed, there are two fundamental elements forming the core of Chaitanyaism. ‘The first and foremost of these is the general doctrine of Bhakti, or emotional service of love and devotion as a means of spiritual realization; but equally important is the Krishna cult, intimately connected with it, as forming the ground of this devotional attitude’ (De 1942: 2). Other important characteristics of Chaitanyaism are the emergence of Radha as Krishna’s eternal consort in the Vrindavan-lila, and poet Jayadev’s Gita-Govinda which ‘with its mystical power, was claimed by Chaitanyaism as one of the sources of its religious inspiration’ (ibid.: 8). The most powerful instrument with which Chaitanya organized his Vaishnavite sect was the stimulation, if not the introduction, of an emotional and unritualistic mode of musical worship known as sankirtana in the daily devotional meeting. After the death of Chaitanya in A.D. 1534 his followers were left for a time incapable of the emotional exercises that marked the sect (ibid.: 59n). But though literature failed and music died away, the sect lived on. Chaitanyaism in Manipur owes much to the seventeenth century revivalists who became dynamic centres of influence. Most prominent among these revivalists were Srinivasa Acharya, Narottam Datta and Syamananda Das. We shall here confine ourselves to the second of the trio, Narottam Datta, whom the Meiteis called Narottam Thakur, and who was closely connected with the spread of Chaitanyaism in Manipur. When Narottam became an ascetic of great fame and sanctity bringing several people into the fold, he founded a Chaitanya temple at Kheturi in Rajashahi district which later became one of the active centres of the faith (Kennedy 1925: 73). Kheturi was the fountain source from which the incessant current of Chaitanyaism began to flow into the valley of Manipur MANIPUR VAISHNAVISM: A SOCIOLOGICAL INTERPRETATION 127

(Sen 1917: 163) from the beginning of the second quarter of the eighteenth century, i.e., during the time of Bhagyachandra. The spread of this faith lay primarily in the hands of five ascetics—Ganganarayan, Krishnacharan, Kunjabihari, Nidhiram and Ramgopal (Sanahal 1947: 84). Ngangbam Selungba was the first Meitei Chaitanyaite initiated by Ramgopal. Selungba became known as Krishnadas and associated himself with two other Brahmins—Adhikari Kamdeva Brajabasi and Sri Rup Parmananda Thakur, who was the preceptor of the king Bhagyachandra in the active movement of Gaura Dharma in Manipur.4 In the history of the Meiteis, Bhagyachandra was the most devout Vaishnava king to whom the future generations owed much for the perpetuation and propagation of Chaitanyaite Vaishnavism in Manipur. It is a well-known story in Manipur that one night Shri Govinda (Lord Krishna) appeared in a dream to Bhagyachandra and bade him to make his image out of the wood of a jack tree on the Kaina Hill. Immediately on the next day the king sent his men to find the tree. They found the exact tree, from this wood a sculptor named Sapam Lakshman chiselled out four idols which were enshrined as Shri Govinda, Shri Vijay Govinda, Advaita, and Gopinath. With the birth of this renovated faith, there arose another equally potent force that became the most powerful instrument in planting the faith deep down into the heart of the Meitei populace. This was the Ras Lila—the dance-drama that depicts the life of Krishna and Radha, particularly the dalliance of the former with the latter and several other gopis or cowherdesses in Vrindavan. The pious king Bhagyachandra betrothed his daughter Sija Lairoibi (also known as Bimbavati Manipur) to Shri Govinda as a bride.5 Soon thereafter, an image of Chaitanya was consecrated in Nabadwip, the birthplace of Chaitanya, and there the idol was named Shri Anuprabhu. The virtuous princess Sija Lairoibi went to Nabadwip for the service of this deity, and since then up to this day members of the royal family pay visits every year to this holy place of pilgrimage. In Bengal, after the seventeenth century there was a decline of the Vaishnava sect for about two centuries. During that time the Sakta revival gained the upper hand while Vaishnavism sank gradually into a lethargic state, with neither leaders nor spirit worthy of its tradition (Farquhar 1929: 294; Kennedy 1925: 77–78). Once again, the religious tradition offering greater spiritual licence acquired popular favour. Saktism began to replace the more conservative Radha Krishna cult. But in Manipur, Chaitanya Vaishnavism has known no decadence since its inception. 128 KUNJ BIHARI SINGH

Vaishnava literature, particularly Srimadbhagavad, Chaitanya Charitamrita, and Haribhaktivilasa provided a superlative account of the emotional Bhakti-doctrine in the setting of a vital and practical system of religious beliefs, and the life and personality of Chaitanya became a powerful exemplification of these beliefs and doctrines. Gitagovinda of Jayadev, a twelfthcentury Bengali poet, enlivened the festive aspect of the faith by immortalizing the divine love of Krishna and Radha amidst the background of Vrindavan. With regard to the interpretation of Radha as to whether she is a wife or a mistress of Krishna, the Meiteis maintain the parakiyabadi doctrine, i.e., Radha is the wife of another and mistress of Krishna. In Bengal too this doctrine gained the ascendancy over the svakiya doctrine which maintained that Radha was the wife of Krishna, and this was doubtlessly due to the immovable influence of the old myth about the gopis associated with the Sahajiya Cult which sought salvation through the worship and love of a woman other than one’s wife (Kennedy 1925: 107). In Manipur, as much as in Bengal, Krishna is not fully ethicized in the emotional faith. ‘The precarious Radha-Krishna legend, on which its whole system of devotion is based, is taken not as a symbol but as a reality, not as religious myth but as religious history’ (De 1942: 417). The full blossoming of the religious faith of the Vaishnava Meiteis can be seen in their Ras Lila dance where the main theme is centered around the love of Radha and Krishna as depicted by the great poet Jayadev in his classic work Gitagovinda. Though eroticism runs through the core of the performance it has been deeply subdued by the potent exaltation of the essence of devotion or Bhakti-rasa which emanates from the heart of every devout Vaishnava spectator. On the other hand, eroticism has never been the devotional principle of the Meiteis, and in the Ras Lila dance the erotic atmosphere has been modified. Hence, in the absence of eroticism as a devotional principle, ‘it is not always true’, observes S.K. De, ‘that religious rapture, however erotically inclined, leads to moral default’ (ibid.: 419). Within a little over 200 years of its existence, Chaitanyaite Vaishnavism in Manipur received the indelible impression of the local touch. Meiteis have not paid much attention to the vegetarian food habit which is strictly enjoined in Vaishnavism. Fish is consumed on a daily basis by both the Brahmin and Kshatriya Meiteis. It is only in religious ceremonies that the preparations of food are strictly restricted to vegetables. With regard to the worship of Krishna and other Hindu deities, one sees the monopoly of the Brahmins. Even if a Kshatriya, including the king himself, erects a temple for the worship of Shri Govinda, a Brahmin is to be appointed to attend to the daily worship of the deity. In every Meitei home, whether a MANIPUR VAISHNAVISM: A SOCIOLOGICAL INTERPRETATION 129

Kshatriya or a Brahmin, every elderly member possesses a small wooden box containing a small picture or image of Shri Govinda or Gauranga, a rosary of tulsi beads called mala, pieces of chandan, comb, mirror, and other sundry articles like chandan-chei, chhapa, etc., which are used in marking the tilak for the forehead, neck, arms and chest. After bathing, every day, before the day’s meal, the ‘tilak’ is applied, and prayer is offered to the deity with tulsi leaves and flowers. Unlike the average Indian villages, in the valley of Manipur every Brahmin house is a centre of religious assemblage. Every Brahmin family has a temple and a mandap where neighbours come to offer prayer and perform religious festivals. It is impossible to find any Meitei village where a Brahmin family is absent. When we walk down the streets of Manipur in the evening, it is a familiar experience to hear the melody and feel the rapture of devotional songs from far and near sung in old Bengali by small groups of men and women accompanied by drums and cymbals, and the intermittent thuds of gongs which can be heard even from afar. This is the evening prayer, or sandhya-arti as the Meiteis call it. It is worth paying attention to the popularity of Chaitanya Vaishnavism and its acceptance by the entire Meitei community wholeheartedly as their religion while other preceding faiths like Ramandi and Nimandi could not capture the hearts of the people in quite the same way. We find no better answer than pointing to sankirtana itself which is a form of worship of Krishna and Radha through hymns of praise and the dramatization of scenes from their lives in the garden of Vrindavan. This was adopted quite easily by the Meiteis whose religion ‘expresses itself in a synthesis of music, singing, dancing and drama’ (Bowers 1953: 123). The sankirtana, infused by the artistic genius of the Meiteis, creates an atmosphere where dance and music become the dominant elements of their religion and life, providing an emotional outlet for the people. One will be surprised that even though in Bengal, the birthplace of Chaitanyaism, the initial force of this creative activity has now virtually disappeared, in Manipur, the cultic aspect remains fresh, active, and vital. ‘There kirtans [sankirtana], although sung in Old Bengali, a foreign language to the Manipuris, are still the heart-beat and pulse of the country’s emotional and religious life’ (ibid.: 124). The fact that Vaishnavism found a fertile field in Manipur and established a deep-rooted foundation in Meitei society within a short period of about 300 years remains a matter of great interest not only for the reason that it leads to the aggrandizement of new followers but for the enrichment of the faith itself. It will be wrong to contend that Meitei Vaishnavism is 130 KUNJ BIHARI SINGH

nothing but a pseudo copy of what is being practised in Bengal. On the contrary, admitting that Bengal is the progenitor of Meitei Vaishnavism, the Meitei have fashioned the faith to their own tastes guided by their own brand of conservatism and orthodoxy. This we can find from a variety of their religious functions and other ceremonies. In other words, it means that in the process of assimilating this new faith many indigenous elements came to be associated with it without much disharmony. This was partly because, prior to the advent of Chaitanya Vaishnavism the people were already familiar with the neighbouring Hindu people and their pantheon. It will be needless to say that Meitei Vaishnavism remains unique within the general history of Hindu culture for its society with a dual caste organization—Brahmins and Kshatriyas. It may also be added that Vaishnavism has led, first, to the complete absorption of the immigrant Brahmins into Meitei society, and second, to the adoption of Bengali, and partly Sanskrit, literature which undeniably provides fodder for the cultivation of the Vaishnava faith. In this manner, Meitei Vaishnavism with its tradition reminiscent of that of Nabadwip, Mathura, and Vrindavan, has made some memorable achievements during the past three centuries or so.

NOTES 1. 2. 3. 4.

A round black stone traditionally used as an emblem of Vishnu. He was a follower, not the founder of the oldest division of known as Nimbarka. Often called Ramanandi, but the Meiteis call it Ramandi Gaura or Gauranga is an epithet of Chaitanya and hence Chaitanyaite Vaishnavism is also known as Gaura Dharma, ‘religion of Gaura’. 5. Though this instance may be reckoned as a mark of supreme dedication to Shri Govinda, mock marriage of maidens with the Meitei gods at the Lai Haraoba festival is a vestige of an ancient rite of fertility cult. Customary instances of marriage of deities with human beings are found in India (Crooke: 247), and other parts of the world (Frazer: 142–46).

REFERENCES Bhandarkar, R.G. 1928. Vaishnavism, Saivism and Minor Religious Systems. Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute.


Bowers, F. 1953. The Dance in India. New York: Columbia University Press. Crooke, W. 1926. Religion and Folklove of Northern India. Oxford: Oxford University Press. De, S.K. 1942. Early History of the Vaishnava Faith and Movement in Bengal. Calcutta: K.L. Mukhopadhyay. Farquhar, J.N. 1929. Modern Religious Movements in India. London: Macmillan and Co. Frazer, J.G. 1922. The Golden Bough. New York: Macmillan. Ghurye, G.S. 1962. Gods and Men. Bombay: Popular Book Depot. Kennedy, M.T. 1925. The Chaitanya Movement. Calcutta: Association Press. Monier-Williams, M. 1951. Hinduism. Calcutta: Susil Gupta. Sanahal, R.K. 1947. Manipur Itihas. Imphal. Sen, D.C. 1917. Vaishnava Literature in Medieval Bengal. Calcutta: University Press






n this essay, I shall endeavour to show that the factor of anti-pollution occupies a central place in the Lingayat ideology. The Lingayat movement which arose in the twelfth century Karnataka, has passed through many historical vicissitudes. A number of sociologists have studied or referred to the diverse aspects of Lingayatism. J.H. Hutton (1969: 118) has classified the Lingayats as a caste-sect, i.e., a sect which in course of time transformed itself into a caste within the Hindu fold. G.S. Ghurye (1964: 137) has referred to the role of Lingayatism in mitigating the degenerative *Originally published in the Sociological Bulletin, vol. 26, no. 2, 1977, pp. 227–41. * I thank my colleagues in the Centre for the Study or Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University, for their valuable suggestions on the earlier drafts of this essay. I especially thank Professor T.K. Oommen for the constant encouragement he gave me in developing this essay. The responsibility for errors and shortcomings is mine. This essay forms a part or my forthcoming Report on the Lingayat Movement in South Karnataka. This research project was sponsored by the Centre in the year 1973–74.

Tantrikism in South India. M.N. Srinivas (l952: 225) has considered the Lingayats as a Sanskritising group.1 W. McCormack (1963: 59–71) has discussed the religious, social and legal aspects of the Lingayat sect. M.S.A. Rao (1969: 11–12) and C. Parvathamma (1975: 3–5) have inter alia spoken of the sect’s rejection of ritual pollution and its emphasis on the sanctity of work. L. Dumont (1972: 233–37) has underlined the renunciatory basis of Lingayat sect.2 It is my view that while these studies are valuable contributions to the understanding of Lingayats we need to look more closely at the Lingayat movement from its anti-pollution standpoint. I believe one can establish a logical connection between its stand on anti-pollution and the structure of the Lingayat sect. I hold the view that while Lingayats may be substantively a caste, in notional terms they are not a caste because of their explicit rejection of ritual pollutions, which are an important part of Hindu ideology. Even in substantive terms I would regard the various sub-castes within the Lingayat fold as status groups based on a competitive relationship. This arrangement in my view stands in contrast to the essential complementarity of the Hindu caste system. I intend to explicate these issues in a separate essay. In this essay I will only indicate the theoretical possibilities. This essay draws heavily on Lingayat writings such as Vachanas, philosophical or literary essays, novels, interpretations, etc. Most of these writings are in Kannada. These are not historical records in a formal sense; but they reveal through metaphor and image the efforts made by Lingayats to discard purity-pollution. I have cited at the end of this essay only a few of these literary and philosophical works for the sake of brevity. Another important reason for drawing upon them is the particularly effective nature of Lingayat appeal. It is not only Lingayats but also many non-Lingayats who are exposed to the Lingayat doctrine. Every schoolgoing boy or girl in Karnataka knows something about the Vachanas of Basava, Akkamahadevi or Sarvajna, the leading Lingayats of early times. Thus at the level of literary appeal it tends to become partly non-sectarian. On the substantive level, however, Lingayats tend to act in the manner of sectarians vis-àvis non-Lingayats. The Lingayat ideology may be said to consist of the following elements: (a) worship of Linga (representation of Phallus) as the symbol of Shiva, the Primordial Spirit; (b) rejection of Vedic sacrificial rites; (c) rejection of ritual pollution; (d) emphasis on eradication through spiritual exercises (such as meditation) the three inner pollutions;3 (e) belief in and practice


of astavarana and Panchachara rites which embody the substance of Lingayat theology known as Shaktivishistadwaita;4 and (f ) insistence on the sanctity of work and equal opportunities for all in society. In this essay I will mainly refer to (a) and (c) which are intricately related in Lingayatism. Indeed one can say that Lingayatism rejected ritual pollutions because it predicated itself on the Purity of the Linga.

THE CONCEPT The Lingayat movement, which had its origin in the twelfth century, aimed at the elimination of pollution as a precondition for the abolition of caste itself. Here I will try to examine the conceptual background of the factor of anti-pollution. Bougle (1971: 27) maintained that the three major components of the Indian caste system were hereditary specialization, hierarchical organization, and reciprocal repulsion (based on the purity-pollution notion). The third major component, according to him, played an important role in the maintenance of the caste system in India through the flux of time and the vicissitudes of history. Bougle (1971: 28) wrote: It is quite sufficient, as we have seen, to share a meal with certain people, to ingest certain foods, even to touch certain objects to find oneself in a state of pollution. Therefore, it is not only their obedience to the laws governing marriage that gives respect to the Brahmins: it is also the care they take in abstaining from forbidden foods and shunning contaminated people or things. The more a caste sets itself to respect the laws which safeguard the purity, the more it is esteemed. Traditionally, the caste hierarchy in India has been based on the gradations of purity in which the upper, twice-born castes, stand ritually higher than the lower castes.5 Large groups of people designated as Shudra have been denied access to sacred scriptures, excluded from the Brahminical Samskaras (Vedic rites) and made to serve the interests of the upper castes in manifold ways. This has been a legacy of the DharmaShastras which were formulated in the period of A.D. 100–300. In the




secular realm insofar as the traditional polity was related to the caste hierarchy, the lower castes have been excluded from the higher rungs of administration, because of their non-eligibility to learn sacred lore. In the Indian villages where traditions are strong, the village councils have been dominated by ritually higher upper castes. Of course, ritual purity alone does not lead to social dominance. But it is evident that ritual purity has a particularly pungent force in creating the conditions and modes of social dominance. If we compare even cursorily the Hindu social organization with its counterparts elsewhere, the usual absence of the ritual element in the latter is striking. The sources of pollution in Indian society are traceable to those prehistoric and historic periods when diverse ethnic groups entered into interactions with each other and evolved into an uneasy accommodation of diverse interests. They are also traceable to the influences of Sumerian and Egyptian cultures which diffused to India through the North-Western settlements of Harappa-Mohenjodaro. Then the nature of some manual occupations—particularly those that are dirty—too must have given rise to the notion of pollution-purity. Apart from these sources, the uneasy integration of heterogeneous elements was based on the purity-pollution notion, thereby lending to it an instrumental value. The net effect of this integration has been the relegation of certain groups such as the untouchables to a lowly existence. The deep asymmetry of Hindu society is also a direct consequence of the notion of purity and pollution. As previously noted, considerations of ritual purity gave rise to the substratum of untouchables in Hindu society. Ghurye (1971: 307) writes: ‘Ideas of purity, whether occupational or ceremonial, which are found to have been a factor in the genesis of caste, are the very soul of the idea and practice of untouchability.’ The Lingayat sect (also known as the Virashaiva sect) which arose in twelfth century North Karnataka projected for its followers a new social order—albeit within the general framework of Hindu society—which was based on ritual equality (in terms of worship and belief), and sanctity of all work and universal ritual purity (i.e., purity of all followers irrespective of sex, age and occupation). It proclaimed as its most important credo that all those who wore the Linga on the body became everlastingly pure. This purity was predicated on the esoteric belief that the Linga, symbolizing Shiva, the Cosmic Spirit, was always pure. The immanence of the Cosmic Spirit was manifested in the phallus like representation of the Linga. In


other words, the wearing of Linga was a precondition for the self’s (Jiva) ultimate merger with the cosmic spirit (Shiva).6 The sect regarded the problem of pollution from both ontogenic and existential angles. All those invested with the Linga had established a link with Shiva, the Being. Existentially, it regarded the Hindu society as disintegrating fast owing to endogenous and exogenous developments. Hindu society internally had come to be dominated by a priestly class, which imposed on society a sterile ritualism of sacrifices, fasts and feasts. We may note as an aside that in the medieval period of Indian history many reformist Bhakti movements arose challenging the priestly order; Lingayatism was a forerunner of such reformist strivings. Exogenously, the Islamic invasion was a powerful challenge to the Hindu ideology, casteism and Brahminical values. In the twelfth century, Karnataka had started reeling under the sporadic but devastating Islamic onslaught. The reforms of Shankara in the eighth century A.D., and the heterodoxies of Buddhism and Jainism as they existed in the South, were unsuccessful in preventing the disintegration of the general social order (Ghurye 1964: 137). The Lingayat projection of a new social order based on ritual equality, sanctity of work and universal ritual purity thus attracted the attention of Hindu chieftains and kings, notable among whom were the successive kings of Vijayanagar and Hoysala dynasties. It was these rulers who lent concrete support and royal patronage to the poets, scholars and philosophers of the Lingayat sect (Sastry 1971: 399–403).

DEVELOPMENT OF THE LINGAYAT SECT Sastry (1971: 436) writes: Basava, the Prime Minister of Kalacuri Bijjala, King at Kalyani (1156), is usually regarded as the founder of the sect. Lingayat tradition avers that the sect is very old and was founded by five ascetics— Ekorama, Panditaradhya, Revana, Marula and Viswaradhaya—who were held to have sprung from the head of Siva. Basava, they say, was but the Reviver of the Faith but we know for a fact that the five ascetics named were all contemporaries of Basava, some older,




some younger. The early history of Vira-Saivism is therefore still some what uncertain ... Lingayats regard Siva as supreme and must worship only Him; hence the name Vira-Saivas, Stalwart Saivas. The Aradhya Saivas of the Telugu country differed from the Lingayats in some respects. They followed Mallikarjuna Panditaradhya, a contemporary of Basava, in refusing to accept the latter’s rejection of the Veda and renunciation of caste. But the relations of Aradhya Saivism with Lingayatism were friendly, and both joined together in the fourteenth century in resisting the inroads of Muslims and in preparing the way for the foundation of Vijayanagar. There are definite indications in historical records and documents that from about thirteenth century to the sixteenth century, the sect broadened into a social movement, aided by a host of factors. Royal patronage, the saintly lives and deeds of the founders of the sect, the spread of vernacular Lingayat religious literature, the missionary zeal of its activists, and more than all the enthusiasm of the low castes for taking to a new life, led to the numerical expansion of the sect, founding of numerous mathas as religious and cultural centres, and its recognition and gradual accommodation in the wider society.7 During this period of expansion, the sect particularly secured adherents among low castes like the potters, washermen, barbers and smiths. Conversions to the new faith did not entail for these castes any giving up of previous occupations. There were also numerous converts from Vokkliga, Kuruba, Banajiga castes, connected with farming, shepherding and trading respectively. There were a few converts from among Brahmins also. As an aside we may note that a number of Brahmins entered other heterodox sects like Buddhism and Jainism too by a process of co-optation: they were employed as interpreters and defenders of these faiths through a new idiom. But we may surmise that the sect’s total prohibition of the consumption and sale of meat and liquor must have restricted the entry of groups like fishermen, hunters and toddy tappers. At the time of the formation of the sect itself, we find evidence of a great diversity in the backgrounds of the sectarians. Just to mention a few examples, we may start with Basava, the most famous sectarian who impressed everyone by his versatility, generosity and flamboyance. He was born (1120) in a Brahmin family at Bagevadi, a Brahmin Agraharam, whose members were supported by grants of kings or chieftains and who spent their life mastering Vedic rituals and knowledge. He fell out of


favour with his orthodox parents when he refused to undergo initiation into the twice-born status and ran away to a nearby religious place called Kudalasangama, which was a haunt of Shaivite mendicants, mystics and the like. He developed an abiding attachment to the Linga of Shiva installed there and spent some years absorbing spiritual knowledge from the mendicants (Srinivasamurthy 1962: 11). Around this time, the Kalachuri Bijjala usurped the throne of the ruling Western Chalukya king Tailapa the Second, and established himself as king of Kalyani. Basava entered the king’s service and gradually gained the former’s confidence by helping him consolidate and administer his kingdom. He was rewarded with the position of Prime Minister in the king’s court. In the meantime he had been engaged in building anubhava mandapa, which I may translate as the Hall of Experience. The mandapa was a forum for Lingayat men and women of all castes and occupations. It served as a prototype for the later mathas, some of which became powerful religious and cultural centres. I give below details of some of the members in terms of caste and occupation (Chidanandamurthy 1967: 106). These members among others were also very influential sectarians. Table 7.1 Member’s Name


English Equivalent

Madhuvarasa Muddayya Manchayya Chandayya Ketayya Haralayya Ramanna Channayya Appanna Siddaramayya

Brahmin Vokkaliga Madivala Ambiga Meda Holeya Golla Madiga Hadapa Kuruba

– Tenant-farmer Washerman Boatman Bastketmaker Agricultural serf Herdsman Scavenger Barber Shepherd

Table 7.2 Member’s Name


Allama Prabhu Bommayya Molige Maranna Manchanna Somavva Sanganna

Drumbeater Mimic and actor Wood-cutter and fuel seller Messenger Paddy grinder Dispenser of medicine




Many of these members were also distinguished composers of Vachana, a distinct literary creation. Sastry writes (1971: 399): After the Jains, the Vira-Saivas did most for the development of Kannada language and literature; they wrote many religious works in Kannada and showed a decided preference for the prose medium. Basava and his contemporaries (twelfth century) brought into existence the Vachana literature in simple prose easily understood by the common folk and well calculated to popularize the creed. There were over two hundred writers, many women among them, with Mahadeviakka at their head.8 Later periods witnessed the growth of classical literature comprising epics in ragale (blank verse) and tripadi (verses of three lines). There also came into existence a number of philosophical treatises. The two classical poets, Harihara and Raghavanka, among others, were aided by royal patronage. Sastry (1971: 399–403) gives details of such works. As many as 50 outstanding literary and philosophical works have survived and they are still being read by advanced students of Kannada literature. Lingayat literature also abounds in myths, legends and accounts of miracles. If a structuralist were to study them, I am sure he/she would find some very interesting substantive and theoretical uniformities. This digression has been made by me to underline the extraordinary strength and vitality of Lingayat literary and philosophical works which served as the medium of the sect’s message through centuries. To revert to the time of the anubhava mandapa, three conditions were enjoined upon the members. First, everyone was to wear a Linga and worship it daily. Second, everyone must abjure caste, communal and sex-based differences. There are records which attest to the fact that members of the mandapa were close to one another, entered into mutual discourses— which were marked by seriousness as well as repartee—and prostrated at each other’s feet as a mode of greeting. The mandapa thrived for a few years. The non-Lingayats (Hindus and Jains) regarded the Lingayats as loud and exhibitionistic and also lacking in reverence for the established norms of society. The Lingayats’ heterodoxy was watched with dismay by the orthodox Hindus, led by the Brahmins. The latter, time and again complained to Bijjala—the Jain king—about the words and deeds of Basava and other Lingayat heretics. The king remained broadly tolerant but was infuriated when the mandapa arranged a marriage between a untouchable boy (the son of Haralayya) 140 C.N. VENUGOPAL

and a Brahmin girl (the daughter of Bijjala’s minister Madhuvarasa). In a burst of fury, he ordered that the couple be blinded. In retaliation, an overzealous follower of Basava assassinated the king (in A.D. 1167) which in turn led to reprisals on the Lingayats by palace guards. The mandapa was ransacked, many of its members were put to the sword, and some of the leaders who survived the attack retreated to forests to spend their last days (Chidanandamurthy 1967: 67). The next period (thirteenth to sixteenth century A.D.) witnessed the transformation of the sect into a revolutionary force, the Virashaivites, who through their martyrdom, activism and intense faith in their unique destiny, won numerous followers. The sect undoubtedly became a social movement of the first order. From the sixteenth century onwards, the movement lost some of its force and got caught in the blind alleys of subsects and narrow interests. The reason for the decline was complex but rather typical of sects in the Indian milieu. According to Hsu (1969: 203–28), the Asian creeds and sects (including the variants of Christianity and Islam), lose their exclusiveness sooner or later; they tend to become syncretic and if they are monotheistic they become pantheistic. Their values and norms tend to reflect the Asian inclusiveness. The accommodative nature of Asian creeds and sects stand in marked contrast to Western Christianity. In the Indian milieu, the purity-pollution notion has a very pervasive influence on Hindu social behaviour. The interactions among Hindus on the one hand and between Hindus and non-Hindus on the other are conditioned by its influence. Dumont (1972: 248–54) has referred to its encroachments even among Christians and Muslims. Thus, Lingayatism too fell into the clutches of pollution and ended up as a caste-like social formation. I shall refer to this again in the next section.

DIMENSIONS OF ANTI-POLLUTION Lingayat theologians enjoined upon their followers to desist from observing the Pancha Sutakas (Five Pollutions) namely, the pollutions arising from (a) birth, (b) death, (c) menstruation, (d) spittle and (e) caste contact (i.e., contact with inferior castes). Implicitly, they dealt with pollutions on two levels: metaphysical and social. I will first refer to the metaphysical level very briefly. Siddhantagama (a Lingayat Sanskrit work) centres around the worship of the Linga, as the symbol of the cosmic spirit. All the wearers of the ANTI-POLLUTION



Linga are ever pure, free from the taints of birth, death, etc. The child born of a Lingayat woman is free from the pollution of birth; so is the mother who has delivered the child.9 Death is a merger of the individual consciousness (Jiva) with cosmic consciousness (Shiva). Therefore, this is an event for celebration rather than for mourning. The observance of menstrual pollution is a hindrance to the daily worship of Shiva which is required of every Lingayat man, woman or child. The observance of spittle pollution is again an inessential intrusion into the worship of Linga. Likewise caste sentiment finds no place in the worship of Linga which has neither the attributes of caste nor of gender. In other words, ritual impurities are de-emphasized thoroughly in the Lingayat worship which is regarded as a lifelong commitment (ajanmavrata) (Malledevaru 1964: 89–107). In Lingayatism emphasis is placed on mental purity as a prerequisite to the attainment of personal salvation from the cycle of births and deaths. This mental purity is not based on ritual purity, as it is understood in the orthodox Hindu thinking. These injunctions however do not refer to physical impurities. In other words, physical cleanliness is regarded as an antecedent condition for mental purity (Nanjundaradhya 1962: 157–65). Let me explain the social aspect now. The pollutions of birth, death, menstruation, and spittle may be regarded as temporary because ritual purity may be restored after a period of ritual observance and purification. These are remediable. Even the last one arising from caste contact can be overcome in one sense but irremediable in another sense. For instance, breaking a commensal rule may lead to a member’s ostracism but there are provisions for his expiation and subsequent re-entry into the fold. But the Lingayats were more concerned with the other aspect, whereby the birth into a particular caste renders one permanently impure. Such is the basis among Hindus for calling some people Shudras and keeping them in a permanently low ritual status. Lingayat folklore as already mentioned has verbal expressions to the effect that the Lingayats are not tainted by ritual pollution.10 Basava satirized the notion of ritual pollution in his vachanas (Basavaraju 1970). Looking at the Brahminical aversion to the pollution of spittle, he said that none would worship God by being worried about spittle: the water is tainted by the spittle of fish; the flower is tainted by the spittle of bee; the milk is tainted by the spittle of calf. Looking at the pollution of caste status, he pointed out that many of the rishis (the eponymous ancestors of Brahminical castes) were themselves born of low castes. Examples: Vyasa was the son of a stone mason; Kashyapa was the son of a hunter; 142 C.N. VENUGOPAL

Durvasa was the son of a leather worker; Markandeya was the son of an untouchable. So how futile for one to be proud of one’s high caste! All Hindu groups, high or low, have a definite obligation to observe birth and death pollutions for a fixed number of days (Hutton 1969: 46–70). Among the twice-born groups, the purificatory rites are more elaborate and expensive than among the lower castes. Short stories and novels in the regional literatures of India frequently portray the stranglehold of mortuary rites on the individual families, sometimes leading to their economic ruination. Further, among twice-born castes an entire group living in a relatively isolated territory could be affected by the death of a member of the caste. This was so till recently, when the forces of urbanization, secularization and communication were more limited in their impact. Ananthamurthy (1970) brings out in his social novel the many tribulations to which all the residents of a Brahmin settlement were subjected because a deceased member—whose conduct had been hedonistic and anti-Brahminical while he had been alive—could not be cremated for a number of days. The third major ritual pollution is menstruation. This has been traditionally observed by all orthodox Hindu groups, including some untouchables. In some primitive societies too menstrual pollution is dreaded. In India, it has given rise to a structural element: all over India, washermen are regarded as polluting, because of their supposed washing of menstrual clothes.11 Menstrual pollution has been a social disability for women in orthodox households. A woman undergoing menstruation was denied access to the kitchen, the household gods and the social pursuits. It caused a great deal of irksomeness and a feeling of disgust in the minds of women which often led to a feeling of inadequacy. We may pass over the fourth pollution, i.e., spittle, except to refer briefly to the Kannada folk epithet haruva attached to a Brahmin; it means literally one ‘who hops about’ lest he tread on something which is defiling. Any contact with the spittle directly or indirectly renders a Brahmin at once polluted.12 The last major pollution is the one generated by caste contact—that is interaction of a high caste with low caste, whether in terms of a simple work relationship or a social relationship such as commensality or marriage. After the formulation of the Dharma Shastras in the period A.D. 100– 300, the Hindu Varna order rationalized the substratum of untouchables as a Panchama Varna—the category below the pollution line. Many Bhakti movements sought to give them a better status but their successes were limited. Lingayatism too did not succeed but it was notable for its logical ANTI-POLLUTION IN THE IDEOLOGY



attack on the notion of untouchability. Indeed, Basava’s three close associates were untouchables. In subsequent periods too a number of untouchables were absorbed into the Lingayat fold.

CONCLUSIONS The Lingayats comprise about 4.5 million people in Karnataka. After the sixteenth century, the subsects which developed within the Lingayat fold showed a tendency to become sub-castes. These developments did not occur all of a sudden; there were many transitional developments into which I cannot go in this essay. But suffice it to say that the following ‘lapses’ occurred: (a) endogamous ties were generally retained by the subcastes; (b) in spite of its ‘monistic’ leanings, the Lingayats retained or developed some pantheistic beliefs and practices; and (c) the sub-castes became hypersensitive about their status. Nevertheless, I submit there are important differences within the Lingayat fold. There is a pervasive positive feeling among Lingayats about the sanctity of work. There is also a strong puritan ethic which has given rise to a large entrepreneurial class among Lingayats. There is also a very considerable relaxation regarding the ritual pollutions (Parvathamma 1971: 84–105). There is a total absence of the sacrificial cult among Lingayats. A considerable simplification of rites is another characteristic feature. Further, the unity of all castes within the Lingayat fold is fostered by the wearing of the Linga, while the adoption of Panchachara or Astavarana rites are common to all the Lingayats. (Among orthodox Hindus, the samskaras divide the society into the Dwija and the Shudra.) Among the Lingayats there are five broad social divisions: they are (a) Jangama, (b) Aradhya, (c) Banajiga, (d) Panchacharya, and (e) Sadus. Except perhaps the Aradhyas, all other caste groups are of diverse origin. I have already referred to the Aradhyas who did not go along with Basava. These divisions are not based on the varna scheme nor do they reflect the infinite gradation of the Hindu-caste hierarchy. I may tentatively suggest that some of the sub-castes among Lingayats are traceable to the subsects which came up after the sixteenth century. The first two sub-castes among the Lingayats are connected with priestly functions not because of any scriptural provision but by a de facto right. They are clearly a contravention of the tenet of Basava that everyone 144 C.N. VENUGOPAL

should be his own priest. Everyone becomes his own priest when he receives the diksha by a guru or jangama who could be drawn from any subcaste. Therefore the Lingayat priestly sub-castes do not stand in the same relationship to the other castes, as Brahmins stand in relation to nonBrahmins. In spite of these lapses, there are two trends aiming at reintegration; first, all over Karnataka the Lingayats have built hostels and colleges for the education of students. These hostels accommodate diverse Lingayat sub-castes; but there are also considerable numbers of nonLingayats among them. There is a commensal separation between Lingayats and non-Lingayats in many of these hostels although a few of them extend equal facilities to all. Second, there are certain revivalist movements amongst Lingayats which seek to restore the spirit of anubhava mandapa. (Shivakumara Shivacharya 1969: 88–90). In spite of their political overtones, some of these movements are genuinely concerned with the community’s deviation from the original ideals. In any case the secular trends in the wider society have considerably reduced social rigidity amongst the Lingayats by the infusion of rationalistic values. To sum up, Lingayatism could not bring changes in the whole social structure but it succeeded in changing some aspects of it. It was therefore a change in the social system but not of the system; it was not a movement which directly aimed at the elimination of economic inequalities or class contradictions. It also contributed to a distinguished subculture or liberal social values through its magnificent literature and philosophy. This subculture remains an integral part of the regional culture of Karnataka.

NOTES 1. The role of Lingayats as a Sanskritising group in Coorg, studied by M.N. Srinivas (1965) reveals a paradoxical element in Lingayatism. In general it has vigorously advocated the rejection of priestly authority, Vedic sacerdotalism, and Sanskritic beliefs. Lingayats do not subscribe to the sanctity of Veda, the incarnations of Vishnu or even the Vedic notion of Shiva. To them (ontologically speaking) Shiva is the Primordial Spirit rather than the member of the holy trinity. That is why the Lingayats do not own any affinity to Shaivite groups in Hinduism. 2. The view of Dumont about the renunciatory nature of the Lingayat sect needs some modification because right from the twelfth century there have been two streams within the movement. One of these streams emphasized the renunciation of caste ties, the other, retention of caste ties in some measure.




3. The three inner pollutions are anava mala (arising from Ego’s involvement in the cycle of births and deaths), maya mala (arising from Ego’s attachment to family, kin, caste or even community), and Karmika mala (arising from Ego’s elation over success in his work and depression over failure in his work). It is believed that through the spiritual exercises initiated by the guru, the Ego can overcome them (see, Shivakumara Shivacharya 1969: 162–63). 4. At the risk of oversimplification I may explain it as follows. Originally there is the sthala (literally ‘place’) which is the equivalent of the Upanishadic Brahman. It is the source and end of Cosmos. Sthala divides itself into two by its own active power, i.e., Shakti. One part becomes Lingasthala or Lingashiva who is worshipped by every Lingayat in the form of Linga worn on the body. Lingashiva operatively retains the attributes of a universal soul. The other part is angasthala which becomes the individual soul. Liberation from the cycle of births and deaths means the ‘merger’ of the individual soul with the universa1 soul. But the ‘merger’ is qualified in this respect: the individua1 soul will not take on the attributes of the universal soul in full measure. Hence it is different from the Advaitic Shivoham (I am shiva). For a part of this explanation, I am indebted to G.S. Ghurye (1965: 248). 5. S.H. Orenstein (1970: 22–35) traces the logicality of the Hindu theory of pollution. He separates relational pollution (arising from birth or death of a kinsman) from self-pollution (arising from bodily emissions, impurities, etc.). This is viewed by him in terms of the rank orders in Hindu society and also the particular ritual status (degree of purity) of Ego at the time of relational or self-pollution. 6. The Sanskrit phrase Lingadhari sada shuchih—the Wearer of Linga is always pure— and the Kannada folk saying Lingakke holeyilla—The Linga is free from pollution— express the belief noted above. 7. According to 1971 official estimates, there are about 4.5 million Lingayats in Karnataka and they are more heavily concentrated in the Northern districts than in the South. Also, the Lingayats—many of whom are prosperous traders and landowners have a following among lower-caste non-Lingayats based on what we may broadly call patron-client relations. These ties are often used by Lingayats in local faction building. It may be noted that the Lingayats have been a powerful factor in state politics since the time of the formation of the integrated Karnataka in 1956. Three chief ministers have come from this community, apart from numerous MLAs, MLCs and other functionaries in political parties. The then Vice-President of India, B.D. Jaiti, was a Lingayat. Approximately the Lingayats occupy the same numerical and economic position as the Vokkaligas, the other major community in the state. 8. There are two qualifications to the above-mentioned citation. First, the vachanas are not exactly prose but may be called prose-poems. Second, all the composers of vachanas might not have written down their vachanas, some of them not being literate. Their followers might have written down the same. 9. Some orthodox Lingayats secure diksha (initiation) to the unborn child, in the eighth month of the mother’s pregnancy. Otherwise, the diksha is given to the child, male or female, in the eighth year. 10. Examples: Basavana kuladavarige holeyilla—the followers of Basava are not affected by pollution; Lingadavarige kulada kattilla—the Lingayats are not bound by caste ties and so on. 11. There is a striking paradox in Hindu society. All the lowly placed castes, e.g., washermen, barbers and untouchables, perform ritual duties in upper caste households


on auspicious occasions. They act as messengers, musicians and so on at social events like marriage. But outside these occasions they revert to their usual ritual status. Their ritual elevation on a pro tempore basis has a dramatic quality which emphasizes the compensatory mechanism of Hindu society. 12. In some parts of India, certain types of apparel and utensils are considered to be free from ritual pollution which might arise from spittle and contact with people of lower castes. Clothes made of silk and utensils made of silver are held to be free from ritual impurity. If a Brahmin priest wears silk he is free from contact-pollution, even if he were to physically come into contact with a low-caste person. Similarly if food and drink are served to a ritually low ranking person in silver utensils the pollution is neutralized.

REFERENCES Ananthamurthy, U.R. 1970. Samskara (translated into English by A.K. Ramanujam). Bombay: Oxford University Press. Basavaraju, L. 1970. Basava Vachanamrita (Vachanas of Basava, in Kannada). Bangalore: Basava: Samiti. Bougle Celestin. 1971. Essays on the Indian Caste System, in D.F. Pocock (ed.). London: Cambridge University Press. Chidanandamurthy, M. 1967. Basavannanavaru (A Biography of Basava, in Kannada). Mysore City: Gita Book House. Dumont, Louis. 1972. Homo Hierarchicus. London: Paladin. Ghurye, G.S. 1964. Indian Sadhus. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. ———. 1965. Religious Consciousness. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. ———. 1971. Caste and Race in India. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. Hsu, Francis 1969. ‘Christianity and the Anthropologist’ in M.G. Pradhan, R.D. Singh and D.B. Sastry (eds), Anthropology and Archaeology. Bombay: Oxford University Press. Hutton, J.H. 1969. Caste in India. London: Oxford University Press. Malledevaru, H.P. 1964. ‘Diksha’ in H. Tipperudraswamy (ed.), Prasada (in Kannada), Mysore: Shivaratreeswara Granthalaya. McCormack W. 1963. ‘Lingayats as a Sect’, The Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute 93(1): 59–71. Nanjundaradhya, M.G. 1962. Shivaratree Shivacharya (Collection of Dialogues, in Kannada). Mysore: Shivaratreeswara Granthalaya. Orenstein, H. 1970. ‘Logical Congruence in Hindu Social Law: Another Interpretation’, Contributions to Indian Sociology, New Series 4. Parvatharnma, C. 1971. Politics and Religion. Delhi: Sterling Publishers. ———. 1975. Veerashaivism-a Shaivite Sectarian Movement of Protest and Reform (mimeograph). Simla: Indian Institute of Advanced Studies. Rao, M.S.A. 1969. ‘Religion and Economic Development’, Sociological Bulletin 18 (March) (also chapter 3 in the present volume). Sastry, K.A.N. 1971. A History of South India. Madras: Oxford University Press.




Shivakumara Shivacharya. 1969. Shatamanotsava Samdesha (centenary message, in Shivacharya Kannada). Sirigere: Taralabalu Prakashana. Srinivas, M.N. 1952. Religion and Society among the Coorgs of South India. Bombay: Asia Publishing House. Srinivasmurthy, M.R. 1962. Bhaktibhandari Basavannanavaru (a biography of Basava, in Kannada). Bangalore: Bangalore Satyashodhana Prakatane.






he social organization of popular Hinduism is notoriously difficult to study. Confronted with the mass of local cults jumbled with pan-Hindu practices, and the multiplicity and diversity of ritual practitioners, the observer may be tempted to suggest that no such organization exists. Nor are the categories which Western sociologists have applied to the study of Christianity of great help here; Hinduism is not a church and it can hardly be said to have denominations. It has sects, to be sure, but one does not have to belong to a sect to be a Hindu—indeed probably the majority of Hindus practise their religion independently of any sectarian group or organization. Rather, Hinduism is organized on the basis of a vast number of cults, large and small. By a cult I mean here a complex of religious activity directed towards a common object of reverence (be it a deity, saint, animal, spirit, natural feature, or indeed a living human being). That is, the members of the *Originally published in the Sociological Bulletin, vol. 19, no. 2, 1970, pp. 137–52.

cult are united by the fact that they all worship the same object, rather than by the fact that they all hold the same views or dogmas (although obviously some common ideas must be assumed). You ‘belong’ to a cult only as long as you care to practise it, and membership is seldom exclusive; it is generally possible to participate in more than one cult at a time, and most Hindus do so, although they may have preferences and favourites. The ideal typical Hindu cult can therefore be contrasted with the ideal typical Christian sect as described by Wilson (1961), and others. For instance, membership of the sect is exclusive; you cannot belong to the Plymouth Brethren and to the Peculiar People at the same time. Membership of the sect is founded on adherence to certain specified tenets; you cannot be a Jehovah’s Witness unless you believe in the absolute and literal truth of the Bible. Membership, moreover, is seldom ambiguous; you either are or are not a Seventh Day Adventist or Elimite, and at any given time it ought to be possible to ascertain how many adherents these sects have. Most Hindu cults have a fairly clearly discernible geographical dimension or ‘spread’, to use the term coined by Srinivas (1952: 212–77). They generally have a cult centre or centres where the cult object has his or her chief shrine and to which pilgrims come from a larger or smaller ‘hinterland’. In some cases agents from the cult centre (priests or propagandists of various sorts) tour this hinterland to publicize the cult. But the maintenance of the cult does not depend upon the activities of the custodians of its centre alone, for it also has an autonomous or semi-autonomous existence at the local level. That is, throughout the area of its spread there will be numerous small shrines erected and maintained by local people and dedicated to the cult object. Many devotees will also practise the cult privately in their own homes independently of such shrines and without reference to any ritual specialists which the cult may have. Indeed these specialists-priests, custodians, etc., usually have no authority in the cult, only an interest in its survival and a certain expertise (special knowledge of songs, stories and rites associated with the cult object) which they may place at the devotees’ disposal.

THE HINDU CULTS OF DISTRICT KANGRA Few sociologists who have studied popular Hinduism have taken the cult as their unit of study.1 Most studies have been conducted at the village 150 URSULA M. SHARMA

level, or at least have been focussed on the total religious activities of a particular locality or social group. In this essay I shall describe two Hindu cults which are popular in the Himalayan foothills of district Kangra, Himachal Pradesh, and I shall try to indicate some of the features which we ought to look for when taking the cult as our unit of study. In particular, I shall try to show how the geographical dimension of the cult is largely maintained by a process of mutual communication between the centre and the ‘member-devotees’ based in their various towns and villages. I should emphasize that it is the structural and organizational features of the cults which I am primarily concerned with rather than their cultural features. I have dealt with the latter rather briefly and there are many legends and traditions concerned with these cults which I have not the space to record here. There may be some lacunae in my information due to the fact that when I conducted fieldwork in Kangra from May 1966 to June 1967 I was myself concentrating on the religion of one village community primarily. The time and resources at my command for travel in the district were limited, and so I was obliged to study these cults very much from the vantage point of a particular village, or rather a group of villages, in Tahsil Hamirpur; therefore my information is not evenly drawn from the whole of the geographical areas which constitute the spread of these two cults. However, I do not think that any gaps in my information due to these limitations are likely to be serious for the purposes of this essay. The cults of Baba Balak Nath, the cowherd who was granted immortal life, and of Baba Ludru, the carrier, have as their objects two saintly personages whose historical existence is not doubted by their devotees. Baba Balak Nath has the added distinction of being classed as a Siddh. The Siddhs, as local people understand the term, are a category of deified, or at least sainted, ascetics whose cults are very popular in the Himalayan foothills. They are usually described as having originally led the life of ordinary human beings on earth: somehow however they had achieved superhuman status on account of their virtue and asceticism. Various other Siddhs besides Balak Nath are worshipped in the area I studied, and they almost always seem to be represented as devotees of Shiva, or at least exhibit conspicuous Shaivite features in their icons and cult traditions.


THE CULT OR BABA BALAK NATH, THE IMMORTAL COWHERD Balak Nath, according to the story, was a Brahman boy (balak means child) who devoted himself to an ascetic life at an early age. He spent some years studying at Benaras where he amazed his teachers with his precocious aptitude for learning. But this was to be a source of trouble with his parents, for when he returned home he discovered that they had arranged his marriage. Like Swami Dayanand Saraswati, the founder of the Arya Samaj, in more recent times, Balak Nath decided that the life of a sanyasi held more attractions for him than the life of a householder. But he could not convince his father of this, and when his parents remained adamant in their determination that he should be married as soon as possible, he was obliged to run away from home to escape matrimony. He became a famous ascetic in spite of his youth and was renowned for his spiritual powers. But his trials were not over, for he was importuned by the famous saint Gorakh Nath who desired him to join his band of yogis. Gorakh Nath would not accept his refusal when he politely explained that he preferred the solitary discipline of the hermit. Finally Balak Nath grew so weary of this pestering that in despair he used his miraculous powers to escape by flying through the air. He alighted at Shah Talai, Tahsil Hamirpur, in the foothills, at that time a deserted spot, and even today hardly more than a village in spite of the comings and goings of the saint’s numerous pilgrims. There he engaged himself as a cowherd to a Lohar woman named Ratno. Every day his good employer gave him buttermilk and bread to take to the fields with him for his mid-day meal. But being a true ascetic he declined to eat this food, instead hiding it in the hollow trunk of a tree. At the end of a year’s service he confronted Ratno with this hoard, which miraculously had not decayed and was still fresh and good. He beseeched her to accept what was her own property. Various stories are current about the other miracles which Balak Nath’s powers enabled him to accomplish: for instance, how he could cause barren cows to give milk, or how he restored the wheat which his cows had trampled to its former upright state. His dwelling place was a cave in the side of the mountain in which he kept a lamp burning day and night, and the name by which he is widely known, Deut Siddh, is said to be derived from the term for lamp (diva), although this etymology seems somewhat obscure to me. In this cave Balak Nath is said to dwell even to this day,


for Shiva was so pleased by his asceticism that he granted him the gift of immortal life. Thus when the time came for Balak Nath to attain samadhi2 he simply immured himself in his cave hermitage, and lives there still, according to local tradition. These stories were related to me both by the mahant (head priest) of Balak Nath’s shrine at Shah Talai and by ordinary villagers in the area where I worked, for they are an integral part of the living religious tradition of the area. When villagers worship Balak Nath it is not usually at Shah Talai but either at one of the many village shrines erected in his name or in their own homes. They may worship him in thanksgiving for some happy event, especially on the occasion of the birth of a cow or buffalo calf—perhaps on account of the saint’s special association with cattle. Or they may make a vow to worship him conditional upon the saint rendering help in some way (for instance, by providing male offspring, ensuring success in an examination, or a plentiful harvest). In these respects the cult of Balak Nath is similar to those of other local saints and deities. If a special favour is sought of the saint a vow may be made to visit Shah Talai and to make an offering there. However, not all pilgrimages are made in fulfilment of vows. To some extent a pilgrimage is also in the nature of an outing for village people, enjoyable for its own sake as well as meritorious, and parties of men and women may arrange to travel together to worship at the shrine during the season of the year when there is little work to be done in the fields. The shrine at Shah Talai is situated near the summit of a pine-covered hill. Save for a little bazaar where a few shops sell religious literature, prints, and other items connected with the cult, there are no other buildings in the immediate vicinity of the shrine. The village of Shah Talai itself lies more than a mile away, at the foot of the steep and rocky slope where the little temple perches. The cave where Balak Nath is supposed still to dwell constitutes the inner sanctum of the shrine. Women are not allowed to enter this cave but must confine their devotions to worshipping the images of the saint in the outer shrine. Visitors bring offerings of various kinds, but there is one special type of gift which is traditionally made to Balak Nath—the gift of a live goat. Peasants often bring their own goats to offer, but they can also be bought in the local bazaar. What is particularly interesting about this practice is that the goats are never actually slaughtered but are presented at the shrine and then let loose there to roam about at large. I was told that many are in fact resold by the custodians of the shrine and the money


used for its upkeep. A significant detail is the fact that the animal is closely observed when presented before the saint’s image, and only when it trembles or twitches its skin is it regarded as having been accepted by the saint. This is so obviously similar to the custom current among many communities in India who while practising animal sacrifice only slaughter an animal when it is seen to shiver, that one is naturally led to wonder whether Balak Nath’s goat is not a reminder of a defunct sacrificial rite. Although animals are not slaughtered in honour of deities nowadays in the part of Kangra I studied, certain statements made by villagers suggested that such a practice has indeed existed within living memory, at least in the case of certain specific cults. In fact a curious local legend explains how a tiger which used to live near Balak Nath’s hermitage complained that the presence of a vegetarian saint was embarrassing to him as he hardly liked to eat meat for fear of causing offence to his neighbour. ‘Please do not feel troubled,’ said Balak Nath. ‘I will ask my pilgrims myself to bring goats to my shrine. I will give them to you to eat and keep the other offerings for myself. Thus we shall both be satisfied and you need not feel embarrassed.’ This tale is recounted by villagers to explain the fact that goats are offered at Shah Talai but not slaughtered there. Other offerings are of course also made, especially rot (a kind of cake made from maize flour and unrefined sugar). But besides bringing offerings, the pilgrims to Shah Talai also receive from the saint. As in Hindu temples generally, the devotee receives prasad in the form of some kind of sweet which has been consecrated at the shrine. He is presented with prasad by the priest when he makes his offering at the shrine and usually takes enough with him to distribute among his family at home. He may also take with him vibhuti (ashes from the ritual fire burnt at the temple altar). These ashes are always kept very carefully since they are held to have healing and health-giving properties if consumed, as well as being impregnated with the sanctity of the shrine. This kind of ritual exchange—of prasad and vibhuti against the offerings of the worshipper—takes place at every Hindu temple or cult centre,3 but what I want to emphasize here is the fact that when pilgrims come from some distance to a shrine, the making of an offering against the receipt of prasad sets up a kind of sacred exchange system, a ritual traffic of sanctified goods over a considerable area. Gifts of money, food, goats, and so on, are brought in by the pilgrims from their respective villages or towns, and when they return they take with them sacred goods which carry the sanctity of the central temple into their homes. This exchange creates a material link between the cult centre itself and the home of the 154 URSULA M. SHARMA

most distant devotee, a network through which Baba Balak Nath’s gift of prasad carries the holiness and prestige associated with his shrine to widely scattered places. Thus the spread of a cult is maintained not only by cultural messages propagated by its adherents or other agents but is also roughly co-extensive with a network of active ritual exchange. So far I have spoken of the Balak Nath cult as though it were only the cult of villagers. This is not quite true, for many pilgrims from Jullundur alight at the foot of the mountain and make their way up the steep slope to the shrine itself. Many of them are well-dressed and evidently far from poor. I am not sure exactly how far the geographical spread of the cult extends, but certainly it reaches all over district Kangra and well into the Punjab. The route which Punjabi pilgrims take to reach Shah Talai on foot from the plains passes close by the village where I was staying, and during the month of Asu (the usual time for making pilgrimages to Shah Talai) this path would be thronged with men and women forming almost a non-stop procession. Travelling in bands, they carry flags and portraits of the saint and sing his praises as they walk on the stony footpaths, with their goats for the offering. These bands, I noticed, often included Sikhs as well as Hindus, and according to Rose (1911: 279), in the early years of this century many Muslims were also counted among the devotees of Balak Nath. Village shrines dedicated to Balak Nath do not generally have any ritual specialists associated with them. Villagers worship at the shrines or in their homes without the mediation of any priest. The shrine at Shah Talai, however, has a regular staff of pujaris (ritual attendants) who look after it and perform rituals before the image of the saint twice a day. These rituals are not elaborate ceremonies using Sanskrit mantras (such as can be observed at some great Hindu temples) but consist mainly of the simple act of arati (waving lights before the image) accompanied by prayers in the vernacular. The pujaris are Brahmans by caste although the mahant himself is a Gosain. The office of pujari is hereditary and that of mahant, if not actually passed from father to son, appears to have in fact remained within a certain family. The mahant has altogether a subordinate role in the Balak Nath cult compared with that of the mahant of the Baba Ludru cult. He presides over the shrine at Shah Talai, spending a good deal of his time greeting pilgrims and distributing prasad and vibhuti; yet it is the darshan4 of Balak Nath which the pilgrims come for, not that of the mahant, even though the latter is much respected and recognized as the spiritual successor of Balak Nath—his living representative. AN ESSAY IN THE STUDY OF CULTS 155

THE CULT OF LUDRU, THE SAINTLY CARRIER The cult of Baba Ludru (or Rudru) offers some contrasts with that of Balak Nath even though the idiom of both these saint cults is essentially similar. Baba Ludru is a relatively modern saint, for he seems to have lived some time during the nineteenth century, and as I shall emphasize, his cult is as yet far more restricted in its spread than that of the cult of Balak Nath. Ludru, so the story goes, was a simple peasant who made a living by transporting ghee in the foothills and plains. He used to halt his mules at the hermitage of a holy man which lay on his regular route, and he would frequently spend the night there. The holy man was impressed by Ludru’s virtues and came to nominate him as his successor in the following way. One day when the hermit felt that death was near him he called his servant and asked him to prepare khir (rice pudding). This the servant did, and brought the rice for him to eat. As he ate, the holy man allowed some of the rice to fall from his mouth back into the plate from which he was eating. Yet he did not finish the whole meal; he gave the remains to the servant and told him to eat it himself. The servant was loath to eat the remains of another person’s meal and offered the rice to Ludru when the carrier arrived that night. Polluted food was good enough for a mere peasant, he thought. Later when the hermit was on the point of death the servant pressed him to name a successor, hoping that he himself would be the favoured one. But the hermit said, ‘Whatever I had to give I have already given. Whoever ate the rice I gave you that night shall be mahant after me.’ Thus Ludru became mahant. Little else is known of Ludru’s life, but he is worshipped by villagers especially for the powers he is believed to have to protect soldiers in battle. Since a large number of young men from the upper castes in Tahsil Hamirpur and the neighbouring hill areas serve in the army for a living, this is naturally a concern which is very much alive in the minds of the local people. His other speciality is his power to ensure children for childless women. However, Baba Ludru is worshipped for all kinds of other reasons in addition, and his popularity is no doubt enhanced by the fact that he has the reputation of not using his powers other than to do good and to fulfil favours sought of him. (Most saints and deities in this area are regarded as being capable of inflicting diseases and other punishments upon those who offend them, as well as providing help.) 156 URSULA M. SHARMA

The mode of worship used in the Baba Ludru cult is basically the same as that employed in the cult of Balak Nath and indeed in the worship of all the other local saints and deities. There is, however, a difference in the typical offering made, for goats are never offered to Baba Ludru. Pilgrims to his cult centre at Jogipanga take various kinds of gift to the shrine, always vegetarian if they consist of foodstuffs, the most usual being ghee. A second difference lies in the fact that there are, as far as I know, no village shrines dedicated to Baba Ludru. This may be because, being of relatively recent origin, there has been little time as yet for the cult to develop a system of local centres. Or it may be because of the restricted spread of Ludru’s cult. The majority of his devotees live within a much narrower area than those of Balak Nath; it is easy therefore for them to visit the cult centre itself should they wish to make offerings outside their own homes. However, I think that I shall be able to show that a more convincing reason for the total lack of local shrines or icons can be found in the central role which the mahant at Jogipanga plays in the cult. I should first explain that strictly speaking there are two mahants who perpetuate the name of Ludru today. The cult centre of Baba Ludru (where the original Ludru had his hermitage) was at a lonely spot near Una in district Hoshiarpur in Punjab. But the growing fame of Ludru’s powers attracted so many shopkeepers and peddlers determined to profit by the cult that the spot did not remain lonely for long. The mahant, who was the predecessor of the present occupant of the gaddi (seat of the cult), wearied of the bustle and noise around his hermitage, which left him no peace for meditation. He therefore left a disciple in charge of the establishment there and left to find a more suitable place to settle. (To the best of my knowledge this fission was not due to any personal dispute or doctrinal schism.) Thus the mahant came to the place now known as Jogipanga (about 10 miles from the original site) and struck his chimta (tongs) into the earth there.5 According to local tradition, water immediately issued from the earth in the dry jungle. He set up his hermitage there beside the pool which was formed by this miraculous stream. It is only the Jogipanga branch of the Ludru cult which I am concerned with here, as my knowledge of the Una branch, the ‘lower gaddi’ as local people call it, is more limited. Jogipanga consists of a shrine, or rather a complex of shrines, situated in an inhospitable tract of jungle, difficult of access until a metalled road was constructed nearby within the last few years, and even now served by only a few buses each day. A central temple accommodates the mahant, who spends much of his time conducting prayers and hymns before the AN ESSAY IN THE STUDY OF CULTS 157

main shrine. ‘There is also a dharamsala (hospice where pilgrims can spend the night) and a small school where the mahant—a man of considerable learning—teaches a select number of male pupils. The shrine has so far remained free of the commercializing influences which the previous mahant sought to avoid—indeed there is hardly a shop of any kind for several miles around. It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that the cult of Baba Ludru is really the cult of the mahants who have been his spiritual successors. To a certain extent the mahant who currently occupies the gaddi is identified with Ludru himself and may even be referred to by the very name of the saint. In paying respects to the mahant one is paying one’s respects to Ludru himself. Many legends have sprung up in the short time the cult has been in existence relating the miraculous powers of the mahants. The present mahant is as yet a young man of not more than about 35 years of age, but he is also praised for his extraordinary intuitive knowledge. For instance, one incident is often related in which a lady pilgrim unthinkingly sat down in the langar (public kitchen attached to the temple) without first removing her shoes. Hoping that nobody would notice her mistake, she tucked her sari over her feet to conceal them. Yet when the mahant entered the langar he sensed immediately that all was not right and told the cooks to delay serving the meal until whoever was still wearing shoes had removed them. The foolish woman was too confused to admit her blunder before all and sundry, but this proved to be unnecessary, for the mahant had sensed who the offender was. He stood before her and kindly but firmly explained that according to Hindu custom shoes are not worn in a dining area, and requested her to remove them so that the others could begin their meal. When she rose, the other pilgrims, saw that indeed she was the offender, although how the mahant divined this when her feet were concealed by her sari was a source of marvel to all. When I visited Jogipanga the mahant was still in the habit of meeting the pilgrims over their meal, gossiping genially with them as they ate and calling the servants’ attention to anyone whose plate needed replenishing. It became evident to me that for the pilgrims present this personal converse with the mahant was the highlight of their visit, not just the act of worshipping before the shrine. No one leaves Jogipanga without touching the mahant’s feet and seeking his blessings. Indeed the mahant himself, a kindly and good-natured person, makes a special point of conversing with each pilgrim individually, however humble he may be, enquiring after his health and joking affectionately with the children. The area from which the visitors are drawn to Jogipanga is far smaller than that from which Baba 158 URSULA M. SHARMA

Balak Nath’s pilgrims come—a fact which is not surprising when we consider the relative youth of the Baba Ludru cult. The spread of Ludru’s cult extends roughly over the plainwards areas of district Kangra and the adjacent parts of the Punjab. Thus the mahant is more likely to know something of the circumstances of his pilgrims; the names of their villages will be familiar to him and he may well have met relatives of theirs already. The mahant at Shah Talai has altogether less personal contact with the devotees of Balak Nath. That is, he is given great respect in his capacity of the living representative of the saint and he has an important role as administrator of a major shrine. But his prestige derives from his office rather than from his personal charisma. And it is the image of Balak Nath which is the centre of attraction at Shah Talai rather than the person of the mahant. The superior prestige of the mahant at Jogipanga may explain the general absence of shrines dedicated to Ludru and even the absence of a system of icons (I observed no images of Ludru outside Jogipanga itself). If the mahant is the main source of the cult’s impetus and is readily accessible to the worshipper, then a mere local shrine will have little attraction to counteract this pull from the centre. The mahant is so well integrated into the social life of the neighbourhood that local shrines would indeed be superfluous. He administers land in various nearby villages and quite frequently travels about the countryside on horseback attending to his property and meeting his disciples. The office of mahant at Jogipanga does not run in any particular family; indeed the mahants here have so far all been celibate. According to popular belief, when a mahant is about to die he always knows beforehand the time of his death and names the person whom he wishes to appoint his successor. The successor thus appointed may be only a small boy at the time, but the mahant’s spiritual powers enable him to perceive which of his disciples or pupils will develop the necessary qualities. The present mahant was nominated successor to the gaddi when a mere child, being the most promising and best-loved of the previous mahant’s pupils. He is the only son of a poor Brahmin couple who, despairing of any offspring, had come to worship Baba Ludru. They had promised him that if he granted them their plea for a son they would dedicate the boy to him to be brought up as his disciple. When a son was at last born to them they brought the child to the shrine in fulfilment of their promise, to be reared and taught by the mahant. So far all the mahants have been Brahmins but I was told that there was no reason (in theory at least) why a member of AN ESSAY IN THE STUDY OF CULTS 159

any clean caste should not become a disciple (and hence potential mahant) of Baba Ludru.




It will be evident by now that there are both points of comparison and points of difference between the two cults which I have described. The idiom of worship in both is essentially similar. That is, devotees use similar methods of worship and entertain the same kinds of expectations about the results they hope to achieve. Moreover, both the saints we have considered stand for similar values in the culture of the region; both are renowned as ascetic saint-heroes, using the spiritual powers they have acquired for the benefit of their devotees. Both are represented as hermits, seeking the solitude of the mountains for their pursuit of the path of meditation and prayer. But when we look at the structure of the two cults we find some important differences. These relate to (a) their respective spread, and (b) the role of their respective mahants. However, my material shows that in practice these two factors are interrelated. The relatively unimportant role of the mahant at Shah Talai may be actually due to the greater diffusion of the cult of Balak Nath. The pilgrims to Jogipanga are largely regular visitors from a rather restricted area whilst those who visit Shah Talai come from a much wider area but probably make less frequent visits. The mahant at Jogipanga, because of his greater opportunities for intensive interaction with the local devotees, has been able to build up a personal following from amongst them. The local villagers do feel that they have a personal relationship with him, and Jogipanga itself obviously has a most important place in their sentiments, much local pride being expressed in connection with it. As mentioned above, the cult of Balak Nath is more diffused and most of the pilgrims come from areas which are far beyond the immediate locality in which the mahant’s personality could be expected to exert a real pull. And in proportion, as the role of the mahant and his personal influence in maintaining and disseminating the cult is weak, so the role of the commercial aspects of the cult is well-developed. Apart from the small bazaar adjacent to the shrine, there are shops in Shah Talai itself which profit from the cult in one way or another, especially from the sale 160 URSULA M. SHARMA

of literature relating the stories and songs of the saint. Many of the booklets sold there bear the names of printers from places as far away as Ludhiana and Amritsar, and are available not only at Shah Talai but also from booksellers and markets in towns all over the north Punjab and the Punjab foothills. In addition to the medium of literature, the cult receives publicity from itinerant chelas (disciples) who wander from village to village reciting tales of Balak Nath—or at least used to do so in the early years of this century (Rose 1911: 279). The fame of Baba Ludru, as I have emphasized, owes much more to the personal renown of his mahants, spread by the pilgrims themselves and by devotees whose hearts’ desires have been fulfilled after prayer to the saint, or who have witnessed miracles performed by the mahants. This cult depends very little on impersonal or commercial propaganda—indeed I never saw any printed booklets or pictures relating to Baba Ludru such as are common in the case of other cults. Nor is there a single shop close to Jogipanga where pilgrims could obtain them if they did exist, so secluded is the shrine. The material given here, being based on a comparison of two cults only, is of course insufficient to warrant very broad generalizations about Hindu cults. But at least a testable hypothesis emerges which might provide a basis for further research: that there is an inverse relationship between the spread of a cult and the personal importance of its mahant (or whoever presides over its chief shrine). I do not say that this general hypothesis would be proved true in all cases, but the evidence of this essay is strong enough to suggest that to test such a theory would be worthwhile. I hope furthermore that the comparison of these two cults will have suggested some of the kinds of thing which the sociologist needs to observe and record when taking the cult as his unit of study. It seems to me that there are two main social dimensions to the Hindu cult, which are in turn related to each other. In the first place, there is the cultural dimension. The cult can be studied as a body of folktales, literature, conventional iconography, songs, and traditions, associated with the object of the cult. These traditions are maintained by various agencies, from the peasant devotees who narrate the folk legends of the saints whilst sitting round their fires on winter evenings to the commercial printing houses in large cities who publish leaflets and books for the shopkeepers to distribute in the towns. There are the masons who carve the traditional images of the deities and Siddhs, and the chelas who propagate the cult by singing the praises of the saints from house to house in return for gifts of cash or grain, not to mention the ritual servants who conduct rites at the cult AN ESSAY IN THE STUDY OF CULTS 161

centre and who act as repositories of information concerning the cult object. The structural dimension of the cult has been much less studied by sociologists. This consists of the system of relationships between the mahant and devotees, between the officers of the cult and the followers, which may spread over a greater or lesser area and which may be more or less personal in quality. In any case, as we have seen, the cult centre and the scattered devotees are linked by a material nexus of ritual exchange— the traffic of sacred items provided at the centre in return for offerings brought there from outside by the pilgrims. Tribute to the sanctity of the shrine is rendered in material form and the manifestations of its sanctity are offered in exchange. When examining this dimension of the cult we also need to look at the organization of the shrine itself, the methods by which its officers are recruited and the respective functions which they fulfil. I think it is highly likely that these structural features are common to cults all over India. Therefore, if the method which 1 have suggested here for the study of cults is followed, we have one way of comparing religious activities in different parts of the subcontinent which transcends the problems posed by regional and local cultural variations. I do not mean to say that using the cult as one’s starting point is the only useful method of studying and comparing the Hinduism of different districts: I merely wish to emphasize that it is one which has been grossly neglected so far, at least by sociologists. The concept of ‘spread’ has given us a useful term for discussing the social and geographical extent of the cult; more now needs to be known about the actual organization of cults. Finally, there is a third aspect of cults such as I have described, which I have so far not touched upon but which is perhaps worth investigating, especially for the sociologist who is interested in charting the religious culture of a particular region rather than in supra-regional comparison. This third aspect is the relationship of the cults to each other. In case I have given the impression that the cults of Baba Ludru and Balak Nath are entirely discrete and separate from each other, let me here emphasize that they are both firmly embedded in a single integrated religious tradition at the village level. As I have said, the modes of worship and the kinds of expectations which the devotees entertain of this worship are basically similar. But more than this, in the village where I conducted fieldwork the devotees of Ludru and the devotees of Balak Nath were largely one and the same set of people, for there is nothing exclusive about these


cults. Moreover, the two saints are integrated into the same body of local folk legend and religious culture. To illustrate this I will relate in conclusion a local tale which will show both the interrelatedness of the members of the local pantheon and, incidentally, provide a typical example of the idiom of the local folk legend. This traditional story disregards the fact that the two saints we have considered (assuming that they were in fact historical personages) must have been widely separated in both time and space. It tells us how Baba Balak Nath and another Siddh, who is revered in the locality, Raja Bharatri, once paid a visit to Kashmir. On the way back they decided to pay a call on Baba Ludru. However, he miraculously divined their intention beforehand and instructed his cook to keep some food aside in readiness for their arrival. One day two siddhus passed by his hermitage, crying ‘Aulakh, aulakh’, the traditional call of ascetics in search of alms. Baba Ludru told the cook to give the siddhus the food he had prepared for Bharatri and Balak Nath. The poor cook was puzzled, thinking that there would be none left for the expected guests. When the siddhus had eaten their fill and spent a convivial evening with Baba Ludru, the latter suggested that they should all go to bathe in the Ganges. On the return of his master the bewildered cook asked who the mysterious visitors had been, and was told that they were none other than the long-expected Siddhs, walking the earth in mortal disguise. Thus, the story tells us, the saints in olden days loved each other’s company and toured the holy places of the Himalayas together.

NOTES 1. There are a few exceptions, such as G.S. Ghurye’s Gods and Men (1962). 2. It is believed that Saints do not die as ordinary mortals do, but attain a state of samadhi, or suspension of life from the body. 3. In some temples amrit (a sweetened liquid containing various sacred substances and administered in the same way as prasad) or garlands may also be presented to worshippers. 4. The term darshan has no English equivalent. Literally it means ‘vision’, but it has the connotation of being admitted to the gracious presence of some highly honoured personage. 5. A pair of long tongs is one of the ritual instruments carried by many sadhus in India.


REFERENCES Ghurye, G.S. 1962. Gods and Men. Bombay: Popular Book Depot. Rose. H.A. 1911. Tribes and Castes of the Punjab, Vol. I. Lahore: Superintendent of Government Printing. Srinivas, M.N. 1952. Religion and Society among the Coorgs of South India. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Wilson, B. 1961. Sects and Society. London: Heinemann.





his essay analyses the emergence and growth of three shrines in rural Tamil Nadu. These three shrines represent different patterns of institutionalization of folk religion in Tamil Nadu. The first shrine comes closest to the temple of the great tradition. The second one is 75 years old but is yet to establish itself as an important place of worship in the community. The third one is a 25-year-old memorial, which has recently become the focus of a cult.

THEVAR SAMADHI The Pasumpon Muthuramalinga Thevar Samadhi (burial place) is in Pasumpon which is about 50 miles from Madurai city in Tamil Nadu. The samadhi attracts Thevars from all over Tamil Nadu and elsewhere in the country. It has today acquired the status of a holy shrine.1 It is not uncommon to see members of other castes and even of other religious *Originally published in the Sociological Bulletin, vol. 44, no. 1, 1995, pp. 79–85.

communities in the village visiting the shrine and participating in its ceremonies. Muthuramalingam Thevar was born on 30 October 1908 as the only son of Ukkirapandi Thevar and Indirani of Pasumpon village, situated in the Ramnad District. Though a Maravar, he became known as the leader of the entire Mukula Thevar community, which consists of three sub-castes: Kallar, Agamudiar and Thevar. Muthuramalingam belonged to a fairly well-off family. He lost his mother at an early age and was brought up by his maternal grandmother. Though he was a bright student, he could not appear in his final school examination (Bose 1985: 119). Muthuramalingam had by then become prominent in public life and was known as an ‘affectionate brother’ in the village. His acquaintance with S. Srinivasa Iyengar brought him in touch with the national scene. He attended the annual session of the Indian National Congress in 1972 (ibid.). Though he could not pursue formal education he became well versed in various languages including English and Sanskrit. He was strongly attracted to Hindu philosophy. His ascetic nature could not accept his father’s lifestyle, which was given to pleasure and pomp. This made him firmly resolve to remain a bachelor for the rest of his life (Pillai 1984: 62–67). Muthuramalingam became deeply engrossed in public service and got involved in politics. His political involvement enabled him to successfully campaign against the stigma attached to his caste by getting it excluded from the purview of the Criminal Tribes Act.2 He later became a Member of the Legislative Council and president of the workers union. As a close associate of Subash Chandra Bose he became the undisputed leader of the Forward Bloc in Tamil Nadu (Bose 1985: 130). In January 1952, during the First General Elections, Thevar contested for a Parliament seat from the Aruppukottai constituency and simultaneously for an Assembly sear from the Mudukulathur constituency. He won both the seats, but he chose to work in the Legislative Assembly. His political career came to an end in 1959 owing to an illness and he passed away on 29 October 1963. Though Thevar was an active politician, it was his religious attitude that invested him with ‘life after death’. More than his politics it is his spiritual life that made a lasting impression on the community. Thevar advocated that rationalism and spiritualism should go together for the maintenance of proper order in public life (Bose 1985). He tried to adopt a spiritual orientation in both his personal and public life (ibid.: 153). His simple food habits, dress and lifestyle and his personal qualities made him a popular public figure. Thevar maintained that a public personality should 166 L. THARA BHAI

aim to be a perfect spiritualist to set an example for the ordinary person. It is this spiritual aspect of his personality that people venerated after his death. He became a cult figure for all practical purposes. One factor that enhanced Thevar’s charisma after his death was the fact that his date of birth was very close to that of his death. Though there was one day’s difference between the two dates, people celebrate both on 30 October. People regarded this as a rare phenomenon and a sign of his supernatural powers. After his death he was given a burial fit for a saint by being buried in a sitting posture, a practice reserved only for highly realized souls in the Hindu tradition. The samadhi in the form of a raised platform was built over the burial spot. The samadhi, which is maintained by Thevar’s descendants, has gradually become a place of worship. People who now visit the samadhi remove their sandals and shoes at the entrance. Women observe the rules of purity and do not visit the samadhi when they are menstruating. Every day a lamp is lit during the evening—a job assigned to the only family in the village which claims kin links with Thevar. At some point of time a statue of Thevar had been erected at the samadhi. This statue is today guarded by other idols including the idol of Murugan with his peacock. Of late, vigrahams of Navagraha idols have also been erected. It is interesting to note here that Thevar’s statue is given the highest status among all the idols. The samadhi has now been adorned with sacred bells and sacred lamps (kuthuvilakku) which are given by the devotees as offerings. The number of such offerings is increasing year by year. Though in the beginning only an oil lamp used to be lit at the samadhi, today regular daily pujas are conducted to the deity of Thevar to the chanting of mantras with flowers, lamps and water. Apart from the daily pujas, special pujas are performed on Thursdays and Fridays. On these two days people from the surrounding villages converge to worship their leader. The samadhi attracts members of higher castes, but they do not participate in any of its functions. Even members of scheduled castes visit the shrine. Only members of the Nadar caste, which has a traditional rivalry with the Thevar caste, refrain from visiting the shrine. The samadhi wears a festive look on 30 October, which is celebrated as Thevar Jayanti. People from all over Tamil Nadu visit the samadhi on that day. Of late, the government of Tamil Nadu officially celebrates this day and quite a few ministers participate in the proceedings. On this day, numerous pilgrims visit the shrine to fulfil their vows by offering various articles to the deity. Several persons perform the ear-boring and tonsuring EMERGENCE OF SHRINES IN RURAL TAMIL NADU 167

ceremonies of their children at the samadhi. Pilgrims also make offerings of entrails of fowl to the deity. A trust has been formed to look after the samadhi, but it only takes care of its economic and administrative affairs. The samadhi is still under the control of Thevar’s kin, who also nominate the pujari. The trust now runs several philanthropic institutions including a few educational institutions with money donated to the samadhi. One can see that a system of beliefs built around the samadhi is gradually emerging. Belief in incurring the wrath of Thevar and his magical qualities has been established. People, especially of the Thevar community, evoke His blessing for all familial and village functions. Children and the young come in large numbers to worship Thevar for success in examinations. Thevar is no more considered a human being but has acquired the status of a god. Many folk songs and legends have grown around him. There is no doubt that Thevar’s statue will in course of time take the shape of a god’s idol as pujas with water, ghee and milk gradually wear down features of the statue. However, people continue to refer to the structure as a samadhi and not a temple. If the present trend continues, soon this ‘Thevar samadhi’ may become the ‘Thevar koil’ (shrine).

NANDAVANAM The second instance refers to a memorial in Virudhunagar, a commercial town 49 km south of Madurai city. This is a memorial of a businessman who belonged to the Nadar caste, which owing to its traditional occupation of toddy-tapping, had a low ritual status. Members of the caste, however, have through organized community efforts achieved remarkable mobility in almost all sectors of social life. Vannia Anandan, born in 1860, was the son of Velmuruga Nadar of Muthuraman Patti, a small hamlet on the outskirts of Virudhupatti which is now a settlement of Virudhunagar town.3 Not much is known about Velmuruga Nadar, but Vannia Anandan is known to have raised the status of his family through his hard work and sincere efforts. Vannia Anandan, like many members of his caste, was a businessman dealing in grains and oil, mostly on a commission basis. He gradually acquired his own oil press. It is reported that his wife used to work the press along with the other workers. He had four sons and three daughters. His sons 168 L. THARA BHAI

soon joined him in his business. He built up his business on the basis of certain moral principles and used to exhort his sons to maintain honesty in business by giving the consumers the correct measure of oil. His status in his own community thus grew rapidly. Vannia Ananda Nadar, a respectable businessman now, was also a very pious person. He used to walk to Tirupparankundram near Madurai (about 45 km from Virudhunagar) once a month to worship Lord Murugan there. Though he was not allowed inside the temple due to his low-caste status, he used to stand outside the temple and offer his prayers. Eventually he gave up this practice on being persuaded by his eldest son not to suffer such humiliation. Though a Shaivite he used to walk to Tirupati on a pilgrimage every year. He developed an interest in religious discourses and philosophical discussions and he had great respect for the Hindu sanyasis. He thus developed the habit of feeding a sanyasi before taking his daily meal. Of many such sanyasis who visited his house, Nadar was attracted to a particular sanyasi from Kerala, who had settled in Nandavanam, a public garden on the outskirts of the town which was owned by Nadar’s fatherin-law.4 The Nandavanam Samiyar, as the sanyasi came to be known, became Nadar’s spiritual guide. Nadar breathed his last in 1992. He was buried in the same Nandavanam where his spiritual guru lived in deference to the Samiyar’s wish. Later a memorial was erected in the place. Nadar’s samadhi is today known as ‘kovil’ (temple) by his kin. A small gopuram has been erected atop the samadhi, which has been renovated twice. Though it is yet to become a full-fledged temple, of late there has been evidence of the deification of Nadar. To begin with, a Sivalingam was kept inside the memorial and worshipped. But soon it was replaced with a statue of Nadar made in cement. The replacement of a religious symbol with a human figure was not a problem for Nadar’s sons who had been influenced by the Self-Respect Movement.5 Later, as the statue developed some cracks, it was replaced by a bronze one. Though the first sign of Nadar’s deification appeared only in 1947, when the joint family was partitioned, his sons decided to have an annual ceremony called guru puja on his death anniversary. The ceremony gradually acquired a religious significance. The memorial was adorned with holy lamps and bells and vibhuti (sacred) ash. During the guru puja someone in the family performed the rites in the traditional Hindu style with arthi. The first tonsure of a newborn in the Vannia Ananda Nadar family is EMERGENCE OF SHRINES



done during these guru pujas. Nadar’s statue practically came to be worshipped as an idol. Another sign of Nadar’s deification was seen during the installation ceremony of the bronze statue. The sculptor from Karaikudi who made the figure insisted that an apishegam (holy wash) with milk should be performed in order to instil an element of sacredness. Further, the ceremony of ‘opening of the eyes’ of the statue with a golden chisel, which is performed in Hindu temples at the time of the installation of the deity, was also performed. During this ceremony a female kin member declared that Nadar’s eyes looked very gloomy and sad and predicted some sorrowful event for the family. After some months, someone in the family passed away. This was widely perceived as confirmation of the woman’s prediction and of Nadar’s divine powers. Unlike the other memorials and shrines, regular pujas are not conducted at Nadar’s memorial. However, it is kept open in the evenings and lights are switched on. There is no official pujari for the kovil. It is mostly visited by people of Nadar’s generation for guru puja, when others too may join in. Nadars are internally divided into veedu, which are lineages. Each veedu regards its ancestor as guru. Nadar’s sons are all dead now and are entitled to the status of guru. Yet the attribute guru is reserved only for Vannia Ananda Nadar. Whenever Nadar’s grandchildren wish to worship their guru they just obtain the key to the memorial from one of the members of the family, who resides nearby, and perform the rituals.6 Every Friday, which is considered an auspicious day, some family members come to worship the guru at the memorial. This has become customary among many youngsters of the fourth generation who refer to the samadhi as the pattaiyya kovil (grandfather’s shrine).7 One factor responsible for the slow deification of Vannia Ananda Nadar is his sons’ prominence in business and politics. Besides, some members of his clan have also migrated to Madurai. Among the members of the Nadar caste strong community-based organizations have emerged which provide scholarships to the needy members, and own and manage several schools. Individuals do not attain popularity as in the case of Thevar.


OCHANDAMMAN KOIL The third case is of Ochandamman who became a ‘goddess’. Today Ochandamman Koil resembles a temple. In this case the object of worship is a woman. In rural south India memorials erected for women who either die during pregnancy or before marriage are common. Though during their lifetime the women have a low social status they are respected after death, perhaps owing to the shakti cult which is popular in the region. Ochandamman Koil is in Karumathur, a village which is 16 km to the west of Madurai. The place has a homogeneous community of Paramalai Kallars. A myth prevalent among them dates their migration to this area during the reign of Nayaks from Paramalai near Tanjore (Kothandapani 1980). Three godmen are said to have accompanied them and each one of them settled with his followers in different regions thereby creating the three divisions among the Kallars. Kallar is a patrilineal and strongly patriarchal community. It is rare in this community for women to be worshipped. The koil is not a memorial at a burial site. It is erected in a Vaishnava temple. From available records it can be made out that the koil is named after Ochavi, a common name for a Kallar woman. During her childhood Ochavi became entranced by the Vaishnavite temple and used to play inside it despite her relatives remonstrating with her for her unbecoming behaviour, since Kallars are Shaivites. At a young age she was married to her cross-cousin Ulakananthan. She had six paternal aunts whose sons were eligible to marry her. Even today these six families claim the administrative and priestly responsibilities for the koil. Though Ochavi was married to Ulakanathan, she never stayed with him as his wife. She became increasingly fond of the Vaishnavite temple in the locality. Later, according to legend, she died prematurely, which was regarded as a call from ‘above’. After her death, Ochavi’s relatives created a permanent place for her in the Vaishnavite temple respecting her wish to be near Vishnu. Her idol has now lost its original shape due to the pujas and ceremonies performed on it. Today the temple owns around 15 to 20 acres of land. People of the locality say that Ochavi owned the land and some of the jewels in the temple. The temple has been built well on the model of other Vaishnavite temples. The main shrine is that of Vishnu and adjacent to it is the shrine of Ochavi.


The pujas in the temple are like in any other Vaishnavite temple. There are daily pujas and the financial burden for this is shouldered by the temple priest as he has rights over the use of the temple properties during the period in which he officiates.8 There are two daily pujas, one in the morning and one in the evening. On Tuesdays and Fridays more devotees attend. During Mahashivaratri a three-day annual festival is celebrated in the koil. This is the most important occasion for the community. People believe that a year’s prosperity will be showered on them by goddess Ochavi if they seek her blessings during this festival. Thousands of devotees from all over the district visit the temple on this day. The temple is gradually expanding because of the prosperity being enjoyed by several Kallar families. Yet the trustees of the temple feel that the well-to-do people of the community are neglecting the temple.

CONCLUSION From the three cases narrated above it can be inferred that extraordinary personalities—both male and female—are often invested with divine qualities in the eyes of ordinary people. This phenomenon appears to be common in several other regions of South Asia as well, although in Tamil Nadu it seems to be particularly strong. Perhaps it is this dimension of religion in Tamil Nadu that also accounts for the rise in charisma in the politics of the state.9

NOTES 1. The samadhi is now 23 years old. A samadhi is not just the traditional burial place but one in which the dead person is considered a super-human being. There is a procedure for establishing a samadhi, and the process is considered to be the result of a call from God. 2. For details please refer to GO Judicial No. 405. April–February, 1888–1919; GO Judicial No. 72. 17 February 1923; GO Judicial No. 226. 21 April 1924; GO Judicial No. 131. 17 April 1925. 3. Now both these places constitute the present Virudhunagar, upgraded recently as district headquarter.


4. Nandavanam is a public garden with a huge well outside the town. This is a characteristic feature of the water-starved areas of erstwhile Ramnad District. Most of the menfolk used to bathe in these nandavanams to save limited water at home for the use of the women. 5. The Self-Respect Movement is part of the Dravida Kazhagam Movement where religion is replaced by rationality. According to this movement, the individual, rather than God, is supreme. 6. Pattaiyya Kovil simply means great-grandfather’s temple. There are memorials for two of the sons. 7. The place actually belonged to Vannia Ananda Nadar’s wife’s father’s family who gave it away to his sons. It is very difficult to find the pictures of images of Hindu gods with any of the families or in the business establishments of Vannia Ananda Nadar’s sons even today. No son of Vannia Ananda Nadar is alive today. 8. Today the priest of the temple is elected from among the male members of these six families. Once the priest is elected, he holds the position for life. 9. During the latter half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century, Tamil Nadu witnessed the Dravida Kazhagam Movement one of whose objectives was to denigrate the Hindu great tradition so as to lower the status of Brahmins. In this process, the leaders of the Movement encouraged an alternative religion. For more details see Subramanian (1980).

REFERENCES Bose, K. 1985. ‘Forward Block in Tamil Nadu: A Political Study’. Doctoral dissertation submitted to the University of Madras, unpublished. Kothandapani, P.K. 1980. Piramilaikallar: A Denotified Tribe. Pasumpon: Usilampatti Pasumpon Muthuramalinga Thevar College. Pillai, Arumugam. 1984. Thiru U. Muthuramalinga Thevaragal Varalaru (A life sketch of U. Muthuramalinga Thevar). Pasumpon: Pasumpon Village Panchayath Board. Subramanian, M.K. 1980. Periyar and Self-Respect Philosophy. Erode: Self-Respecters Academy Publications.







The islands of Goa were converted to Catholicism when the Portuguese conquered the area in the sixteenth century by defeating the Adil Shahi rulers.1 The conversion and its impact on Goa—particularly the Goan Inquisition—have generated a fair body of literature. Not all this literature, however, is primarily concerned with analysing the subject, and some of it leaves the disappointed reader with the feeling that crucial issues are not being addressed or, more unhappily, that what is written is largely apologetic in stance. A critical approach to the subject has still to be firmly established. The conversion of Goa to Catholicism was largely the work of various religious orders which came to Goa in the sixteenth century. The Franciscans arrived in 1517 and their work was limited mainly to Bardez. The Jesuits were the most influential order that came to Goa.2 They were responsible for the conversion of Tiswadi and Salcete. It was with their *Originally published in the Sociological Bulletin, vol. 42, nos 1 and 2, 1993, pp. 65–83.

arrival in 1542 that missionary activity in Goa received an impetus. The two other orders of significance were the Dominicans, who came in 1548, and the Augustinians, who came a few years later. These orders were not without their differences, but it may be said with some assurance that in their missionary activities in this period they functioned in similar ways.3 Some observations may be made about the relationship of these missionaries with the conquering power. Not all of those who came as missionaries belonged to the conquering nation; yet they all functioned under the orders of the King of Portugal. Missionary activity under the Portuguese was part of the padroado system.4 It was linked very closely with the establishment of military and political rule in the regions conquered by the Portuguese. The Portuguese king was the Grand Master of the Order of Christ and the padroado, which came into force as a result of a series of papal bulls passed between 1452 and 1456, gave him the authority to conquer, subdue and convert all pagan territories. He was awarded spiritual jurisdiction over all newly conquered territories. In an age in which the Catholic church played a dominant role in European politics and society, it is not surprising that the monopoly of spiritual administration given to the Portuguese was accompanied by recognition of their commercial monopoly in the newly conquered areas. In the Bull Romanus Pontifex, Pope Nicholas V acknowledged the extensive overseas domains that the Portuguese had acquired and the fact that they were anxious to retain the monopoly of navigation, trade and fishing in those regions; lest others should come to reap where the Portuguese had sown, or should try to hinder the culmination of their work. Since this work is one which forwards the interests of God and of Christendom, the Pope, Nicholas V, here decrees and declares motu proprio, that this monopoly does in fact apply not only to Ceuta and to all the present Portuguese conquests but likewise to any that may be made in the future, southward of Capes Bojadar and Nun, and as far as the Indies (Boxer 1969: 21). What Diffie and Winius have to say about Jesuit missionaries applies equally to the other orders which worked under Portuguese rule in this period: Xavier was a Navarrese, Valignano an Italian, and Frois a Portuguese and so the Society’s dream was not primarily a Portuguese one. But Portugal was the patron, the transporter, the financier, and the 178 ROWENA ROBINSON

licensing agent of the Society in Asia, and it backed Jesuit projects with its money, its personnel, and its prestige. Xavier’s mummy lies today in a silver tomb in Goa. The Apostle of the Indies and his men, if not all Portuguese, thoroughly represented the Portuguese cause and became its spiritual mercenaries (1977: 405). The purpose of this essay is twofold. It first analyses some of the material relating to the conversion of Goa, focusing on the kinds of questions that have been addressed so far. I have had to be selective but have tried to include those authors I consider most significant. The second objective is to focus on certain neglected aspects of the conversion of Goa. I will attempt to locate my subject within its socio-historical context and will try to understand the main characteristics of the conversion movement. Why were the Portuguese interested in mass conversions? Why was conversion such a necessary part of conquest for them? How did they set about making converts? Did they use one method to convert or a variety? Why? Why did people convert? Were these conversions ‘forced’ or ‘voluntary’?5 I hope to show that much may be gained from a more critical reading of the material available, particularly the letters written by the Jesuit missionaries in Goa on which writers such as D’Costa (1965) have drawn extensively.

AN ANALYSIS OF AVAILABLE LITERATURE Heras (1935) and D’Costa (1965) write self-consciously from the perspective of the converting missionaries. For both, an important aim of writing is to dispute the ‘popular’ view that conversions were made ‘by force’. Both hold that the missionaries were ‘humanist’ in their approach, attempting to come to terms with the belief systems of the people and converting only when there was a genuine desire on the part of the person to be converted to turn to Christ. It is argued that the conversions were ‘genuine’ in that they arose out of a true commitment to the faith, not out of force or out of a desire to gain material benefits (‘bread and butter Christianity’). D’Costa uses Jesuit letters to demonstrate that the people ‘asked’ to be converted. The apparently voluntary element of the conversions is sought to be emphasized. Both writers are concerned with an essentially limited set of questions. Issues regarding conversion are reduced NEGLECTED ASPECTS OF THE CONVERSION OF GOA 179

to the single question of whether or not ‘force’ was used in making converts. By emphasizing the voluntary aspect of the mass conversions and not looking deeper into the circumstances under which they occurred, D’Costa precludes any historical or sociological understanding of them. In both works, conversion is looked at merely in terms of the motivations of individuals. With Rogers (1962, 1964), the perspective becomes wider. His analysis is part of the attempt to understand the motives which brought the Portuguese on their Asian mission. While he does not deal directly with missionary efforts, his views are important for understanding the age with which we are concerned. He rightly points to the role that certain notions played in spurring on the Portuguese in their maritime ventures. One of the most important of these was the idea of the existence of ‘Eastern Christians’ who lived in the region of the Indies, beyond the known Islamic world.6 The myth of the existence of a powerful Eastern Christian emperor called Prester John, thought to rule in Ethiopia,7 spread rapidly through the world of Latin Christianity. As Rogers observes, the Portuguese carried with them on their travels the idea that they might meet these Christians and forge a unity with them. In bringing this to our attention Rogers draws away from discussions of Portuguese motives relating solely to their desire to control the spice trade in Asia. If he is read correctly, what he is pointing to is the need to look beyond the commercial or economic aspect of Portuguese colonialism and see it as part of the ideological framework within which it took place. Rogers, however, is himself somewhat untrue to historical realities in failing to look closely enough at the motives for which this unity was sought. While he is clearly aware of the answer he chooses to underplay its implications. Certainly a unity with Christians beyond the Islamic world was sought: but its aim was less to forge an understanding with them that cut across cultural differences, than to be able to present a more powerful front to the Latin Christians’ hated enemy—the Muslims. Certain other writers emphasize the opposite viewpoint to the one endorsed by Heras and D’Costa: conversions are seen as having been forced, and the converted as helpless and passive. Prominent among these are Priolkar (1961), Rao (1963) and Pereira (1978). Like Rao, Priolkar holds that though in theory it was enjoined that conversions should be based on free consent and not on force, in practice the instruments used were the lure of material rewards and threats of violence and torture. The choice, as he and B.G. D’Souza argue, was between the ‘cross and the sword’ (D’Souza 1975: 93–94). Priolkar is important because he attempts 180 ROWENA ROBINSON

one of the few analyses of the Goan Inquisition that are available in the literature.8 However, the value of this exercise is somewhat doubtful given that the records relating to the working of the Inquisition—which lasted, despite one major break, from 1560 to 1812—are not available and were probably destroyed. Priolkar ends by relying on accounts written by travellers to Goa and by basing his description on what is known about the functioning of the Inquisition in Europe. Pereira’s work is significant for drawing our attention to aspects of the society on which the conquering Portuguese imposed their religion. Using Portuguese records, he is able to draw for us a picture of village life, centred around its deities and temples, as it must have existed in the sixteenth century prior to the arrival of the Portuguese. He also gives us an account of some of the methods used to convert, including the denial of customary honours to Hindus, the destruction of temples and the taking charge of orphans. This literature is valuable in that it establishes that an understanding of pre-Portuguese society must precede any analysis of the changes that were brought about in that society by conversion. We are also introduced to certain specific methods used by the Portuguese to convert the local population. However, we still do not get any idea of why people converted. Historians such as Boxer (1963, 1969) and Pearson (1981, 1987) make some significant additions to the discussion of this subject in the literature. Boxer argues that there were four motives for Portuguese expansion: crusading zeal against the Muslims, the desire for Guinea gold, the quest for Prester John, and the search for Oriental spices. He speaks of the ‘mixed motivation’ (1969: 20) behind the establishment of their empire and cites the papal bull quoted from above to substantiate the point. On conversion, he argues that the Portuguese used a mixture of ‘carrot and stick methods, in which the stick sometimes predominated’ (1969: 66). He is also more specific at places, citing particularly the prohibition of the public celebration of Hindu festivals and rituals and the passing of laws favouring converts to Catholicism at the expense of those who resisted conversion (ibid.). Pearson suggests that political realities could soften the conversion drive. In the 1590s the then viceroy of Goa told the King of Portugal that while he agreed that all the temples in Portuguese India should be destroyed, this could not be done in Diu. ‘If it were all the vanias would leave, and commerce at this most lucrative fort would grind to a halt’ (Pearson 1987: 122). We have now moved away to some extent from a discussion limited almost wholly to whether or not ‘force’ was used to make converts. With NEGLECTED ASPECTS OF THE CONVERSION OF GOA 181

Boxer and Pereira, we have been introduced briefly to some of the methods of conversion used by the Portuguese. Pearson’s discussion draws our attention to the fact that we cannot speak of conversion as a religious phenomenon alone, isolating it from its location within a specific set of politico-economic realities.9 Diffie and Winius (1977) and T.R. De Souza (1979) add valuably to our discussion. De Souza notes that in pre-Portuguese times village life centred around the temple. Every activity was initiated and concluded with offerings to family and village deities. Temples were where village records were housed, children educated and cultural activities held. Revenue from certain lands was allocated for the support of the families connected with temple worship and service. After the conversion these lands became the property of the Church and now supported the religious orders who were, essentially, ‘strangers’ to the village (De Souza 1979: 94). The functioning of village communities was affected and the laws of inheritance changed. In other words, conversion altered social life in significant ways. Diffie and Winius locate Portuguese colonialism within its sociohistorical context. They point out that it was rather different from later Dutch and English colonial ventures in that it was mainly in the hands of nobles and was less concerned with actual trade than with siphoning off some of the profits of others’ trading activities.10 The instinct to conquer was military rather than commercial, and the ventures fit the tradition of the reconquista better than they did the merchant traditions of England or Flanders. In De Souza’s work one finds the valuable idea that conversion cannot be looked at merely as a change in beliefs or ideas. As we shall see, conversion involved changes at social, economic and political levels. Diffie and Winius complete the argument that we met in Pereira’s work. It is necessary to reconstruct socio-historically not only the converted society but also the one which sets out to convert. Only then can the nature of the process be clearly understood. Most of the writers to whom I have referred have not had the conversion of Goa as the main subject of their analyses. While some valuable ideas have been thrown up, the subject has been dealt with only as part of other concerns. In the few writings primarily concerned with conversion, such as those of Heras and D’Costa, the approach followed has left much to be desired. Questions such as why the Portuguese set out to convert or how such large populations were converted in a short period have not been adequately addressed. I shall now attempt to analyse the conversion of Goa socio-historically, dealing particularly with some of these neglected 182 ROWENA ROBINSON

areas of research. I will argue that an exclusive emphasis on either force or voluntarism gives us an incomplete and untrue picture of the conversion of Goa. While it is true that the Portuguese used dramatically destructive methods to convert, the Hindus of the region were not completely passive.

THE CONQUEST OF GOA As a first step in this analysis I shall focus on the motives behind conversion. This involves locating the Portuguese within their historical context and understanding the reasons for their conquest of Goa. I shall argue that Portugal’s colonial ventures may be viewed as an extension of the Crusades. From the eleventh century onwards the history of the Iberian Peninsula was in large measure one of confrontation between Muslim and Christian forces. With the First Crusade in 1095, Christians launched a series of attacks on Muslims to wrest control of the eastern Mediterranean (Diffie and Winius 1977: 12). The fourteenth century saw the creation of the Order of Christ. Portugal was charged with defending Christians against Muslims in Europe and overseas. We have already seen that papal bulls granted the Portuguese a commercial and spiritual monopoly in all newly conquered territories. The search for ‘Eastern Christians’ became apart of this struggle against Islamic forces. A unified Christian world would be invincible. Moreover, since the Muslims controlled the spice trade with Asia, the battle to wrest control of it immediately assumed a religious dimension for the Portuguese. It was with such ideas that Vasco da Gama entered the waters of the Indian Ocean. He was in search of ‘Christians and spices’. Fed on vague notions that Prester John ruled India and that Indians were Christians, it is no wonder that he and his men paid homage to what they thought was the image of Mary in Hindu temples.11 The Portuguese soon found that to gain complete control of the Asian trade routes they needed certain key posts where they could establish political and military rule. Goa was one of these posts. In 1510 Goa was conquered by Afonso de Albuquerque and his troops from its Muslim rulers. It is not surprising that Albuquerque ordered the massacre of the defeated Muslim forces. The city—main urban centre— of Goa was set on fire and the Portuguese soldiers massacred the Muslims with Crusaders’ zeal. The mass of the population of Goa was Hindu, NEGLECTED ASPECTS OF THE CONVERSION OF GOA 183

however, and having virtually wiped out the Muslims the Portuguese had to come to terms with them. Medieval Europe’s defining characteristic was its religion—Catholicism—and all other aspects of social life were viewed in relation to it. In the period of the Crusades the Europeans divided the world into two halves: Christians and infidels or pagans. The Portuguese treatment of the Muslims in Goa shows how clearly they identified with this world-view. It also explains their handling of the Hindu population of Goa. While these were not traditional enemies to be killed, they were nevertheless pagans. Yet the Portuguese needed their help and support if they were to rule for any length of time. Given that the Portuguese identified themselves primarily in religious terms, their method of incorporating the local population into their political body and ensuring its support necessarily involved conversion to Catholicism. Mass conversions became a fundamental part of the charter of conquest, given the need to create a body of social allies. It is not sufficient to speak, as Boxer does, of ‘mixed motivation’. I have tried to show that the different aspects of Portugal’s Asian ventures—conquest, trade and conversion—were all parts of a single ideological framework and are rendered meaningful only when viewed thus.

PRE-PORTUGUESE SOCIAL ORGANIZATION We may now proceed to examine the kind of society that the Portuguese would have encountered on their arrival in Goa. Such an analysis will enable us to see what were the changes that conversion actually brought about. It is believed that the earliest settlers in Goa were certain tribal groups who lived off the forest or the sea or who practised shifting cultivation (De Souza 1990; Kosambi 1956). A series of invasions brought to the region the plough and settled agriculture centred around the cultivation of rice, along with which came Brahminical Hinduism and the caste system (De Souza 1990). The earlier settlers were pushed to the hilly parts of the forest, and over time some became part of caste society. A system developed which gave ritual and socio-economic dominance to the highest castes. Land was owned in common by lineages of gauncars, who may be defined as the male descendants in the patriline of the original inhabitants of a village (De Souza 1990). Most of them were of the 184 ROWENA ROBINSON

Brahmin and Maratha castes (Kosambi 1956). They had a number of lower castes serving them whose payment consisted of shares in the harvest and who were also often given plots, usually of less fertile land, to cultivate for self-consumption. The gauncars administered village affairs, paid the taxes to the rulers and shared the surplus among themselves (De Souza 1979). Labour was organized into castes, and marriage within a caste ensured its reproduction. While particular castes might exchange services, there was a severe restriction on the exchange of food and women between castes. In almost every village the gauncars were the leading members (mahajans) of the village temple. Some of the best lands were set aside for the maintenance of the temple cult and of those who rendered ritual services (ibid. 1979). Social life centred around the cultivation of the land and the symbolic cycle revolved around the agricultural calendar and the celebration of the harvest. The gauncars had ritual privileges at most village festivals. The most important deities were family or lineage deities (kula devas) and the village deity (grama deva), who guarded the boundaries of the village and protected its inhabitants from the influence of evil spirits and the dangerous powers of nature (Pereira 1978). It may be said that the main concerns of religion in this agricultural society, based on caste and village and organized along patrilineal kinship, were the protection of the village lands and boundaries from the dangerous or unknown forces of nature and the regeneration of the community or lineage group through the worship of common ancestors. The religious ideology of caste further served to legitimate and perpetuate the hierarchical social structure. Various political regimes ruled the region at different times. Their concern was with the collection of revenue, and village administration was left in the hands of the local people (D’Souza 1975). The rulers did not enter into the socio-religious life of the communities. However, under the Muslim rulers who governed the region just before the Portuguese arrived, a more interventionist policy was adopted in the collection of revenue. The dessais or military men of this regime attempted to take over land from the gauncars and forced people to work as menials in their households (Kosambi 1962). Did their new position of vulnerability play any role in the acceptance of conversion by the high-caste gauncars? They had, after all, welcomed the Portuguese as a means of shaking off the Muslim yoke (Kosambi 1956). But why did the lower castes convert? I shall attempt to answer these questions; but first I shall describe the process of conversion. NEGLECTED ASPECTS OF THE CONVERSION OF GOA 185

CONVERSION The imposition of Catholicism was a political act and its maintenance required political decisions. The state now had ideological control, and religion, turning from its inward-looking stance, acquired a new social function: serving the purposes of the state. The methods that the Portuguese used to convert showed that they had gained some understanding of the functioning of the society they had conquered. More research is needed before we might know how a social group that sets out to convert uses its knowledge of the society to be converted. This is more easily understood in cases where sects are formed within a society. But the Portuguese were converting an alien society. Jesuits’ letters12 reveal that through observation and conversations with Brahmins learned in the scriptures they acquired a degree of knowledge about the workings of this society.13 That would have required time, however, and I think that the changes that took place in the methods of conversion some decades after the Portuguese first arrived reflected the growth of their knowledge. At first the Portuguese used principally two methods of conversion: taking charge of orphans and setting up a system of privileges to attract adherents to the faith.14 Girls under the age of 12 and boys below 14 whose fathers were no longer alive had to be given over to Christian guardians who would bring them up according to Christian principles. They received Portuguese education and were available for incorporation into Portuguese service. The second way of attracting adherents involved setting aside jobs and offices for those who converted while denying them to those who refused to convert. These methods succeeded only in small measure, and even in the 1540s the pace of conversions was essentially slow (D’Costa 1965). It was around this time that new methods of conversion were adopted. While the older methods were not given up, a new stress was placed on a three-pronged effort to take on Hinduism. This involved the destruction of idols and places of worship, the prohibition of religious practices and the manipulation, in a variety of ways, of the socio-economic and kin relationships by means of which society was organized. A number of laws were enacted against the Hindus, particularly those with socio-economic and religious dominance—the Brahmin and Chardo gauncars and the priests. These laws included the banishment from the Old Conquests of those who would not convert, the banning of the performance of Hindu religious 186 ROWENA ROBINSON

rites and ceremonies, and the prohibition of the religious activities of Hindu priests. Hindu gauncars were forbidden, on pain of payment of a fine, from convening a general council unless the gauncars converted to Christianity were also present. It was declared that the decisions taken in such a council without Christian gauncars would be considered null and void. In villages where there were more Christian than Hindu gauncars, the latter were not permitted to enter the assembly; and when the decisions were recorded, the names of all the Christian gauncars had to be written first (Wicki IX: 305–6). Artisans who had served the village gauncars and fashioned the objects of worship required in temple rituals, could not be employed to produce any objects of Christian worship unless they were converts to the new religion. The Portuguese changed the laws of inheritance, permitting women to inherit if they converted. This worked against the religious principle underlying the existing laws. Customary Hindu law held that a man’s property was for the material and spiritual benefit of his lineage. His male descendants who inherited that property thereby became responsible for the performance of the religious rites essential for the repose of his and his male lineal ancestors’ souls (Derrett 1977: 206). In a patrilineal society a woman could not fulfil this role. Finally, the Inquisition, which technically applied to the Portuguese and to converts, could be used against Hindus who could be shown to have prevented others from converting. In short, Hindus were effectively denied access to their laws. Severe limitations were placed on the options they could exercise. Nevertheless, resistance to conversion was possible. Violent resistance came in the form of attacks on missionaries. In 1583 five Jesuits were killed in Cuncolim village. Though the response was swift and repressive, such occurrences make it difficult for us to view the Hindus as completely passive in the face of conversion. Even when people were converted, some means of purification and re-entry into Hindu society may have been possible. Kulkarni (1992) observes that the circumstances of mass conversion called for unusual measures. The Brahmins of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries devised various simple methods of reconversion such as bathing in the sea on the birthday of Lord Krishna (Gokulashtami) or being sprinkled with water from the sacred river Ganga. According to him the Christian missionaries retaliated by erecting crosses along the sea-shore. The Brahmins countered by arranging mass bathing ceremonies elsewhere. In the end, however, such measures proved inadequate against the swiftness and fervour with which the Portuguese went NEGLECTED ASPECTS OF THE CONVERSION OF GOA 187

about conversion. It is necessary, though, to see that they did exist as possible responses. A last option, which many chose even though it meant giving up land and property, was to leave the conquered territory and go to the mainland. Let us look at one instance. In 1560 the gauncars of Carambolim village met to discuss the situation arising out of the increasing influence of Christianity. One spoke up and argued thus: ‘We are caught at a tough time [“em tempo forte”] because what we have is sown and cast into the land. If we go to the mainland, the Muslim land on the other side, we have to leave our property and if we stay we will be forced to become Christians. We should lake mature counsel and give thought to the future to prevent what might happen. We should go with our families to the mainland and live under our law because ... it seems to me that it is better to lose our property than our souls.’ Another responded thus: ‘I do not think that the fervour of Christianity will last beyond the reign of this viceroy because it is his zeal that has led to all this. It appears to me that we should wait till he leaves and in the meanwhile sustain ourselves as best we can in Goa.’ Finally, the seniormost, to whom the rest gave great due, raised himself and said: ‘I do not think it good to calculate when the viceroy Dom Constantino is going to leave for Portugal but rather when the fathers of the Company of Jesus are going to leave. And it is clear that they will never leave or stop making Christians. It will not end with this viceroy but will carry on with all the others. Therefore, let us commend ourselves to God and become Christians.’ As a result of this resolution, fourteen gauncars with their families became Christians (Wicki IV: 658–59). It is easy to say that the decision of the gauncars to convert was totally pragmatic: they did it to avoid losing their land and property. But let us look a little deeper. Might this pragmatic decision not have been based on considerations a little more complex? On the one hand they faced the realization that since the missionaries would not leave, access to their own deities would remain cut off. In such a situation Catholicism, with its pantheon-like array of saints and its loose structure, was the only means they had of recreating their socio-symbolic life. On the other hand, conversion would once again effectively legitimize their superior position. Their position, we should remember, had only recently been rendered 188 ROWENA ROBINSON

vulnerable by the dessais. By aligning themselves through conversion with those in power, the gauncars strengthened themselves considerably. It seems to me that these conclusions are not completely absurd. They are affirmed by other evidence. As Houtart and Lemercinier (1981) argue, churches in some ways replaced temples. In their new places of worship converts could reconstruct their socio-symbolic system organized around the production and reproduction of their material and social arrangements. It must also be remembered that where the superior position of the gauncars was concerned, the Portuguese were not ill-disposed towards the privileges of hierarchy: they came, after all, from the upper ranks of a profoundly hierarchical society. In using a variety of measures against those gauncars and priests who refused to convert, they aimed not so much to deny them power as to mobilize that power on their own side. This explains why they made considerable efforts to convert Brahmins (D’Costa 1965) and incorporate them into the priesthood and why they readily allowed converted gauncars several privileges in the church-centred Catholic symbolic cycle that came to exist in villages where the new religion was established. Thus the position of the gauncars, recently weakened, would have been strengthened through alignment with the new rulers and secured against possible competition from other groups. We have noted that the destruction of temples was one of the principal means used to effect conversions. It would appear that the Portuguese had gained some idea of the centrality of the temple in the life of a village community.15 They knew that lands were kept aside for those who served in temples and that agricultural processes and religious celebrations were linked. The Charter of 1526 which encoded the customs of the land recognized these aspects of village life. Jesuit documents bring out the importance of certain feasts (such as the harvest) celebrated around village temples, which later found their place within the Catholic calendar (Wicki IV: 596–600). It is no surprise, then, that the Portuguese concluded that if the temples were all destroyed people would turn inevitably to Christianity (D’Costa 1965). Silva Rego gives us an interesting case of Hindus asking for a church to be constructed over the remains of their temple. We read that in 1543 in the village of Daugim in Tiswadi, a church was built on the site where a temple had previously stood. The temple had been pulled down by the Hindus themselves, who asked for a church in its stead (Silva Rego 1947). How does one explain this act? Was it ‘voluntary’ or ‘forced’? We know that around this time the Portuguese had decided to destroy temples and had already started acting upon that decision. Idols were being destroyed and laws had come into force which made the NEGLECTED ASPECTS OF THE CONVERSION OF GOA 189

open practice of their religion by Hindus virtually impossible (Pereira 1978). However, I would argue that the Hindus did not act out of complete helplessness. A choice was being made to adopt Catholicism. It is probable that, given that their own deities and places of worship were no longer available to them, the Hindus saw Catholicism as the only way of preventing their world from falling completely to pieces. This gives us some inkling as to why Hindus asked to be converted; and it may help account for conversions among the lower castes. We have other instances of Hindus themselves asking to be converted. Near the church of St. John where the Indian [‘canarim’] Andre Vaz whom we have already mentioned lived, dwelt an honest pagan man [‘gentio’] who out of the fear of shaming himself in front of his relatives could not say that he wanted to become a Christian. He knew that one of the provisions of the king was the prohibition of the celebration of Hindu festivals under threat of punishment. One of these was the festival of the areca palm [Holi]. He cut a branch of the areca palm as if he was celebrating the festival and went to Father Andre Vaz and said to him: ‘Father, I cut an areca [branch] knowing that if I were found with it you would have to arrest me and give me the punishment that this merits. [So] I require you to accuse me before the vicar general that you found me with it so that I can become Christian without fear of my relatives’ (Wicki IV. 342–43). What does such an incident tell us? Similar stories are to be found about the celebration of other festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi and Lakshmi Puja and of ceremonies like marriages. Those who had attempted to perform such ceremonies or to celebrate such festivals in hiding proclaimed their desire to be converted when they were caught in these prohibited acts (D’Costa 1965). Why? There is, of course, an easy answer: they wanted to escape punishment. But our examination has to go deeper than that, to provide something more than merely pragmatic answers. As has been noted earlier, the symbolic and ritual practices of Hinduism were closely related to the cycle of productive activities. They formed a unity concerned with the celebration of the fertility of the earth and of human fertility. It appears that with access to their old symbolic practices cut off, what the Hindus were coping with in this period was a breakdown of this unity. Only in such a situation is it possible for particular symbols such as the areca palm16 to be severed from their contexts of meaning in 190 ROWENA ROBINSON

such a way that they appear to have a strictly pragmatic value. In asking for conversion Hindus were exercising choice within the limitations of the situation. One way in which they could reconstruct their world meaningfully and avoid further chaos was by accepting the new religion being offered them. Let us now turn to the ways in which the Portuguese manipulated the socio-economic and kin relations of the Hindus. We have already seen what change they made in the laws of inheritance. Now we shall look at their intervention in commensal relations between castes. The Portuguese were aware that eating food with strangers defiled the Hindu. It involved a pollution so great that the person found guilty of it was rendered an outcaste and no social relationships could be entered into with him (D’Costa 1965). In a letter of 1561 to King Sebastian, Provincial Quadros wrote: It is necessary that Your Highness should be truly informed about our reasons for making this people Christian in this way. Firstly, among other ceremonies which the devil taught this people, there is one according to which they can in no way either eat in our company or of our food .... For those who eat from our hand cannot be Hindus any more nor mix with Hindus nor the Hindus with them. When on being arrested they are brought to this house because of their asking to be received as Christians, we give them hospitality in order to instruct them in things of our Faith .... Once they experience our hospitality, those who eat our food and in our plates are incapable of being Hindus any more and lose all hope of re-entering their caste, and have necessarily to accept some other Law, since they have lost the one they had ... (ibid.: 87–88). We are also told the story (Wicki IV: 345–46) of how a woman, who when she discovered that her son had been made to eat beef at the house of a Christian, ran to Father Pedro d’Almeida in tears and said that she wanted to become a Christian because her son had eaten beef and already become one. Having eaten food at a Christian’s house the boy had, in effect, lost his caste and his place in the circle of kinship. For his mother, then, little remained but to follow suit. Not just individuals but whole families, kin groups and local caste groupings could be converted in this way. Moreover, the Inquisition came down heavily on converts who refused to consume beef and pork. NEGLECTED ASPECTS OF THE CONVERSION OF GOA 191

We have evidence that meat-eating was not taboo among the lowest Hindu castes and that deities were often honoured with animal sacrifices (Azavedo 1890). For them the adoption of a meat-centred diet would have been no wrench. This may also have made Catholicism seem less alien to them. Among the Catholics of Goa today, beef and especially pork are festive foods par excellence. Their consumption is also a mark of social status. To ‘cut a pig for a feast’ is a matter of pride which invites the admiration of others. It is possible only for the wealthy—and these are usually of high caste—to do this. But even the lowliest Catholic will try to purchase at least a kilogram of pork for a feast day. It is clear that the consumption of beef and pork (mas) is associated with the Portuguese. They are said to have brought both the mass and meat (mis ani mas) to Goa. Mass and the feast centred around mas are the principal components of a festive celebration. It seems to me that in the environment created by conversion, when the position of a group depended on its relationship with those in power, accepting mas was a crucial way of aligning oneself with the Portuguese. Let us turn for a moment to the possible reasons for the use that the Portuguese made of beef and pork as a means of effecting conversions. It is probable that their preoccupation with the food habits of the Hindus was related to their own dietary preferences. The Portuguese diet in the period under consideration was heavily meat-centred. Beef and pork along with goat and mutton were staple foods (Marques 1971). It is not unlikely that the stress the Portuguese laid on converting the Hindus through the use of beef and pork had some relation to their attempt to transplant the staples of their own diet in the new world they had conquered. Wine, bread and olive oil were other items introduced in these societies (Braudel 1992). The establishment by Europeans of meat-eating in the areas they conquered would also have made possible the domestication of animals that were until then wild. Another issue must be examined. Speaking of food as a symbol of conversion involves a discussion not only of the foods that are consumed but also of the act of eating. We know that ‘eating’ in the form of sharing the Eucharist is an important part of Catholicism. We are therefore apt to see it as it is meant to be ideally, that is, as a participation in the brotherhood of Christ, and to contrast it to the hierarchical relations involved in the restrictions placed by the caste system on eating with others. But caution should be exercised while making such a comparison. First, the emphasis placed on ‘eating’ the Eucharist (communion) is a modern phenomenon that was not so stressed in medieval Europe. Bynum (1991) 192 ROWENA ROBINSON

points out that theologians viewed frequent communion with ambivalence, believing that it lessened the feeling of awe with which one should approach the Eucharist. Monthly communion was seen as being frequent. Second, as Weinstein and Bell point out, even when the elements were received, the reception was hierarchical: ‘The priest first drank from the cup, then bestowed the wafer on passive communicants’ (1982: 226). Third, as Bynum points out, from the thirteenth century onwards viewing the host was more important than its reception. At this time, elevation of the host came to replace both consecration and the reception of the elements as the centre of the ritual of the mass (1991: 45). This was the period in which the Eucharist came to be reserved in pyres and tabernacles for viewing. Taking the host out in a monstrance in the processions centred around church feasts such as Corpus Christi was also a very important part of church ritual. The order of these processions reflected the social order.17 In medieval society’s organic view of the social whole, all believers were members of the mystical body of Christ, but the head was naturally superior and regulated the arms and feet (Weinstein and Bell 1982). The concept of lordship was regarded positively in the Christian thought of the period. The clergy, the knights and the labourers, hierarchically ordered, made up the social whole. To deal with changes in the social order, more complex hierarchies were worked out. Through most of the medieval period three distinct modes of organizing the social world existed side by side. These were ‘a tripartite organic distinction of prayers, fighters, and workers; a juridical estate grouping of clergy, nobility, burgher, and peasant; a wealth ordering descending from rich to poor’ (ibid.: 196). The social order mirrored the heavenly order. Elevation of the host in a monstrance was a symbol of power and an important part of Portuguese victory processions when they conquered Goa. It is not surprising to find that the privilege of ‘handling the body of Christ’, so dramatically demonstrated in the passe (crucifixion) celebration on Good Friday should have been given to the converted gauncars in most villages. One last example may be taken up of the methods used to convert. It will show us another way in which the village communities’ networks of social relationships were utilized to make converts and may throw more light on why the lower castes converted. The Documenta Indica (Wicki IV: 753) tells us the story of ‘a priest who, at the latter’s request’, came to Carmona village to pray over a Christian who was bedridden with paralysis and whose recovery was not expected. When he had NEGLECTED ASPECTS OF THE CONVERSION OF GOA 193

finished praying, the priest asked the man, since he was their gauncar and leader, to call together the Christians of the village, who numbered about forty in all, so that he could talk to them about God. When they had come together he gave them a lecture which pleased them very much and told them to go and gather together all the gentios and he would talk to them and make them Christians. What I find significant in this story is that the priest initially uses the man to approach the people of the village because he is ‘their gauncar and leader’. Was it the missionaries’ policy to convert the lower, service castes through their ‘leaders’, the landowners and patrons of the village? There are other instances where the missionaries first persuaded the ‘elders’ or gauncars of the village to convert and then went to the other caste groups (D’Costa 1965). In other words, the vertical ties of dependence which bound the lower caste groups to the gauncars were utilized in order to convert them. Those who did not convert could, in any case, not be employed by the Christian gauncars. From the point of view of these groups, taking on Catholicism was probably both a way of aligning themselves with the new rulers and a means of re-establishing, in the terms of the new regime, their relationship with the gauncars.

CONCLUSIONS Let me now attempt to draw together the threads of my argument. I have tried to show that by the destruction of temples, the prohibition of festive and ceremonial practices, and the manipulation of the social bonds of kinship and caste, the Portuguese created a set of circumstances which rendered impossible the maintenance of Hindu symbolic life. Entire populations became available for conversion to Christianity because their access to their own laws had been cut off. The decision to convert, then, cannot be considered voluntary or pragmatic in a simplistic sense precisely because when their own laws had been rendered inaccessible the Hindus were forced to consider the only option left to them—converting to Catholicism. Nevertheless, a completely deterministic view would also prove inadequate. A view of the history of Goa shows constant flux and shifts. In early times various tribal groups must have lived in relationships of 194 ROWENA ROBINSON

exchange, using the natural resources of the region. When new groups came in, bringing the plough, the focus shifted to settled agriculture. Land then became the central resource (Kosambi 1956). In this society the rules of hierarchy legitimated the power of the high castes. With the entry of the Portuguese that situation changed. Conversion became the basis for the social, economic and political recognition of a group. I have pointed out how the adoption of the new religion was a manifestation of a group’s acceptance of the new terms of recognition and competition that had come into being. In this sense, conversion cannot be viewed simply as ‘forced’. That viewpoint is reductive because it sees the Hindus as completely passive and helpless in the face of the changing environment. I have attempted to show from the material available that the issues involved are very much more complex. To make possible the analysis of such issues our perspective must be embedded in an understanding of the historical contexts of the society that is converted and that which converts. Only then does it become possible for us to understand more fully the various facets of the process of conversion. Oddie (1977) argues that while one of the most noticeable aspects of South Asian society is its multi-religious character, little is known about the origins of different religious communities or the ways in which people were converted to different religions. I am hopeful that this case study will help in the establishment of a critical approach to this vast and largely unexplored subject.

NOTES 1. The area in northern Goa called Ilhas, consisting of the islands of Tiswadi, Chorao, Diwar, Jua and Vamsi, was conquered in 1510. Bardez, Salcete and Ponda came under the effective control of the Portuguese in 1543. These constitute the Old Conquests, which were converted. Hindus in the New Conquests—such as Pernem, Ponda, Dicholim, Canacona, Sanguem, Quepem and Sanquelim—which came under Portuguese control in the late 1700s, were allowed religious freedom. See D’Costa (1962). 2. The influence of the Jesuits is acknowledged by more than one writer. For example, Weinstein and Bell say that ‘the Jesuit combination of Spanish militarism and religious zeal explains the extraordinary success of that order in establishing its influence in virtually every aspect of European and Latin American culture’ (1982: 191–92). 3. See Marina Warner (1976) for some examples of theological differences. Weinstein and Bell (1982) note the growing conformity of religious orders in this period. 4. Padroado means patronage. By the bulls of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the Portuguese crown was allowed certain revenues and privileges both within Portugal





8. 9.






and in its overseas territories. In turn it was responsible for the financing and organizing of missionary activity in these regions. A few such questions were raised in a paper titled ‘Discover to Conquer: Towards a Sociology of Conversion’, presented by Dr William da Silva of Goa University and myself in Goa in 1992 at a seminar on ‘Discoveries, Missionary Expansion and Asian Cultures’ organized by the Xavier Centre of Historical Research. In my analysis here I have used the insights of Houtart and Lemercinier (1981). The Indies, for the European of the period, did not refer to India alone. The term was often taken to mean the whole of maritime Asia including China and sometimes included countries that bordered the Indian Ocean, such as East Africa. As Rogers points out, Prester John was said sometimes to rule in Ethiopia and sometimes in India. His geographical location was ambiguous, but no matter where he was situated he was supposed to rule over the Indians, and it was in his land that the body of St. Thomas the Apostle was said to lie in veneration. The Prester John myth originated with a letter supposedly written by him, probably the work of a priest resident somewhere in the Near East. It captured the imagination of the Latin Christian world and was, according to Rogers, the seed which gave birth to ‘Operation Indies’ (1962: 69). The Inquisition was established in Goa on the recommendation of Francis Xavier to suppress heretical practices and beliefs among the new converts. It may further be recalled that with the commercial treaty signed with Britain in 1810, the Portuguese had accepted the principle of tolerance towards all religions in the areas under their rule. The Inquisition was withdrawn around this time; and in the New Conquests the Hindus were permitted the freedom to practise their religion. By holding fortresses such as Hormuz, Diu, Goa, Cochin, Colombo and Malacca and operating fleets to patrol the seas between them, the Portuguese could compel all vessels carrying the wares of trade in these waters to purchase cartazes, documents permitting them to travel freely. The vessels that held these had to call at all the Portuguese fortresses along their route and pay customs duties (Winius 1985: 108). This cannot be called revenue from trade. When the mistake was realized, the attitude of the Portuguese towards the Hindus changed completely. When the ruler of Calicut refused to expel the Muslims who came to trade there, Vasco da Gama opened fire on the city’s streets for an entire day and killed several hundred fishermen pursuing their day’s work along the coast (Diffie and Winius 1977: 224). See Wicki (1940–72). The first four volumes are especially useful in understanding the process of conversion in Goa. The different volumes are referred to in the text by their numbers. This also means that what they got was an essentially upper-caste view which probably influenced a number of their decisions. For instance, when it came to incorporating converted Indians into the priesthood, the Portuguese went just so far as to allow Brahmins in: because they, and not the other castes, had a tradition of education and priesthood. There was also Albuquerque’s policy of mixed marriages very early in the period of conquest (D’Souza 1975: 123). Those who married the widows or daughters of the Muslims who had died in the battle against the Portuguese were given pieces of land on which to settle.


15. This would not have been alien to them. Local churches and their patron saints played an important role in village life in Portugal, as in other parts of Europe. Fairs were celebrated around the feasts of saints and agricultural festivals were part of local church calendars. 16. The branches of the areca plant were used to build the fire for puja (worship). 17. A.H. de Oliveira Marques (1971: 217) describes one such procession. The various guilds led the procession, each carrying the standard of its profession. The butchers came first, followed by the gardeners, orchardists, fishwives, bakers, women street vendors, fruit vendors, carters, innkeepers, cobblers and others. Tailors, soldiers, gunsmiths of the king and cross-bowmen of the royal council and the cavalry followed. Then there were two wings. In the first came the barbers. blacksmiths, armourers, tinkers and others. Weavers, saddlers, carpenters and such groups formed the second wing. Behind these were the goldsmiths and tinsmiths. After a pause there came the flag of the city and the royal banner. Next were the rich city merchants, scholars, scribes, judges and councilmen. Behind them came the monastic orders and then the knights of various orders. Finally the magistrates of court, the officials of the crown and the monarch himself formed a group around the host, carried in the hands of the bishop.

REFERENCES Azavedo, A.E. d’Almeida. 1890. As Commnidades de Goa. Lisbon: Viuva Bertrand & Co. Boxer, C.R. 1963. Race Relations in the Portuguese Colonial Empire, 1415–1825. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ———. 1969. The Portuguese Seaborne Empire, 1415–1825. London: Hutchinson. Braudel, Fernand. 1992. The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II (tr. Sin Reynolds). London: Harper Collins. Bynum, C.W. 1991. Fragmentation and Redemption: Essays on Gender and the Human Body in Medieval Religion. New York: Zone Books. D’Costa, A. 1962. ‘The Demolition of the Temples in the Islands of Goa in 1540 and the Disposal of the Temple Lands’, Nouvelle Revue de Science Missionaire 18: 161–76. ———. 1965. The Christianization of the Goa Islands. Bombay: St. Xavier’s College. Derrett, J.D.M. 1977. ‘Hindu Law in Goa: A Contact between Natural, Roman and Hindu Laws’, in J.D.M. Derrett, Essays in Classical and Modern Hindu Law, Vol. 2. Leiden: E.J. Brill. D’Souza, B.G. 1975. Goan Society in Transition: A Study in Social Change. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. De Souza, T.R. 1979. Medieval Goa: A Socio-economic History. Delhi: Concept Publishers. ———. 1990. ‘Rural Economy and Life’ in T.R. de Souza (ed.), Goa through the Ages: An Economic History. Delhi: Concept Publishers. Diffie, B.W. and G.D. Winius. 1977. Foundations of the Portuguese Empire 1415–1580, Vol. 1. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Heras, H. 1935. The Conversion Policy of the Jesuits in India. Bombay: Indian Historical Research Institute.


Houtart, F. and G. Lemercinier. 1981. Genesis and Institutionalization of the Indian Catholicism. Louvain: Universite Catholique de Louvain. Kosambi, D.D. 1956. An Introduction to the Study of Indian History. Bombay: Popular Book Depot. ———. 1962. ‘The Village Community in the “Old Conquests” of Goa: History versus the Skanda Purana’ in D.D. Kosambi, Myth and Reality. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. Kulkarni, A.R. 1992. ‘Christianity: Proselytization and Purification Movement in Goa and Konkan’. Paper presented at the Xavier Centre of Historical Research seminar on ‘Discoveries, Missionary Expansion and Asian Cultures’. Marques, A.H. de Oliveira. 1971. Daily Life in Portugal in the Late Middle Ages (tr. S.S. Wyatt). Madison, Milwaukee and London: University of Wisconsin Press. Oddie, G.A. (ed.). 1977. Religion in South Asia: Religious Conversion and Revival Movements in South Asia in Medieval and Modern Times. London: Curzon Press. Pearson, M.N. 1981. Coastal Western India: Studies from the Portuguese Records. Delhi: Concept Publishers. ———. 1987. The Portuguese in India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pereira, Rui Gomes. 1978. Goa (I): Hindu Temples and Deities (tr. Antonio Victor Couto). Goa: Rui Gomes Pereira. Priolkar, A.K. 1961. The Goa Inquisition. Bombay: A.K. Priolkar. Rao. R.P. 1963. Portuguese Rule in Goa 1510–1961. London: Asia Publishing House. Rogers, Francis. 1962. The Quest for Eastern Christians: Travels and Rumor in the Age of Discovery. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ———. 1964. ‘The Attraction of the East and Early Portuguese Discoveries’, Luso-Brazilian Review 1(1): 43–59. Silva Rego, A. da (ed.). 1947. Documentação para a Historia das Missões do Padroado Portugues do Oriente, Vol. 2. Lisbon: Agencia Geral das Colonias. Warner, Marina. 1976. Alone of All her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. Weinstein, D. and Rudolph M. Bell. 1982. Saints and Society: The Two Worlds of Western Christendom, 1000–1700. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. Wicki, J. (ed.). 1940–72. Documenta Indica, 12 Vols. Rome: Society of Jesus. Winius, G.D. 1985. ‘The Portuguese Asian “Decadência”, Revisited’ in Alfred Hower and Richard A. Preto-Rodas (eds), Empire in Transition: The Portuguese World in the Time of Camões. Gainesville: University of Florida Press.





n 9 July 1706, two Germans landed in the Danish colony on the southeastern coast of India called Tranquebar. Nearly 200 years after Martin Luther had circulated his 95 theses in Germany, they had come to be his voice to Hindus and Muslims. When they landed, Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg (1682–1719) was 24 years old and Heinrich Pluetschau (b. 1677) was 29. King Frederick IV of Denmark, as head of the Lutheran Church of Denmark and Norway, commissioned and financed them, but no one in Tranquebar, not even the Danes in the factory, knew they were coming. After a surprised and hostile reception in the Danish fort, the young men found themselves in a marketplace with nowhere to go. They stood in a town on a strip of coastal land, three miles by five, that the Danish East India Company had been renting from the Kings of Tanjore for 86 years. Tranquebar town had a population of about 18,000 (Ziegenbalg 1957: 35), and Tranquebar colony contained 15 towns and villages and a total population of about 30,000 (Lehmann 1956: 17; Ziegenbalg 1717: 1–4). The Tanjore kingdom was about 100 miles long and 70 miles wide, contained three notable palaces, four fortified towns,

*Originally published in the Sociological Bulletin, vol. 42, nos 1 and 2, 1993, pp. 37–63.

many large temple (‘pagoda’) towns, and rest houses for travellers supported by local ‘pagans’ of means, spaced about four miles apart and open to all for any length, as Ziegenbalg would later report: ‘Let him be Heathen or Mahometan, black or white Christian’ (Ziegenbalg 1717: 6–7). Tanjore, the capital, lay 60 English miles to the north-west of Tranquebar and was a walled town with a spacious palace, where the Maratha ruling family resided. According to Ziegenbalg in 1709, the king drew ‘above thirty Tuns of Gold in Money’ each year out of his dominions and was said to possess ‘above Thirty Hundred Thousand Tuns of Gold’ in his treasury. He kept 140 elephants for battle and over 300 imported horses and with his funds could raise ‘a most numerous Army’ in a short time. About 10 years previously (c. l799), Ziegenbalg said, ‘He besieged the Town of Tranquebar with forty Thousand Men, for the Space of nine whole Months, from which he would not retire, till they paid him down a Sum of Money, and agreed to such Terms as he demanded.’ Then he explained why: He is obliged to pay Annually a very great Sum of Money to the Mogol, to whom he is Tributary, Thus is he no Sovereign King, but a Vassal of the great Mogol. And such are all the other Kings and Princes upon the other Coasts, since they all pay Tribute to the Mogol …. At present here is no Sovereign King in all East-India, except in the Island of Ceylon, who is called Kandiarasha [Kandiyaraja] and is altogether independent (Ziegenbalg 1717; 7–8). As they were soon to realize, the two young missionaries had landed in a complex cultural environment created by generations of trade between Europe and the kingdoms of south India. A Portuguese patois now bridged the gaps between the Danish and German of the Europeans and the various forms of Tamil and Telugu of those whom Europeans referred to as ‘pagans’ and ‘Moors’, and it was the mother tongue for the Eurasians called ‘Portuguese’. Three years later Ziegenbalg described the population of the colony to correspondents in Germany in terms of skin colour. The Europeans are white, he said, the ‘Portuguese’ are half-white, the ‘Moors’ are yellow, and the majority population, the ‘Malabarians’, are dark brown.2 A German-speaking Dane eventually came to the marketplace and took the two men home. He rented them a house in a neighbourhood made up of Eurasians and of slaves of the Europeans. The slaves were the result of the political turmoil of the period and it appears that there were many Catholics among them. Dislocation and famine created by battles 200 D. DENNIS HUDSON

between Nayaka and Mughal forces had produced dislocation and famine in the Tanjore kingdom, causing many to flee to the coastal towns. According to Philippus Baldaeus writing in 1660, in Nagapattinam: the poor Country Wretches being forced to fly to the City for want of Rice and other Eatables, you saw the streets cover’d with emaciated and half starv’d Persons, who offer’d themselves to Slavery for a small quantity of Bread, and you might have bought as many as You pleased at the rate of 10 Shillings a Head; about 5000 of them were there bought and carried to Jafnapatnam, as many to Columbo, besides several thousands that were transported to Batavia.3 It was from that socially marginal and dependent Portuguese-speaking, Catholic and ‘pagan’ setting of slaves and Eurasians that the two Germans commissioned by Denmark’s Lutheran king began to address their Protestant (‘Evangelisch’) message to India. Ziegenbalg and Pluetschau were not, of course, the first Protestant spokesmen among Indians, nor the first Protestant students of India’s religions. After the Dutch had established a trading post up the coast at Pulicat, about 30 miles north of Madras, in 1613, Abraham Rogerius served in the 1640s as its first Reformed minister to the Dutchmen and to Catholics of the ‘Luso-Indian’ community. His interest in the ‘pagans’, however, was study and not conversion.4 Similarly, the Reformed minister Philippus Baldaeus served Dutchmen and indigenous Catholics in Jaffna and the Pandya coast between 1656 and 1662 and wrote his own reports.5 The next important studies of India’s ‘paganism’ would be by Ziegenbalg. Ziegenbalg and Pluetschau, however, had not come to Tranquebar to study. They had come to address ‘pagans’ and ‘Moors’ with the Protestant message and were the first Europeans sent to India for that express purpose. The various trading companies of Protestant Europe had long employed chaplains for their personnel in the colonies, and in Tranquebar the Danes possessed their own Lutheran church and had two pastors. Yet no Malabarians belonged to the congregation nor, apparently, did any Eurasians. Those among the Eurasians and the Malabarian slaves who were Catholics were served by a Jesuit. No ‘pagans’ or ‘Moors’ had yet voluntarily sought baptism from Protestants. Over the following century and a half, 54 other Europeans would be sent to continue what Ziegenbalg and Pluetschau had begun as the Protestant message spread out of Tranquebar and gained THE FIRST PROTESTANT MISSION TO INDIA 201

a foothold in south-eastern India. Here we shall look at the emergence of issues that set the context and contours of later developments.

SPREADING THE WORD To do their commissioned work, the two missionaries had first to study the language. They divided the labour, Ziegenbalg working on Tamil and Pluetschau on Portuguese, and their efforts bore fruit quickly. After 14 months they had formed a congregation of 75, got possession of a new church building, and held worship services in both languages. The congregation, however, was not typical of the colony. It was economically and socially dependent on the Danish fort, on mercantile trade, and on the mission institutions. By the time the church building was completed, only one free ‘pagan’ Malabarian had received baptism, Ziegenbalg’s 30year-old ‘Shudra’ man servant, Seperumal (Lehmann 1956: 42). Yet, during the remaining 12 years of Ziegenbalg’s life the mission grew. By 1712 there were 202 members in the congregation, 117 of them Malabarians and 85 Portuguese. In 1720, the year after his death, there were 250 members, 147 of whom were high-status ‘Shudras’ (who were Velalans) and the remainder low-status ‘pariah’ caste members. In 1738 the missionaries reported that since the mission began, they counted 4,609 people as members, of whom 3,186 were then living (ibid.: 121). A printed report cited by Lehmann (1956: 43) gives us some idea of their occupations. Of the 87 Malabarian adults, it reported, five served the Danish company, six were soldiers or sailors, others served the mission as catechists, clerks, or teachers, and the remainder sought work with the Europeans and earned their living however they could, some earning a little by knitting stockings, a skill taught to children of the mission’s school. Of the Portuguese adults, 13 were soldiers and sailors, and the rest served the company and earned money by knitting stockings and weaving reeds (ibid.: 43). What was the message to which those people had responded positively? It was Pietist, meaning that it stressed an inner and personal experience of a warm faith in the story of Jesus Christ as the mediating saviour from sin, death, the devil and hell. If genuine, that pious faith would transform one’s everyday life. It was a devotion to a personal saviour that Johann Sebastian Bach was at the time expressing through classical music in 202 D. DENNIS HUDSON

Germany. As a religious ideal it was not unlike the agamic devotion of surrender that would be expressed some decades later by the classical music of Tyagaraja of Tanjore (c. 1759–1847) and of his contemporaries, Muttuswami Diksitar (1776–1835) and Syama Sastri (1762–1827). In that musical context the Protestant poet of Tanjore, Vedanayaga Sastri (1774–1864), would also compose his many works. Within its European context, Pietist devotion tended toward an individualistic conscience that would later develop intellectually into Enlightenment rationalism and deistic theism. It was harmonious with the individualistic freedom of laissez-faire capitalism. It contrasted on the one hand the sacramental stress of the Roman Catholics and on the other the established Calvinist and Lutheran corporate ethos of the Dutch, Danish and British East India companies. Ideally it required a continuous cultivation of the inner experience of faith and repentance expressed through ethical living, as Ziegenbalg explained in Anandamangalam to a gathering at the house of a temple Brahmin: If you suffer Faith and unfeigned Repentance to be wrought in your Souls; a Faith, I mean, attended with a constant Exercise of good Works, and with a continued Perseverance to the End; there is no doubt but your Souls shall be saved by Virtue of our Religion. But if you barely change the Name, and not the Heart, then the coming over to our Religion, and the taking upon you the Name of a Christian, will do you no good at all.6 Ziegenbalg wanted to get that message to the ‘pagans’ and ‘Moors’, and by doing so, he believed, he would be responding to the desire for wisdom that was itself a sign of God’s earlier work in India.7 Those who desired wisdom, however, lacked the full story, and to get it to them he worked in three ways. First, assisted by Tamil books of his Catholic predecessors, he translated Lutheran and Pietist doctrinal and liturgical works into Tamil, such as Martin Luther’s ‘Small Catechism’ (Gensichen 1967: 33). He chose to use everyday spoken Tamil, not the poetry of the elite, even though it was not customarily used for books. He had his translations, tracts and letters copied by hand on to palm leaves by up to 12 copyists and distributed them to interested Muslims and Hindus who could read. Hundreds and perhaps thousands of pieces circulated, including, in one example, a translation of Matthew’s gospel with an exposition of Christian doctrine and a letter explaining conversion (ibid.: 30). THE FIRST PROTESTANT MISSION



In 1713 Ziegenbalg employed a Tamil printing press sent from the Pietist centre of Halle, Germany. Its first product, he reported, was ‘a booklet dedicated to the heathen, and consisting of eight chapters, in which is shown how great a horror heathenism is and how those who live in it may be saved and go to heaven’.8 According to Hans-Werner Gensichen, although Catholic Tamil writings of the sixteenth century were the first printed books to appear outside of Western Europe and there had been four Catholic printing presses in India since 1548, Ziegenbalg’s booklet of 1713 ‘inaugurated the modern era of Tamil book-printing and printing in Indian languages as a whole’ (Gensichen 1967: 34). It would be nearly a century and a half before Arumuga Navalar would assimilate the printing press to Tamil Shaiva missionary efforts. It is clear that his widely distributed literature was of interest to many and also effective. One of his letters addressing a set of questions to the ‘heathen’ may be the first survey ever conducted in India. Ziegenbalg received 99 written responses to it that contain an abundance of information, some of which shall be discussed shortly.9 His literature had a direct effect on the establishment of Protestants in the Tanjore capital, a major step in the spread of the religion. The missionaries were not allowed to work inside the Tanjore kingdom. Ziegenbalg had attempted to walk to Tanjore in 1709, but had learned on the way that ‘no white European could travel in the country unless he had a passport issued by the King or one of his highest officials’, and that the King had killed a few Portuguese priests and imprisoned others who then died (Lehmann 1956: 124–25). Nevertheless, the Tanjore king’s maternal uncle had read some of the Tranquebar literature and had corresponded with the missionary Benjamin Shultze and in 1721 had sent him an emissary. In the meantime, a low-caste Catholic in Tanjore named Rajanaikan (1700–71), who was a subordinate officer of the king, had read the literature as well as the Tranquebar translation of the Bible into Tamil. He had instructed three soldiers and in 1727 the four of them went to Tranquebar for baptism. When Rajanaikan returned to Tanjore, he served as catechist for over 40 years and brought hundreds into the church from the lower castes.10 At the end of 1717 there were only 15 Protestants in the Tanjore territory, but by the end of 1728 there were over 100. In 1728 the Tanjore king’s uncle invited the missionary Friedrich Pressier to the July wedding of his son and there the missionary met the Tanjore Lutherans who appear to have congregated outside the capital. The Velalan or ‘Shudra’ Protestants were allowed to meet him upstairs in the prince’s house but the ‘pariahs’ he could speak to only through a window. 204 D. DENNIS HUDSON

Yet, two years later Tanjore had 367 Protestants in its region and 14 years later they were meeting inside the capital, for in 1742 Rajanaikan opened a school there where he held worship services, and in 1744 a prayer hall had been built for ‘Shudras’ in a ‘Shudra’ street.11 Following the lead of Rajanaikan, the Tanjore Protestants, both ‘Shudra’ and ‘pariah’, would emerge as significant to the Malabarian application of Pietist faith, as will be seen later. Ziegenbalg’s second way of communicating his message was to study Tamil writings assiduously and discuss religious matters whenever he could. In 1708 and again in 1709 he visited the Dutch in Nagapattinam to the south. After his abortive effort to walk to Tanjore, in 1710 he went in a caravan to the English in Madras to the north, taking nine and a half days to pass through Sirkali, Cidambaram, Porta Nova, Kudalur, Pondicherry, Sadraspatnam and St. Thomas Mount. On his trips he distributed literature to Brahmins and gathered names for future correspondence. Whenever he could, he talked with men who frequently came to his house and with those he met on his walks through the colony: in market places, in front of temples, on the streets during festivals, in public resting places, and in private homes. In those discussions Ziegenbalg began with a shared notion of wisdom, and then moved to his particular message. ‘To start with the crucified Jesus is not possible’, he explained to Danish supporters. ‘One has to begin with the book of Nature, from there move on to the Holy Scripture, and on that basis proclaim the crucified Jesus, as the circumstances and the occasion present themselves’ (Lehmann 1956: 37). He used reason to bludgeon through what he thought to be blind ignorance. Yet, as a result of his studious efforts to understand whatever wisdom the Tamils had, Ziegenbalg ended up producing for Europe the most accurate studies of the ‘pagans’ in India since Rogerius. Not until he began sending his voluminous reports and studies of Tamil culture and religion to Halle did the Pietists in Germany have an opportunity to gain a reasonably clear idea of what they were trying to save people in India from. Yet, when Ziegenbalg sent that information to be published, the Pietist authorities at Halle suppressed it. As August Hermann Francke said, ‘the missionaries were sent out to exterminate heathenism in India, not to spread heathen nonsense all over Europe’ (ibid.: 32). As his third approach, Ziegenbalg welcomed Hindus and Muslims to the liturgies of the church in Tranquebar, the context in which the Protestant message was heard in its fullest resonance. He and Pluetschau conducted their catechetical instructions and worship services in the New THE FIRST PROTESTANT MISSION TO INDIA 205

Jerusalem Church, a stone building 20 by 50 feet, whitewashed, with a stone altar and a stone pulpit, but purposely bare of pictures, images and crucifixes (Ziegenbalg 1717: 53–54). When the congregation gathered, Ziegenbalg reported: Those women and men who wear European clothes sit on benches and stools, but those men and women who wear Indian clothes sit on mats and down on the paved floor. No one but Heathens and Moors, who do not belong to the congregation, stand at the four windows and doors (1957: 90). Those who sat on mats were apparently the Velalans; those who sat on the bare floor were ‘pariahs’. The men and women of the congregation no doubt sat apart and attendance was high, partly because mission employees did not want to jeopardize their positions (Lehmann 1956: 45). In that context, Ziegenbalg articulated the Protestant message vigorously. He led worship each Sunday and included the rite of the Holy Supper, he preached doctrinal sermons, and he catechized the members present. On Wednesday he reviewed for them the Sunday sermon and again catechized. On Friday he drilled them in Luther’s Catechism. According to his reports, ‘pagans’ and Muslims attended all of those occasions, sometimes by the hundreds. We shall return to the seating arrangement of that liturgical setting later, but should now turn our attention to those observers at the windows and doors. What evidence do we have for their response to what they saw and heard?

THE ‘MOORS’ Let us begin with the ‘Moors’ or Muslims, who were well established in Tranquebar. As Susan Bayly has noted, a chain of Muslim trading towns had come up along the east coast, from Pulicat down to the southernmost Tamil ports, and some of the richest were in the Tanjore delta area where Tranquebar is located (Bayly 1989: 72–82). Tranquebar town contained a large mosque and nearby Poreyar contained several, including a fine new one, and a Sufi lived not far away. At Nagore down the coast


near Nagapattinam was the dargah of the Sufi master Shahul Hamid Naguri, an international pilgrimage centre that received patronage from the rulers of Tanjore: from the Telugu Vaishnava Nayakas (it was believed), from the Dutch East India Company (it was believed), and most magnificently from the Marathas who had taken Tanjore from the Nayakas in 1674 (ibid.: 91–94, 216–21). Among Muslims the endogamous Tamilspeaking Maraikkayar dominated, a Sunni elite of merchants and shipowners who sustained close ties to Arab centres of trade and pilgrimage and to Muslim communities in Southeast Asia and along the west coast of India to Gujarat. They followed the Shafi’i school of Quranic law (madhab) that tended to link them to Arabia. They distinguished themselves from the Labbais, also Tamil-speaking Sunnis, who included fishermen and pearl divers, cultivators, weavers, artisans and petty traders, some dealing in fish and leather. The Labbais followed the Hanafi school, which tended to link them to the Deccan and to Central Asia and Iran (ibid.: 79–81). It is likely that when Ziegenbalg described the Muslims in the colony as ‘yellow’ in pigmentation, he meant the Maraikkayar elite who claimed descent from Arab settlers and regarded the Labbais as ‘mere converts’ (ibid.: 80). The Labbais who lived on the fringes of Tranquebar town’s Muslim society may have appeared to him as indistinguishable from the ‘dark brown’ Malabarians. Yet Ziegenbalg’s perception of them as different from the majority population may have been the way the Maraikkayar elite represented themselves to him, as not really ‘of Malabar’. Nevertheless, unlike Muslims in Bengal, who favoured Arabic, Persian or Urdu as their language and identified the Bengali language with non-Muslims (Roy 1983: 65–72), Tamil was the mother tongue for both the Maraikkayar and the Labbais. A Maraikkayar of coastal Kilakkarai, who claimed kinship with the Pandyas, had by this time commissioned the Sirappuranam, a Tamil kavya of 5,000 stanzas about the life of the Prophet, with explicit allusions to Kamban’s Tamil Ramayanam. And its author, Umaru Pulavar (c. 1665–???), was developing the literature of what might be called a ‘Muslim Manipravala’, an Arabic-Tamil literary language written in Arabic script.12 Still, according to his report of 1709, Ziegenbalg assumed that the Tranquebar Muslims were so different from the Malabarians that they had their own language, yet oddly enough did not speak it often and sent their children to Tamil schools. In answer to the question from Europe,


‘Are the Malabarians for the most part Heathens or Mahometans?’, he wrote: I have never seen as yet a Malabarian that was a Mahometan. The Mahometans here, are generally Blackamoors: Though they are settled every where among the Malabarians, yet do they make a particular Body of Men, or a quite different sort of People from the Heathens. And since the Malabarick Language has the Ascendant here above all others, they very seldom speak their native Tongue, and suffer their Children to frequent the Malabarick Schools, without obliging their Masters to teach them the Tenets of the Mahometan Faith. So that the Moors or Mahometans understand the Malabarick Language, both as to read, write, or to speak it; yet are they no Malabarians, but vastly different from them, as well with respect to their Religion, as likewise to their Complexion; their Shape, and Apparel. Many Hundred Thousands of those Moors inhabit the Coast of Coromandel, enjoying every where great Power and Liberty: For as they depend on the great Mogol, so he doth always protect them against the Insults of the Heathenish Kings, if they should offer to molest them (Ziegenbalg 1717: 31–32). By the time Ziegenbalg and Pluetschau had landed, Mughal rule was close at hand, with its use of Persian and Urdu. Through the Nizam of Hyderabad the Mughal Emperor in Delhi had claimed the whole of the Tamil country as a province. The Maratha-built fortress in Vellore was now in Mughal control, and the Nawabi of Arcot was about to be established (Bayly 1989: 151–52). Those Muslim men who stood on the edges of Ziegenbalg’s church to watch the liturgies must have found some things familiar: but nothing quite right. They were accustomed to weekly communal gatherings for prayer and to daily individual prayers, but unlike the Protestants, they washed themselves at the mosque before worship, and during worship did not sing or eat, and did not sit with the women. The mosque, like the church, was an image-free building painted white and with a pulpit, but it had no altar, and no priestly rituals. They too heard a weekly sermon expounding revealed scripture, and they too knew Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus. Yet, just as they no doubt thought he would, in their eyes


Ziegenbalg distorted the teachings of those prophets and ignored the most important one, Muhammad. The church building, perhaps, seemed to them more like the court of a Sufi saint than a mosque. Men and women went together to see the Sufi who lived nearby and sometimes they sang while worshipping (Ziegenbalg 1717: 32–37). As did Ziegenbalg, that Sufi nurtured individual piety and spiritual growth, and his own life too was meant to be a model for others. Yet Ziegenbalg talked of the experience of faith in God, while the Sufi talked of the experience of God. Ziegenbalg waited for the next life to see God, while the Sufi longed to see him now. Ziegenbalg wanted to be a model of faith and repentance for his congregation, while the Sufi was looked to by his disciples as an embodiment of holiness. As Ziegenbalg described him: His Dress was Mahometan; he had on his Head a green silken Turbant, with a black silken Scarf about his Body. He was besides loaded with Gold, Silver, Pearls, and other precious Ornaments hanging about him. A Scymeter lay on his left Side. His Bed was all of pure red, black, and green Velvet. Whilst we thus conversed together, a great many Moors sitting on the Ground near us, listened with much Attention to what we said. All the Moors of both Sexes, very reverently kissed his Feet both when they came, and when they went, and behaved themselves so respectfully as if he had been a Piece of a Deity (Ziegenbalg 1717: 34–35). Ziegenbalg had no better knowledge of Islam or respect for it than most Europeans of his time. Twice when he visited the Sufi’s court he refused to remove his shoes even though he thereby offended everyone. The second time, Ziegenbalg reported, the Sufi told him ‘that even the King of Tanjour himself, did not only take off his Shoes in his Presence, but prostrating himself on the Ground, did not rise till he bade him.’ Ziegenbalg told the Sufi that he was too proud and needed to practise humility. Not surprisingly, the third time Ziegenbalg visited he was not admitted, which, he said, illustrated the ‘intolerable and silly Pride’ of Muslims (1717: 32–37). Muslims told Ziegenbalg that they venerated Muhammad as the greatest Prophet, but more than that, as the intimate friend of God, as a unique man whose life was for them the model of piety and faithfulness. Never-


theless, Ziegenbalg insisted that Christians knew more about Muhammad than did Muslims. Not only was the Prophet morally corrupt, he told them, he had corrupted divine revelation. The Qur’an, he said: ... is partly taken out of the Writings of our holy Bible, and partly out of the Books of Pagans, mix’d with many of his own Extravagances, as may be clearly seen by any discerning Reader: Therefore Mahomet gave the World no new Law; but dismembered, mangled, and corrupted the Laws of Moses, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Ziegenbalg 1719: 227). Such an outspoken attitude toward the Prophet provoked at least one public disturbance during his career, and the responses of Muslim intellectuals were predictable. They told him that Muslims have a better understanding of Jesus than the Christians, because the Christians have turned him into a god and are thus polytheists. As one man explained: For tho’ Jesus Christ was adored as God by some of his own Disciples and heedless Followers; yet he himself preach’d against the Plurality of Gods: And when he came to hear, that some of his Disciples adored him, calling him the Son of God, he abandon’d them to themselves, and retir’d into the Wilderness .... Therefore Mahomet was sent into the World to destroy the Worship of many Gods, both among the Heathens and Christians (Ziegenbalg 1719: 303–4). The Muslims wondered if Christians were not also idolaters like the Malabarians, except perhaps for Ziegenbalg’s congregation. Ziegenbalg had gone out of his way not to use the crucifix on liturgical garments or in the church so as not to tempt the Malabarians to idolatry, but that made it unclear to Muslims whether the Protestants of the Danish church belonged to the same religion as the missionaries.13 The Muslims had their own Christology, they felt politically and economically secure, and they believed Islam to be the future of the world. As Ziegenbalg wrote to Europe: The Mahometan-Moors are far greater Enemies to the Christian Religion, than the Heathens themselves. They often visit me, as I do them but they will seldom listen to any Reason, firmly believing their own Religion to be of the greatest Extent of all, as having possessed no less than almost Three Parts of the Universe. This is 210 D. DENNIS HUDSON

the Reason, that when they write a Letter to a Christian, they cut off three Corners of the Letter, leaving but one entire, to intimate thereby, that the Christians possess but one, and they, the other three Parts of the World (Ziegenbalg 1717: 32). No Muslim became a Protestant in Ziegenbalg’s time.

THE ‘MALABARIAN PAGANS’ Now let us consider ‘Malabarian pagan’ responses. In 1709 when Ziegenbalg answered the European question, ‘By what Means do the Malabarians get their Livelihood?’, he gave a rather full picture of ‘pagan’ Tamil society in secular occupational terms as he observed them: Some of the Malabarians maintain themselves by Trade and Commerce; others by the Plow; others again by Handy-craft Work, and other Labour and Business of that Nature. In such Sea-port Towns as Tranquebar, Trade is far greater, and everything more plentiful, than in any other Parts of the Country. Those that can and will Work, find Employment enough to get a Livelihood. There are no Beggars to be seen among them except the Faquiers ....14 There are many rich and great Men among the Malabarians; but for the generality they are poor, or of midling Circumstances. The chief Handy-craft Trades among them are, Linnen-Weavers, Shoemakers, Taylors, Knitters of Stockings, Dyers, Painters, Masons, Carpenters, Joiners, Potters, Goldsmiths, Brasiers, Ironmongers, etc. and some work in Chalk and Lime-Houses, in Brickilns, and GlassHouses, where Glass-Bracelets are made. There are Physicians, Surgeons, Barbers, Exchangers of Money, etc. I may truly say; the Malabarians are as expert and ready in their several Trades and Arts as any Nation in Europe, and are able to imitate almost everything that cometh to their Hands, and relateth to their Profession. Their Women maintain themselves by Spinning of Wool, grinding of Rice; by selling of Cheese, Milk, Butter and Fish; by baking Cakes, fetching and carrying of Water; by putting themselves out to Service, etc. (Ziegenbalg 1717: 21–22). THE FIRST PROTESTANT MISSION TO INDIA 211

A spokesman for the ‘Malabarian’ literati view would have organized that same description somewhat differently. For example, in the latter half of the nineteenth century, Dandapani Swamikal (1839–98), a Velalan born in Tirunelveli, explained the social world in his ‘Sutra of Truth’ (Sattiya Suttiram) in accord with the ancient Tirukkural and the ritual concerns of agama. The relevant portions of his text may be summarized thus.15 He began with God, and then turned to the guru, and then to the practice of tapas, which, he said, is the performance of one’s work in order to attain a higher realm. Under that umbrella, he described the nature of people according to their social functions, following an agamic revision of varna-dharma. First are the Brahmins of the veda, whose nature is to consider all souls (uyir) as equal to their own. Second are the rulers, whose nature is to possess truth, political skill (niti), and compassion. Third are the merchants (vanikar; cetti), whose nature is to buy and sell. (Their otherwise inferior name, he said, is great because it is one of Murugan’s, who sells emancipation for the price of devotion. He offered that explanation, it appears, to explain why he had distinguished merchants from the next class and thereby placed them in a position analogous to Vaishyas.) Fourth are the Velalans, whose nature is to engage in many kinds of work. They differ according to region, language and function, and have differing titles (Mudaliar, Pillai, Cettiyar, etc). They provide subsistence for ascetics, Brahmins and rulers, and their fundamental and ancient duty is to worship God when rain is required. (That, it appears, explains the name Velalan as ‘he who possesses abundance [velanmai] that comes through sacrifice [velvu] motivated by desire [veli]’.) The fifth class, finally, consists of those whose nature is to kill souls and eat flesh. Their duty is to do what the ruler commands and to announce events to everyone, usually with a drum (parai) (for example, the Paraiyans or ‘pariahs’). Yet, he explained, there is no reason to fault them in their serving people of the other four classes and they are to be respected—in fact, those of the fifth class who do not eat flesh are to be counted among the higher people, because purity inside purified the outside. (That suggests the agamic diksa that purifies the grossly physical body, making ‘unclean’ Paraiyans into true devotees and Shudras into ‘Shudras of true being’ [sat-sudra] who have the ritual status of the‘twiceborn’.16 In any case, he continued, to kill is not part of one’s work (karma), even if the veda requires it for sacrifices. The acaryas of agama have spoken firmly that even if veda appeared and spoke, and even if Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva came and spoke, still the sin of eating flesh is not allowed 212 D. DENNIS HUDSON

for high castes. When killing, no compassionate person’s mind will bear the victim’s tormented thrashing.17 Although Dandapani Swamikal’s text obviously organized itself according to the varna-dharma model of such dharma texts as the Laws of Manu, his five classes do not correspond in ritual status to Manu’s varnas. Viewed from those ritual categories, there are in fact only three classes in his description: the Brahmins, the Shudras, and the unclean ‘fifth’. The rulers of society, ritually speaking, are ‘Kshatriya’ natures in Shudra bodies and those who function as ‘Vaishyas’ are ritually Shudras as well. Nevertheless, as Arumuga Navalar explained in his nineteenth-century works, the means by which Shudras could become ‘twice-born’ were the initiations (diksa) and ritualized modes of life (sadhana) provided by the acaryas of agama. The relevant agamas were those of the Shaivas and of the Vaishnavas and crucial to their sadhanas was the avoidance of flesh and liquor to sustain ritual purity in mind and body. Such ‘pure’ food was the liturgical coin used in the Shaiva and Vaishnava temples to mediate between God and the worshipper. Tranquebar town possessed five large agamic temples and numerous large and small ones dotted the colony. In contrast to the church and the mosque, the temple is thought to be a palace (koyil) for the iconic presence (sannidhi) of Shiva or Vishnu, who grants audiences to subjects at stated times each day. In the eighteenth century, traffic in and out was limited to men and women of requisite purity; polluted devotees worshipped outside the boundaries of the temple mandala. For centuries the Tanjore kings had followed agama under the guidance of acaryas, notably the Shaiva Agama of Shaiva Siddhanta during Chola rule and the Vaishnava Agama of the Pancaratra and Vaikhanasa schools during Vijayanagara rule. For example, the last Nayaka ruler before the Maratha kings, Vijayaraghava, reigned for 40 years (1633–73) and was noted for his personal devotion to Krishna housed at Mannar. Amidst a period of at times devastating strife with other rulers, he sustained that piety under the guide of his acarya, Kumara Tatacarya (d. 1658). During guru puja, it was reported, his acarya was taken in a procession through the streets of Tanjore in a richly decorated palanquin, his slippers in another palanquin, and the king walked in front of the slippers with a censer (Sathianathaier 1956: 58–88). The king celebrated the Panguni festival of March–April with the procession of chariots (ter, ratha). He observed the Margali rites of December–January at the Mannar temple, where he went each morning before sunrise to worship Krishna with flowers for five hours while the town THE FIRST PROTESTANT MISSION TO INDIA 213

celebrated. During that month he lived as a renunciate and ate in strict purity. When his acarya died, the king was shaved head to foot and he made a pilgrimage to Ramanangur at Ramesvaram where he and the queen gave their collective weight in gold to the Lord. Upon his return he gave gold to Krishna at Mannar. Then, after the Nayaka of Madurai defeated him in 1664, Vijayaraghava performed the rite of hiranyagarbha, by which he was ‘reborn’ through a metal cow into the arms of his acarya’s wife as her ‘newborn’. At that time he also visited the temple of Sri Rangam daily, starting the 30-mile journey early enough to worship there by sunrise (Sathianathaier 1956: 81). Such royal behaviour, even if exceptional, modelled for the Tanjore kingdom the ideas and values of agama and its view of the world. Central to that view is the mandala, a design whose sacred centre expands outward into peripheries bounded by a wilderness. The mandala mapped the world, kingdoms, capital cities, temples, ritual arenas, and the relations of peoples to one another. Drawing upon another nineteenth-century description in Tamil, we may describe the agamic mapping of socio-religious groups thus:18 At the mandala’s centre stands the Light that is wisdom or knowledge (jnana), understood either as Shiva or as Narayana, depending on the agama. Around that centre of Light three circles or squares expand concentrically outward into Darkness to form the realm of dharma. Outside of dharma is the wilderness of delusion, the dark realm of ignorance (ajnana) where, in European terms, the ‘heathen’ live. All traditions that accept veda are truly civilized and exist within dharma. Within the boundaries of dharma, however, only those that in addition accept agama are in or near the centre of Light. Any tradition that rejects veda is outside dharma, is uncivilized, and is in the realm of darkness. Although veda defines the boundary of dharma, by itself it is not at the centre, which is occupied by agama as taught by acaryas. The Shaiva acaryas and the Vaishnava acaryas disputed one another regarding the nature of the mandala’s centre, but in the early eighteenth century they agreed on its outermost boundaries. Outside of those boundaries, in the realm of darkness, lived the meat-eating and demon-worshipping ‘pariahs’, the Buddhists, the Jainas, the Muslims, the Catholics and the Protestants. With that background, let us now return to the New Jerusalem Church in Tranquebar and to the people standing at its windows and doors watching Ziegenbalg’s liturgies. Any Shaiva or Vaishnava participating in the world of thought just outlined would have understood Ziegenbalg’s proclamation of Christ as the form of God’s love (anpu), yet must have thought 214 D. DENNIS HUDSON

it odd that he would be iconically present only for a few minutes and then in bread and wine, while in the temple God was present continuously and in anthropomorphic forms that stimulate devotion. Ziegenbalg’s use of food must also have seemed both familiar and strange. God embodied in iconic form in his palace receives ‘pure’ food and distributes ‘pure’ food through his serving priests so that the transaction of food between God and communicants that Ziegenbalg effected in the Holy Supper was not unfamiliar. Yet he used polluting wine and the interpretation he gave it and the bread he served were completely polluting: To think of eating the flesh and blood of a human, even symbolically, must have been repulsive to anyone who gave it serious thought. Yet the feast of the Lord’s Supper in which Christ’s body and blood were eaten and drunk was so important in the Church cultus that any who wanted to consume those sacred elements had to give notice eight days in advance and then each day receive an hour of instruction and admonition (Lehmann 1956: 61). Nevertheless, in its symbols it would suggest to agamic thought the bloody and polluting ‘pariah’ rites of darkness. Moreover, the fact that ‘Shudra’ and ‘pariah’ Christians sat in the same room and shared in the same liturgical meal implied that they were of the same polluting social status even though they maintained distinctions in their seating. The thoughtful observer must have found it bizarre that familiar doctrines of God, love, grace and purification from sin should be taught through such a mixture of the clean and unclean and with such defiled imagery. Standing on the boundary of the church, he must have thought he was looking into a curious mixture of ignorance and wisdom. He would have noticed, nevertheless, that those sitting within that arena retained the distinctions between the ‘clean’ and the ‘unclean’ classes. We have seen it in the seating, to which we shall return later. He may also have perceived it in the distribution of the food, namely in serving the wine. Despite the report by some later missionaries that caste distinctions were not made in the rite of the Supper, ‘Shudras’ may have been served before ‘pariahs’ and perhaps even two cups were used. In Germany, two full cups were consecrated during the rites and, if two were similarly consecrated in the Tranquebar context, the ‘clean’ may have drunk from one and the ‘unclean’ from the other, as was the practice in 1777. Censorship in Germany of missionary reports from Tranquebar may have eliminated information about the practice.19 Nevertheless, the congregants’ own self-consciousness about observing purity-pollution distinctions in the sacred context was unambiguous. It was revealed, interestingly, by the one time that missionaries reported THE FIRST PROTESTANT MISSION



that the congregants sat together without observing caste distinctions. That was during Ziegenbalg’s funeral in 1719. In his study of the mission, Arno Lehmann viewed that event as ‘a splendid example of what the Church was able to achieve already in 1719, something that in Hindu circles had not been considered a possibility’ (1956: 64). Yet it reveals, I think, quite the opposite. According to the categories of dharma, funeral rites are polluting and all who participate in them are polluted. Moreover, insofar as all the congregants viewed themselves as forming one ‘family’, they understood themselves as all polluted by virtue of kinship relations. In such funereal situations, there is no purity to preserve and all who are polluted may intermingle without regard to caste distinctions. From that point of view, the unity that Lehmann applauded was the social unity of people who shared the unclean ritual status of ‘pariahs’, and their practice of it revealed a conscious adherence to the symbolism of purity and pollution. Most of the high-caste people Ziegenbalg talked with at length and corresponded with were Shaivas. To them it was not strange to think that God had revealed himself and his way of life through a series of disciples and their books, as Ziegenbalg taught. The idea of salvation through divine grace was nothing new either, nor the fact of resurrection, because both were attested to in the lives of their saints, the Nayanar. They also believed that Shiva takes on human form, and so that doctrine too was sensible. What may not have been appealing to them, however, is the doctrine that God was born through a woman’s body, which is what the Vaishnavas taught. But responses by Vaishnavas to Ziegenbalg were fewer than those by Shaivas, suggesting, perhaps, that as a minority who relied more on Brahmins for leadership than did the Shaivas, they were less available to him. When Ziegenbalg wrote to people, he often asked them: ‘What do the Tamilians think about the Christian Religion and Law?’ (Grafe 1972: 51). In his use of the word ‘Tamilian’ he appears to mean ‘Velalan’. One of his 99 respondents wrote back: Christianity is being despised by us for the following reasons: because Christians slaughter cows and eat them, because they do not wash after easing themselves, because they drink strong drinks, because they do not do many works (karma), when someone has died, in order to help the soul of the deceased 216 D. DENNIS HUDSON

to reach the place of bliss, because they do not do many works (karma) of joy at weddings. This seemingly random sequence, that a European reader would likely have found incoherent, in fact articulates a coherent statement of dharma by describing what opposes it. Those five objectionable acts imply the disintegration of the social mandala. European and Eurasian Christians, for example, slaughter cattle and eat them, like the ‘pariahs’. As the purest of animals, cattle are used to embody the divine in Shaiva temple rites and, as noted, in 1664 Vaishnava rites enabled the Nayaka of Tanjore to be reborn through a bronze cow (Sathianathaier 1956: 81). Europeans perpetuate their ‘pariah-like’ pollution because they do not use water to remove the pollution of bodily wastes, and because they drink alcohol and lose their self-control as was apparent to everyone who saw the drunkenness and debauchery common among the Europeans of the trading companies. In other words, the respondent was saying, Christianity is dangerous because it creates unclean people who live chaotic lives. He was also saying that Christians weaken the family, which is the very heart of dharma. The Pietist Lutherans, for example, buried the dead with a ceremony and left it at that. Neither fasting nor feasting, they did nothing to assist the soul to reach its rebirth and thereby invited disaster from the unsatisfied preta. Likewise, they conducted simple weddings and did not spend generously on feasts for families, caste members, friends and fellow villagers. They thereby left the social ties that bind kin, caste and village weakened, and the family of the present and the future socially vulnerable. Pietist Lutherans, through simple and inexpensive funerals and weddings, weakened the past and future links of the very lineages on which they themselves depended. They were, it appeared, not only ignorant but ungrateful. Ziegenbalg asked his correspondents another question: ‘Why do the Tamilians refuse to embrace the Christian religion?’ Again, Ziegenbalg appeared to mean the Velalans. One man responded: There are many castes among men, which have been created by the Lord. Now because we see that Christians do not observe such distinctions of castes, but bring everybody to one level, and although there is a big difference between the male and the female sex, they gather them all without distinction into one congregation, we do not like to embrace such a religion (Grafe 1972: 53). THE FIRST PROTESTANT MISSION TO INDIA 217

Despite the fact that members of Ziegenbalg’s congregation did sustain fundamental caste distinctions, the Velalans knew that the converts in principal had stepped outside of the dharma mandala into ‘heathen’ darkness. The price many of them paid was high, because once they had been baptized into that ‘darkness’ they were in the realm of the polluted and their families, in order to protect themselves, in theory should cut them off from all social, economic, kinship and ritual relationships. That was one reason the mission had to support its members. No matter how positively those respondents may have felt toward the Protestant message— which shared much in common with agamic bhakti—they did not think such a break with dharma necessary. ‘[We] believed’, one man wrote, ‘that God will give us salvation, if we in this life go by what we discern as true in your law, although outwardly we do not convert to your Church’ (ibid.: 54). Let us glance quickly at four responses to Christian thought by the Malabarians. One offered a Shaiva definition of ‘heathen’. The word ajnana, which Ziegenbalg had used to translate ‘heathen’, this respondent applied to Christians: anyone who does not wear the ashes of Shiva, does not rely on Shiva’s five-syllable mantra for ritual purposes, does not make offerings and fast, and is without mercy, love, humility, and patience— that person is a heathen (Grafe 1972: 60). Another response was a theological version of the multiplex unity of dharma. Just as God created different communities and nations with different modes of dress, laws and customs, so he created different religions and wants to be worshipped in different ways. That implies that to remove many religions in favour of one, as the Christians and the Muslims wanted, is not only unnecessary, it will lessen God’s own delight in diversity. Underlying that is the belief that if truly seen, this whole moving universe and its events manifest God’s joyful play. A third response was to clarify Ziegenbalg’s misunderstanding about agamic polytheism. God is the Supreme Being, this response said, and he has no bodily shape and cannot be compared to anything else. He creates the various devas for his purposes but ultimately they are forms of himself that he will reabsorb one day. Many ignorant people worship as devas beings that are not devas at all, but are actually lies, while others worship beings so low in the hierarchy that they appear to be demons. It is that ignorant mode of worship that Ziegenbalg has erroneously taken to be representative of all Tamilian worship and which he attacks as gross idolatry. When properly understood, this response maintained, those who 218 D. DENNIS HUDSON

follow agama are no less monotheistic than the Christians and the Muslims. Finally, some respondents pointed out to Ziegenbalg that although the observance of temple rites and the maintenance of purity are important, more important is the personal cultivation of devotion to God. ‘Faith in God, love for God, and faithfulness to God are the essential elements of religion,’ they said, and at times they may take precedence over temple worship and purity. That approach is typical of those who had broken with the normal householder life, renunciant asectics perhaps. Such people found a great deal to admire in Ziegenbalg’s own pious behaviour, though not in his doctrine. These responses, however, are of the Tamil elite, the Brahmins and the Velalans of leisure and learning. We know little of what unsophisticated people thought, or what those at the bottom of the social hierarchy like the ‘pariahs’ thought. Some Malabarian ‘pagans’ found Ziegenbalg’s message persuasive and became Christians, but most did not. Ziegenbalg attributed that to the Devil’s power to keep people blind to the otherwise obvious truth.

CONCLUSIONS Leaving Ziegenbalg’s Devil aside, what conclusions may we draw from this brief sketch of the first indigenous Protestant movement in India? To begin, it is clear that Protestant beginnings depended significantly on Catholic predecessors. That, of course, repeats the history of Europe, where Martin Luther, Jean Calvin and others sought to reform what was already there. Similarly, Ziegenbalg and Pluetschau sought to reform the Catholic ‘Portuguese’ and ‘Malabarians’ in accord with Pietist ideas, some of whom apparently wanted such religious reform. Rajanaikam in Tanjore is a notable example. It is also clear that the Catholics and ‘pagans’ who became Protestants created their own view of themselves as they responded to the missionaries’ message. What they had converted to was not always what Ziegenbalg and others intended.20 The doctrine they accepted they applied to the categories of life as dharma defined it for them, a dharma represented by the agamic gaze focused on them at the windows and doors of the church during worship. They lived within a dharma-based culture as signified by THE FIRST PROTESTANT MISSION TO INDIA 219

the many palaces of God around them and by the palace of the king in Tanjore. They heard the story of Jesus as it was told by Europeans who came from a different culture as signified by the Danish fort and its church. Yet the Europeans they heard it from were themselves at odds with that fort and its church, and critical of its seemingly debauched and impious way of life. The mission church and school signified that fact. The Tamilspeaking Christians worshipping at the New Jerusalem Church, then, had located themselves somewhere between the dharma of Tanjore’s king and the mores of the European fort. The clearest expression of their recently created self-understanding appears to us in the sacred setting of the Lord’s Supper. Let us recall the matter of their seating in the New Jerusalem Church. Modes of dress implied modes of sitting, and within a sacred liturgical context, both dress and placement signified distinctive social identities. Those who wore European clothes sat on benches and stools, which would include the missionaries and Eurasians and perhaps soldiers in uniform. Those who wore indigenous clothes sat on mats, which would have been the highstatus Velalans; or they sat directly on the floor, which would have been the low-status ‘pariahs’. By conducting the Lord’s Supper in that liturgical context, the missionaries conveyed to the congregation and to the onlookers that the social order articulated by their seating arrangement expressed the Protestant message, just as the rites of the temple expressed the hierarchy of dharma and the rites of the mosque expressed the equality of Shari’a. In other words, faith in God’s love as expressed in the story of Jesus Christ expressed itself as a cultic unity that was socially pluralistic. They sat together separately. In 1727 missionaries reported that ‘pariahs and sudras sit in the church separated by one yard. But in the distribution of the Sacrament, no difference was made’ (Lehmann 1956: 64). Between 1743 and 1746 a church was built in Porayar, an important Muslim town an hour and a half walk from Tranquebar town. It was built to serve the Protestants in Tranquebar and various villages, and it was designed as a cross precisely to express the plurality of Christian unity: In the south wing behind the altar sat the ‘Shudra’ women, Opposite them in the north wing sat the ‘Shudra’ men, in the east wing sat the ‘pariah’ women, and in the west wing sat the ‘pariah’ men (ibid.: 129). Light is shed on that ‘pluralistic unity’ by a document written in Tanjore in 1829. The occasion for it was a split in the Tanjore congregation caused when more recent missionaries sought to erase any caste distinctions in the sacred context, The writer was Vedanayaga Sastri, a Velalan who 220 D. DENNIS HUDSON

identified himself as ‘the Evangelical Poet’. Because he was a highly influential Tamil voice for the Protestant message, his views on this matter are instructive.21 Vedanayaga Sastri opposed the newer missionaries, arguing that earlier missionaries like Ziegenbalg had won converts because they had respected the customary divisions of the country. Not only did they follow ‘Popish’ practice and dress like a ‘Tamilian priest’, he said, but they had used Velalans to convert Velalans and Telugus (‘Gentoo’) to convert Telugus, had respected their castes, and had built the church in the form of the cross to allow them to sit separately. Moreover, they kept the habits of the high castes and used only ‘Malabars’ as their cooks and did not eat flesh in public. ‘They acted prudently without causing any offence either to the higher or to the lower according to the saying of the Apostle [Paul], being made all things to all men in order to gain all.’ The symbolism of mats in the liturgical setting had continued in the mission for over a century and the Tanjore congregation also used them. For over 50 years, Vedanayaga Sastri wrote, the Velalans (‘Tamilians’) sat on ‘Sedge’ mats and those who belonged to the ‘Right Hand’ division of Paraiyans (‘Valangamattan’) sat separately on mats of ‘Coldrickoo’. But recent missionaries had insisted that everyone sit together publicly on the same mats of ‘Ratten’ without any distinction. They also refused to allow a four-foot strip to separate the two groups. If the Paraiyans sat on the ‘Ratten’ mats, he said, the Velalans were left to sit on the ground. The congregation had therefore divided. The issue posed by ‘Ratten’ mats, it appears, derived from the fact that they were woven from long strands into large sections, so that all who sat on them would sit on a single interconnected surface. Assuming that ‘Sedge’ and ‘Coldrickoo’ mats were smaller, they would allow social distinctions to be retained even within the larger grouping of ‘Shudras’ and ‘the fifth’, for example, between the ‘Right Hand’ and ‘Left Hand’ divisions of ‘pariahs’, if there were any of the latter. The point, he explained, was not that the Paraiyans should sit on the ground while the Velalans sat on mats, but that each group should sit on mats or carpets, but with their distinctions retained. And it was not because of caste pride, he insisted. ‘We likewise know that everyone is the descendant of Adam, and the pride of Caste is nothing ....’ He rejected any claim that in essence human beings are different from one another. Yet, he said, ancient customary social divisions match differences in styles of living. Customarily Velalans did not eat with Paraiyans because they abhor the flesh of kine, which Paraiyans ate. Paraiyans and Pallars, however, both THE FIRST PROTESTANT MISSION



ate beef, yet did not interdine with each other, not because the other was unclean or due to pride of caste, but because of customary separation. Europeans, in fact, customarily ate beef and liked it and therefore they ate with the Paraiyans. Those divisions, he maintained, were civil distinctions. They were characteristic of the country, were not essentially contrary to the Christian message, and should not be opposed if converts are sought.22 The missionaries apparently believed, he said, that the meaning of being ‘reconciled to your brother’ before eating in the Lord’s Supper is that Velalans should unite with the Pariayans and eat with them ‘without arrogance and shame’. In response, he rejected the implication that the observance of caste distinctions manifested ‘arrogance’ and he asked whether offending the country out of fear of the missionaries’ orders would lead to heaven. ‘Can you say’, he asked, ‘that this is the principle doctrine of Christianity?’ It appears that Vedanayaga Sastri belonged to a Tamil Protestant view of reality that by now was more than a century old. According to it, humans may be unified by faith in the same story, which is expressed cultically by the Lord’s Supper, while they live separately according to caste divisions organized hierarchically. Individually speaking, to be oneself fully is to be in and of a particular caste. There is no such thing as a Christian ‘in general’. When in 1825 missionaries wrote in their explanation of the Lord’s Supper that ‘no Brahmins, Chatrias, Vasia, Shudras and Parayers, be partakers of this Table but Christians’, that sounded to Vedanayaga Sastri like arrogant nonsense. He wrote in response that there are more than 100 castes in India and wondered why, if they added the Paraiyans to the usual four varnas, they had not also added the Pallars and shoemakers ‘whom Parayers abhor’, and the Europeans too. If ‘Christians only’ are to come to the Table, he asked rhetorically, ‘who are they, are they the white men?’ His point, it appears, was that whoever went to the Table went as a whole person, and one’s wholeness extended into one’s family which extended into a caste, of which the Europeans formed one among many others. Each person’s body of flesh encoded an ‘ethnic’ social reality that was as much a part of a person as internal faith and feeling. That ‘code’ of the body, it appears, was unpalatable to the recent missionaries in a way it had not been to their predecessors. That brings us, finally, to the fact that once Ziegenbalg had established the Tamil Protestant cultus, its members over the years had to deal with the changing intellectual and social climate of Northern Europe, because the cultus depended on European patronage. 23 Need for European 222 D. DENNIS HUDSON

Christian financial support had led Halle authorities to censor the publication of missionary reports in Europe. Among the intellectual and political changes they had to face at the beginning of the nineteenth century were Enlightenment thought and values that had developed throughout the eighteenth century in the context of an international and colonial market economy. The eighteenth century had produced in Europe a new idea of autonomous personhood in which the individual human body encodes ‘rights’ and ‘freedoms’ rather than family, caste and status. It was that new sense of the person, it appears, that caused missionaries to Tanjore in the early nineteenth century to change the mats in the Church. Such changes are not surprising, because the Protestant mission was not a wellconceived strategy aimed at the Tamils. European Protestants in the early eighteenth century had not been prepared for India as a mission field. Frederick IV of Denmark had sent Ziegenbalg and Pluetschau there as a last-minute decision. Although he had first wanted them to go to India, he then seriously considered Guyana in the West Indies and the African coast, and the young men from Halle were not sure where they were actually being sent until they reached Copenhagen. The king changed his mind in the way one would change one’s mind about a commercial venture, switching investments easily according to fluctuations in the market. His motivation was entirely impersonal as far as the Tamils went; to his mind, it appears, they were interchangeable with the people of the Caribbean and the people of West Africa. If one wanted to ‘save souls’ in the abstract, it did not matter where the souls were, or whose they were, or what they were to be saved from. A similar seemingly commercialized ‘universalism’ drained of civilizational particularity, it appears, was found in Ziegenbalg’s ability to adjust to Tamils rather than to West Indians or to Africans. He believed seriously that the Wisdom of God acts throughout the world and that he was to use reason to complete that ‘natural’ Wisdom with the Christian story. In whatever cultural context, he apparently believed, a rational exposition of the story would elicit the same response in its hearers, because Divine Wisdom operated everywhere. Yet that rational ‘universalism’ coupled with his own seriousness of purpose led him to study Tamil as no European Protestant before him had, investing in the scholarly study of native beliefs and practices in order to use them rationally to destroy the authority of dharma for those who were steeped in it. The direct result, among others, was the beginning of the history of Bible translation and of the Protestant printing press in India. Ziegenbalg’s Bible translation was the first in India and his translation of Luther’s Catechism the first in any Asian language THE FIRST PROTESTANT MISSION



(Beyreuther 1955: 97; Hooper 1963: 67). And from his printing efforts we can trace the mid-nineteenth century emergence of the vigorous Shaiva press of Arumuga Navalar (Hudson 1986–92, 1992a, 1992b). At the same time, the particularity of Tamil religious culture, when it did not correspond to Halle’s universalistic rationalism, was suppressed. It is also true that people in early eighteenth century south India generally found the Protestant message unexciting, though many admired its spokesman. The missionary, at least, provided the model of a Protestant of piety whom they could admire, something they had not seen in the colonies before. The elements of Ziegenbalg’s message—revelation, incarnation, faith, grace, sin, salvation—were not new to them, of course, although the way he put them together around the figure of Jesus was new, even for the Catholics. Yet, in the early nineteenth century, the context for the Protestant cultus was the European colony that Shaivas, Vaishnavas and Muslims found outside the framework of true and admirable civilization, though for different reasons. Partly because of that fact, partly because of ill health, and partly because of continuing disagreements with mission headquarters in Germany, Ziegenbalg wrote in 1718: And since I know that my work often does not attain the lookedfor goal, at times such great sorrow and sadness overtake me that I cannot comfort myself and I experience many sleepless nights. Much patience is required in order to labour tirelessly for souls and not be frightened away when the work seems useless. Working in the shadow of the Danish fort and its corporate enterprise, his heavy personal investment in the relatively small mission enterprise apparently tallied in his books as more debit than credit. Seven months later, at the age of 36, Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg was dead, but the Protestant message in Tamil was there to stay.

NOTES 1. This is a slightly revised version of a paper delivered to the symposium on Socioreligious Movements and Cultural Networks in Indian Civilization, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, 3–7 May 1993. It has been expanded for the IIAS as ‘Tamil Protestants of Tranquebar and Tanjore, 1706–1830’.


2. Letter of 27 August 1709, cited by E. Arno Lehmann (1956: 17). See also, Ziegenbalg (1717: 2). 3. Quoted by R. Sathianathaier (1956: 76). For the refugees as Catholics, see pages 75–76. 4. Guided for a decade by the probably Sri Vaishnava Brahman Padmanabhan, he published De Open-Deure tot Verborgen Heidendom (Open-Door to Secret Heathendom) in Leiden in 1651, and for many decades it served as the most authentic description of India’s religions available to Europe (see Arasaratnam 1981: 12). His study was translated into English as A Door Open’d to the Knowledge of Occult Paganism: Or, a True Representation of the life, Manners, Religion, and Divine Service of the Brahmins, who Inhabit the Coast of Coromandel, and the Neighbouring Countries (Amsterdam 1670). It was then reprinted as A Dissertation on the Religion and Manners of the Bramins. Extracted from the Memoirs of the Rev. Abraham Roger, a Hollander. 5. He published his own less accurate observations in Amsterdam in 1672: Naauwkeurige Beschyvinge van Malabaren Choromandelen het machtige Eyland Ceylon. Nevens een omstandige en grondigh doorzochte ontdekking en wederlegginge van de Afgoderye der Oost-Indische Heydenen (Amsterdam 1972) (Extract Description of Malabar and Coromandel—and the Powerful Island Ceylon. Together with a Detailed and Thoroughly Investigated Discovery and Refutation of the Idolatry of East-Indian Heathens). According to Arasaratnam (1981: 11–14), Baldaeus owed much to earlier Catholic missionary writings that fell into the hands of the Dutch. 6. Ziegenbalg (1717: 40). One day Ziegenbalg walked with colleagues to the town of Anandamangalam and ended up in the house of a Brahmin priest attached to its large Temple. Brahmins were gathered there and one of them was writing accounts (‘Accompts’). Ziegenbalg used his accounting as a metaphor to explain his message, an explanation he developed when townspeople gathered to listen. He first spoke about the ‘spiritual Accompts’ due to God on the last Day when all the dead will be raised to life and summoned to Christ the judge to give an account of all their thoughts, words and actions, In preparation for that Day, he explained, they must know who that God is. Moreover, they must have someone to mediate with him on their behalf, because they are too sinful to stand before his justice themselves, No one is qualified to mediate (and by no means Vishnu, or Ishvara, or Brahma he stressed) except Jesus Christ. He is qualified because he is God’s own son who had become a man, had taken everyone’s sins upon himself, and had suffered and satisfied God’s justice on their behalf in order to redeem them from sin, death, the devil and hell. Through faith in that saviour, he continued, people must turn themselves to God, give up communion with wicked people and devils, and enter into a close union with God. Then, not only will their sins be pardoned, but they will also be given the power to flee from sin and to do the good. And then they will be able to keep a strict and daily account of all their actions, morning and evening, considering the manifold mercies God has given them and the sin and ungratefulness of which they are guilty. That consideration will inspire them to pray fervently for mercy to resolve firmly to sin no more. Such an account, he noted, will be pleasing to God. Moreover, he concluded, all that is required for that is ‘Singleness of Heart, joined to a hearty Love to that Truth’, a truth that is so ‘plain’ that people of ‘meanest Capacity, and even Children’, may understand it (Ziegenbalg 1717: 38–39).




7. Ziegenbalg once wrote: ‘God is all wisdom and does not need man’s help. Yet he walks around in the whole world so to speak, offering his grace and his wisdom to men. And if He did not precede men in this work, nobody would feel even the desire for wisdom, let alone seek it and achieve it as they ought’ (Gensichen 1967: 40). 8. The booklet was reprinted in 1729 and 1745 and then forgotten until a copy turned up in 1965 in Czechoslovakia on a rubbish heap (Gensichen 1967: 40). 9. For a discussion of that literature, see Grafe (1972). 10. Even though he incurred debts, Arno Lehmann noted, ‘mostly due to drinking, through which the missionaries were put to indescribable grief’ (Lehmann 1956: 152). 11. In 1755 a prayer hall was built outside the city and in 1761 a little church was erected, wiped out it appears in the siege of 1771 (Lehmann 1956: 140–41). 12. Among Muslims it is known as ‘Fatha at-Dayyan’ (Arabic-Tamil), ‘a type of Tamil written in Arabic script drawing on such Arabic terms as constituted the religious and cultural vocabulary of a non-Arabic speaking community. The subject is discussed by Abdul Majeed Mohamed Mackeen in Fat-hud-dayyan: Fi Fiqhi Khairil Adyan (A Compendium on Muslim Theology and Jurisprudence) by Mapillai Alim of Kayalpattanam (d. 1889), a Shafi’i text first published in 1873, translated from the Arabic-Tamil by Saifuddin J. Aniff-Doray (see Lebbai 1963: V). ‘Manipravala’ commonly refers to the language of the Sri Vaishnavas, in which the ‘Jewels’ (mani) of Sanskrit are placed in the ‘coral’ (pravala) bed of Tamil linguistic structure and which was written in Grantha, or Telugu, or Tamil script. See K.K.A.Venkatachari (1878). 13. As Ziegenbalg reported, that same Muslim told him, ‘... I don’t altogether disapprove of your Religion: and was mightily pleas’d to see no Idols of Images in your Church, as among the Portugueze; who symbolize almost in every thing with the Heathens, in the Number of Idols and Graven Images. I was likewise in the Danish Church, where all the Hearers are White Men; and there also I saw some Images: Pray, are your Religions different?’ (Ziegenbalg 1719: 304). 14. [and it continues] ... who pretend, that for the better serving of the Gods, they have denied all their Friends and Relations, their Houses and Estates, their Wives and Children; and such have some Rice given them wherever they come. 15. From Arulmiku. Dandapani Swamikal, Sattiya Suttiram and Sattiya Vacakam, Tirupperur, 1911. 16. Arumuga Navalar (1969: 75–83) explained the agama approach to ritual hierarchy in an essay entitled ‘Varna’ in his ‘Children’s Primer’ (Palapatam) of 1850–51. Shudras, he wrote, are qualified to recite itihasa and purana, etc., to hear the meaning of veda, to perform the ancestral and other rites of the five major sacrifices (panca-mahayajna) (except for the Brahma-yajna), and to give ritual gifts (dana). Shudras fall into two types, the ‘Pure Shudra’ (sat-sudra) and the ‘Impure Shudra’ (asat-sudra). Those who do not consume liquor and meat and keep the religious conduct prescribed by the texts are the ‘Pure Shudras’, the others are ‘Impure Shudras’. ‘Pure Shudras’ are equal to Vaishyas. Shudras, he then explained, may also be ‘twice-born’. They receive the sacred thread (upanayana) during agamic diksa, while the other three varnas receive it at stipulated ages. Prior to thread investiture, a Brahmin is a Shudra, and if after receiving the thread he does not recite veda, he is disqualified from any Vaidika rite and becomes a Shudra again.



18. 19.


Moreover, those among all four varnas who become twice-born by means of agamic diksa have the authority to recite agama. Indeed, males among all four varnas (save the ‘Impure Shudras) may become acaryas (Caivacamayaneri 1.3, in Arumuga Navalar 1911: 13). To continue the summary: The primary advantage of human birth, he then said, is worshipping God, which is done by imagining his form in dhyana, by reciting mantras, and by controlling the breath. Wisdom (jnana) is believing and following God, the supreme being, who encompasses all the world and exists within it. Status in the world does not derive from birth, but from conduct arising from wisdom: the Brahmin who ruins his conduct falls to the level of the fifth class; a member of the fifth class who is outstanding in conduct is superior to that Brahmin. Each of the many religions (samaya) has its god, he explained, and the god may be called the guru of that religion. Having become one with the Lord’s soul, the god’s blessing, when it is like the great joy of emancipation resulting from wisdom, is no different from it. Nevertheless, the wisdom about the evil of eating flesh is not useful to all people and that is no fault of theirs. Divine grace is given to the degree that it is useful. Souls, after, all, are not independent. Common wisdom is that worshipping a demon (pey) with pure vegetarian rites will turn it into a god (teyvam), while worshipping a god with the sacrifice of souls turns it into a demon. God, he explained, is love (anpu). All souls are the abode of God, and the body is the abode of the soul. God whose form is love does not desire the affliction and killing of the soul, which, after all, is his own abode, as is the temple. Derived from Sabhapati Navalar (1893: 1–6), scholar (vidvan) of the Tiruvavatuturai Atinam. Lehmann (1956: 65) discussed the fact that the Halle authorities ‘had a large pair of editorial scissors to cut out everything from the reports which seemed strange to the readers, or might diminish the flow of gifts for Missions. Professor Francke said very plainly: ‘Unpleasant things I leave out of all diaries on publication’(62). Lehmann then added, ‘We do not find any helpful statement by Ziegenbalg, Pluetschau, or Gurendler, about the order of distributing the Sacrament and about the question whether one or two cups were used in Tranquebar at that time.’ Summarizing studies of conversions, Alan F. Segal (1990: 75) drew these conclusions: (a) A convert is usually someone who identifies, at least retrospectively, a lack in the world, finding a remedy in the new reality promulgated by the new group. This is another aspect of the convert as a religious quester and biographical reevaluator. (b) The central aspect of the conversion is a decision to reconstruct reality so that (c) the new group the subject enters supports that reality by its selfevident assumptions. (d) Finally, the talents and attitudes that the convert brings into the movement are greatly affected by the previous socialization, no matter how strongly the subject affirms thc conversion or denies the past. Though conversion is one of the sources of a particular person’s commitment to a religious group, it is not the only one. Conversion necessarily involves strong emotional commitments, but conversion itself is not enough to preserve the commitment to the group after initial entrance to the group, unless the other social mechanisms of commitment act in concert with it.

21. Found in a handwritten manuscript. See Vedanayaga Sastri (1829).




22. As he explained (slightly edited): We likewise know that everyone is the descendant of Adam, and the pride of Caste is nothing but there is not a Christian amongst thousand and ten thousand heathens in this Country: although there are six thousand villages in Soladesam [Choladesam] yet have we six thousand Christian houses, at the rate of one house at each village? We know the whole kingdom is filled with heathenism and civil distinction. You who came to convert such persons ought you not to follow the example of Paul the Apostle: In this time of the covenant, though circumcision is of no profit and it is a sin against the virtue of Christ, yet did he not circumcise Timothy to gain the Jews [?] (Acts 10: 1–3. 1Corinth. 9: 22.) So you not knowing what to do to gain this land filled with civil distinctions, turn them from coming to Christ causing them a great offence. Did they who came before you act so? 23. The first non-European ordained as pastor of a congregation was Aaron (c. 1698 or 1699–1745). He was the ‘pagan’ son of a prosperous merchant (Sorcanada Pillai) in Cuddalore who received his name at baptism in 1718 and then served as catechist. He was ordained by election in 1733. The second pastor was Diogo (1709–81), born to a Catholic family, and ordained in 1741. The third was Ambrose (d. 1777), also born a Catholic, who was ordained in 1749. The fourth was Pulleimuttu (c. 1731– 88), son of a ‘pagan’ headman from near Nagapattinam who had been abducted to Tranquebar as a slave. He was baptized as Philipp, served as catechist, and was ordained in 1772. The fifth was Rajappen, ordained in 1778, and the sixth was Sattyanathan, ordained in 1790. In the time of the old Tranquebar Mission, 14 Indians were ordained, all of whom were ‘caste people’ (Velala ‘Shudra’). The first adi-dravida (B. Samuel of Manikraman) was not ordained until 1890. In the 216 years between 1733 and 1949, 140 Tamil pastors are listed in the Tamil Evangelical Church (Lehmann 1956: 147–52).

REFERENCES Arasaratnam, S. 1981. ‘Protestant Christianity and South Indian Hinduism 1630–1730: Some Confrontations in Society and Beliefs’, Indian Church History Review 15(1): 7–33. Arumuga Navalar, Jaffna Nallur. 1911. Caivasamayaneri. Citamparam Maraijnanacampantanayanar arulcceyttatu. Yalppanattu Nallur Arumukunavalar-avarkal ceta putturaiyutan. [The Path of the Shaiva Religion, by Maraijnanasambandar Nayanar of Cidambaram, with a New Gloss by Arumuga Navalar of Nallur in Jaffna] (3rd edn). Madras: Vittiyanupalana Yantiracalai. ———. 1969. Palapatam: Nankam Puttakam (Children’s Primer: Book Four) [of 1850– 51]. Madras: Arumuganavalar Vittiyanupalana Accakam. Baldaeus, Phillipus. 1816. A Short Account of Jaffnapatam, in the Island of Ceylon, as it was Published in Dutch, in the year 1672 (tr. into English in 1704). Colombo: Wesleyan Mission Press.


Bayly, Susan. 1989. Saints, Goddesses and Kings: Muslims and Christians in South Indian Society 1700–1900. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Beyreuther, Erich. 1955. Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg: A Biography of the First Protestant Missionary in India 1682–1719. Madras: Christian Literature Society. Dandapani Swamikal [of Tiruvamattur]. 1911. Sattiya Suttiram and Sattiya Vacakam. Published during Tirupperur Arulmiku. Santalinga Swamikal Gurupujai Vila. PalaniKattaiccinampatti: A. Palaniveluttevar. Gensichen, Hans-Werner. 1967. ‘Abominable Heathenism.: A Rediscovered Tract by Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg’, Indian Church History Review 6(1): 29–40. Grafe, H. 1972. ‘Hindu Apologetics at the Beginning of the Protestant Mission Era in India’, Indian Church History Review 6(1): 43–69. Hooper, J.M.S. 1963. Bible Translation in India, Pakistan and Ceylon (2nd edn, rev. by W.J. Culshaw). London: Oxford University Press. Hudson, D. Dennis. 1986–92. ‘Tamil Hindu Responses to Protestants (Among Nineteenth Century Literati in Jaffna and Tinnevelly)’, The Journal of Oriental Research, Madras 56–62: 130–53. ———. 1992a. ‘Arumuga Navalar and the Hindu Renaissance Among the Tamils’ in Kenneth W. Jones (ed.), Religious Controversy in British India: Dialogues in South Asian Languages, pp. 27–51. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press. ———. 1992b. ‘Winning Souls For Siva: Arumuga Navalar’s Transmission of the Saiva Religion’ in Raymond Brady Williams (ed.), A Sacred Thread: Modern Transmission of Hindu Traditions in India and Abroad, pp. 23–51. Chambersburg, Pennsylvania: Anima Press. Lebbai, Sayyid Muhammad Ibn Ahmad (Mapillai Alim of Kayalpattanam). 1963. Fathud-dayyan: Fi Fiqhi Khairil Adyan (A Compendium on Muslim Theology and Jurisprudence) (tr. from the Arabic-Tamil by Saifuddin J. Aniff-Doray [1873]). Colombo: The Fat-hud-dayyan Publication Committee. Lehmann, Arno. 1956. Es begann in Tranquebar: Die Geschichte der ersten evangelishen Kirche in Indien. Berlin: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt. ———. 1956. It Began at Tranquebar (translation of edited version of Es begann in Tranquebar by M.J. Lutz). Madras: Christian Literature Society. Roy, Asim. 1983. The Islamic Syncretist Tradition in Bengal. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Sabhapati Navalar [of the Tiruvavatuturai Atinam] 1893. ‘Varalaru’ (History) in Sivasamavatavuraimaruppu, by Sivajnana Yogi. 1–16. Chidambaram: Siddhanta Vidyanupalana Yantrasala. Sathianathaier. 1956. Tamilaham in the 17th Century. Madras: University of Madras. Segal, Alan F. 1990. Paul the Convert: The Apostolate and Apostasy of Saul the Pharisee. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. Vedanayaga Sastri. 1829. ‘Saditeratoo’ (Jatiterattu), written by Vedenayaga Sastri, the Evangelical Poet Tanjore British Museum: Oriental Printed Books and Manuscripts, Cat: OR. 11, 742. Venkatachari, K.K.A. 1878. The Manipravala Literature of the Srivaisnava Acaryas, 12th to 15th Century A.D. Bombay: Ananthacarya Research Institute. Ziegenbalg, Bartholomaeus. 1709, 1710, 1718. Propagation of the Gospel in the East. Being an Account of the Success of Two Danish Missionaries, Lately sent to the East Indies, for the Conversion of the Heathens in Malabar. In several Letters to their Correspondents in


Europe ... Rendered into English from the High-Dutch and Dedicated to the most honourable Corporation for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. London. Ziegenbalg, Bartholomaeus. 1717. An Account of the Religion and Government, Learning and Oeconomy, etc. of the Malabarians, sent by the Danish Missionaries to their Correspondents in Europe (tr. from the High-Dutch). London. ———. 1719. Thirty Four Conferences between the Danish Missionariess and the Malabarian Bramans (or Heathen Priests) in the East Indies, Concerning the Truth of the Christian Religion: Together with some Letters written by the Heathens to the said Missionaries (tr. from the High-Dutch by Mr. Philips). London. ———. 1867. Genealogie der malabarischen Goetter. Aus eingenen Schriften und Briefen der Heiden zusammengetragen und verfasst von Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg (written in 1713; ed. by W. Germann). Madras. ———. 1869. Genealogy of the South-Indian Gods; A Manual of the Mythology and Religion of the People of Southern India, Including a Description of Popular Hinduism (ed. by W. Germann and tr. with new additions and an index by G.J. Metzger). New Delhi: Unity Book Service (1984 reprint). ———. 1930. ‘Nidi Wunpa oder malabarische Sitten-Lehre bestehende in sechs und neunzig feinen Gleichniszen und Lebens-Reguln, so da vor mehr als sieben hundert Jahren von einem Ostijndischcn heyden in Malabarische versen geschrieben aber nunmehro von Wort zu Wort in die hochteutsche Sprache versetzet worden von Bartholomaeo Ziegcnbalg’, Tranquebar, 1708, in B. Ziegenbalg, Kleinere Schriften. Amsterdam: Hsrg. von W. Caland. ———. 1957. Alte Briefe aus Indien. Unveroeffentliche Briefe von Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg 1706–1719 (hrsg. von Arno Lehmann). Berlin: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt. ———. 1926. Ziegenbalg’s Malabarisches Heidenthum (written in 1711; hrsg. von W Caland). Amsterdam.




He opposes slavery, polygamy, cannibalism, and infanticide. He teaches the boys to be honest, sober, and thrifty, the girls to be pure, intelligent, and industrious. He induces the natives to cover their nakedness, to build houses … It is hard to overthrow the long established heathenism, but slowly it yields to the new power and the beginning of civilized society gradually appears. In every country where mission work has been done we find that the first lasting changes for a higher social order began through missionary effort. —J.W. Shank, ‘The Missionary as Civilizing Agent’ Christian Monitor, January 1910, p. 394.1


his essay makes a case for a mutual alliance and critical dialogue between history and anthropology. I address the somewhat worn and repeatedly rehearsed theme by bringing together the theoretical concerns of recent studies of colonialism and Christianity and an overview of the ethnographic and historical record of Christianity in colonial Chhattisgarh *Originally published in the Sociological Bulletin, vol. 41, nos 1 and 2, 1992, pp. 97–117.

to raise questions and highlight issues in the study of the evangelical encounter.2 This encounter was located at a critical intersection of meaning and power: the engagement of the mission project with colonial cultures of rule; and the interface of Protestant theology, evangelical beliefs and practices of missionaries with the principles of caste and sect and the institutions and dynamics of village life. The missionaries, indigenous catechists and helpers, native converts and congregations, and members of the local population were protagonists and players in dramas of divergent perceptions and contradictory practices. The small particulars and little details and the sharp lines and broad contours of a specific historical and ethnographic case reveal the wider implications of the evangelical encounter. A large number of studies of the mission project, missionaries and Christianity in South Asia have been produced by church historians. This literature provides us with detailed chronicles of actions and events (Juhnke 1979; Lapp 1972; Lohr 1899; Seybold 1971; Tanner 1894). Several other exercises in the field have once again been guided by the rather simplistic assumption that Christian converts in India tended to replicate a modernized social order—with the exception of caste—in the image of the missionaries (Forrester 1980; Manor 1971; Oddie 1975, Whitehead 1913). It is only in recent years that historians have begun to explore the meanings of conversion and the articulation of missionaries, converts and Christianity with indigenous schemes of rank, honour, caste and sect (Bayly 1989; see also Stirrat 1975). At the same time, this work has focused on Orthodox churches in south India. With the exception of the interesting but somewhat weak contribution of Eaton (1984) and the rather more promising and exciting intervention of Scott (1992), the evangelical encounter in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and its engagement with the colonial enterprise remains a relatively neglected area of study. Studies in the anthropology of colonialism and Christianity and of ‘radical culture contact’ (Asad 1973; Beidelman 1982; Comaroff 1985; Comaroff and Comaroff 1986; Mignolo 1992; Nash 1979; Prins 1980; Rosaldo 1980; Roseberry 1986; Sahlins 1981; Scott 1992; Stoler 1985; Taussig 1980; Thomas 1991, 1992) suggest that the theme raises a range of significant issues. Clearly these issues need to be incorporated in the agendas of South Asian historiography and ethnography. In 1868 Oscar Lohr, the first missionary of the German Evangelical Mission Society, initiated mission work in Chhattisgarh, a large region bound through linguistic ties in south-eastern Madhya Pradesh. The pioneer missionary had been drawn to the region by the Satnamis. The 232 SAURABH DUBE

Satnamis, Lohr’s preliminary enquiries had revealed, were heathens with a difference: they were a monotheistic group whose ‘creed’ opposed idolatry and caste.3 To the missionary this was a providential connection. It was willed by the Lord. Would the flock not be delivered once it witnessed the Saviour? The Satnamis did not see the arrival of the millennium. The group declined its ‘destiny’ and proved elusive. The missionaries continued to toil the field. The halting enterprise of conversion, as we shall see, grew through ties of kinship and the prospects of a better life under the paternalist economy of mission stations. Over the next few decades the missionary enterprise in the region expanded. Members of the German Evangelical Mission Society were joined by missionaries of other denominations—the American and General Conference Mennonites, the Disciples of Christ, the Methodists, the Pentecostal Bands of the World—and there was a move to work with other communities. The converts continued to receive missionary regulations through the grid of local culture. The ‘harvest’, never bountiful, was indeed more than a little curious. The missionaries tended. The missionaries reaped. If they made headway, they also had to retrace their steps. In recent years there have been forceful reminders that the White man did not always command the initiative in processes of cultural encounter (Prins 1980; Sahlins 1985). In 1868 the missionary, Oscar Lohr, visited the Satnami guru at his home in Bhandar on the occasion of the community’s ‘annual festival’. The missionary described in detail how he was seated next to the guru and served refreshments. He made the triumphant revelation to a ‘great mass’ of Satnamis that the real satyanam (true name) was Jesus Christ. Lohr was elated by the warm welcome. He inadvertently ventured into the realm of ethnographic representation and the pursuit of indigenous meanings when he stated that the Satnamis had stroked his beard to show him great honour and affection in their ‘traditional way’ (Der Friedensbote, 79, 20, 1928, pp. 309–15). The encounter was indeed seized by missionary hyperbole and ordered as an event of monumental historic significance. But was the stroking of Lohr’s long flowing beard really the enactment of a timeless, mysterious and customary ritual? Or was it a mere display of Satnami curiosity? Was the serving of refreshments by the guru the extension of hospitality to a White saheb, a Western master? Or had the missionary lost the initiative? We need to consider the possibility that Lohr’s visit to Bhandar on the day of gurupuja, along with thousands of Satnamis, had unwittingly signified his acceptance of—and his incorporation as an affiliate in—the domain of ISSUES





the guru’s authority. Three months later the missionary went on to challenge a principle of faith within Satnampanth. The curiosity did not translate itself into conversions, the hospitality was replaced by hostility. The millenarian hopes of Lohr lay in ruins (Dube, forthcoming [c]). This is one tale. There are other stories. What were the links between the mission project and colonialism? The question can all too easily translate itself into a rigid polemical divide: the rival caricatures of the crafty agent of imperialism and the philanthropic apostle to the natives become the principal protagonists of competing shadow plays. The debate, Jean and John Comaroff have pointed out, gets confined to the issue of ‘whose side was the missionary really on?’ and by extension, ‘whose ends did he serve?’: a complex historical problem is turned into a crude question of cause and effect (Comaroff and Comaroff 1986). The way out of this narrow and constricting impasse of competing instrumentalities, it seems to me, lies in a close analysis of the mutual imbrication of the cultural basis and political implications of the mission project. It was not often that evangelical missionaries in Chhattisgarh intervened in the arena that is conventionally designated as ‘political’, the domain of institutionalized power relations between the colonial state and its subjects. At the same time, the links between the mission project and colonialism could lie elsewhere. First, we need to examine the missionary participation in the fashioning of authoritative discursive practices. A pernicious commonplace among historians and theorists of colonial discourse holds that the figurative construction of powerful images of the non-Western Other was carried out by a unified conquering colonial elite with a uniform Western mentality. There is, perhaps, a need to focus instead on the contradictory location of the writings of missionaries within the field of colonial representations. I provide one instance. To the missionaries the converts were equals in the ‘Kingdom of God’, but there was also repeated emphasis on the ‘satanical travesties’ and the ‘savage customs’ of these ‘sons of the wilderness’. And this when the missionaries were writing about their wards. Clearly their broad strokes and finely etched lines painted a much more dismal picture of the ‘heathens’; although the path to the redemption of even this race—held in droll but vicious and mind-numbing thrall by the devil—was kept open discursively. In what ways did these stock and evocative metaphors and routine and emotive images which structured missionary thought and writing constitute a part of and reinforce the powerful cultural idioms of domination that were invested in by Western communities? 234 SAURABH DUBE

Moreover, the rhetoric of missionaries often reveals a tacit support for British rule. The missionaries and sarkar bahadur (colonial government), working in tandem, were constructed as the twin bearers of the light of the ‘Western lamp’ (Paul 1935). This was, once again, not the function of a seamless community of colonial interests made up of metropole policymakers, provincial practitioners, local administrators, members of the armed forces, and missionaries. We need to turn instead to the tangled web of relations between the principles of missiology, the structure of Protestant beliefs, and the policies of British administrators. In brief, there seems to have been a tie up between two sets of processes: the missionaries’ stated commitment to the complementarity of the church and the state, of spiritual and temporal power, and the post-mutiny policy of the British administration to effect a separation between religion and politics which critically augmented colonial power. Finally, the missionaries invoked the precept of individual selfdetermination and the spiritually spectacular moment of the witnessing of Christ to argue for the religious freedom of the convert. At the same time, these converts were childlike and struggling to grasp rational objective thought. They had to be guided, nurtured and controlled within a paternalistic enterprise. The missionaries seem to have participated, wittingly or unwittingly, in the construction of colonial mythologies of racial supremacy, the establishment of structures of paternalist authority and the reinforcement of the legitimacy of colonial rule. All this came about without their formal entry into the manifest processes of institutionalized power relations centring on the colonial state. It is indeed the realms of the cultural, the ideological and the discursive which reveal the political implications and colonial connections of the mission project. The missionaries along with other White settlers were agents in the creation of colonial cultures of rule. These cultures, Ann Stoler has argued, were not direct translations of European society planted in the colonies, but ‘unique cultural configurations, home spun creations in which European food, dress, housing and morality were given new political meanings in the particular social order of colonial rule’ (1989). Close attention to the cultural forms borne and initiated by the mission project allows an exploration of two simultaneous processes. The missionaries participated in the new constructions of ‘Westernness’, embedded in distinct lifestyles, within the colonial order. I rehearse a detailed and sensitive description of missionary lifestyle in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by a church historian of the Mennonite mission in Chhattisgarh. Its resonances are much wider. ISSUES





Missionary dwellings known as bungalows were large, one-story houses of six to eight rooms surrounded by a veranda. The ceilings were high (14–16 ft) with a punkah for moving the air. In the preelectricity days, servants operated these fans. Most of the stations were surrounded with walls, giving the station an autonomy from the surrounding community. These walls kept out wild animals and prevented interlopers from squatting on the missionary territory. The glistening white walls gave an air of permanence to the complex .... Life on the mission station was comfortable ... Missionaries believed that their Western culture demanded a different approach to food, dress and houses from that of their Indian neighbours. Yet for the Mennonite of rural background, his standard of living was comparable to if not better than that of rural America .... Dr. Esch [a Mennonite] reminded his fellow missionaries of their need to adapt to India. ‘The water isn’t cold; the food isn’t like American food; the people and especially the servants with whom one has to deal are not honest; the weather isn’t pleasant—either too hot, too wet, or too dry; one cannot sleep well at night—he has to sleep outside, either in the veranda or in the open compound’ .... Each missionary was supplied with furniture for a dining room, sitting room, two bedrooms, bathroom and an office. Missionaries brought along their own clothing, bedding, sewing machines, oil stoves, carpenter’s tools, and typewriters .... The usual special precautions for living in India were taken—mosquito netting over the beds, boiling of water, and thorough washing of food .... [The missionary household] was operated by Indian servants under the oversight of the missionary couple. J.A. Ressler [another Mennonite missionary] noted in 1907 that a thirteen-person staff was too small for their needs .... [This missionary family] then had a pandit (tutor), a cook, dhobi (launderer), ayah (nurse), three tonga wallahs (driversgardeners), milkman, chaprassi (errand boy), punka wallah, kotwal (watchman), several sweepers, and coolies. Later stations had a similar assortment. Most were paid very nominally. Missionaries often complained of their servants’ poor work but insisted on having them since life in India was more difficult .... The missionary usually fit into the Indian schedule for meals—four per day. He used mostly Indian foods although he ordered canned foods and cereals from Calcutta and beef and pork when obtainable. The missionary exercised by swimming, playing tennis or badminton. Each day included an afternoon rest (Lapp 1972: 74–75). 236 SAURABH DUBE

All this involved the conscious creation and fashioning of the boundaries of the ‘community’ of White settlers, which served simultaneously to overcome their internal economic and social differences and disparities. At the same time, the missionary was also committed, as a part of the evangelical deal, to civilize the converts through the initiation of a set of key practices revolving around building, clothes, writing and the printed word. Similarly, the spatial organization of activities in the mission station, governed by Western divisions and notations of time was, perhaps, a part of the attempt of early evangelists to rationalize the indigenous groups through the geometric grid of civilization (Comaroff and Comaroff 1986). It was arguably within the interstices of these contradictory movements— the constitution of distinct lifestyles in a new context as a measure of the distance from local cultures, and the use of many of the signs of Western culture to civilize the heathen—that the missionary constructed a sense of belonging to a community of White settlers and reinforced the schemes of power which anchored the familiar symbols and signs of the cultural order of colonial rule. The authority of the missionary was closely intertwined with the ‘arts of civilization’ initiated by the mission project. It was within the matrix of local culture that the missionaries were fashioned as sahebs.4 The mission buildings and the spatial organization of work were imbricated in the everyday definition and reinforcement of missionary authority, the saheb who owned and regulated the fields, the (occasional) forest and the mission station that were placed at masterly discretion within his well-defined domains. The missionary healed bodies through Western medicine. Similarly, he controlled the production of the printed word. This needs to be set in the context of the importance which Protestantism attached to convert self-commitment to the ‘word’ and the ‘book’ as the signs of a true Christian and of the power of writing within an oral tradition. The ability to inscribe and to engender print then served to underwrite missionary authority. Finally, the missionary stood centre-stage in the play of the normative discourse and practices about decency, modesty and shame. Clothes became a distinctive sign of indigenous Christianity. Contemporary missionary accounts and photographs of converts from the late nineteenth century reveal men wearing pyjamas and shirts, women clad in blouses and proper sarees—instead of lugdas (half sarees)—and little girls in long dresses. The acquisition of canvas shoes added to the dignity and bearing of catechists and school teachers. The accent was on decency. Modesty covered bodies and countered shame. The gains for the converts were ISSUES





simultaneously material and symbolic and they constructed their own understanding of missionary authority. A report from the early twentieth century, for instance, pilloried a Chamar convert who refused to do a menial job in the village on the grounds that as a Christian he had become a saheb, a member of the master race. This was of course only one of the several ways in which the key social practices introduced by the mission project were appropriated and deployed by the community of converts. We need to explore the ways in which the ‘book’ and the ‘word’, Christian divinities and the ‘holy family’, saints and martyrs, Western notations of time and the spatial organization of work, and clothes and buildings were understood, refashioned and set to work in the modes of worship and practices of convert communities. What was the nature of convert communities that developed in Chhattisgarh? The pattern of conversions in the region did not follow the missionaries’ millenarian master plan of mass movements. A few conversions came about as individuals survived prolonged illnesses which had brought them close to death. The missionary accounts were unambiguous: it was the healing powers of the Lord which had compelled these people to convert to Christianity. It was, in fact, ties of kinship that proved critical to the growth of the Christian congregations in Chhattisgarh. The early conversions in Bisrampur, the pioneer mission station established by Oscar Lohr of the German Evangelical Mission Society, are a case in point. In Bisrampur Anjori Paulus was the first Satnami convert. He was baptized in January 1870. Almost two years later Anjori’s parents and grandparents, an uncle and a sister, and two of his children were baptized. After another six months, in the middle of 1872, nearly 30 members of the pioneer convert’s ‘extended’ family—which included affines and agnatic kin—had either been baptized or were enquirers waiting for the critical event. In 1883 when the number of Christians in Bisrampur stood at 175 almost all the people waiting for baptism were relatives of families who had converted. The pattern was similar elsewhere. The missionaries saw the process as the internal growth of Christianity. Ties or kinship and bonds or affinity were clearly natural. They were also seen as a check on the materialist instincts of the converts. The constraints of men and money of early missionary endeavour meant that they were compelled to establish Christian villages. The converts became a part of the paternalist economy which developed around the missionary and the mission station. The mission employed the converts as coolies and servants and each household, after it had shown the necessary qualities of thrift, was granted four acres of land. The converts who 238 SAURABH DUBE

completed the course at the training schools run by missionaries were employed as catechists, teachers in village schools and as Scripture readers. The missionaries trained the converts as masons, smiths and carpenters and employed many of them at the mission station. The women converts were engaged as servants and a little later employed as Bible-women. The situation of the converts at these mission stations was much better than what they had faced as cultivators in their villages. They received loans at low rates of interest and the missionary, unlike other malguzars (owner-proprietors), did not exact begar (forced labour) but paid them for labour on public works. The missionary was the malguzar of these Christian villages. The master of the mission station combined the powers of the malguzar and the pastor: the provision of employment and aid to converts was accompanied by a drive to control and discipline the members of the congregation. The division between state and church, temporal and spiritual power, became blurred and was lost. A series of questions crop up. I raise them as a first step to articulate the themes—situated at the intersection of history and anthropology— embedded within the evangelical encounter. Were individual conversions prompted by an apprehension that the regenerative powers of missionary medicine and Christ-the-Saviour embodied greater efficacy than the healing powers of Hindu deities and local specialists? What were the links between principles of kinship—agnatic ties and affinal values—the mechanisms of ostracism of caste and sect and the growth in conversions? What were the frames of reference through which the missionary participated, as hapless victim and active agent, in the subversion of an inviolable principle of Protestant theology? Did not this blurring of the distinction between spiritual and temporal power fit well with the political sociology of the converts which was, arguably, based upon a notion of indissoluble links between religion and power? How was the missionary as malguzar and pastor of the village located by converts and other members of the local population within structures of authority in which the ritual hierarchy of caste society—that emphasized the purity of the Brahman—and the principles of a ritually and culturally constituted dominant caste worked together and reinforced each other as mutually defining axes of relations of power? How did all this tie in with the colonial project of the separation of religion and politics? Finally, what were the contours of convert deference—which involved both necessary self-preservation and an extraction of whatever was up for grabs—to the missionary whom they fashioned as ma-bap? ISSUES





This pattern of differential perceptions and occasional double binds extended to the converts and their communities. The missionary in consultation with the local leaders among the converts often defined regulations to order the life of the congregations. Under the new rules the indigenous congregations retained the concern with norms of purity and pollution and were expected to shun all substances and practices which would be viewed with disfavour by the local population. Moreover, the principles of endogamy—albeit in the form of marriages with fellow converts—were reinforced through an insistence on ritual feasts to the extended kin and affinal group and members of the community to signify the sanctity of marriage. Finally, the constitution of the church council was fashioned along the lines of the jat panchayat with its sayan (old/wise men) and relied on the mechanism of excommunication, which characteristically ‘outcasted’ the members who transgressed the norms of the community. It is necessary to explore in this context the continuities— particularly when viewed through the filter of local cultures—between these new regulations and the rules of caste and sect and the institutions of village life; and, as a corollary, to examine the ways in which the rules and institutions set up to govern the life of indigenous congregations came to be rearranged and acquired new meanings in the relocated communities. At the same time, the converts also subverted the regulations laid down by the missionaries. In Protestant ideology marriage, for instance, was a sacred contract between individuals and the monogamous household was the basic unit for the conduct of a Christian life. For civilization to flourish ‘the holy family of the Christian cosmos’ had to triumph over the moral murk, sloth and chaos of the heathen world (Comaroff and Comaroff 1986). The missionaries’ concern with monogamy and their fear of adultery, a snare and trap of Satan, meant that the converts were forbidden the practice of churi or secondary marriage.5 However, this was a critical arena in which the converts exercised considerable initiative and consistently challenged missionary authority to form what their masters designated as ‘adulterous’ relationships of secondary marriages. They could also, characteristically, forge new strategies. In the early 1930s a conflict between the converts and missionaries in Bisrampur, which I discuss a little later, had its apparent beginnings in adultery. The villagers claimed that Boas Purti had an adulterous relationship with Rebecca. Boas Purti, employed as the lambardar (man-in-charge) of the malguzari by the mission, was an ‘outsider’; Rebecca was a virgin Christian girl of Bisrampur. Boas Purti had ensnared Rebecca into his 240 SAURABH DUBE

‘net of love’. Rebecca became pregnant. Boas Purti’s guilt could be established by looking at the child. The inhabitants of Bisrampur were incensed. Boas Purti was seen as one among several ‘outsiders’ who did not belong to the community of Bisrampur but were employed at the mission station and ‘violated the honour of virgin Christian sisters’. The converts invoked the threat to the honour and chastity of the women of the community to question the presence and practices of these ‘outsiders’. They brought into play the need for maintenance of the boundary of the community tied to rules of caste and sect and the Christian emphasis on adultery as sin to protest against all intrusions. The honour of women was at once turned into an evocative metaphor for order within the community and a symbol that constructed its boundary. Women had to be protected against acts of sexual transgression. The violation of their honour by an ‘outsider’ breached the boundary and disrupted the order of the community. Boas Purti’s misdemeanour with Rebecca encapsulated the threat from the ‘outsider’ and evoked disruption and disorder within Bisrampur. The converts then defied missionary logic in fashioning their understanding of marriage and sexual transgression (Dube 1995). They did not replicate the institutions and practices of a ‘modernized’ social order in the image of missionary masters and had their own uses for the ‘truth’ offered by the missionaries. The missionaries, often unwittingly, participated in the creation of indigenous Christianity. The wresting of the initiative from the missionaries was also played out in the ideas, presentation of arguments and practices of ‘native’ catechists and mission workers. I shall take here the example of the detailed day-books of catechists which clarify these processes. The day-books were reports written by the catechists for the missionaries which recorded their day-to-day trips to villages and bazaars. They exist in manuscript form and roughly cover the period from 1908 to 1914, The catechists’ modes of argument, at first sight, seem overlaid by a strategy of closure. In B. the Hindus raised this question: you Christians say that Jesus is Almighty Saviour of all, why then does he not draw all Hindus and all castes to His sect and give them salvation? My answer: Suppose that among your grown up children some are rascals and murder someone in their freedom from parental authority, why you not bring them back into the family-fold and according to your wish make them good? They answer: because they want to remain in their freedom as we do. I remark: so does God leave us in our foolish freedom; as your boys do not want to walk in your better ways, so ISSUES





you will not walk in the way of Jesus. But in a few days your boys will believe on Jesus.6 Each time, at every step, the dedicated workers of the mission clinch an argument from their religious-ideologica1 adversaries in the name and through the ‘truth’ of Christ. At the same time, the day-books also direct us towards three interrelated sets of issues. First, they allow an exploration of the prosecution of itinerant practices of proselytization and the preaching of Christ as it traced its path and wound its way within the everyday rhythms of life, of labour, of leisure in village society in Chhattisgarh. We find the catechists talking with cultivators as they make tiles and rest after labour in the fields, discussing points of faith with people perched near vendors of sweets, arguing with shopkeepers in village marts and malguzars in villages, and entertaining old women and curious children with their bhajans (devotional songs) about Christ. The pictures are vivid and compelling; they raise new questions for historiography and ethnography. Second, the catechists’ modes of argument—the what and the how of that which they said—as they coped with familiar and ingenious queries and arguments reveal a rearrangement, amounting at times to an alternative articulation, of Christian doctrines which was closely bound to their novel constructions of the divinities, beliefs and rituals of indigenous faiths. I shall cite a few representative and indicative entries in the day-books, which also reveal the tenor of the catechists’ writing. 24th Monday. Khaira. Kondu Gond. At the time of preaching I saw a kid which was intended for sacrifice. I explained to him the object of sacrifice in ancient times and that he was right to offer a kid to appease his god for his sins but it was a symbol of Jesus Christ who would become incarnate and shed his blood for all mankind ... 6 [people] present.7 22nd Saturday. Mahasamund. The tailor Mohammad Din affirmed that Jesus is also a true prophet and demands high honour from all Muslims, but he is inferior to Mohammad as the latter was the last prophet. To make the matter more clear I explained to him that one man is dressed in white and one man has black spots upon his clothes which he cannot hide before others and other man is also dressed in white clothes but has no spots upon his clothes, which one looks better, he said the man who bears no spot upon his garment. This is quite true of Mohammad and Jesus. Mohammad says 242 SAURABH DUBE

that he is sinful and seeks pardon from God, on the other hand Jesus was sinless and the Quran bears that he was a sinless prophet. I told him that it is better to be a follower of a sinless prophet instead of a sinful prophet, then he kept silence. 2 [people] present.8 Today I went to K. village among the Hindu people, they said ‘Are our gods Ram and Ganesh less than your Jesus Christ?’ I told them yes, having come into the world as you and I they also are sinners before Christ. In the last day we will see that as you and I they also will stand before him for Judgement and not only will Ganesh and Ram but all your saints will stand before the living God Jesus, without him there is no way of repenting .... [On a subsequent visit to the village] one bad man asked: you say that our Ramchandra had died and that your Jesus is alive, let us see your living Jesus. I said, read God’s word and you shall know.9 As this catechist moved across villages he had a series of varied encounters: some people ‘joked about such bad things [possibly libidinous and earthy comments about the notion of immaculate conception] which I could not write’; others told him and each other that ‘Jesus is only some kind of an English incarnation’; and the catechist turned down an invitation to attend a village festival: ‘I could not take part in such wicked things, for God hates idol worship, hence famine is now raging’. The catechist marched on. In B. a man said: come and join us, be a follower of Kabir, he can save you from all kinds of sicknesses. When I asked him to tell me the life of Kabir and Ram he kept silent, because he knows that some of their deeds are too evil to relate .... On my way home a malguzar asked me: does your Jesus teach you to kill animals? I said: first tell me why some of your caste men kill animals, then I’ll answer you. He said they will get their reward. One said: your Jesus made a robber his friend, and died. I replied: did your Ram give his life for others.10 Finally, these passages reveal that in the day-books a distinct mode of writing—certain of ‘truth’, uncertain of language, which closes in on itself—reveals the glimmers of a fluid world of popular religious discourse in which the meanings of a new faith were debated and contested through a reiteration and reinterpretation of the familiar and the old. ISSUES





The interplay between the old and the new was a critical component of the cultural interface between orality and writing—often interpenetrating but distinct modes of ordering the world—that lay at the heart of the evangelical encounter. The missionaries and converts participated in a play of different textualities, or oral narratives and written texts, which reordered myths and legend-histories. The converts worked upon their myths to forge connections between gurus and gods and missionaries and Christ within their oral traditions; the missionaries seized and reordered the myths to construct alternative histories, contending pasts. Let me take one example. The myths of Satnampanth were reordered among the converts from the sect. The key issue was the place of missionaries and Christ in the teachings of Ghasidas. Colonial administrators writing in the late 1860s had found that the basic tenets of Satnampanth—a monotheistic sect opposed to caste and idolatry—resembled Christianity.11 Oscar Lohr’s enthusiasm at the prospect of working among such a people had soon given way to disappointment and caution. The missionary’s early reports from the field did not have anything to say on the links between Christianity and Satnampanth. A little later, Von Tanner, who stayed at Bisrampur, mentioned in his book (1894) that Ghasidas had been influenced by Christian missionaries whom he had met during his travels: the Satnami guru had prophesied that he would be followed by a ‘White Guru’ who would deliver the Satnamis. Von Tanner claimed that the Satnamis had identified Oscar Lohr as that ‘White Guru’ but refused to accept his teachings because of their belief in a crude religious system, a ‘satanical travesty’ of Christian teachings, that had developed since the death of Ghasidas (Tanner 1894: 35–36). Was this pure missionary invention? Or had the Satnami converts contributed to the making of this myth? In Satnami myths Ghasidas’ initiation of Satnampanth had come about only after his encounter with satnampurush. This satnampurush was shwet, white, which connoted qualities of purity (Dube 1992: 135–36). Had the converts seized this ‘white’ attribute of satnampurush and assimilated it to the pendra/gora (white) missionary saheb? Or had the links been established by the missionaries? What was in evidence, perhaps, was a coming together of two processes: the converts worked upon the myths of Satnampanth to forge connections between missionaries, Ghasidas and Oscar Lohr within their oral tradition; the missionaries seized and reordered the myths to fashion them into an alternative history of the Satnamis. The two processes fed each other. In the 1930s the pooled resources of the convert and the missionary were to result in an authoritative account of Satnampanth situated on the axis of the inexorable 244 SAURABH DUBE

logic of the truth of Christ: a missionary’s last bid to secure a metamorphosis and mass conversion of the Satnamis through their witnessing of the Saviour. The slim tract, Satyanami Panth aur Shri Gosain Ghasidas, carried the engagement with the forms and idiom of popular religious discourse, embedded in an oral tradition, which provided evangelism with a creative force. It forged a complex relationship between the spoken and the written word and between Satnami myths, convert tales, and the missionary story. The narrative spatialized time, abandoned chronology, and ordered the past in terms of genealogica1 principles of popular religious traditions: its rhetorical devices to authenticate the narrative and assume an authoritative voice were closely linked to modes of reading and apprehension rooted in an oral matrix. At the same time, the inscription of myths, beliefs and legends within the text served to fix and systematize their meanings, which also lent them authenticity. The path of Gosain Ghasidas indeed led to Satyanam Yishu. The text could not secure a metamorphosis of the story of the Satnami past into Christian ‘truth’ in the shape of thousands of Satnamis witnessing Christ; it could serve to frame the self-consciousness of Satnami converts.12 The complex social relationship between the written and the spoken word extended to the cultural encounter between different modes of reading of the texts. I have raised the questions of the symbolic power of writing within an oral tradition and the possible ways in which the scriptures were apprehended and appropriated by convert communities. It is worth asking if the missionary gift of writing to the converts allowed them to construct a reading or the Bible in which the Protestant emphasis on convert self-commitment to—and the internalization of—the ‘word’ entered a creative tension with a contending notion, rooted within indigenous schemes, of texts as magical, instrumental, ‘whose reading had a purpose outside themselves because they [were] efficacious’ (Ramanujan 1991). I have taken two examples from a larger process of the retention, subversion and fashioning of meanings that lay at the heart of the relationship between orality and writing and between different modes of reading of texts embedded within the evangelical encounter. The convert refraction of the missionary message through the lens of indigenous categories underlay their uses of Christianity and interrogation of missionary authority. We have noted that in the 1930s the converts of the mission station at Bisrampur clashed with the missionaries. Bisrampur had developed as a paternalist institution. From the late 1920s the missionaries sought to end the converts’ reliance on the economy of the mission station in a bid to foster a self-dependent congregation infused with the ISSUES





ideas and principles of Christian charity and brotherhood. They clearly separated the functions of the malguzar and the pastor, decreed that members of the Bisrampur church were to pay for their pastor, maintain the church, contribute towards public works, and donate for Christian causes, and tightened controls to prevent the converts from grazing cattle and collecting wood and grass from the forest owned by the mission. The missionaries continued to appoint Christians who did not belong to Bisrampur as employees at the mission station. The initiative of the converts centred on a pervasive us: them, community: outsider divide. The community was formed around the converts of Bisrampur; all employees who did not belong to the mission station were ‘outsiders’. What was protested was the increasing intrusion of these ‘outsiders’ into the affairs of the community. Moreover, the efforts of the missionaries to dismantle the ties of dependence of the converts and to make the congregation selfdependent got entangled with their defence of these ‘outsiders’. There was a disruption of the normative economy—the pattern of expectations and obligations—of the Christian community of Bisrampur. The figure of the missionary was transformed from the benevolent ma-bap of the past into a tyrannical malguzar who was in league with—indeed had joined the ranks of—the ‘outsider’, the indefensible, illegitimate intruder. Finally, the converts defended the paternalist ties which had bound them to the missionaries through complex ties of dependence and control: deference to the missionaries was one part self-preservation and one part the calculated extraction of land, employment and charity. This defence was inextricably bound to the converts’ assertion of their self-dependence— an important constituent of missionary rhetoric—and setting up of an independent and parallel congregation and church with an honorary pastor who sent reports to the Home Board of the mission in the US, conducted Sunday service, baptized new members and managed congregational matters. The converts seized the Christian signs of civilization and elements of missionary rhetoric and reworked them into their practice: their questioning of the missionaries—with its accent on truth and legality, faith and civilization—was constructed in the idiom and language of evangelical Christianity. The drama was short-lived; the contest persisted.13 There were of course other actors in different plays with varied contestatory scripts. Between 1920 and 1955, the missionaries and the mission project were forced to engage with organizations and positions articulated in the domain of institutionalized politics. What emerged was a complex matrix of relationships between the missionaries, convert communities, the Hindu 246 SAURABH DUBE

proselytizing venture of the Arya Samaj, nationalist politics and reform initiatives sponsored by caste organizations such as the Satnami Mahasabha and the Kanaujia Sabha. The initiative of a lone mission worker, for instance, helped in the creation of the Satnam Path Pradarshak Sabha which sought to combine principles of Christianity with a programme to reform the Satnamis and went on to challenge the dominant leaders of the community. In 1936 a group of Satnamis in the village of Tumgaon in Raipur got together with M.D. Singh, a catechist of the American Evangelical Mission, to set up the Shri Path Pradarshak Samaj (Society of the Light of the True Path).14 The authoritative presence of M.D. Singh, who was accorded the title of acharya (teacher), meant that in its initial stages the Shri Path Pradarshak Sabha worked closely with the ideas and tenets of Christianity: the vows that members had to take included the acceptance of ‘only that Scripture which teaches the true name Satnam’ (the Bible) and a pledge against committing adultery; equally, the constitution of the Sabha opened with a Biblical verse, ‘The bush continues to burn but does not become consumed’ (Exodus 3: 2).15 At the same time, M.D. Singh soon lost the initiative. The overwhelming emphasis of the initiative came to centre on a drive to get the Satnamis recognized as caste Hindus. The repetition of the theme underlay the Shri Path Pradarshak Sabha’s plan to reform the Satnamis. The efforts of the obscure catechist had, however, led to the creation of a rival to the Satnami Mahasabha, the dominant organizational initiative to reform the Satnamis and to negotiate the emergent constitutional politics in the region whose working was cast in the idiom of law and command (Dube 1993). Similarly, the period witnessed the drawing up of new boundaries and changes in the relationship between converts and castes and sects in an altered political context. When the converts of Bisrampur staked their claim for independence in the early 1930s they found themselves in a tricky situation: the converts—over 95 per cent of whom had descended from ‘Satnami-Chamar’ families—made no moves to return to Satnampanth because of the new-found status which stemmed from their association with the sahebs; the Satnamis, caught in the midst of reform initiatives sponsored by the Satnami Mahasabha, did not want to have anything to do with these renegades who had passed beyond the pale and were once again tainted with the stigma of the death pollution of the sacred cow; the parleys of these converts with the Arya Samaj came to naught when the organization set stringent conditions by asking them to quit the ‘hide and bone’ business—the trade in animal skins which constituted an ISSUES





important element of the household economy of many of the families in Bisrampur—if they wanted to reconvert to Hinduism (Dube 1995). Other converts who slipped into the fold of Hinduism through the agency of proselytizing initiatives continued to face severe problems in everyday transactions—the services of the nai (barber) and dhobi (washerman)—in village life. Finally, the friction, tension and conflict of these decades underlay a dramatic episode. In 1956 an important missionary cultural centre was burnt down in the city of Raipur: the detailed reports of the incident reveal the contours of a nationalist project aligned to upper caste-Hinduism, its constructions of alienness, and its uses of swaraj. The Indian church in Chhattisgarh seems to have ended up as an unhappy paradox: its indigenous features anathema to the missionaries; its colonial connections derided by the local Hindu population.

CONCLUSION I will by way of a conclusion set out how this study of the evangelical encounter stands at the intersection of and engages with a range of key concerns in anthropology, sociology and history. Recent studies of colonialism and Christianity have focused on the construction of colonial cultures of rule (Callaway 1987; Kennedy 1987; Stoler 1989), the relationship between colonial power and language and discursive practices (Fabian 1986; Mani 1989; Scott 1992; Stoler 1985; Thomas 1992), and the place of implicit meanings of everyday practices and the symbols and metaphors of Western civilization in the articulation of Christianity in colonial contexts (Comaroff 1985; Comaroff and Comaroff 1986; Mignolo 1992). The focus on the ambiguous and often contradictory location of the missionaries and the mission project in the making of the cultural order of colonial rule in Chhattisgarh brings together these diverse but interlinked emphases and sets them to work in a new social and historical context. A recognition of the shared past of the evangelical entanglement— situated in a mutual dialogue between ethnography, history and cultural studies—reveals a wide-ranging play of differential perceptions and multiple appropriations which involved the joint energies of missionaries and converts, of colonizers and colonized: the fashioning of meanings of ‘conversion’ and the construction of identities and of ‘indigenous Christianity’ (Comaroff 1985; Comaroff and Comaroff 1986; Nash 1979; Taussig 1980; 248 SAURABH DUBE

Thomas 1991); the cultural interface between orality and writing (Ong 1977, 1982; Ossio 1977; Prakash 1990; Schaeffer 1989; Taussig 1987) and between different modes of reading of texts (Mignolo 1992; Ramanujan 1991); the complex relationship between myth and history (Dube 1992; Hill 1988; Obeyesekere 1983; Ossio 1977); the making of traditions and the uses of the past as a negotiable and reworkable resource (Borofsky 1987; Herzfeld 1991); and the simultaneous constitution of anthropological objects (Borofsky 1987; Scott 1992) and the meanings and truths of colonized subjects (Comaroff 1985; Rosaldo 1980; Taussig, 1980; Thomas 1991). The missionaries could lose the initiative, their endeavours tamed by native perceptions (Prins 1980); the agency of converts and indigenous groups could be inextricably bound to relationships of domination, their practices and idioms of contest contingent upon symbols of power and the refraction of authoritative messages through the filter of local categories (Dube, n.d; Guha 1982–89; Haynes and Prakash 1991; Scott 1985). Truly the evangelical encounter in Chhattisgarh has wide implications. Finally, the prism of Christianity in Chhattisgarh helps to re-examine influential theories of religion and power in South Asia. Anthropologists and historians tend to conceive of caste and sect as binary categories. This is a legacy of a dominant model which is based upon a Brahmin householder’s construction of renunciation and asceticism (Dumont 1970b); it ignores the perspectives of the ascetic and the non-twice-born caste and has little place for the permeable boundaries of the householder and renouncer and the interpenetration, in practice, of principles of caste and sect (Burghart 1983; Dube, n.d.). The focus on the continuities between rules of caste and sect and the mechanisms of ostracism and incorporation, the concerns of purity and pollution, and the principles of kinship, marriage and boundary maintenance within indigenous congregations aids the reformulation of the relationship between the two categories. Similarly, a vastly influential statement about the nature of caste society in South Asia encompasses power within the ritual hierarchy of purity and pollution and renders it epiphenomenal (Dumont 1970a); more recent exercises open up possibilities for discussions of dominance but tend to locate power, almost exclusively, in constructs of ritually and culturally constituted kingship and dominant caste (Dirks 1987, 1989; Raheja 1988). At the same time, the perspective of groups which embodied a low ritual status and their exclusion from the web of relationships with service castes suggests that ritual hierarchy of purity and pollution— charged with meanings grounded in power—worked in tandem with a ISSUES





culturally, ritually and ideologically constituted kingship and dominant caste to secure the subordination of low caste and untouchable communities (Dube n.d.). A recognition of the tie-up between these axes of dominance within caste society and the symbols and metaphors of colonial power has considerable significance for the discussion of the articulation of Christianity and caste in Chhattisgarh because of the overwhelming presence of untouchable groups and low castes among Christian converts in the region. These are two examples. There is much more to the picture. I am not sure how the missionaries and their wards in colonial Chhattisgarh would have reacted if they had been told that a study of the evangelical encounter would seek to engage with and extend concepts of personhood, identity, ritual and the body in South Asia. Would they have laughed or shaken their heads in incomprehension? The question almost certainly cannot be laid to rest. It is pregnant with another issue. The mix-up between mirth and murk and mockery and misunderstanding seems to be much more a prerogative of the present. The past is a peg for the here-and-now to hang its deadly jokes.

NOTES 1. Cited in Lapp (1972: 51). Shank was a pioneer Mennonite missionary who worked in Latin America. 2. The paper constitutes an early statement of my study-in-progress, ‘Missionary Agendas, Indigenous Categories and Local Initiatives: Christianity in Chhattisgarh, 1868–1955’. The study broadly feeds into the team project on ‘Socio-religious Movements and Cultural Networks in Indian Civilization’ of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. The paper is based primarily on preliminary fieldwork and the records of the German Evangelical Mission Society—later the American Evangelical Mission—which are housed in the Eden Archives and Library. Webster Groves, Missouri. These records include: the annual reports of the missionaries by name of station and missionary, 1868–83 (bound volumes), 1883–1956; quarterly reports of missionaries by name of station and missionary, 1905–56; Baptismal register, Bisrampur, 1870–95; reports on the malguzari of Christian vil1ages; manuscript histories of the mission and mission stations; manuscript biographies and autobiographies of missionaries; catechists’ diaries; collections of private papers of missionaries; files on the burning or the Gass Memorial (Cultural) Centre; hymn books and pedagogic literature; three missionary periodicals and papers—Der Deutsche Missionsfreund (1866–1908), Der Friedensbote, the Evangelical Herald (St. Louis)—and several tracts and histories written for the converts, the local population and an audience in the, United States. The records are in English, German,



4. 5.


Hindi and Chhattisgarhi. I thank Ishita Banerjee for translating the German sources. I also propose to work on the records of the Methodists, the American and General Conference Mennonites, the Disciples of Christ and the Pentecostal Bands of the World. Finally, I shall soon extend my early enquiries in the field. Satnampanth was initiated in the early nineteenth century, around 1820, by Ghasidas, a farm servant, primarily among the Chamars of Chhattisgarh. The Chamars, who embodied the stigma of death pollution of the sacred, constituted a significant proportion—a little less than one-sixth—of the population of Chhattisgarh. They either owned land or were sharecroppers and farm servants. The Chamars and a few hundred members of other castes—largely Telis (oil-pressers) and Rawats (graziers)—who joined Satnampanth became Satnamis. They had to abstain from meat, liquor, tobacco, certain vegetables—tomato, chilli, aubergine—and red pulses. Satnampanth rejected the deities and idols of the Hindu pantheon and had no temples. The members were asked to believe only in a formless god, satnam (true name). There were to be no distinctions of caste within Satnampanth. With Ghasidas began a guru parampara (tradition) which was hereditary. Satnampanth developed a stock of myths, rituals and practices which were associated with the gurus. I construct a history of the Satnamis in ‘Religion, Identity and Authority among the Satnamis in Colonial Central India’, my Ph.D. dissertation, University of Cambridge, 1992, which is under revision for publication. The study—entitled ‘Discarded Icons, Contested Symbols: Religion, Identity and Authority among the Satnamis of Chhattisgarh, 1780–1950—locates the group within the changing relations of power in the region, traces the different efforts to regulate the internally differentiated community, and discusses the ways in which the Satnamis drew upon symbols of authority to negotiate, question and contest their subordination. The account stands at the intersection of history and anthropology and combines archival data and fieldwork to address a range of key and inextricably bound relationships—between myth and history, orality and writing, gender and order, reform and authority, religion and power, contestatory practices and domination, community and hegemony, and caste and sect—indexed by the Satnami past (Dube, n.d.). A longer treatment of the themes discussed over the next three paragraphs is contained in Dube (forthcoming [c]). Churi has been a widely prevalent form of remarriage among all but the highest castes— Brahmans, Rajputs and Baniyas—in Chhattisgarh. Under the churi form of marriage a married woman could marry another man if he gave her churis (bangles). While the broad pattern was similar, specific customs regarding churi varied across castes. In general, the matter of churi was deliberated by the jat sayan or panchayat: they fixed a certain compensation which the new husband had to pay to the first husband and his family. The new husband also had to give a feast to the other members of the caste— the number was decided by the caste elders in the village—which symbolized the incorporation of the woman into his home and the acceptance of the marriage by the community. The first husband, on the other hand, had to feed fellow caste people within the village in the form of a marti jeeti bhat which symbolized that the woman was dead to him (Dube, forthcoming [b]). ‘From the Diary of an Indian Catechist’, typescript, filed by missionary M.P. Davis providing a selection from the reports of one catechist (not named) for the period September 1911 to April 1912, p. 1. M.P. Davis Papers, Eden Archives and Library, Webster Groves, Missouri. The missionary added his explanatory comments in parentheses but did not edit the selections.






7. Entry for 24 January 1908 from the day-book of a catechist (not named), manuscript, 83–85, Eden Archives and Library, Webster Groves, Missouri. This day-book is the most exhaustive and covers the period from January 1908 to October 1911. 8. Entry for 22 January 1908 from the day-book of a catechist (not named), manuscript, 83–85, Eden Archives and Library, Webster Groves, Missouri. 9. ‘From the Diary of an Indian Catechist’, typescript, filed by missionary M.P. Davis providing a selection from the reports of one catechist (not named) for the period September 1911 to April 1912, p. 1. M.P. Davis Papers, Eden Archives and Library, Webster Groves, Missouri. 10. Ibid., p. 2. 11. In 1866 the report of the Ethnological Committee had first suggested in passing that Ghasidas’ teaching may have derived from higher, Western sources. Report of the Ethnological Committee, 1866–67, Nagpur, 1867, p. 103. 12. I explore these themes at much greater length in Dube (n.d.). 13. An extended discussion of this case is contained in Dube (forthcoming [c]). 14. M.P. Davis. ‘A Modern Satnami Tragedy’, typescript, 1942, p. 1, Folder on Satnamis. M.P. Davis Papers, Eden Archives and Library, Webster Groves, Missouri. 15. Ibid., p. 2.

REFERENCES Asad, Talal (ed.). 1973. Anthropology and the Colonial Encounter. London: Ithaca Press. Bayly, Susan. 1989. Saints, Goddesses and Kings. Muslims and Christians in South Indian Society 1700–1900. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Beidelman, Thomas. 1982. Colonial Evangelism: A Socio-historical Study of an East African Mission at the Grassroots. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Borofsky, Robert. 1987. Making History: Pukapukan and Anthropological Constructions of Knowledge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Burghart, Richard. 1983. ‘Renunciation in the Religious Traditions of South Asia’, Man (n.s.) 18: 635–53. Callaway, Helen. 1987. Gender, Culture and Empire: European Women in Colonial Nigeria. Oxford: Macmillan Press. Comaroff, Jean. 1985. Body of Power, Spirit of Resistance. The Culture and History of a South African People. Chicago: Chicago University Press. Comaroff, Jean and John Comaroff. 1986. ‘Christianity and Colonialism in South Africa’, American Ethnologist 13(1): 1–22. Dirks, Nicholas B. 1987. The Hollow Crown. Ethnohistory of an Indian Kingdom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ———. 1989. ‘The Original Caste: Power, History and Hierarchy in South Asia’, Contributions to Indian Sociology (n.s.) 23(1): 59–77. Dube, Saurabh. 1992. ‘Myths, Symbols and Community: Satnampanth of Chhattisgarh’, in Partha Chatterjee and Gyan Pandey (eds), Subaltern Studies VlI. Writings on South Asian History and Society, pp. 121–58. Delhi: Oxford University Press. ———. 1993. ‘Idioms of Authority and Engendered Agendas: The Satnami Mahasabha Chhattisgarh, 1925–50, Indian Economic and Social History Review 30(4): 383–411.


Dube, Saurabh. 1993. ‘Caste and Sect in Village Life: Satnamis of Chhattisgarh, 1900– 1950’, Occasional Paper. Shimla: Indian Institute of Advanced Study. ———. n.d. ‘Discarded Irons, Contested Symbols: Religion, Identity and Authority among the Satnamis of Chhattisgarh, Central India, 1780–1955’, manuscript. ———. 1995. Paternalism and Freedom: The Evangelical Encounter in Colonial Chhattisgarh, Modern Asian Studies 29(1): 171–201. Dumont, Louis. 1970 a. Homo Hierarchicus. The Caste System and its Implications. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson. ———. 1970 b. ‘World Renunciation in Indian Religions’, Religion, Politics and History in India, pp. 33–60. Paris and the Hague: Mouton. Eaton, Richard. 1984. ‘Conversion to Christianity among the Nagas, 1876–1971’, Indian Economic and Social History Review 21: 1–44. Fabian, Johannes. 1986. Language and Colonial Power. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Forrester, Duncan B. 1980. Caste and Christianity. Attitudes and Policies on Caste of AngloSaxon Protestant Missions in India. London: Curzon Press. Guha, Ranajit (ed.). 1982–89. Subaltern Studies: Writings on South Asian History and Society, Vols I–VI. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Haynes, Douglas and Gyan Prakash. (eds). 1991. Contesting Power: Resistance and Everyday Social Relations in South Asia. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Herzfeld, Michael. 1991. A Place in History. Social and Monumental Time in a Cretan Town. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Hill, Jonathan (ed.). 1988. Rethinking History and Myth. Indigenous South American Perspectives on the Past. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press. Juhnke, J.C. 1979. A People of Mission. A History of General Conference Mennonite Overseas Mission. Newton: Faith and Life Press. Kennedy, Dane. 1987. Islands of White: Settler Society and Culture in Kenya and Southern Rhodesia, 1890–1939. Durham: Duke University Press. Lapp, J.A. 1972. The Mennonite Church in India, 1897–1962. Scottdale: Herald Press. Lohr, J.J. 1899. Bilder aus Chhattisgarh und den Central Provinzen Ostindiens. Mani, Lata. 1989. ‘Contentious Traditions: The Debate on Sati in Colonial India’ in Kumkum Sangari and Sudesh Vaid (eds), Recasting Women. Essays in Colonial History, pp. 88–126. Delhi: Kali for Women. Manor, James. 1971. ‘Testing the Barrier between Caste and Outcaste: The Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church in Guntur District 1920–40’, Indian Church History Review 5(1): 27–41. Mignolo, Walter. 1992. ‘On the Colonization of Amerindian Languages and Memories. Renaissance Theories of Writing and the Discontinuity of the Classical Tradition, Comparative Studies in Society and History 34(2): 301–30. Nash, June. 1979. We Eat the Mines and the Mines Eat Us: Dependency and Exploitation in Bolivian Tin Mines. New York: Columbia University Press. Obeyesekere, Gananath. 1983. The Cult of the Goddess Pattini. Chicago: Chicago University Press. Oddie, G.A. 1975. ‘Christian Conversion in the Telugu Country. 1869–1900: A Case Study of One Protestant Movement in the Godavery-Christian Delta’, Indian Economic and Social History Review 12(1): 61–79.






Ong, Walter J. 1977. ‘Marantha: Death and Life in the Text of the Book’, Journal of the American Academy of Religion 45(4): 419–49. ———. 1982. Orality and Literacy. The Technologizing of the Word. London and New York: Methuen. Ossio, Juan. 1977. ‘Myth and History: The Seventeenth-Century Chronicle of Guaman Poma de Ayala’ in Ravindra K. Jain (ed.), Text and Context: The Social Anthropology of Tradition, pp. 51–93. Philadelphia: Institute for the study of Human Issues (ISHI). Paul, M.M. 1935. Satyanami Panth aur Ghasidas Girodvasi. Raipur: The Christian Book Depot. Prakash, Gyan. 1990. Bonded Histories: Genealogies of Labour Servitude in Colonial India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Prins, Gwyn. 1980. The Hidden Hippopotamus: Reappraisals in African History. Cambridge University Press. Raheja, Gloria Goodwin. 1988. The Poison in the Gift. Ritual Prestation and the Dominant Caste in a North Indian Village. Chicago: Chicago University Press. Ramanujan, A.K. 1991. ‘Toward a Counter-system: Women’s Tales’ in Arjun Appadurai, Frank Korom and Margaret Mills (eds), Gender, Genre and Power in South Asian Expressive Traditions, pp. 33–55. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Rosaldo, Renato. 1980. Ilongot Headhunting, 1883–1974. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Roseberry, William. 1986. ‘Images of the Peasant in the Consciousness of Venezuelan Proletariat’ in Michael Kanagan and Charles Stephenson (eds), Proletarians and Protest, pp. 149–9. Westford, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. Sahlins, Marshall. 1981. Historical Metaphors and Mythical Realities: Structure in the Early History of the Sandwich Islands Kingdom. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. ———. 1985. Islands of History. Chicago: Chicago University Press. Schaeffer, Jonathan D. 1989: ‘The Use and Misuse of Giambattista Vico: Rhetoric, Orality and Theories of Discourse’ in H. Aram Veeser (ed.), The New Historicism, pp. 89– 101. New York and London: Routledge. Scott, David. 1992. ‘Conversion and Demonism: Colonial Christian Discourse and Religion in Sri Lanka’ Comparative Studies in Society and History 34(2): 331–65. Scott, James. 1985. Weapons of the Weak. Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. Seybold, Theodore C. 1971. God’s Guiding Hand: A History of the Central Indian Mission, 1868–1967. Philadelphia: The United Church Board for World Ministries of the United Church of Christ. Stirrat, R.L. 1975. ‘Compradazgo in Catholic Sri Lanka’, Man (n.s.) 10(4): 589–606. Stoler, Ann. 1985. ‘Perceptions of Protest: Defining the Dangerous in Colonial Sumatra’, American Ethnologist 12(4): 642–58. ———.1989. ‘Rethinking Colonial Categories: European Communities and the Boundaries of Rule’, Comparative Studies in Society and History 31(1): 134–61. Tanner, von Th. 1894. Im Lande der Hindus oder Kulturschilderungen aus Indien. St. Louis: German Evangelical Synod of North America. Taussig, Michael. 1980. The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press. ———. 1987. Shamanism, Colonialism and the Wild Man: A Study in Terror and Healing. Chicago: Chicago University Press.


Thomas, Nicholas. 1991. Entangled Objects. Exchange, Material Collection and Colonialism in the Pacific. London: Harvard University Press. ———. 1992. ‘Colonial Conversions: Difference, Hierarchy and History in Early Twentieth Century Evangelical Propaganda’, Comparative Studies in Society and History 34(2): 336–89. Whitehead, Henry. 1913. ‘The Mass Movements Towards Christianity in the Punjab’, International Review of Missions 2: 442–53.








The marginal religious status of the depressed castes in the mainstream of Hinduism has for long been a theme of interest to ethnographers, anthropologists, sociologists and social reformers.1 Often this interest formed a part of the broader inquiry into the origin of the caste system and the evolution of the depressed castes as a distinct social category. A review of such inquiries and commentaries on them reveals two irreconcilable positions on the marginal religious status of the depressed castes.

TWO THESES ON MARGINALIZATION According to one contention, the depressed castes were once an integral part of Hinduism occupying the lowest position in society, but were later relegated for certain reasons to the margins of Hinduism and even thrown out of its fold. This is the essence of what Klass (1980: 35) terms the ‘divine plan’ theory and its variants. Though Ambedkar rightly debunked *Originally published in the Sociological Bulletin, vol. 41, nos 1 and 2, 1992, pp. 67–80.

the ‘divine’ origin of the caste system, he fell in line with the above position with regard to the marginalization of the Shudras. In his work, Who were the Shudras? (1946), which he suggestively subtitled, How they came to be the Fourth Varna in the Indo-Aryan Society, he even argued that the Shudras were once Kshatriyas, who, because of their antagonism towards the Brahmins, were degraded by the latter into the fourth varna. The opposite theory contends that the depressed castes were originally outside the pale of Brahminic Hinduism, and were later incorporated into the village or regional socio-economic framework and assigned a marginal position in the religion. This is the thesis of Ambedkar’s book, The Untouchables (1948) which again is suggestively subtitled, Who were they and why they became Untouchables. As summarized by Lynch (1974: 142), the essence of Ambedkar’s argument in this book was that ‘the Untouchables were originally broken men, stray survivors of the indigenous tribes conquered by invading sedentary agriculturists, the Brahmans’. In fact, the lack of ‘many of the values and concepts which are associated with Hinduism of the Great Tradition’ among such depressed castes as Chamars is explained in this light (see Cohn 1975: 207). Which one of these two contradictory theses offers a valid and acceptable explanation of the origin and evolution of the depressed caste groups is a moot question. But, the ‘incorporation thesis’, as I would prefer to designate the latter one, seems to find substantial empirical support and also appears to be in a better position to explain both the present predicament of the depressed castes and the disappointing experience of some amongst them in their efforts to achieve emancipation through proselytism.

INTERNAL DIFFERENCES AND LOCALIZED INCORPORATION An axial point of the incorporation thesis is its recognition of the local variations and regional differences in socio-economic organization and its emphasis on the total lack of uniformity in social organization at the pan-Indian level (Ghurye 1969: 27, 40). Thus, notwithstanding their more or less common objective position in the socio-economic set-up throughout the country, the depressed caste groups manifested marked socio-cultural differences across regions and equally marked intra-caste differences in any given region. These differences have persisted over the REFLECTIONS ON THE MARGINAL STATUS OF THE DEPRESSED CLASSES 257

centuries and even today we notice such distinctions as ‘the right hand’ and ‘the left hand’ among the depressed castes, as also the observance of strict endogamy by them. Referring to the caste system in his comprehensive survey, Society in India, Mandelbaum (1972: 430–31) has observed that though ‘the reigning ideal principle is that of social immutability ... the ruling, actual principle is that of social competition among those close to each other in rank’. Such competition not infrequently resulted in antagonism and conflicts between the two ‘untouchable jatis’. He cites instances of such conflicts between Pariyas and Chuklers of Tamil Nadu, and between the Malas and Madigas of Andhra Pradesh. Similarly, Miller (1975: 142) in his study of Badipur, a Haryana village, observes that the Chamars ‘shun the Chuhra (marginally lower to Chamars in the local caste hierarchy) at least as vehemently as they are shunned by the higher castes’. Thus, in each village or region if the relation between the various depressed castes has been one of socio-cultural differentiation, status uncertainty and social competition, the relation between these castes on the one hand and the upper-caste Hindus (including the Shudras) on the other was one of explicit hierarchy, discrimination and exploitation. The nature and intensity of discrimination and exploitation varied from region to region and from village to village within a given region. This is explained by the complex nature of the relationship of caste to economic activities, ‘despite the existence of a direct relationship between the division of labour and the caste system’ (Miller 1975: 30). In each region the depressed castes were incorporated into the existing socio-economic framework and assigned a position which was exploitative and detrimental to them. Kolenda (1978: 37–61) analyses this aspect of the caste system as ‘the localized social structure’, and cites examples from across the country. An important study exemplifying this process is Breman’s Patronage and Exploitation (1974). Analysing the dynamics of the caste system in two villages of Gujarat, Breman shows how a tribal group which was drawn into the socioeconomic framework as agricultural labour for the land-controlling Anavil Brahmins gradually became an untouchable caste, called the Dublas. As Kolenda (1978: 36) concludes, ‘integration into a ranked series of strata was the price which a group had to pay in order to settle in an agricultural village’.


HINDUISM AS JUSTIFICATORY IDEOLOGY This hierarchical, discriminatory and exploitative socio-economic arrangement was provided with a justificatory and defensive religious alibi by Brahminic Hinduism. In his study of Khalapur, an Uttar Pradesh village, Mahar (1972: 18–26) provides an excellent account of the operation of the Hindu religious ideology vis-à-vis the ‘untouchables’ in terms of ‘the old dharma’. Unlike the regional specificity of socio-economic exploitation, the main elements of the religious ideology justifying it were pan-Indian. The success of the strategy of incorporation into Hinduism and the allocation of a marginal religious status to the depressed castes is revealed by their compliance to the Hindu ideology. By becoming dependent economically, socially and psychologically on the upper castes and having stagnated thus for quite a few centuries, the depressed castes came to accept Brahminic Hinduism as a model. The uncritical acceptance of Brahminic Hinduism as a model has had far-reaching implications for the emancipation of the depressed castes. Either as a form of protest or as a positive reference group behaviour the better-off members among the depressed castes, and sometimes entire caste groups, have engaged in what has been described by Srinivas (1972: 1–45) as ‘Sanskritization’. It is beyond the scope of this paper to examine Sanskritization as a strategy for emancipation. Suffice to say that if at the overt level the attempt to rise in caste rank through Sanskritization has resulted in changes in such items as food and drink, dress and deportment, names and rituals, etc., at the covert level it has resulted in the acceptance of the caste system, a rigidification of the associated belief system, and the fostering of a false consciousness of caste (see Lynch 1974: 76). The fact that the attempts to rise in caste rank resulted in the acceptance of the caste system had one latently dysfunctional consequence for the depressed castes. With the attitude of the upper-caste Hindus remaining the same or even hardening a bit, and the persistence of exploitation by the former of the latter, their marginal status was confirmed. The process of social sedimentation of the depressed castes has been so complete that often laymen and scholars alike have held their marginal religious status to be responsible for their wretched socio-economic position. From this point of view, while Hinduism is guilty of perpetrating the caste system, caste and Hinduism themselves are coterminous.2 Such a position, however, has an inherent limitation in that it tries to explain REFLECTIONS ON THE MARGINAL STATUS OF THE DEPRESSED CLASSES 259

a feature of the ‘infrastructure’ by reference to an element of the ‘superstructure’. Its weakness becomes clear if we examine the strategy of emancipation of the depressed castes that this line of thinking has produced, namely proselytism.

PROSELYTISM FOR EMANCIPATION: EXPECTATIONS AND EXPERIENCE Proselytism as a strategy for emancipation is based on the presumption that the theology of a particular religion is at the root of the subjugation suffered by a section of the population identifying with it. Accordingly, a change in its religious identity by conversion to another religion preaching a different set of theological precepts is expected to automatically emancipate it. Proselytism raises the fundamental question of the motivation for conversion, of both the proselytizer and the proselytized (Caplan 1987). The motivation of the proselytizer and the means that he employs in proselytizing are issues, which, though important, are beyond the scope of this essay. However, the promise of ultimate deliverance by the liberation theology of the proselytizing religion is the motivational magnet for conversion. In the analysis of conversion a distinction is often made between the individual acceptance of the new faith (‘individual conversion’) and the collective embracement of the new faith (‘mass conversion’) as a movement (Caplan 1987: 35–37, 122–28). For the individual convert, the adoption of the new religion is a personal matter, and the circumstances under which it takes place are ‘fundamentally uninfluenced by considerations of wider group conversion and support. For those undergoing mass conversion, on the other hand, the adoption of the new religion is more a collective exercise which is the result of ‘a group decision’. The consequences flowing from these two types of conversion are also different. The individual converts have perforce to defy the members of the local caste groups, and accordingly, experience isolation ‘from caste and kin, from their resources, their status, and their connubial alliances’. In mass conversion, on the other hand, the converts belong to the same caste within a religion, and they do not experience any significant changes in traditional social norms and relationships. There is no inevitable 260 N. JAYARAM

‘disruption of ties between them and members of Hindu groups in the region’ or with those belonging to the same caste who do not embrace the new faith. Moreover, they reproduce themselves by endogamous marriages and thereby retain their caste pedigrees (Caplan 1987: 36). Evidence on the experience of conversion among the depressed castes, which is mostly of the mass variety (see Mathew 1989: 276–81), shows that though some privileges might have accrued to the converts, this has not effected any significant structural change. The converted members are not given equal treatment in their new community. They are invariably identified as members of the converted religion but with a prefix referring to their castes (for instance, Pulaya Christians) or by the prefix ‘neo’ (for instance, neo-Buddhists or neo-Christians—putu christiani or putiya kristyan in Malayalam),3 thereby indicating their marginal position even in the new religion they have embraced. In his study of the neo-Christians of Kerala, Alexander (1972) observes that the lower-caste converts became known by their caste as Cherman Christians, Pulaya Christians, and so on, and continued to be treated as untouchables by the long-established Syrian Christians. The casteassociated customs did not change: Even in the mid-l960s Pulaya converts were obliged to remove their headdress in the presence of rich Syrian Christians, while speaking with their Syrian Christian employers they had to conceal their mouths with their hands. Pulaya Christians are not given food inside the house of a Syrian Christian, but only outside the house in a broken dish or leaf. After eating food served on a dish the Pulaya must wash the dish before returning it (Alexander 1972: 155). A comparison of the socio-economic status of the Pulaya Christians and Syrian Christians in terms of levels of education, occupation, dress and personal appearance, housing and general standard of living, reveals that the gulf between them is still very wide. An overwhelming majority (80 per cent) of the Pulaya Christians interviewed by Alexander were landless labourers, working on the lands of higher castes, and the remaining were not well-placed either. In brief, economically, the position of neo-Christians ‘differs little from that of Hindu Harijans. They are regarded by the high castes, and by many of their own members, as being of a status more or less equal to that of the Harijans’ (Fuller 1976: 58). No wonder then that except for the very occasional ‘love marriage’ there are no unions between Syrian REFLECTIONS ON THE MARGINAL STATUS OF THE DEPRESSED CLASSES 261

Christians and the neo-Christians. ‘Indeed’, Fuller (ibid.: 57) records, ‘I have more than once heard it said by a Syrian that it would be preferable for one of their community to marry a Nayar or another high caste Hindu than to marry a New Christian and I feel sure that this is the popular sentiment’. According to Alexander (1972: 161), a similar phenomenon also exists in the Catholic church of Kerala, which has a large number of converts from the Mukkuva (fisherman) caste. These converts are referred to as ‘Latin Christians’ and are considered to be an inferior group by other Catholics, known as Romo-Syrian Christians. Wiebe and Peter (1977) have found that the acute caste-based inequality among the Catholics in rural Tamil Nadu has led to a patron-client relationship between members within parishes. Examining the role of the Catholic church in Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka, Rodrigues (1989: 268) has observed that ‘certain scheduled caste/tribe converts, converted nearly three generations ago ... remain confined to their status even today, as much looked down by members of the [Christian] community as they were before their conversion’. Similar findings about converts to Catholicism have been reported from other parts of the country (Isaacs 1974: 172; Japhet 1986–87). The experience of conversion to Protestantism in Tamil Nadu yields similar insights. Caplan (1987: 41, 266 fn. 2) refers to J.W. Pickett’s findings in the early 1930s that for most converts from indigent sections, economic betterment did not accompany conversion to Protestantism. Caplan even recalls the mid-nineteenth century situation when communion itself was an occasion for the demonstration of caste hierarchy. He quotes the 1848 work of J. Mullens who found that Shudra Christians ‘would not drink at the Lord’s supper with (the outcastes) or after them ...’. Among urban Protestants, Caplan (1987: 149) has found caste to be an important form of consciousness which is situationally paramount in its ‘affective appeal’ and as an ‘ideological rallying-point’. The great majority of Protestants belonging to castes which converted in mass movements continue to classify themselves in terms of these traditional status entities. In fact, the ‘significant proportion of lower-caste Protestants identify themselves and are labelled as Harijans’. Caplan (1987: 124, 126) has also noticed the persistence of caste endogamy even after the adoption of the new faith. For many Protestants, ‘caste is an important if not overriding consideration when contemplating an alliance, and a good caste pedigree becomes part of the definition of a good family’. More importantly, ‘householders claiming affiliation to non262 N. JAYARAM

Harijan castes, or to no castes, rarely entertain the prospect of matrimonial unions with persons of known Harijan status’. In Andhra Pradesh, Christians belonging to different ‘untouchable’ groups in rural areas have been refused the right to draw water from the same well as other Christians. Among them ‘the caste barrier is ... rigidly maintained ... on matters of food and drinks’ (Luke and Carmen 1968: 78). According to Caplan (1987: 150), even ‘high ecclesiastical rank apparently counted for little where such barriers operated’. He refers to J.W. Grant’s 1859 report that ‘one Indian bishop is never invited to dinner by certain members of his diocese ‘‘because he is of the wrong caste’’’. The experience of converts to Buddhism is no better, especially outside Maharashtra (see Wilkinson and Thomas 1972).4 Internal quarrels and differences of opinion on the one hand and political infighting on the other seem to have landed the Buddhist conversion movement in a quandary (see Arakeri 1965). Lynch (1974: 147) records that ‘the Jatavs [of Agra] themselves recognize that conversion [to Buddhism] has not changed their economic and social position in Indian society among other castes’.5 Examining the social consequences of the ideological change following the conversion to Buddhism, Gokhale (1986: 287) notes that: the ideological consciousness and mobilization of the community, which were effected through the medium of the Buddhist conversion, have seemingly served to make the community vulnerable and isolated .... Ironically, the Mahar-Buddhist community developed greater cohesion and self-awareness on a new basis at the same time that the prospect of unity of purpose and political action with other dalits, both untouchable and caste-Hindu, was reduced. It may not be out of place to mention here that Veerashaivism, which came into existence as a protest against the caste hierarchy of Hinduism, itself developed in course of time its own caste hierarchy (see Dumont 1970: 187–91). Summing up his observations on the effects of indigenous socio-religious reform movements (as different from conversion to alien religions), Mandelbaum (1972: 544) concludes, ‘some have considerably affected the culture of their region; some have shaped the trend of political events; a few have influenced the civilization. But none has altered the basic system of jati relations.’ REFLECTIONS ON THE MARGINAL STATUS OF THE DEPRESSED CLASSES 263

THE DILEMMAS OF CONVERSION It must be emphasized that the proselytized depressed castes have to pay a price to achieve a marginal position by embracing a new religion.6 That is, the special benefits provided to them by the government under the policy of protective discrimination and the legal cover extended to them under the anti-disabilities legislation would be available to the depressed castes only as long as they remain within the fold of Hinduism or Sikhism. The constitutional label ‘Scheduled Castes’ enumerates particular caste groups by their religious identification with these two religions only.7 In Maharashtra, where most of the converts to Buddhism (called neoBuddhists) are concentrated, the state government has restored to them the benefits enjoyed by the Scheduled Castes which are conferred by the state.8 However, ‘the central government and the other states have remained adamant in their unwillingness’ to view the neo-Buddhists as Scheduled Castes any more. Since conversion by itself can hardly improve the conditions of the converts, the central government has recommended that the state governments extend to the converts the concessions available to the Backward Classes. But these concessions are narrower in scope and smaller in magnitude than those for the Scheduled Castes. These concessions are merely ‘an indulgence and the state could determine the extent of this indulgence’ (Galanter 1989: 124–25, 127). Only a few states like Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu have extended them to the converted Scheduled Castes. The case of neo-Buddhists in Maharashtra is no doubt unique in this context. But being predominantly identified with one particular caste group, namely, the Mahars, and specifically distinguished by the prefix ‘neo’, they more or less still remain in the same structural position as the other depressed castes. If the case of the neo-Buddhists in Maharashtra offers any exception at all, it is because of their long history of service in the armed forces and more particularly because of the dynamic leadership of Ambedkar. Even so, it is on record that quite a few neo-Buddhists of Maharashtra face the moral dilemma of whether or not to claim and accept the special benefits meant for the Scheduled Castes (see Zelliot 1966). The proselytizing religions cannot logically or legitimately demand the special benefits and the legal cover for those among the Scheduled Castes taken into their fold.9 If they do so they would be putting themselves out of court as they would thereby be questioning the very raison d’être of 264 N. JAYARAM

proselytism as the ‘open sesame’ for emancipation. In other words, such a demand will only amount to conceding that it is not Hinduism alone which is primarily responsible for the exploitation and oppression of the depressed castes, and admitting that a mere change of religion by these castes cannot assure them deliverance. One way out of this impasse would be to have a dual religious identity and engage in ‘bridge actions’ as the Jatavs have done in Agra10 (Lynch 1974: 147): Vis-à-vis the state or nation he [the Jatav] will activate his scheduled caste status, which requires that he be a Hindu, since this carries with it the benefits of ‘protective discrimination’. However, in situations in which he is not facing a government official, he will activate his Buddhist status.11 Such an alternation between the ‘original’ and the ‘changed’ religious identity will, apart from exposing the hollow nature of the ‘emancipation’ and inviting punitive action, pose a subconscious psychological problem of a personality integration for the individual concerned. All this will have the effect of reinforcing the sense of marginalization.12 Turning to the reactions of the upper-caste Hindus, particularly those ventilated by organizations such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, it is noticed that they have invariably opposed proselytism of the depressed castes by other religions,13 and have even resorted to violent means to prevent it.14 But their reaction is grounded more in their doubts about the bona fides of the motives of the proselytizers and the ‘enticing’ means which they adopt. They perceive in these conversions a calculated threat to Hinduism. The upper-caste Hindus seldom view conversions from the point of view of the converts. As it is not a considerable loss to their amorphous religion, in the normal course they should not mind such an exodus. The simple reason for their disfavour is that in such conversions they perceive not only a diminution in their vote bank but also, more importantly, a threat to the existing socio-economic arrangements which serve their interests best. It is in these circumstances that we have to understand the ambivalence of the upper-caste Hindus to the religious status of the depressed castes: the upper castes can neither afford to allow the depressed castes to leave their religious fold, nor will they emancipate them within the confines of their own religion. REFLECTIONS ON THE MARGINAL STATUS OF THE DEPRESSED CLASSES 265

No doubt, some members of the depressed castes, or occasionally these castes themselves as a whole, may be willing to make the necessary sacrifices and go through with the gamble of conversion. But as long as the upper-caste Hindus continue to be their ‘significant others’, conversion will not bring about a significant change either in the identity of the depressed castes or in the attitude and behaviour of the upper-caste Hindus. The converts will not only continue to be identified as ‘untouchables’, but will be even treated thus. Even when the upper-caste Hindus form the negative reference group, for instance in the case of the Agra Jatavs, as Lynch (1974: 163) notes, ‘the Hindus occupy a position considered as “they” and not as “we”, and the dividing line of caste status is known to both groups’. This again confirms that as long as the depressed castes continue to be socio-economically dependent upon the upper-caste Hindus, mere conversion can hardly be expected to bring about their emancipation. This perhaps explains the piquant situation in Agra where, ‘while most Jatavs claim to be Buddhists and identify with them, there can be little doubt that the majority of them continue to be de facto Hindus’. Except for the staunch Buddhists, many men and most, if not all, women continue to celebrate Hindu festivals, worship Hindu deities, and even believe in rebirth after death (Lynch 1974: 159), Not surprisingly, many a depressed caste leader has opposed conversion (see Isaacs 1974: 174–75). The late Babu Jagjivan Ram, addressing the Jatavs in Agra in April 1956, barely a month after Ambedkar had appealed to them to become Buddhists said, ‘I can’t change my religion. He who converts is a coward. Such people can’t do any service for the Jatav community’ (quoted in Lynch 1974: 145).

WILL A MILITANT RELIGION HELP? The failure of proselytism as an emancipatory mechanism has not deterred those who swear by it, though even the hard core among them have been forced to rethink the experience of proselytism. Such rethinking has unfortunately not grappled with the socio-economic crux of the problem of the depressed castes. It has rather been content with reviewing the nature of the converting religions, and assessing their emancipatory potential. Thus, it has been argued that hitherto conversions have by and large taken place into religions which are ‘soft’ in their approach, and which 266 N. JAYARAM

have yielded themselves to the overriding influence of entrenched Hinduism. Both Buddhism, which spoke the language of ‘saintly politics’, and Christianity, which preached forgiveness, could hardly throw a challenge to Hinduism. Hence, it is contended that in order to counter such a deeply entrenched religion as Hinduism, what is needed is a religion which is radical in perspective and militant in approach. Islam, which has a sufficiently long history in the country, is identified as one such religion, and conversion to it is advocated. In February 1981, about 1,000 Scheduled Castes living in Meenakshipuram, a small village in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu, were converted to Islam.15 They even changed the name of their village to Rehmatnagar. The next seven months, till September 1981, saw a wave of conversions to Islam in Tirunelveli, Ramanathapuram and Tanjavur districts. Madurai, Madras and North Arcot reported stray incidents of conversion or of threat of conversion to Islam. Mathew (1989: 294), who has reviewed the available ‘evidence’ on these conversions, feels that it is too early to say to what extent these conversions to Islam can change the converts’ social position. The initial euphoria of conversion to Islam noticed by him, however, seems to be at odds with Srinivasan’s (1989: 119) observation that the ‘economic betterment for the converted appears to be illusory’. Worse still, in the mosques they ‘have been seated separately’ and their womenfolk have lost the ‘independence they had earlier’. The ideology behind the advocacy of conversion to Islam rather than to Buddhism or any other religion is embodied in a small polemical pamphlet by Shetty (1980). His plea for conversion to Islam is part of a wider strategy which he terms the ‘Dalit-Muslim alliance’. A closer examination of this strategy reveals the perilous implications that it is fraught with as far as the depressed castes are concerned. In his ‘Introduction’ to Caste and Social Stratification among Muslims in India, Ahmad (1973: 14) makes the telling point that the ‘proclaimed egalitarianism of Islam [has] remained largely an ideal’. The essays collected by him in this anthology document the existence of caste among the Muslims. Moreover, the intolerant fundamentalist trends noticed in Islam in some of our neighbouring countries as also in some of the regions in our own country, reveals its reactionary social stance. Above all, mobilization on religious lines is totally devoid of revolutionary potential. All the religious minorities, depressed castes and tribes put together constitute less than 40 per cent of the population, and lack any class content. As Omvedt (1980) has rightly remarked, ‘such an REFLECTIONS ON THE MARGINAL STATUS OF THE DEPRESSED CLASSES 267

alliance would pose the minorities against the caste Hindus (including the non-Dalit lower castes and Shudras) and lead in the direction of civil warfare, not revolutionary change’.16 In brief, attempts at emancipation through proselytism have generally failed. They have failed because they have viewed the problem of emancipation of the depressed castes mainly, if not exclusively, in terms of religion. If the diagnosis is wrong, the treatment based on it can hardly be expected to be fruitful! It is important to bear in mind that the depressed castes are not a homogeneous group sharing an exclusive set of common characteristics. They are born into numerous castes, with separate identities, backgrounds and traditions. Even the constitutional category of ‘Scheduled Castes’ does not define them by their own social traits but by their customary relations with other members of society. It is for this reason that the task of mobilizing the depressed castes based on the criterion of caste alone is difficult to the extent of being impossible to accomplish (see Jayaram 1981: 13).

THE KEY TO EMANCIPATION The key to the emancipation of the depressed castes lies in their objective class position in the socio-economic framework, which they share with many others including some caste Hindus. An overwhelming majority of the depressed castes live in rural areas, and are subject to the dominance relations centering round agricultural production (Neale 1972). In her analysis of 77 peasant uprisings during late Moghul, British and Indian rule, Gough (1974) found that caste has not operated as a barrier to the organization of the peasantry during periods of severe economic deprivation if only effective leadership was forthcoming. Obviously, if the deprived castes can mobilize themselves on class lines along with those who find themselves in a similar objective position in the social organization of agriculture and simultaneously fight false caste consciousness, there seem to be bright prospects not only for their emancipation, but also for bringing about a general reorganization of their social order. In other words, the future of the depressed castes is bound with that of the toiling masses of the country, both of whom should forge a ‘Dalit-Shramik Alliance’ as Omvedt (1980: l350) calls it, ‘that fights both economic exploitation and social oppression and is directed to overthrowing the 268 N. JAYARAM

power of the exploiters and establishing the power of the oppressed and exploited’.

NOTES 1. The term ‘depressed castes’ is used in this paper as an omnibus label to designate the Scheduled Castes and all other caste groups suffering the same or similar socioeconomic disabilities. 2. According to Galanter (1989: 114, 132), the ‘notion of Indian society as consisting of mutually exclusive groups ranked in a definite and unique order is a carry over from the area of personal law’. Thus, the identification of castes as ‘components in the sacral order of Hinduism’ is expressed in its extreme form by the courts of law, which regard caste and Hinduism as coterminous. It is by this logic that the Scheduled Castes converting to other religions are denied preferential treatment to which their Hindu counterparts are entitled. 3. Fuller (1976: 54) also makes a reference to avasa kraistava, which in Malayalam means ‘backward Christian’. 4. Although the possibility of emancipation through proselytism occurred to Ambedkar in the early 1930s itself, it was only in the early 1950s that he recommended it as a viable strategy. He believed that conversion to Christianity or Islam would denationalize the depressed castes (see Keer 1954: 273–78). He was initially inclined towards Sikhism, but ultimately preferred Buddhism to be the alternative religion as it was ‘an indigenous Indian religion of equality; a religion which was anti-caste and anti-Brahman (Lynch 1972: 99). Moreover, Buddhism was expected to serve as a bulwark against communism (see Zelliot 1966: 204). Accompanied by a large number of his followers— mostly from the Mahar caste group—he renounced the ancestral Hindu faith and embraced Buddhism in 1956. 5. That some ‘Buddhists themselves would be pessimistic’ has been observed by Zelliot as well. She, however, argues that ‘the rationale for the conversion was psychological and the benefits have been psychological. The most important among such benefits is the ‘psychological freedom from the sense of being a polluting person’ (Zelliot 1977: 133, 38). But Isaacs (1974: 173) contends that the change in ‘nominal identity’ has not been helpful in providing a change of ‘identity in fact’. He is also not sure ‘how it has served individuals within themselves as a source of self-respect. 6. In the early years of the nineteenth century, lower-caste converts to Christianity had to face frequent hostility and even occasional physical danger from the Hindus (Frykenberg 1976). 7. On the legal nuances of this issue, see Galanter (1984: 282–351 or 1989: 103–40). 8. Among the benefits outside the purview of the state government are reservations in legislative bodies, post-matriculation scholarships and reservation in central government employment.


9. Outside of Maharashtra this has not been achieved or even demanded vociferously by the proselytizing religions. With reference to ‘Harijan’ converts to Protestant Christianity in Madras, Caplan (1987: l53–54) notes: the concern of the church to press the central government to grant Harijan Christians the same rights as their Hindu counterparts ... while undertaken with the best of intentions has had the effect of singling out these Protestants as the one category within the community to be labeled officially by a caste designation. 10. According to Galanter (1984: 319), ‘a large but unknown number [of Mahars in Maharashtra] have refrained from or concealed conversion in order to remain eligible for the preferences they enjoyed as Scheduled Castes’. 11. A similar observation with reference to the Scheduled Caste converts to Christianity has been made by a Gujarati respondent of Isaacs (1974: 172): ‘When they have to approach any official bureau for anything, they say they are Scheduled Caste. But if you approach them privately, they will tell you they are Christian.’ 12. Parry (1970: 98) has identified a similar dilemma with reference to the Kolis of the Kangra Valley for whom the choice is between being converts who reject the caste hierarchy and along with it the benefits of Scheduled Caste status, or of acknowledging themselves as untouchable Hindus and making use of protective discrimination. They have, as it were, ‘one foot on either side of the so called “barrier of pollution”’. 13. As early as 1955, ‘The Indian Converts (Regulation and Registration) Bill’ had been introduced in the Lok Sabha, and after the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru opposed it, it was rejected. In December 1978, O.P. Tyagi, a member of Parliament belonging to the then ruling Janata Party had moved a private bill called ‘Freedom of Religion Bill’, which sought to ban religious conversion by the use of force or inducement or by fraudulent means. Though the then Prime Minister Morarji Desai defended the bill, it was not taken up because of the resignation of the Janata Party government. However, the Congress governments of Orissa and Madhya Pradesh had as early as 1968–69 passed Freedom of Religion Acts which were upheld by the Supreme Court in 1981. In 1978, the government of Arunachal Pradesh also enacted a law which was very stringent about conversions. The demands for a ban on conversions were also made in the wake of the mass conversion to Islam in Meenakshipuram village in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu in February 1981 (hereafter referred to as Meenakshipuram conversions) (see Mathew 1989: 296–98). 14. The Meenakshipuram conversions resulted in a ‘caste war’ (Mathew 1989: 284–85). 15. This figure is contested, and Tamil Nadu government sources put the number of converts at 558. 16. In fact, one definite fallout of the Meenakshipuram conversions has been ‘the politicization of religion’ (see Mathew 1989).


REFERENCES Ahmad, I. 1973. Caste and Social Stratification among Muslims in India. New Delhi: Manohar. Alexander, K.C. 1972. ‘The Neo-Christians of Kerala’ in J.M. Mahar (ed.), The Untouchables in Contemporary India, pp. 153–61. Tucson, Arizona: The Arizona University Press. Ambedkar, B.R. 1946. Who were the Shudras? Bombay: Thackers. ———. 1948. The Untouchables. New Delhi: Amrit Book Co. Arakeri, S.S. 1965. ‘The Burning Problem of Buddhists’ in Dharma Chakra Pravartan (Buddhist Souvenir). Hyderabad: The Buddhist Society of India. Breman, J. 1974. Patronage and Exploitation. Berkeley: University of California Press. Caplan, L. 1987. Class and Culture in Urban India. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Cohn, B.S. 1975. ‘Changing Traditions of a Low Caste’ in M. Singer (ed.), Traditional India, pp. 207–15. Jaipur: Rawat. Dumont, L. 1970. Homo Hierarchicus. Delhi: Vikas. Frykenberg. R.E. 1976. ‘The Impact of Conversion and Social Reform upon Society in South India during the Late Company Period: Questions Concerning Hindu-Christian Encounters with Special Reference to Tinnevelly’ in C.H. Philips and M.D. Wainwright (eds), Indian Society and the Beginnings of Modernization c. 1830–1850. London: School of Oriental and African Studies. Fuller, C.J. 1976. ‘Kerala Christians and the Caste System’, Man 11(1): 53–70. Galanter, M. 1984. Competing Equalities. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. ———. 1989. Law and Society in Modern India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Ghurye, G.S. 1969. Caste and Race in India. Bombay: Popular Prakashan (5th edition). Ghokhale, J.B. 1986. ‘The Sociological Effects of Ideological Change: The Buddhist Conversion of Maharashtrian Untouchables’, Journal of Asian Studies 45(2): 269–92. Gough, E.K. 1974. ‘Indian Peasant Uprisings’, Economic and Political Weekly (Special Number), August: 1391–412. Isaacs, H.R. 1974. India’s Ex-Untouchables. New York: Harper and Row. Japhet, S. 1986–87. Christian Dalits: A Sociological Study of Post-Conversion Experience. Unpublished M.Phil. thesis in Sociology, Bangalore University. Jayaram, N. 1981. ‘Fresh Look at the Harijan Question’, Mainstream 19(38): 10–14. Keer, D. 1954. Dr. Ambedkar: Life and Mission. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. Klass, M. 1980. Caste. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Institute for the Study of Human Issues. Kolenda, P. 1978. Caste in Contemporary India. Menlo Park, California: The Benjamin/ Cummings. Luke, P.Y. and J.B. Carmen. 1968. Village Christians and Hindu Culture. London: Butterworth. Lynch, O.M. 1972. ‘Dr. Ambedkar: Myth and Charisma’ in J.M. Mahar (ed.), The Untouchables in Contemporary India, pp. 97–112. Tucson, Arizona: The Arizona University Press. ———. 1974. The Politics of Untouchability. Delhi: National. Mahar, J.M. 1972. ‘Agents of Dharma in a North Indian Village’ in J.M. Mahar (ed.), The Untouchables in Contemporary India, pp. 17–35. Tucson, Arizona: The Arizona University Press. Mandelbaum, D.G. 1972. Society in India. Bombay: Popular Prakashan.


Mathew, G. 1989. ‘Politicization of Religion: Conversions to Islam in Tamil Nadu’ in Shakir (ed.), Religion, State and Politics in India, pp. 271–306. Delhi: Ajanta. Miller, D.B. 1975. From Hierarchy to Stratification. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Neale, W.C. 1972. ‘The Marginal Laborer and the Harijan in Rural India’ in J.M. Mahar (ed.), The Untouchables in Contemporary India, pp. 57–66. Tucson, Arizona: The Arizona University Press. Omvedt, G. 1980. ‘Who Should Dalits Ally With?’, Economic and Political Weekly 15(32): 1347–50. Parry, J.P. 1970. ‘The Koli Dilemma’, Contributions to Indian Sociology 4: 84–104. Rodrigues, V. 1989. ‘Religion as an Ideological Apparatus: The Role of the Catholic Church in Dakshina Kannada’ in M. Shakir (ed.), Religion, State and Politics in India, pp. 249–70. Delhi: Ajanta. Shetty, V.T.R. 1980. Ambedkar and His Conversion: A Critique. Bangalore: Dalit Action Committee. Srinivas, M.N. 1972. Social Change in Modern India. New Delhi: Orient Longman. Srinivasan, R. 1989. ‘Minorities and Communal Politics in Tamil Nadu’ in M. Shakir (ed.), Religion, State and Politics in India, pp. 103–23. Delhi: Ajanta. Wiebe, P. and S.J. Peter. 1977. ‘The Catholic Church and Caste in Rural Tamil Nadu’ in H. Singh (ed.), Caste among Non-Hindus in India, pp. 37–47. New Delhi: National. Wilkinson, T.S. and M.N. Thomas. 1972. Ambedkar and the Neo-Buddhist Movement. Madras: The Christian Literature Society. Zelliot, E. 1966. ‘Buddhism and Politics in Maharashtra’ in D.E. Smith (ed.), South Asian Politics and Religion, pp. 191–212. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ———. 1977. ‘The Psychological Dimension of the Buddhist Movement in India’ in G.A. Oddie (ed.), Religion in South Asia, pp. 119–44. New Delhi: Manohar.






In the wake of decolonization, the newly liberated states of Pakistan and Bangladesh faced a precarious situation. While most of the colonies, owing to a variety of historical factors, had retained their ‘multi-national’ character, the accepted maxim in the West on which they aspired to model their polity was ‘one nation-one state’. Following the collapse of the monarchy and with it divinity as the sole legitimizer of authority, cultural homogeneity or the isomorphism between state and society became the bedrock on which the sustenance of the former was believed to be guaranteed. Hence, the term nation-state came into vogue despite the fact that the ‘nation-state was only an aspiration’, which could never be ‘realized even in Western Europe’ (Oommen 1997: 136). While the ‘nation’ was a cultural concept, the state was an embodiment of rationalpolitical institutions.1 And behind this thin veneer was hidden the project of drawing the people’s sentiments to the state so as to ensure their loyalties—lone and terminal. The narrative of the triumph of the West European ‘nation-states’— colonization and industrialization—was quite enticing for the decolonized *Originally published in the Sociological Bulletin, vol. 48, nos 1 and 2, 1999, pp. 175–99.

and peripheral states in the non-Western world. The Western model offered them a state for their nascent ‘nationalism’, an idea they had already imbibed during their struggle for independence. It promised political coherence for the polyglot states, only if they could transcend traditional group loyalties in favour of an abstract sense of community called the nation. The received model sought to reconcile the centrifugal pulls of ethnic and primordial collectivities by instilling an idea of nationhood. Where the nation and the state were not coterminous, the push was towards constructing such coterminality. In other words ‘project homogenization’, a term Oommen uses quite pejoratively, was unleashed through a state-patronized and sponsored nationalism (1997: 135–37). For many, enthused by the Deutschian thesis of social mobilization, this could most impressively be achieved through a solvent like modernization. But as Sheth points out, ‘the politics of social mobilization, instead of being shaped by the state’s modernizing project proceeds from the existing relationships of power within the society’ (1989: 626). This only strengthened the domination of the numerically dominant and politically entrenched over the structures of power. In their effort to create an appropriate phantasmagoria, the cultural moorings of the ‘nation’ came to be defined in terms of the symbols and ethos of the dominant group, this led to the ‘ethnification’ of the weak and marginal national and ethnic groups. Pakistan, comprising the territories of erstwhile British India, had on its shoulder the claim of separate nationhood by the Muslims of the subcontinent. The Muslim homeland itself underwent ruptures as its eastern half, catapulting on a linguistic nationalism, shunned all its association with a religion-defined ‘national identity’. Despite a near-religious homogeneity in Pakistan, and a linguistic unity in Bangladesh, both the South Asian states have had a turbulent exercise in ‘nation-building’. If religion in Pakistan has failed to subsume various bases of peoples’ identification, language in Bangladesh has created its own insiders and outsiders. A pertinent question that troubles social cognition then is, how should nation be conceived and comprehended? Our effort in the following pages would be guided towards bringing forth the state’s agenda of ‘nation-building’ and its cultural-ideological proclivities in the particular context of Pakistan and Bangladesh. In contraposition to the state-defined national agenda, the endeavour shall also be towards explicating the alternative notions of nation and its attributes, which shall go a long way in interrogating the state-defined categories.


PAKISTAN: THE STATE AND ITS IDEOLOGY As the theory of ‘two-nations’ culminated in the creation of the sovereign Muslim state, the same became the ideology in the nascent state for the purpose of legitimizing political authority. ‘Muslim nationalism’, the raison d’être of Pakistan, was defined abhorring territorial nationalism, an antithesis of the ‘universal community of faith’ idealized in the sacred texts. The notion of an all-encompassing ‘Indian nation’, embracing the entirety of the peoples and territories comprising British India was repudiated. The ‘Muslim nationalists’, perceiving the threat of an imminent Hindu hegemony, popularized the notion of a distinct Muslim personality— universalistic in orientation and indistinguishable despite cultural, linguistic or territorial ties with those outside the faith. Iqbal, to whom is owed the ideological foundations of ‘Muslim nationalism’, while presenting the Indian Muslim personality specifically governed by Islamic ideals, was actually contesting the West and its exhortation of the binary opposition between the spiritual and the temporal. It was for this reason that Iqbal was derisive of ‘western nationalism’ for it prioritized people’s loyalty to their fatherland over and above all other identifications. It is not the unity of language or country or the identity of economic interests that constitutes the basic principles of our nationality. It is because we all believe in a certain view of the universe ... that we are members of the society founded by the Prophet of Islam. Islam abhors all material limitations, and bases its nationality on a purely abstract idea objectified in a potentially expansive group of concrete personalities .... In its essence it is non-temporal, non-spatial (cited in Syed 1979: 80–81). Yet in its application to the political context, the ideological or spiritual nationhood of Iqbal was concretely linked to the claim over a separate homeland. And Jinnah, in his presidential address to the Lahore session of the League (1940), put it succinctly: ‘Mussalmans are a nation ... and they must have their homeland, their territory and their state’ (1960: 57). Pakistan as it emerged post-Partition was a state sui generis. The people inhabiting the newly carved out territories belonged to multiple speech communities and, ensconced in their respective customs and traditions, were even living in geographically non-contiguous territories. RELIGION, LANGUAGE







Pakistan had for its frontiers two isolated regions, situated at the far corners of the subcontinent with an intervening stretch of almost 1,500 km of Indian territory. In terms of its ethnic or national composition, it had Bengalis, comprising the bulk of the eastern wing, with Punjabis, Sindhis, Pashtuns and Baluchs placed in its western part. In retrospect, the demand for Pakistan was raised on behalf of the Indian Muslims in their entirety. Yet the creation of Pakistan foreclosed any neat equation between the demand and the reality. Well after Partition, millions of Hindus still lived in Pakistan and the 1951 census recorded their numbers at as high as around 14 per cent, with the largest chunk residing in East Pakistan (Gankovsky and Polanskaya 1964: 97). It was not that the architects of Pakistan missed the reality. The dilemmas that confronted the new state were delineated in an article written by a successive president of Pakistan: [Pakistan nationalism was] based more on an idea than any territorial definition. Till then ideologically we were Muslims, territorially we happened to be Indians and parochially we were a conglomeration of at least eleven smaller provincial loyalties. But then Pakistan emerged as a reality, (we) were faced with the task of transforming all our traditional territorial and political loyalties into one great loyalty for the new state of Pakistan (Ayub Khan, cited in Wilcox 1969: 347). The decades following the establishment of Pakistan were marked by intense debates within the intelligentsia and amongst the political actors, so as to find a viable basis for the consolidation of the state and its people. Discerning the tension inherent in Pakistan’s geographical and ideological frontiers, the pragmatist in Jinnah did a volte face invoking secularism and common citizenship rights as principles guiding state policy: You are free: you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed—that has nothing to do with the business of the state (Jinnah n.d.: 8–9). Notwithstanding the founder’s inclination for a secular polity, conflicting views came to the fore once the incipient state undertook the task of drafting its future constitution. The initial controversy began on the 278 TANVEER FAZAL

question of Islam’s centrality, reminiscent of the old tension between the traditionalists and the modernists. Interestingly, barring a few secularists, the majority of the political leadership of the new state agreed that the morals and traditions of Islam should find some reflection in its laws and institutions. This consensus, however, faced a crisis once Islam’s relationship with the modern state and its institutions came to be put in practice. The traditionalists, including the fundamentalists, negated any role to the ‘human will’ or ‘human legislation’ in favour of the discretion of the divine. The ‘supreme sovereignty’, it was held, rested in God alone; the ‘state’ could at most, ‘administer the country as His agent’ (Maududi, cited in Binder 1961: 102–3). The modernist version, on the other hand, was an apologist one, which stood for an ideal balance between divine restrictions and human freedom. In the final analysis, none emerged victorious. The objective resolution incorporating the principle on which the future constitution was to be fashioned, was in effect a compromise accommodating both the contentions. It accepted the traditionalist position that the ‘sovereignty over the entire universe belongs to God Almighty alone, and the authority which He has delegated to the state of Pakistan through its people for being exercised within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust’. But in its assurance that ‘the principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice, as enunciated by Islam shall be fully observed’, the resolution also contained the modernist underpinnings (reproduced in Ahmad 1991: 219). The ambiguous wording of the resolution has remained a bone of contention down to the present day, thereby subjecting the Constitution to a continuous process of re-writing. Issues of national identification continued to sharpen diversities of opinion in Pakistan. Linked to different worldviews they impinged on different modes of conceptualizing the nation and its cognates. In a survey conducted in the late 1960s, Nasim Javed categorizes his respondents under three heads: the ‘Islamic nationalist’, solely or prevalently identified with the confessional faith which was seen as the only real collective bond of the Muslims of Pakistan and elsewhere; diametrically opposed to them were the ‘secular nationalists’; occupying the middle ground were ‘Pak-Islamists’ who reconciled the competing identities of ‘territory’ and religion (Javed 1974: 19–25). It was the latter formulation around which the Pakistani national identity came to be grounded. Consequently, Islam acquired the centrality that alone could fortify the state, at the same time making the nation an ineluctable part of the millat (religious community). As a prominent Pakistani politician argued, ‘The spirit of Pakistan RELIGION, LANGUAGE







is Islam or if you prefer it, Muslim. That spirit has to be preserved. You can only cherish and safeguard it if … vehicles for the operation of the millat within the qaum (nation) are afforded and preserved’ (cited in Wilcox 1969: 347). The ‘official nationalism’ attempted to fix and objectify an essentialized sense of ‘Muslim identity’. The ideology of the state found its most ardent advocates in Punjabis who enjoyed monopoly over structures of state power, so much so that the Punjabi identity fused into the identity of Pakistan. In this hegemonic project the Muhajirs2 joined as junior partners. Being a people uprooted from their native land, the theory of Muslim nationhood could alone provide the rationale for their continued existence in the new state. While the Muhajirs filled the bureaucracy along with the Punjabis, the Punjabi domination in the military—a colonial legacy— remained unperturbed. Approximately 80 per cent of the army and 55 per cent of the federal bureaucracy were from the Punjab. The Muhajirs— 3.5 per cent of the population—had a share of 21 per cent in the Pakistan Civil Services (Samad 1995: 28). Power, as inhered in the state, came to be monopolized between these two ethnic groups resulting in a highly centralized structure. It manifested itself through the domination of a military-bureaucratic oligarchy over the civilian-political authority. Their domination in the field of culture was most evident when Urdu, historically the language of the Muslim nobility and in Pakistan synonymous with Muhajir culture, was chosen to become the language of the state. Given the diversities in the linguistic and cultural association of the inhabitants, Urdu alone, it was believed, could realize a ‘monolithic nation’. Notably, merely 2.4 million inhabitants spoke Urdu, yet the rationale was the rhetoric of Islam. As the state’s first governor-general sought to emphasize: The state language, therefore, must obviously be Urdu, a language that has been nurtured by a hundred million Muslims of the subcontinent, a language … which, more than any other provincial language, embodies the best that is in Islamic culture and Muslim tradition and is nearest to the language used in other Islamic countries (Jinnah n.d.: 90). Interestingly, those arguing for the pre-eminence of a supra-national Islamic identity argued in favour of Arabic, for it was the ‘language of


Islam’ which alone could bring in ‘lingual unification of Muslims’ as an ‘integral part of their overall unification’ (Matin 1954). The triumphalist approach, while essentializing Islam as the sole determinant of a Muslim’s predilections, simultaneously projected and reified a monolingual Islam. Scriptural Islam was idealized at the cost of other social practices. President Ayub Khan’s observations on Bengali Muslims’ cultural practices smacks of such contempt: ‘East Bengalis, who constitute the bulk of the population, probably belong to the very original Indian races … they have been and still are under considerable Hindu cultural and linguistic influence. As such they have all the inhibitions of downtrodden races’ (1967: 187). The ideology of the state was de facto a hegemonic project—an universal ideological enterprise that could conceal class and ethnic conflict. A. Gramsci, clarifying the concept of hegemony had noted, the supremacy of a social group manifests itself in two ways, as ‘domination’ and as ‘intellectual and moral leadership’. While domination is actualized through the coercive machinery of the state, the hegemony of ideas is objectified in and mainly exercised through civil society, the ensemble of educational, religious and associated institutions (1973: 242, 259–65).3 The statealigned intellectual activity, through school textbooks and historical projects, have particularly concentrated on moulding cognitive structures.4 Consequently, history is the biggest casualty as attempts are made to situate the yearning for Muslim nationhood in the medieval past. A Radio Pakistan broadcast thus declared: The foundations of Pakistan were laid with the arrival of the first Muslim in the subcontinent. Pakistan has at its back the historical heritage of a thousand years. The strength of Pakistan lies in the political, cultural and religious supremacy of the Muslims .... The people of Pakistan are firm in their belief in Islamic principles (cited in Nayyar 1972: 147). Islam, in this sense, came to be deployed as an ideological apparatus so as to legitimize political authority. For the ruling clique, a flirtation with the idea of the Islamic state remained, primarily, an effort to superimpose an essential ‘Muslimness’ on its populace. This alone, it came to be believed, could sustain the Pakistani nation.






CONTESTING HEGEMONY: RISE OF BENGALI NATIONALISM The ambiguously conceived ‘Muslim nationalism’ lost its contextual significance no sooner was the new state established. Whereas the Muslims in British India carried with themselves myriad layers of identifications— religious, linguistic, class—each historically contingent, it was a misconception on the part of the ideologues of Pakistan to assume a perpetually stable ‘religious identity’. At the height of ‘Muslim nationalism’ the other bases of association had merged or were temporarily suspended so as to absolutize an overwhelming ‘Muslimness’ in their identity. This interface between religion and politics was not to remain the same in an obverse socio-political context. This was augmented by the Punjabi-Muhajir détente and its consequent concentration of power and essentialization of culture. The severest jolt to the state’s ideological enterprise was the emergence of nationality movements, particularly Bengali, where the nation came to be conjured on the edifice of cultural-specificity, linguistic identity and a claim over the ethnically associated homeland. In the case of the Bengali Muslims it marked a significant departure, as prior to Partition a large majority of them had been active campaigners in the League’s acceptance of Islam as the sole definer of their personality. With the rise of a vernacular-oriented non-ashraf (noble by birth) intelligentsia, a new search for an identity had begun. This shift had shown strong undercurrents as early as in 1955, when Mujibur Rahman, in a speech in the Constituent Assembly, gave vent to this anxiety: Sir you will see that they want to place the word ‘East Pakistan’ instead of ‘East Bengal’. We have demanded so many times that you should make it Bengal (Pakistan). The word ‘Bengal’ has a history, has a tradition of its own. You can change it only after the people have been consulted (Seminar, June 1971: 24). With their roots in the eclectic culture of Bengal, the emerging intelligentsia came out against the hegemonic language of the state, as against the idiom of Islam invoked in favour of the imposition of Urdu. The language movement, which shaped the formative phase of Bangla nationalism, questioned its validity: ‘We refuse to believe that any language under heaven can be Islamic or Christian or Heathen’ (cited in Murshid 1995: 303). Spearheaded by the students and the intelligentsia, the movement 282 TANVEER FAZAL

demanded parity of Bangla with that of Urdu as the language of the state. Though the demand was conceded, the fervour that it had generated refused to die down. The contest, however, was not confined to the arena of culture alone. Besides their subjective association with the Bangla language and culture, Bengali nationalism contained actual material ramifications for the Bengali speech community. While questioning the pre-eminence that Urdu enjoyed, they were in effect struggling against the closure of power and opportunity that such a measure would have invariably brought (Phadnis 1989: 168). In the context of the highly centralized garrison-state structure of Pakistan, Bengali protagonists questioned internal colonialism, dominant-subordinate relationship and inequity in the distribution of power within the society. Following Hechter, who sees ‘internal colonialism’5 as a situation in which ‘the core’ seeks ‘to dominate the periphery politically and to exploit it materially’ (1975: 9); the eastern wing could well qualify as a periphery colonized by the western wing. Though the imbalance between the two wings was a legacy inherited by the Pakistani state, the new regime could do little to set it right. Despite being a numerical majority (56 per cent) Bengali representation in the military elite remained a miniscule 5 per cent whereas they could form only 30 per cent of the civil-bureaucratic elite (Jahan 1972: 24–26). Mujib’s six-point demand named Amader bachar dabi (Our Right to Live), therefore, concentrated on measures such as regional autonomy, land reform, nationalization of industries, to correct the unevenness embedded in Pakistani social and political structures. Centred on language, Bangla nationalism inevitably came into conflict with the religion-specific Muslim/Pakistani identity. Until the mid-1960s, as a survey concludes, Bengali Muslims faced no fundamental conflict in their identification as Bengalis and simultaneously as Pakistanis (Schuman 1973). This tension between the pulls of religion and language is evident in the reflections of Abul Mansur Ahmad, a prominent politician of Pakistan. Contrary to the single-symbol thrust in Bengali nationalism, he laid stress on multi-symbol congruence—language and religion—in determining their national identity. His enthusiasm for Bengali had a strange slant—he favoured Pak-Bangla, with heavy doses of Persian, to serve as the distinct language of Bengal Muslims (Murshid 1995: 295). This ambiguity dissipated as Bengali discontent culminated in massBengali nationalism leading to the emergence of Bangladesh in 1971. ‘Bengali’ acquired a secular connotation emphasizing the cultural dimension of identity. ‘Pakistani’, on the other hand, implied a continuing RELIGION, LANGUAGE







belief in the oppressive two-nation theory and in giving primacy to religion, subsuming all other identities. The works of NazruI Islam and Rabindra Nath Tagore came to be celebrated. And in place of ‘Pakistan Zinadabad’, ‘Jai Bangla’ became the nationalist outcry (Phadnis 1989: 169).

POST-1971 QUEST FOR IDENTITY IN PAKISTAN The secession of the eastern wing had truncated Pakistan of a sizeable territory and reduced its population to more than half its size. More so, the ‘new Pakistan’ that had remained was hardly an ethnically coherent formation. The insurmountable loss, however, was to the ideological edifice on which national identity was conceived. The Muslimness of their identity, which many among them, for so long, had zealously guarded, lay shattered in history. ‘The two-nation theory, formulated in the middle class living rooms of Uttar Pradesh, was buried in the Bengali countryside’ (Ali 1983: 96). An event set forth to a gradual realization, as we shall see in the following pages, of bases of association, other than that informed by their religion. The situation purported to what Gramsci had called, the ‘crisis of hegemony’, meaning whereby ‘the ruling class has lost its consensus ...i.e., ... the great masses have become detached from their traditional ideologies, and no longer believe what they used to believe previously)’ (1973: 275–76). Consequently, post-dismemberment Pakistan was ‘witness to a quest for ideological coherence and a ‘national identity’ which could fuse the contending trends. The crisis, as many began to feel, could only be averted by a renewed commitment to Islam, the cornerstone of Pakistan. Pakistan of post-I971, was witness to a fervour in favour of Islamic idiom and symbols (Richter 1979). The group of leading Pakistani historians who had met in Islamabad to explore the ‘quest for identity’ arrived at the same conclusion: ... the wish to see the kingdom of God established in a Muslim territory ... was the moving idea behind the demand for Pakistan, the cornerstone of the movement, the ideology of the people, and the raison d’être of the new nation-state …. If we let go the ideology of Islam, we cannot hold together as a nation by any other means .… If the Arabs, the Turks, the Iranians, God forbid, give up Islam, the


Arabs yet remain Arabs, the Turks remain Turks, the Iranians remain Iranians, but what do we remain if we give up Islam? (ibid.: 549). Subsequently, Islam retained the pre-eminence in the state-defined ‘national identity’. Ironically, what could have provided a basis to realize the futility of deploying religious symbols, instead came to be interpreted as implying that a digression from Islamic ideals and principles had been instrumental in bringing Pakistan to such a pass. Islam, we would argue, again acquired the status of ideology that, for the statists, could alone provide legitimate authority. This functional attribute of Islam was handy for both the regimes with modernist orientations as well as those with avowed commitment to the Islamic state. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the leader of Pakistan People’s Party that had swept the polls in West Pakistan in the 1970 elections, had his political discourse anchored in socialism, decentralization and restoration of democracy. While analysing the political developments leading to the cataclysmic events in the eastern wing, Bhutto had remained steadfast in his ideas blaming overarching centralization and ‘cold blooded exploitation’ of the people: ‘The tragedy of Pakistan lies in the fact, that ... [it] has been a federation in name only .... The spirit of federalism and the rules of coexistence were sacrificed at the altar of ambition. In the name of “strong centres” the powers of the provinces were weakened to the point of being extinguished’ (Syed 1992: 18). Despite his modernist inclinations, Bhutto continued to make liberal usage of Islamic idioms to draw a popular base for his political goals. Islamic socialism, the thrust in his political vocabulary was a curious admixture of Islam with populist slogans of roti, kapda aur makan. With his ascendance to power, the dissonance between theory and practice became explicit. As disillusionment with his populist rhetoric aggravated, he increasingly reverted to Islam. Islamization of the state and society became a professed aim as Zia-ulHaq staged a successful coup d’etat. The theory of two nations, the fulcrum on which Pakistan was realized, now needed to be coterminous with a theocratic state—an issue successfully avoided by the previous regimes. ‘Pakistan’, as Zia held, ‘was created in the name of Islam’ and would continue to survive only if it sticks to Islam’ (Richter 1979: 555). The unprecedented Islamization that followed to establish the ideal Nizam-i-Mustafa (the ideal governance delineated by the Prophet), was all encompassing,








covering the totality of Pakistani life. As Pakistan proceeded to become a confessional state, nationhood came to be defined in terms of religious affiliations. All other cultural or ethnic ties had to be surrendered in favour of Islam, and thereof, to the State, failing which, disintegration would be the fait accompli. Zia tried to make this point by drawing an analogy from the Zionist state, Israel: Other than Israel, Pakistan is the only state created on religious grounds. We were created on the basis of Islam. Look at Israel: its religion and its ideology are the main sources of its strength. We in Pakistan have lost sight of the importance of these things. And without them you’re like straw being thrown about in the ocean. You’re a Sindhi, a Baluch, a Punjabi, a Pathan. Pakistan’s binding force has always been Islam. Without it Pakistan would fall (cited in Wilder 1995: 67). Consistent with this, Arabic, claimed as the language of the ummah (community of believers) by the Islamists, became obligatory along with Koranic and Islamic studies. Laws were enacted making jurisprudence consistent with the Shariah (Islamic law). The enforcement of zakat, ushr and riba— traditional Islamic taxation and trading norms—sought to make the Islamization of human behaviour complete. Notwithstanding the fact that the inconsistency of such an ideological offensive strikes the modern mind, the Islam which the state and its hegemonic apparatus sought to project suffered from contradictions from within the Islamic discourse. The ‘scriptural Islam’ of the state either remained oblivious to other trends or such trends were declared antithetical to Islamic observances—the Ahmediyas providing the glaring instance.6 In such a construction of national identity, the non-Muslims were definitely not to find a place, as was attempted through the system of separate electorates. The minorities have instead argued for a composite Pakistani nationhood based on their equal claim to the homeland. As one Pakistani Christian laments, ‘Is Pakistan not a nation?—Then why separate electorates? .... We do not consider ourselves to be a separate people from Pakistanis just because of religion?’ (cited in Richter 1982: 147).


THE CRITICALITY OF LANGUAGE AND TERRITORY IN PAKISTAN Sociological insights in the study of nations, their formation and political articulation confirm the criticality of both language and territory as their objective foundations. Since nations are essentially cultural concepts, language is seen as the nucleus of culture. The speakers of the same language develop an immense common bond and with such an attachment they go back to a ‘common store of social memories’. Joshua Fishman has expressed this view strongly: ‘... the essence of nationality is its spirit, its individuality, its soul. This soul is not only ref1ected and protected by the mother tongue but, in a sense, the mother tongue is itself an aspect of the soul, a part of the soul made manifest’ (cited in Karna 1998). Moreover, for the nation to articulate and express itself, it has to be residing in a common territory often claimed as its ancestral homeland. The crucial significance of territory is illustrated by the fact that the ‘loss of homeland invariably results in the loss of one’s mother tongue’ (Oommen 1997: 194). Both language and its association with a distinct homeland gained salience as different ethnic groups—the Sindhis, the Pashtuns, the Baluchs and more recently, even the Muhajirs—came to contest the state-defined national identity. The defection of the Bengalis, rather than containing, exacerbated the ethnic tensions in Pakistan. And part of the reason, as we would argue, was the underestimation on the part of the ruling élite of the ‘festering contradiction that lay beneath the surface of Pakistan’s political structures’ (Ali 1983: 112). Despite the centrality of Islam in the official enterprise to provide ideological foundations for the state, the assertion of these units as nations-in-themselves contests the ‘theory of two-nations’. Wali Khan, the doyen of Pashtun nationalism, articulating the tangible markers of Pashtuns’ cultural distinctiveness, discounted any attempt to subsume them within the overarching identity of ‘Muslimness’. On being asked whether he was ‘a Muslim, a Pakistani, or a Pashtun first’, he emphasized that he was a ‘six-thousand-year-old Pashtun, a thousand-year-old Muslim and a-27-year-old Pakistani’ (cited in Harrison 1987: 285). The ‘ethno-nationalists’ have remained resilient to any effort at subsumption in any larger collectivity. With their cultural affiliations anchored








in language and territory, their narratives refute any validity to the statedefined categories. Pakistan, Islam, Urdu and Punjab are seen enmeshed in each other and designed to obliterate their cultural specificities. This invariably leads to derision of the deterministic role of religion. G.M. Syed, the ‘grand old man of Sindhi Nationalism’ was candid in putting forth his views: Sindh has always been there, Pakistan is a passing show. Sindh is a fact, Pakistan is a fiction. Sindhis are a nation, but Muslims are not a nation. Sindhi language is 2000 years old, Urdu is only 250 years old. Sindhi has 52 letters, Urdu has only 26. The enslavement of Sindh by the Punjab in the name of ‘Pakistan’ and ‘Islam’ is a fraud .... The Sindhis have long been fooled in the name of Islam (reproduced in Malkani 1984 : 134 ). Pakistan is not seen as a ‘nation’ but, with a subtle inflection of meaning it is transmuted into a ‘state’ or a ‘country’. The territories of Pakistan, therefore, are the abodes of multiple nations some of which, particularly the Pashtuns, retain extra-territorial ties with their co-nationals in neighbouring states. The duality in their identity and subsequently their loyalty is sought to be reconciled, by ethno-nationalists by demanding recognition of this multiplicity by the state. The Pakistan National Party, (PNP) and its leader Ghaus Baksh Bizenjo, have been propagating the theory of four nationalities, that is, the Sindhi, Punjabi, Baluchi and Pashtun, each situated in their national homelands, should form a federation of Pakistan, which would ensure iron-cast guarantees against the violation and usurpation of the rights of federating nationalities (Bahadur 1986: 141 ). Seemingly accommodative, the theory of four nationalities suffers from its own inadequacy, particularly on the question of Muhajirs. In the emerging ethnic situation and reformulation of national identity, the Muhajirs as an ethnic category provide by far the most adequate illustration for sociological cognition. In the inceptual phase of Pakistan, the Muhajirs along with the Punjabis came to monopolize the structure of authority and decision making. Muhajir domination was most pronounced in the arena of culture, wherein, their inclination towards scriptural Islam and the language, Urdu, came to determine the ideological parameters of the state. So much so that, the two-nation theory and Islamic fundamentalism remained the dominant ideological-political current among the Urduspeakers. Post-Bangladesh, Muhajir political identity came to be redefined. With the rise of the Muhajir Qaumi Movement (MQM), Muhajirs have 288 TANVEER FAZAL

increasingly shunned their association with the broader Muslim-Pakistani identity in favour of a particularistic-ethnic identity. Claiming that the Muhajirs constitute the ‘fifth nationality’ of Pakistan, the MQM has increasingly dissociated itself from the two-nation theory. Those who have become flag-bearers and self styled champions of the Two Nation Theory do not even know its fundamentals. If believers in this theory were alive today 250,000 believers would not have been living a life of misery and deprivation in Bangladesh; the Indian Muslims would not have been paying a levy for creating Pakistan by living in at the mercy of Hindus; nor would believing Muhajirs have been worse than animals in Pakistan (MQM Document 1972: 1). Though the MQM ostensibly claims to retain a fledgling link with the theory of ‘Muslim nation’, the claim of separate national status by the Muhajirs effectively amounts to its repudiation by the very actors in whom the agency for its realization was restored. The reformulation of Muhajir identity was accompanied by two significant developments—each impinging on the former. One was the ‘relative deprivation’, as Farhat Haq has argued (1995: 991–93), in the Muhajir political and economic status, and the other the political repercussions that followed the Bangla secession. The upheaval that followed seriously questioned the validity of the two-nation theory, which had been the sole justification for the Muhajir’s presence in Pakistan. If even the pre-eminence to Islam had proved insufficient in holding Pakistan together, then what else would? The threat gathered strength with the rise of the Sindh national movement, and the Muhajirs were faced with the possibility of their extermination from the Sindh province (Ahmed 1988: 38). The course left to the Muhajirs was then the claim of a ‘national status’ in association with the territories which they inhabited. Significantly, in the contending ethnic scenario in Pakistan, Punjabis remain the only national group that has not claimed cultural distinctiveness. Even more striking is the fact that while Muhajirs in the preBangladesh phase of Pakistani politics found no fundamental dissociation between their self-identity and that of the state-defined national identity, the same came into conflict in the later phase. This invariably brings us to our larger concern, the interface between power and culture and the situational compulsions in which ethnic nationalisms increasingly adopt a distinctive path. RELIGION, LANGUAGE





Power as defined by Weber is ‘the chance of a man or a number of men to realize their own will in a social action even against the resistance of others who are participating in the action’ (Weber 1978: 26). Though power is ubiquitous and manifests itself in different interactive situations between groups and individuals, our reference here is to the location of power within the state and its institutions. In Pakistan, Punjabi domination through a military-bureaucratic oligarchy, the ruling clique, has fused Punjabi interest with the interest of the state. This is to the extent that in the eyes of the marginal nations, ‘Pakistan has become Punjabistan’ (G.M. Syed, cited in Malkani 1984: 31 ). It is then a group’s proximity to power that determines its political trajectory. Exclusion results in the politicization of identity. Muhajirs provide the most apt illustration of groups whose earlier association with the State made them the most vociferous campaigners of Pakistan’s ideology. Their exclusion, thereof, has led to identity-based mobilization. It is this disjuncture between culture and power that has led the Sindhis, the Baluchs and the Pashtuns to assert their distinctiveness demanding the distribution of power over cultures.

THE ‘OTHER’ IN THE PAKISTANI DISCOURSE With the vivisection of the slate, considerable engagement of sociologists and social scientists has been directed towards comprehending the ethnic mosaic in Pakistan, its social composition and political implications. While the multi-ethnic and multi-national composition has been explicated, in retrospect, they have also bemoaned the lack of a unified Pakistani nation owing to the ‘shallow roots of the Pakistan Movement’ and the absence of a ‘sense of a shared national culture and symbols and long historical memory that binds people into a nation’ (Alavi 1991: 153). Stretching this argument, some such as Tariq Ali have seen it as an ‘irrationality’ whose ‘interior was diseased from birth’, thus suggesting an eventual dismemberment of the state (1983: 145). Almost three decades since the Bangla-breakaway, Pakistan as a polity survives. An upsurge in nationality movements notwithstanding, the state in Pakistan has resisted any Balkanization. It is not that the state has been able to politically contain the festering contradictions leading to the evolution of any monolith of opinion or identity of interests. For one, unlike the case of the Bengalis, the


different nations in Pakistan are territorially contiguous making secessionism a difficult possibility. Second, and much more significant is the extraneous source on which Pakistan’s integrity finds its foundations—the construction of an ‘external other’. For social groups, the awareness of the ‘other’, distinct from the self, invariably assumes the existence of an unambiguous collective self-identity. Where the other’ is nebulous, an effort is made to construct one (Oommen 1994). In Pakistani social and political discourse, therefore, India appears as the ‘external other’—vilified and demonized. The theory of ‘Muslim nationalism’ in British India had gained salience in the context of the fear of an imminent Hindu hegemony. The same, in relation to India and Pakistan, assumes geo-political dimensions, wherein India appears as the abode of a Hindu nation eternally at odds with Muslim Pakistan. Pakistan’s engagement in Kashmir, therefore, has significant ideological connotations, besides its strategic pertinence. Kashmir, for its Muslim majority and geographical contiguity with Pakistan, is viewed as an unfinished agenda of the ‘two-nation’ theory. Since ‘K’ in the acronym PAKISTAN stands for Kashmir, Pakistan is seen as incomplete without Kashmir having acceded to it (Varshney 1991: 999–1001). Illuminating the Pakistani common sense on Kashmir, Iftikhar Malik writes: Kashmir emphatically manifests a cross-sectional, inter-regional, ideological unanimity within Pakistan and is more than a territorial issue. The mass based revolt in the Kashmir Valley and the Indian atrocities are reminders to the Pakistanis that a growing Hinduised India is unable to reconcile to an assertive Muslim factor in South Asia politics. Kashmir, to all ordinary Pakistani, is ... a constant challenge to their nationhood. (Malik 1996: 5–6). By constantly engaging peoples’ priorities vis-à-vis Kashmir and thereof India, the aim is to define and solidify the ‘nation-state’ itself. For ordinary Pakistanis possessing layers of identities, their identification with the state or with their particular national/ethnic group usually operates in different contexts. An inclusive Pakistani identity gains pre-eminence when confronted with a ‘Hindu India’. When it concerns the allocation of resources, their particularistic association as a Punjabi, Sindhi, Baluchi or as a Pashtun asserts itself (Islam 1981: 69–70). Pakistan as a state partly draws its sustenance through a manipulation of the above identities.








BANGLADESH: COMPETING TRENDS OF LANGUAGE AND RELIGION In the course of their long-drawn liberation struggle, the Bengali nationalist identity came to be structured around a strong sense of association with the peculiarities of their language and culture. The ideological hegemony of the Pakistani state, built on Islam, was thus countered giving preeminence to ties supposedly un-Islamic. A secular state distancing itself from religion and a nationalism anchored in the Bangla language was, for the Bangobandhu Sheikh Mujib and his party—the Awami League—the logical corollary. The preamble to the new Constitution (1972) pledged on the ‘high ideals of nationalism, socialism, democracy and secularism’ and the national edifice of the new state was defined as: The unity and solidity of the Bangalee nation, which, deriving its identity from the language and culture, attained sovereign and independent Bangladesh through a united and determined struggle in the war of independence shall be the basis of Bangalee nationalism (Article 9). Consistent with it, the Constitution termed the citizens of Bangladesh ‘Bangalees’ and adopted Amar Sonar Bangla as the national anthem of the republic (Article 6&4 [1]). Since the rupture from the Pakistani state had to be complete, both, politically and ideologically, the secular Bangladesh state epitomized the rejection of all that the Muslim state had stood for—the separate electorates, two nation theory, and flirtation with the idea of a theological state. A secular polity, however, was not coterminous with promoting irreligiousness in the social and cultural moorings of the people. Aware of the religiosity of the people, Mujib himself felt the compulsion to reassure them against any misgivings regarding the principle: Secularism does not mean the absence of religion. You are a Mussalman, you perform your religious rites. There is no irreligiousness on the soil of Bangladesh but there is secularism. This sentence has a meaning and that meaning is that none would be allowed to exploit the people in the name of religion .... No communal politics will be allowed in the country. 292 TANVEER FAZAL

Seemingly accommodative, the ‘Bengalee nationalism’ of Mujib still suffered from serious lacunae. The Bangladesh that had emerged was far more homogeneous than its predecessor. An overwhelming majority (99 per cent) constituted the Bengali speech community of which nearly 86 per cent were the followers of Islam. The remaining, a miniscule one per cent who were not part of the Bengalee speech community, comprised the tribals inhabiting the hill tracts and the Biharis, the descendants of the Urdu-speaking immigrants (Phadnis 1989: 39). A religion-neutral Bangalee national identity would be able to include all the Bengalees irrespective of their religious beliefs but for the ethnic minorities, assimilation alone into the mainstream could guarantee their continued existence. Further, Bangalee nationalism suffered from its own contradictions. Historically, the popular form of Islam in Bengal had facilitated the growth of a peculiarly Bengali syncretist tradition. This, however, did not completely obliterate the Hindu-Muslim distinctions or lead to any fusion of identities. Murshid notes that up till the arrival of the British, the Bengalis were identified as Hindus and the Muslims as immigrants. This distance was maintained by giving a subtle variation in the Bangla language with Do-bhasha, containing dozens of Persian and Arabic words being particularly popular in the Muslim majority East Bengal (Murshid 1993). Besides, during their 20–25 year-long association with the Pakistani state, the Muslims of Bengal were subject to the indoctrination that being Muslims they were a nation-in-themselves. In their struggle against Pakistani hegemony, though they had shunned the primacy of Muslim identity, the sovereign Bangladesh still had groups and individuals who had found this hard to digest. The ‘Bangalee nationalism’ of Mujib was primarily contested by two social and political groupings, the thoughts of each emanating from their own life conditions. The ethnic minorities comprising a cluster of tribal groupings and inhabiting the Chittagong Hill Tracts had for long preserved their specific culture and tribal solidarity. In contrast to the overwhelming Muslimmajority in Bangladesh, the tribals were adherents of different religions— Buddhism, Christianity, animism and so on, and spoke a variety of Tibeto-Burmese languages. The ‘Bangalee nationalism’ espoused by the Bangladesh state wherein all the citizens were to be called Bengali, necessarily pre-supposed either the extermination of non-Bengalis or their submergence in the larger collectivity. Thus, the Chakma leader, Manabendra Narayan Larma, refused to be identified with the Bengali nation: ‘Under no definition or logic a Chakma can be a Bengalee or a Bengalee can be








a Chakma .... As citizens of Bangladesh we are all Bangladeshis but we also have a separate ethnic identity, which unfortunately the Awami League leaders do not want to understand’ (cited in Hussain 1986: 201). A refusal to submerge in the dominant nationality led to the extermination of Urdu-speaking ethnic groups, the Biharis, from the state. The Biharis, instead, have identified themselves with the ‘Pakistani’ state. With the Muhajirs in Pakistan still seen as alien by the local populace, the Biharis’ continued allegiance with Pakistan provides a strange case. A spokesman of the ‘stranded Pakistanis’ expressed this tension while speaking about their plight: ‘The plight of Pakistanis stranded in Bangladesh for more than 23 years presents a very strange situation .... We are refugees in Bangladesh and eat our heart out for our country which is Pakistan’ (Nasim Khan’s statement in Muslim India 1995: 45). The second category of political actors vehement in their denunciation of the ‘linguistic nationalism’ were if broadly termed, the traditionalists or ‘Islamic nationalists’. They consisted of the ulema and political formations such as the Jamaat-i-Islami, the Muslim League and others. Being the bearers of scriptural Islam, they regarded the importation of Bengali language and cultural observances as contrary to Islamic consciousness. Envisaging a pan-Islamic solidarity, they had remained scornful of the liberation-struggle, Some of them, such as the Jamaat-i-Islami of East Pakistan had actively collaborated with the Pakistan army against their co-nationals (Ahmad 1993: 501). A conscious decimation of the Islamic identity and adoption of secularism as state policy compelled the Islamic traditionalists, in the post-liberation phase, to launch a campaign for ‘Muslim Bengal’. Retaining a vague association with the original twonation theory, they argued for only Muslims in Bengal to be declared nationals. Quite oblivious to the verdict of history, they nursed the vision of a united Pakistan. Owing to the lack of organizational base and popular support, the ‘Muslim Bengal’ movement gradually dissipated. The secular oriented ‘Bangalee nationalism’ as it had evolved in the liberation struggle remained a strong ideological current among the Bengali populace particularly so in the inceptual phase. As Trevor Ling, writing as early as in 1972, observed: There is, in fact a greater community of interest between Muslims and Hindus than might be expected. The division between the two no longer corresponds with a difference in economic function. The real lines of cleavage, as recent events have demonstrated, are more between Bengali and non-Bengali than along religious communal 294 TANVEER FAZAL

lines .... There is thus likely to be a reasonable degree of convergence between the expectations of the leadership with regard to the new state, as secular, democratic and socialist, and, of the people ( 1972: 227). The above observation of Ling receives further confirmation through an empirical study of Nasim Javed, done in more or less the same period. The study, conducted among middle-class professionals, found greater incidence of those who described their nationality in terms of their country or ethnic group (60 per cent) over those who defined their nationhood in terms of the Islamic faith. Significantly, a substantial proportion (24 per cent) identified with Islam as well as the Bengali nation, finding the two identifications perfectly compatible (1974: 38–39, 47–48). The ‘Bangalee nationalism’ of Mujib, defined in terms of a single symbol thrust—the language—could barely distinguish itself from the 60 million Bengali Hindus in the neighbouring West Bengal. The above orientation of the state took a retreat following the military coup, whereby, Zia-urRahman took over the reins of power. And as was witnessed in the case of Zia’s Pakistan, Zia-ur-Rahman turned increasingly towards Islam to legitimize his military junta. One of the foremost actions in this regard was the insertion of the invocation ‘Bismillah-ir-Rahman-ir-Rahim’ (In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful) in the preamble to the Constitution. Article 8 (1) which had declared secularism as the cardinal principle was amended to read, ‘absolute trust and faith in the Almighty Allah’. Similarly, a new clause was included which declared the intentions of the state towards stabilizing, preserving and strengthening fraternal ties with the Muslim states on the basis of ‘Islamic solidarity’ (Ahmad and Nazneen 1990: 796). In the process, the national identity also came to be remoulded. The ‘Bangalee nationalism’ was replaced by ‘Bangladeshi’ in the amended constitution, and Zia himself gave a comprehensive explanation of the new connotation: Bangladeshi nationalism means, we are Bangladeshis. We have a different history. Our country has been through a different process. Our traditions and culture are different. Our language is different, we are moulding it in our own way—we are modernizing it. We have different prose and poetry; we have different arts and thoughts. Our geographical position is different, our rivers and soils are different. Our people are different. We are completely free and sovereign .... And, today a consciousness has grown among our people, which RELIGION, LANGUAGE







is different from that of the people of our neighbouring country and other countries of the region (cited in Huq 1984: 58). Apparently identical, the ‘Bangalee nationalism’ of the Awami League and the Bangladeshi nationalism’ associated with the BNP (the Bangladeshi National Party), differed markedly in terms of emphasis on language and culture, inclusion and exclusion of ‘nationals’ and ‘aliens’. While the former appreciated the territorial and political separateness from the Indian Bengal but accepted the entire heritage of the Bengali language and culture as its own, the latter highlighted the cultural differences between the two regions by bringing in religion as the defining marker of ‘Bangladeshi nation’ along with language. The change was significant, as Urmila Phadnis has pointed out: Instead of the earlier single symbol thrust (Bengali) for the identity of its people, the inclusion of Islamic provisions (connoting a religious symbol) coupled with the change from ‘Bengalis’ to ‘Bangladeshis’ (emphasizing territorial homeland symbol) provided a multisymbo1 congruence in the Bangladesh nation in differentiating it from India just as language differentiates it from Pakistan (1989: 107). The anxiety to invoke a ‘national-personality’ free of the cultural association with the neighbouring Bengal, drove Zia towards adopting certain hegemonic measures. Endeavours were made to remould the language, history and culture of Bangladesh, particularly so in language, where efforts were made to incorporate words from Persian and Arabic vocabulary in the Bengali Language—measures to revive the now obsolete Do-bhasha or the artificial measures to create Pak-Bangla. Thus, the slogan ‘Jai Bangla’—linguistically of Bengali origin was replaced by the more Persianised ‘Bangladesh Zindabad’. The de-emphasis of Bengali language was carried further by referring to Bangladesh Betar as Radio Bangladesh (Murshid 1993: 70–2) Sociologically, the new concept of ‘Bangladeshi nation’ invoked by Zia was essentially teleological as it impinged on the formation of the state. The nation here is defined then in terms of the political unit and the political community to which it caters; while historically, nations have preceded states. Moreover, the possibility of the same nation residing in the realms of different states has remained a theoretical as well as an empirical viability; for instance, the pre-unification Germans, and among 296 TANVEER FAZAL

the Muslims, the Arabs. The ‘Bangalee nationalism’ of the Awami League has effectively addressed this ambiguity: In terms of statehood and citizenship we are Bangladeshis but in terms of nationality we are Bangalees .... Bangladesh has been created through a bloody liberation war based on the symbol of Bangalee nationality. Bangalee is the national identity of the people of this Bangladesh. This identity is hundreds of years old. It has not been possible to wipe out this identity despite all out efforts during the Pakistan period. Nor will it be possible to do so in the future (cited in Huq 1984: 63).

CONCLUSION The conceptualization of nation and national identity in the state-societies of Pakistan and Bangladesh has been conditional on the vicissitudes of history. More often than not, it is the exigency of power and politics that have determined the drawing of its parameters and boundaries, terms of inclusion and exclusion. Given the flux in the political context itself, a constant reshaping of the attributes of nation often reveals contradictions. Muhajirs provide an interesting illustration. When in alliance with Punjabis, they remained the principal bearers of Muslim/Pakistani nation. Devoid of power and patronage, the Muhajirs, more recently, have claimed themselves as the ‘fifth nation’ of Pakistan. Similarly, among Muslims of Bengal, language-centric Bengali nationalism remained the dominant trend vis-à-vis the religious nationalism espoused by the Pakistani state. Post-liberation, religion has reappeared to define the nationhood of the populace. Such flexibility in conceiving ‘nation’ receives validity from theoretical formulations where the ‘subjective will’ of the political actors remains the only viable attribute of nation. Consistent with this, an incessant drive in the South Asian states of Pakistan and Bangladesh has been to conflate state and nation. Designed towards obfuscating the reality, their implications—social and political—have been far and wide, one of the professed objectives being to define the terminality of loyalty, so as to hierarchize the bases of association with which people identify themselves (Oommen 1997). Nation tends to be constructed in terms of the ‘will of RELIGION, LANGUAGE







the dominant’, thus making ‘national mainstream’ a euphemism for the cultural proclivities and material interests of the former. Punjabi domination in Pakistan and Bengali Muslim hegemony in Bangladesh represent such an appropriation of nation leading to the ethnification or extermination of marginal groups. Since concepts in social science emerge out of particular historical experience, yet without transcending their immediate empirical context, they remain of limited utility (Oommen 1997: 23); a plausible way out would be to conceive nation as an objective social reality rather than as an appendage, or a construct. The task is to find out tangible factors— language, culture and territory—critical in conceiving and defining nation. Seen thus, Pakistan is an abode of multiple nations—Punjabi, Baluch, Pashtun and Sindhi. A near homogeneity of Bengali-speakers in Bangladesh still restricts it from qualifying as a ‘nation-state’ owing to the presence of non-Bengali tribal groups in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. For the state and their ideologues, this amounts to recognition of the plurality of identifications, not necessarily detrimental to the political association with the state. This implies the recovery of concepts like nation and nationhood from artificially contrived statist discourses and institutionalization of multi-cultural co-existence within the confines of the same polity. A pluralist perspective of the kind derides attempts to define any cultural/ national mainstream through coercive measures like assimilation or annihilation. In contrast, the orientation is towards accepting and accommodating differences.

NOTES 1. The idea that the ‘nation’ and ‘state’ are conceptually distinct and may not appear coterminous has had a long career. However, in most contributions on the theme, nation is seen as a prerequisite for state formation. Nation is seen either coinciding with state, or as state-seeking. This leads to considerable interchangeability in the usage of the two terms. More recently, Oommen (1997), has emphasized the importance of maintaining a distinction between the two. The existence of the national ethnic states is therefore not only a theoretical possibility, but also an objective fact of history. 2. Muhajirs comprise largely the Urdu-speaking immigrants from the erstwhile minority provinces of British India. The Muhajirs arrived in Pakistan as champions of the ‘Muslim nation’. Interestingly, not all the Partition-immigrants acquired this connotation. A vast majority of the nearly 7 million Muslims who crossed the frontiers






consisted of Punjabi speakers from eastern Punjab, who, on account of the commonalty of language and culture, readily assimilated with the ethos of the West Punjab. The term Muhajir came to be associated only with the latter section of the Urdu-speaking Muslim migrants who filled urban Sindh, replacing the migrating Sindhi Hindus. Resenting their being referred to by the natives as Pahangirs or Hindustanis, they conferred on themselves the nominative Muhajir, owing to its association with the prophetic tradition of hijrat, or emigration due to religious motives (Ahmed 1988: 33–34). For the migrating Punjabis, it was at the most a shift from one part of their homeland to another. The Muhajir case, on the other hand, is typical of social groups de-nationalized from their native land, and who have failed to re-nationalize in the adopted homeland. They thus qualify as an interest group or an ethnic category in Pakistan. Whereas others have seen civil society in opposition to the state, Gramsci (1973) did not perceive it to be completely autonomous. Since the institutions of civil society are subject to the control of the state, the hegemony of ideas necessary for the sustenance of the state is actualized only through civil society and its institutions. This is of course not to suggest that Pakistan has been solely a consensual state where force is not resorted to. In fact, politics everywhere and particularly so in Pakistan, has rested upon a mix of consent and coercion, both being omnipresent. When consent is absent, coercion shows its face, usually in the form of the application of military power. The model of internal colonialism put forth by Hechter (1975) contrasts with the diffusion model of nation-building espoused by the theorists of political development and modernization. According to Hechter, rather than leveling cultures as the latter claim, economic development institutionalizes inequality creating conditions of internal colonialism and crystallization of cultural markers. During the regime of Ayub Khan. Pakistan took to economic development and industrialization hoping that the modernizing impulses would diffuse tensions. Contrarily, the state’s agenda failed to arrest the discontent since the fruits of development were cornered by Punjab in particular. The Ahmediyas, followers of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Quadian (Punjab), have been regarded as heretics by the orthodoxy due to their rejection of the finality of Mohammad’s prophethood. Soon after the formation of Pakistan, anti-Ahmediya riots, actively abetted by the traditionalists, broke out in Pakistani Punjab. In the early 1970s. Ahmediyas were declared non-Muslims as a beleaguered Bhutto government took recourse to Islam. The measure, carried out with vehemence during Zia’s regime, confirmed the ethnification of the Ahmediyas in their own land.

REFERENCES Ahmad, Emajuddin and D.R.J.A. Nazneen. 1990. ‘Islam in Bangladesh: Revivalism or politics’, Asian Survey 30(8): 795–808. Ahmad, Ishtiaq. 1991. The Concept of an Islamic State in Pakistan: An Analysis of Ideological Controversies. Lahore: Vanguard.






Ahmad, Mumtaz. 1993. ‘Islamic fundamentalism in South Asia: The Jamaat-i-Islami and the Tablighi Jamaat in South Asia’ in M.E. Marty and R.S. Appleby (eds), Fundamentalism and the State: Remaking Parties, Economies and Militance, pp. 457–530. Chicago: Chicago University Press. Ahmed, Feroz. 1988. ‘Ethnicity and Politics: The Rise of Muhajir Separatism’, South Asia Bulletin 8(1): 33–45. Alavi, Hamza. 1991. ‘Nationhood and communal violence in Pakistan’, Journal of Contemporary Asia 21(2): 152–78. Ali, Tariq. 1983. Can Pakistan Survive? The Death of a State. Harmondsworth: Penguin. Bahadur, Kalim. 1986. ‘Islam and national question in Pakistan’ in K. Bahadur (ed.), South Asia in Transition: Conflicts and Tensions, pp. 133–47. Delhi: Patriot. Binder, Leonard. 1961. Religion and Politics in Pakistan. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Constitution of the Peoples’ Republic of Bangladesh, The. 1972. Gankovsky, Y.V. and L.R. Polanskaya. 1964. A History of Pakistan. Moscow: Nauka. Gramsci, Antonio. 1973. Selections from the Prison Notebooks. New York: International Publications. Haq, Farhat. 1995. ‘Rise of MQM in Pakistan’, Asian Survey 25(11): 990–1016. Harrison, Selig. 1987. ‘Ethnicity and Political Stalemate in Pakistan’ in A. Banuazizi and M. Weiner (eds), The State, Religion and Ethnic Politics: Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan, pp. 267–98. Lahore: Vanguard. Hechter, Michael. 1975. Internal Colonialism: The Celtic Fringe in British National Development, 1536–1966. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Huq, Abul F. 1984. ‘The Problem of National Identity in Bangladesh’, Journal of Social Studies 24(1): 47–73. Hussain, Hayat. 1986. ‘Problem of National Integration in Bangladesh’ in S.R. Chakravarty and V. Narain (eds). Bangladesh. Vol. 1: History and culture pp.196–211. Delhi: South Asian. Islam, Nasir. 1981. ‘Islam and National Identity: The Case of Pakistan and Bangladesh’, International Journal of Middle-East Studies 13(5): 55–72. Jahan, Rounaq. 1972. Pakistan: Failure in National Integration. New York and London: Columbia University Press. Javed, Nasim A. 1974. ‘Islam and Political Attitudes in Pakistan and Bangladesh: A Thematic and Quantitative Approach.’ (Ph.D. Dissertation in facsimile) Los Angeles: University of California. Jinnah, M.A. 1960. Speeches and Writings. Vol. 1, edited by Jamiluddin Ahmed. Lahore: Ashraf. ———. n.d. Speeches as Governor-General of Pakistan 1947–48. Karachi: Pakistan Publications. Karna, M.N. 1998. ‘Language Region and National Identity.’ Paper presented in XXV All-India Sociological Conference, Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Aligarh. Khan, Ayub. 1967. Friends not Masters: A Political Autobiography. Karachi: Oxford University Press. Ling, Trevor. 1972. ‘Creating a new state; The Bengalis of Bangladesh’, South Asia Review 5(3): 221–30. Malik, Iftikhar H. 1996. ‘Kashmir and Pakistan: Politics of Mutualities and Denied Opportunities’, Strategic Studies 18(4): 5–47. Malkani, K.R. 1984. The Sindh Story. Delhi: Allied.


Matin, H.M. 1954. National Language of Pakistan. Karachi: Marsh MQM Document. 1972, ‘Mr. Altaf Hussain Stands by His Views on the Two Nation Theory’, July. Murshid, Tazeen M. 1993. ‘Bangladesh: The Challenge of Democracy—Language, Culture and Political Identity’, Contemporary South Asia 2(1): 67–73. ———. 1995. Sacred and the Secular: Bengal Muslim Discourses, 1871–1977. Calcutta: Oxford University Press. Muslim India. January 1995, 145: 45. Nayyar, K.K. 1972. ‘Pakistan’s Experience of Two Nation Theory’, Secular Democracy 5(8): 147–53. Oommen, T.K. 1994. ‘The Changing Trajectory of Constructing the “Other”: West Europe and South Asia’. Sociological Bulletin 43(1): 161–76. ———. 1997. Citizenship. Nationality and Ethnicity: Reconciling Competing Identities. Cambridge: Polity. Phadnis, Urmila. 1989. Ethnicity and Nation-building in South Asia. Delhi: Sage Publications. Richter, William L. 1979. ‘The Political Dynamics of Ethnic Resurgence in Pakistan’, Asian Survey 19(6): 547–57. ———. 1982. ‘Pakistan’, in M. Ayoob (ed.), The Politics of Islamic Reassertion, pp. 141– 61. Delhi: Vikas. Samad, Yunas. 1995. ‘Pakistan or Punjabistan: Crisis of National Identity’, International Journal of Punjab Studies 2(1): 23–42. Schuman, Howard. 1973. ‘Note on the Rapid Rise of Mass Bengali Nationalism in East Pakistan’, American Journal of Sociology 78(2): 291–98. Seminar. 1971. ‘Symposium on Bangladesh’, vol. 142. June. Sheth, D.L. 1989. ‘State, Nation and Ethnicity: Experience of Third World Countries’, Economic and Political Weekly 24(12): 615–26. Syed, Anwar H. 1979. ‘Iqbal and Jinnah on issues of nationhood and nationalism’ in C.M. Naim (ed.), Iqbal, Jinnah and the Two-nation theory: The Vision and the Reality, pp. 77–106. Syracuse: University Press. ———. 1992. The Discourse and Politics of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. London: Macmillan. Varshney, Ashutosh. 1991. ‘India, Pakistan and Kashmir: Antinomies of Nationalism’, Asian Survey 31(11): 997–1019, Weber, Max. 1978, Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretative Sociology. Berkeley: University of California. Wilcox, Wayne. 1969. ‘Ideological Dilemmas in Pakistan’s Political Culture’, in D.E. Smith (ed.), South Asian Politics and Religion, pp. 339–51. Princeton: University Press. Wilder, Andrew. 1995. ‘Islam and Political Legitimacy in Pakistan’ in M.A. Syed (ed.), Islam and democracy in Pakistan, pp. 31–87. Islamabad: NICHR.








The term ‘fundamentalism’ was originally applied to a Protestant movement in the United States of America. Irving (1982: 7), talking about New England, which was founded by the Puritans in the early seventeenth century, notes: ‘These Puritans were English fundamentalists in their interpretation of the Holy Scriptures and they placed great emphasis on free enquiry. They initiated universal instruction in the Western world so that each individual could understand the Bible by means of his own personal criteria.’ According to Hess et al. (1991: 408) fundamentalism represents a back to basics approach to religion, in the process resisting modernity and seeking to restore an original faith. The emphasis on returning to original sources, described by Hess et al. (ibid.) as new old-time religion, usually arises from disillusionment with prevailing beliefs, practices and interpretations, an approach not usually favoured by mainstream churches. In fact, Hess et al. (ibid.) indicates that in the United States, while the membership of mainstream Protestant denominations declined, that of independent fundamentalist sects rose sharply, and there was also a fundamentalist revival within Catholicism and Judaism. *Originally published in the Sociological Bulletin, vol. 46, no. 2, 1997, pp. 245–65.

Though not a new phenomenon, it is only recently that attention is being given to fundamentalist tendencies among Muslims. It was shortly after the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Iran, culminating in the overthrow of the Shah’s regime and the spread of anti-Western sentiments among Muslims, that the term ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ came into vogue. In popular usage the term implies a reversion to the original teachings of Islam and carries overtones of fanaticism, intolerance and aggression. It also connotes resistance to the Western culture and lifestyle (Sivan 1992: 11; Hiro 1989: 3–20). Muslims in various parts of the world are today attempting to assert themselves, coming into conflict with the established legal, political and economic systems. Furthermore, controversies are being raised over issues, seemingly trivial in the eyes of the public, such as dress, food and malefemale relationships (Ali 1991: 21). Since Islamic fundamentalists encounter conflict with mainstream religious practices, they are in a sense similar to the Protestant Christian fundamentalists, described above. However, Islamic fundamentalists are themselves ultra-conservative, since they emphasize purity of doctrines and are suspicious of any form of religious innovation. Much concern is being expressed nowadays over the rise of religious fundamentalism in various parts of the world. Even in the Land of Steelpan and Calypso, that is Trinidad and Tobago, a group of extremist Muslims attempted unsuccessfully to overthrow the democratically elected government in July 1990 (Ryan 1991: 17). The reactions which this attempted coup elicited from the public in general and security officials in particular betrayed a lack of awareness of the various interpretations of Islam to be found in contemporary Trinidad and Tobago. There are hardly any works dealing with the Muslim migrants from India to the Caribbean islands (Smith 1963). Trinidad and Tobago has a population of 1.26 million, 6 per cent of which are Muslims (Central Statistical Office 2000: 7). But whereas joint consideration of Hindus and Muslims may have sufficed in discussing the early East Indian1 presence in the Caribbean (Clarke 1986; Klass 1961; Niehoff and Niehoff 1960), recent developments in the region and in the world at large, however, point to the need for a separate and careful study of Muslims. One often notices a tendency towards a monolithic view of Muslims, as well as of the fundamentalists among them. This essay intends to dispel such a notion by demonstrating the variety of Islamic fundamentalisms that may co-exist in a religious community. Broadly, it is possible to INDIAN ISLAM







distinguish between two types of reformist efforts in Islam. One is the aggressive and militant type, which is not only involved in proselytizing activities, but also attempts to establish the political system of Islam and implement the Shariah (Islamic law). The other is the non-militant type which, though basically involved in the spread of Islam, nevertheless confines itself to theological matters. In both cases, the ultimate objective is to return to the original sources of Islam and hence can be described as fundamentalist. This essay represents a preliminary attempt to grasp the trends and influences shaping the Muslim communities in the Caribbean. It begins by tracing the origins of Islamic fundamentalism among East Indian Muslims in Trinidad and Tobago. Section I identifies the fundamentaliststyled movements in India and some of the numerous interpretations of Islam that developed here. What is striking is the diversity that emerged among the followers of Islam even during this early period, a manifestation of the cultural diversity of Indian society. In Section II, the attempts to reform Islamic thought are discussed. In Section III, the discussion shifts to Islam in Trinidad and Tobago. In Section IV, the conflicts and divisions among the Muslims in Trinidad and Tobago are analysed, and in Section V the origins of fundamentalist Islam in Trinidad are discussed, with the aim of showing the strong influence that India continues to exert upon these Muslims. In Section VI the historical development of Muslim organizations in Trinidad and Tobago is discussed and Section VII concludes with some observations on the growing diversity of religious practices and interpretations of Islam in the Caribbean.

I From the seventh century onwards Islam spread rapidly from Arabia to various parts of the world. Contact with various cultures often led to the emergence of reinterpretations of the original teachings of the religion. Sporadic attempts to revert to the original form of Islam have met with varying degrees of success. The formal introduction of Islam into India by an expedition led by Muhammad bin Qasim in A.D. 711 was not necessarily the first contact of Muslims with India (Herklots 1921: 4–5; Titus 1930: 12). There is a distinct possibility of such a contact as early as A.D. 664, only 32 years after 304 NASSER MUSTAPHA

the death of Muhammad. Through a series of conquests, particularly after the eleventh century, Islam became a permanent element in Indian society. However, Titus (ibid.) indicates that Indian religious thought influenced Muslims before Islam became established in India. In fact, Buddhist thought and ‘wandering Indian monks’ too could have significantly influenced the development of tasawwuf (Islamic mysticism) which occurred mainly in Persia (ibid.: 13). Islam as established by Muhammad in Arabia is a monotheistic system with its unique belief system, institutionalized rituals, commands and prohibitions. Reinterpretations under different socio-cultural milieux are not unlikely, as confirmed by the evidence from India. The Sufi (the name derives from the word tasawwuf) sub-variant of Islam, in particular, found a fertile ground in India where asceticism and mystical activities already had widespread acceptance. Conversion to Islam, notwithstanding the tenacity of the indigenous culture and the loss of contact with the homeland of Islam, led to the emergence of several syncretic forms among Muslims in India. In south India, for example, magical practices were combined with Muslim rituals. Thurston (1909: 231) reports that in Madras tribal rituals were incorporated into Muslim marriages. Quranic verses were assumed to possess special powers of healing and warding off evil, and hence were written on pieces of paper and stuck above doors and windows. With reference to north India, Herklots (1921: 7) observed that the Rajputs and Jats ‘often supplement the orthodox ritual of Islam by Hindu marriage and death rites, follow Hindu rules of succession to real and personal property and particularly in times of trouble revere the local village deities’. There was also a widespread belief that God can be better reached through some physical medium, and hence a system of saint and tombworship evolved. Individuals with outstanding knowledge or allegedly superior powers came to be treated with awe and reverence by the masses. These ‘saints’ were perceived as being able to ‘avert calamity, cure disease and procure children for the childless’ (Herklots 1921: 7–8). Upon the death of these saints, their tombs were often worshipped by subsequent generations. In attempting to illustrate the close relationship between Hindus and Muslims (in this case Shias) Herklots (ibid.) reports that Hindus were involved in the procession of taziyas or tabuts, reminiscent of the martyrs Hassan and Hussein in the battle of Karbala during the festival of Muharram. Samaroo (1988: 5) also documents the influence of Hindu religious rituals upon the form this festival assumes in India.


II Periodically, there have been deliberate attempts to re-establish the orthodox version of Islam in India. Generally these efforts advocated a return to the original sources of the religion: the Quran and the Sunnah (practice and sayings of Muhammad) and the rejection of all forms of religious innovation. Of course, there is no consensus among Muslims as to what constitutes an innovation. The view held by Titus (1930: 12) that 1804 marked the birth of Islamic fundamentalism or puritanism (later called Wahhabism) in India is not totally accurate. The efforts of Shaikh Ahmad of Sirhind (l563–1624) appear to be one of the earliest attempts at reforming Islamic religious thought in India (the Wahhabi movement started in Arabia around the middle of the eighteenth century). Shaikh Ahmad, born in the early days of Akbar’s rule, was noted for his strong resistance to government policies. He criticized the prevailing forms of Sufism and envisaged a return to the fundamentals of Islam. His ideas were said to have later influenced Aurangzeb, Akbar’s great grandson, born four years after his death. He is referred to in the literature as Mujaddid Alf-i-Thani, Reformer of the Second Millennium. Another influential individual was Shah Waliullah of Delhi. His major preoccupation was the reformation of religious thought and as a consequence his efforts resulted in limited practical reforms. He advocated an independent view of Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), as opposed to the four established schools of religious thought. Among the militant and aggressive reformers were Sayyad Ahmad (1782–1831) and Shah Ismail Shahid (1779–1831): These two were actively engaged in reforming social affairs, becoming very influential on the north-western frontier. With reference to Sayyad Ahmad, Titus (1930: 190) says: ‘The opponents of his sect, the orthodox Maulvis and others spoke of them derisively as Wahhabis (puritans/fundamentalists).’ Maududi (1963: 27) also documents the continuing influence of these two individuals. Around the beginning of the nineteenth century, Muslim influence began to decline in India. This decline occurred simultaneously with the growing dominance of the British. Initially, Muslims attempted a strong resistance to British influence by boycotting all British institutions. In fact, for many decades, Hindus were more advanced than Muslims in 306 NASSER MUSTAPHA

education (Titus 1930: 50). The appearance of Sayyad Ahmad led to a dramatic turn of events. His policies favoured cordial relationships with the wider society, including the British. He introduced several drastic social and educational reforms and established what can be described as the modernist approach to Islam. Another notable figure was Syed Ahmad Khan (1817–98). His modernist approach was quite unlike the militant Sayyad Ahmad. He introduced several reforms in education and stressed the importance of good relations with non-Muslims. Titus (1930: 201) described him as a ‘peaceful, loyal British subjects’. He was the founder of the Aligarh Muslim University. In the latter part of the nineteenth century Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian established another movement with strong modernist tendencies. His declaration of being a mahdi (reformer) and a prophet incurred the wrath of mainstream Muslims, who declared him an imposter and an agent of the British. His followers, referred to today as Qadianis and Ahmadis, are regarded as non-believers by orthodox Muslims. Thus, towards the end of the nineteenth century, Islam in India was characterized by marked inter-regional and intra-regional diversity. Some of the following sub-variants of Islam in India are given below.

HANAFI SUNNIS Hanafi Sunnis are those who follow Imam Abu Hanifa (699–767). This school appears to be the most accommodating and liberal of the four recognized schools of Islamic thought and is subscribed to by two-thirds of the Muslims in India and Pakistan (Titus 1930: 34). Several Sufi orders claim compatibility with this school of thought.

SUNNIS WITH WAHHABI TENDENCIES Sunnis with Wahhabi tendencies attempt to return to the original teachings of Islam as preached by Muhammad. Among them are the following groups: Ahl-i-Hadith (People of the Traditions of the Prophet) Ahl-i-Quran (People of the Quran) Faraidiyah (those who follow the obligatory aspects of the religion) INDIAN ISLAM ON FUNDAMENTALIST TRENDS





Ghair Mukallid (non-conformists or those who do not conform to any one particular school of Muslim religious thought)

SHIAS The Shia Muslims strongly favour hereditary leadership. The Shia sect originated in Arabia after the passing away of Muhammad, when some followers insisted that only members of the Prophet’s family should succeed him in leadership. Shias are to be found in small numbers in various parts of India. Some Shias practice Sufism.

MODERNISTS Modernist Muslims are less rigid in implementing religious rituals. By modifying the original Islamic teachings, they attempt to make them compatible with the dominant value system. Qadianis and Ahmadis would be included in this group. Some Sunnis with modernist tendencies can also be found among this section of Muslims.

III Though evidence exists to indicate the presence of Muslims in Trinidad before the coming of East Indians to the Caribbean (Hamid 1978: 1; Quick 1990: 3–5), for the purposes of this essay the discussion commences with the arrival of East Indians in the Caribbean. Muslims were among the first shipment of indentured immigrants to arrive in the Caribbean in 1845 (Jha 1973: 3; Samaroo 1988: 1). The majority of Indian immigrants coming to the Caribbean were from the United Provinces (UP) and Bihar. According to the census of 1901, in UP there were 85 per cent Hindus and 14 per cent Muslims, while in Bihar there were 92.7 per cent Hindus and 7.3 per cent Muslims. Sources also indicate that in 1891 among Trinidad Indians there were 85.9 per cent Hindus and 13.44 per cent Muslims. These figures correspond with the proportions found in UP around the same time. In these areas, Hanafis were in the majority, but Shias and Wahhabis were also found (Titus 1930: 33). 308 NASSER MUSTAPHA

The Indians who came to the Caribbean tried to recapture their religion as they knew it back in India, and to establish it under new and challenging circumstances. They viewed the wider Creole society (evolving from African and European elements) with suspicion. They resisted its influence by holding tenaciously to their Islamic heritage. With limited resources, simple mosques were constructed, which served as places of worship, community centres, and maktabs (religious schools). Friday congregational prayers and the Urdu sermon used to be delivered in the masjids that were built. Community centres and maktabs became the focal points of festivities for the community. Pressures from the wider society and common ancestral ties led to a generally cordial relationship between Muslims and Hindus. Despite differences in religious beliefs and occasional disagreements, there was mutual respect for each other. For both the Hindus and Muslims religion was crucial for their identity and the relationship between the two communities in the New World may have been even closer than in the motherland. According to Clarke (1986: 42), Muslims were more cohesive and less tolerant of Christianity than the Hindus. Being separated from their families back in India, religion served as a bond with their homeland during their supposedly temporary sojourn in this strange land. Religion gave their lives direction and a sense of completeness. With few books in their possession and not many educated persons among them, they tried to reconstruct their religious forms as closely as possible to the way they existed in India. Khan (1987: 5) documents some aspects of Trinidad Muslim rituals that have been influenced by Hindu contact. These include the ‘three day’ and ‘forty day’ mourning functions (mawlood functions) and neyaz (an offering for the dead). Thus, reinterpretation of Islam under Hindu influence not only occurred in India but also in the New World. New elements were added which were perceived to be functional for their adherents under the circumstances. During the course of its evolution, the community reactivated and often modified various social events known in India. These provided opportunities for interaction among members of the community and served as important avenues for the socialization of the younger generation. As is the case with Indians in Trinidad and Tobago generally, the close-knit family system, an integral part of a wider kinship network, also strengthened communal solidarity. An important Indian survival, the Hosay festival (from the name of Hussein), could be traced to some of the early immigrants. As mentioned earlier, it is quite likely that some Shia Muslims of UP and Bihar could INDIAN ISLAM ON FUNDAMENTALIST TRENDS





have been among the early immigrants in Trinidad. This group reconstructed this festival in its Indian form. It has since been significantly influenced by the local carnival and today has acquired a unique identity. Indian syncretism of Islam with magical practices was also transported to the Caribbean. In several communities, individuals performed the ‘medicine man’ role. A well-known immigrant maulvi (religious leader or learned person) performed this service in Barataria (near the capital, Port of Spain) for many years. Today, a few Indian-trained maulanas function as exorcists in South and Central Trinidad. The tabeej (taweez) usually comprising some Arabic phrases inscribed on paper, presumably verses from the Quran, would be worn as an armlet for warding off evil spirits. Services such as fortune-telling, healing of ailments, solving problems and detection of thieves were also provided. During some life crises even today it is not uncommon for some Muslims to seek the services of a Hindu pundit (priest). Sufism, another Indian Muslim survival, exists up to this day in Trinidad. The Sufi group, known locally as the Halqa, has its local leader who functions as the pir (spiritual guide) over his followers (muridis). The group is linked to a Grand Pir overseas and is engaged in mystical practices, which adopt an Indian form. The members of this group also claim to subscribe to the Hanafi school of thought. The East Indian Muslims of Trinidad, despite minor theological differences, were largely united and maintained good relationships with their fellow Indians in order to successfully resist integration with the wider society. Smith (1963: 14) on the basis of studies conducted in Trinidad, concludes: ‘To the present time, family organization and organized religion have engaged the forces of assimilation and acculturation and won.’

IV In contemporary Trinidad and Tobago, 95 per cent of the Muslims (who constitute 6 per cent of the total population) are East Indians. Muslims experience more conflict and tension among themselves than with other religious denominations in the society. The mere existence of about 17 organizations and over 100 mosques often located very close to each other on the island is adequate testimony of the conflicts and schisms occurring over the years. Though originally established by mainstream organizations,


the majority of mosques are attended by persons of other orientations. Today, one can identify the following major interpretations among the East Indians of Trinidad and Tobago: the traditionalists, the Tabligh Jamaat, the Wahhabi Sunnis, the Modernists and the Shias.

TRADITIONALISTS Traditionalists, by far the largest group, constitute about 50 per cent of the community, this proportion being a significant decrease from say 25 years ago. They claim to be Hanafi Sunnis and are theologically very similar to the movement founded by Ahmad Riza Khan (of Barelwi) in late nineteenth century India (Sanyal 1996). They subscribe to practices and observances such as mawlood, tazeem, Three Days, Forty Days and neyaz. Great emphasis is given to praying for the deceased; death anniversaries of saints are often observed. They look down upon Muslims who do not observe these traditions and call them Wahhabis or Deobandis. They are suspicious of interpretations of Islam which differ from their own, and censure foreign missionaries. They are highly insular and there is a notable lack of desire to propagate their faith.

TABLIGH JAMAAT The Tabligh Jamaat group is much smaller than the traditionalists (about 15 per cent of the community) but all its members are highly active. Mosques are the focal point of their programmes, though their members are marginalized in certain mosques. They also claim to be Hanafi Sunni but in practice are opposed to most of the traditions outlined above, describing them as innovations. Their leaders, trained in India, have adopted a literal approach to the understanding of the sacred texts, giving great importance to emulating the model of the Prophet’s life in minute detail. They isolate themselves, adopt a passive approach to social and political issues and avoid conflict with established authority. Nevertheless, their rigid stance on many issues often contributes to their unpopularity among both traditionalists and fundamentalists. Their efforts at spreading the message of their faith are confined to the Muslim community.






WAHHABI SUNNIS Wahhabi Sunnis constitute about 25 per cent of the community, a proportion which has grown significantly over the past two decades. They generally show high levels of religious commitment. Originally inspired by movements in the subcontinent and more recently by Middle Eastern and North American contact, they are often at odds with the traditionalists regarding their apparent overemphasis on ancestor traditions as opposed to the faraaid (obligatory) acts of worship. Many of the groups in this category actively engage in propagating their faith both among Muslims and non-Muslims. Generally, members of this group do not follow the rulings of any one of the four schools of thought (mazhab) and some find ijtihad (the exercise of judgement in the implementation of Islamic law) acceptable.

MODERNISTS Modernists are the ones who claim to be Sunnis and many among these give modern interpretations of the texts. They come largely from the middle classes and wear Western style clothes. The men avoid beards and the women seldom wear the hijaab (veil). They place a high value on Western education mainly because of the prestige it brings. They often frown upon the rigidity of both the fundamentalist Sunnis and Tabligh Jamaat and to a great extent are indifferent to the practices of the traditionalists, confining Islamic rituals to weddings, funerals and special occasions.

SHIAS Though Shi-ites were reported among the early immigrants from India, it is only over the last 10 years that they have become organized into a separate group with their own mosque. The group is very small (less than 1 per cent of the community), has a foreign missionary and attempts, often unsuccessfully, to persuade other Muslims to join their fold. Their followers, largely of African descent, nevertheless find comfort and solace in the group, probably due to the solidarity existing within and their disenchantment with other groups. 312 NASSER MUSTAPHA

Comparing Indian Islam to Middle Eastern Islam, Samaroo (1988: 7) observes: ‘In modern-day Trinidad and Guyana where there are substantial Muslim populations, there is much confusion, often conflict, between these two types of Islam’. Ryan (1991: 29) also shares similar views. Conflicts arising from different interpretations of Islam are endemic among Trinidad Muslims. However, evidence shows that the different interpretations have come mainly through continuous contact with India. The influence of the Middle East on Trinidad Muslims would have only been significant in the last decade or so; and its influence is much less in comparison to the influence of Islam from India. As mentioned earlier, fundamentalist Islam appeared in India about two centuries before the Wahhabi movement in Arabia. In addition, many sub-variants of Islam evolved among the Muslims of India, which inevitably manifested themselves in the New World. So significant is India to Trinidad Muslims, that there is a saying among the latter that ‘the Quran was revealed in Arabia, recited in Egypt and practised in India’. After the 1977 Islamic Conference sponsored by the Arab-based Muslim World League (RABITA), the Anjuman Sunnat-ul-Jammat Association (ASJA) and its affiliating organizations were appointed as the representatives of traditional Indian Muslims who do not subscribe to the Middle Eastern Islam.

V SUNNI/QADIANI CONFLICT Towards the end of the nineteenth century, bitter conflicts that developed in India between the followers of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and orthodox Muslims came to the surface in Trinidad with the arrival of Maulana Durrani in Trinidad in 1921. Pressures from Syed Abdul Aziz and other local Muslims led to his departure in 1923. Durrani nevertheless persuaded a Trinidadian, Ameer Ali, to pursue studies at an Ahmadi institute in Lahore (Samaroo 1987: 30). Ameer Ali returned as probably the first formally qualified local maulvi in Trinidad. Gradually, Ameer Ali’s interpretation intensified doctrinal conflicts which persist to this day. Ameer Ali adopted what was then seen as a modernist approach to religion (like encouraging free participation of women in religious activities). This did not go down well with the orthodox sections of the Muslim community INDIAN ISLAM





and pressures from them forced Ameer Ali to form his own organization called the Trinidad Muslim League (the TML, named after the All India Muslim League). The TML was formed on 15 August 1947 (Pakistan Day) and has given its main mosque the name Jinnah Memorial Mosque (Rafeek 1954), after Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. In the late 1960s, the TML became formally linked with the Ahmadi movement. Since 1976, however, the league has formally abandoned its earlier Ahmadi affiliation and declares itself to be ghair mukallid (non-conformist).

BEGINNINGS OF WAHHABISM The arrival of Nazeer Ahmad Simab in Trinidad in June 1935 probably represents the introduction of fundamentalist Islam in the country. He left his ‘well-paying job’ in the Punjab to come to Trinidad as a missionary on the advice of his group Khuddam-i-Islam (Servants of Islam). His ideas often led to conflicts with the local Muslim community, particularly with the ASJA. Through a retail store he financed his missionary work, which included taking classes, and bringing out numerous publications in Urdu and English. Local leaders such as Haji Ruknudeen, the qazi (literally, judge) of Trinidad labelled him and his followers as Wahhabis, not unlike the experiences of Sayyad Ahmad of India in the early nineteenth century. Simab made significant contributions in the field of education, being instrumental in establishing the first non-Christian denominational school in the colony in 1942. He was also successful in having Captain Daniel, the then Deputy Director of Education in the colony, delete certain antiIslamic statements from history textbooks (see Muslim Standard 1975: 8). Simab passed away in December 1942 and was buried in El Socorro, Trinidad. A few of his followers, some of whom are still alive today, expressed their familiarity with this interpretation of Islam when other fundamentalists later arrived on the scene.

PASHA Another Indian missionary reported to have had the most significant impact on Trinidad Muslims was Syed Husein Saqqaf, also known as Pasha. He was originally from Madras and was assigned to the Islamic Missionaries Guild in the late 1960s. He strongly advocated that Muslims 314 NASSER MUSTAPHA

should return to the original sources of Islam, refrain from confining religion to the mosque and adopt it as a complete way of life. Pasha faced severe opposition from the local Muslims and his activities were outlawed by mainstream organizations, such as the ASJA and the Takveeat-ulIslamic Association (TIA). They described him as a Wahhabi out to create disunity among the Muslims. It is reported that in a youth camp held by the Islamic Missionaries Guild in December 1970, Pasha came into conflict with Hisham Badran (a Jordanian) because of the latter’s liberal interpretation of Islam. Pasha attracted some educated persons from various parts of Trinidad and trained them intensively in reading Arabic, in Quranic studies, and familiarized them with the Hadith (sayings of Muhammad) and the Sirah (life history of Muhammad). Pasha introduced to Trinidad books written by Maulana Maududi, founder of the Jamaat-i-Islami party, a religiopolitical movement with branches in India and Pakistan. Thousands of copies of Towards Understanding Islam have been printed locally and are used as the basic text in Islamic classes. The followers of Pasha themselves started small courses in various parts of the country and made attempts at religious propagation. After his departure in 1974, they continued to meet on a regular basis to study Islam.

TABLIGH JAMAAT This group, founded in India by Muhammad Ilyas, advocates a rigid system of routine adherence to the fundamentals of Islam. Members read a restricted range of books, refrain from polemics and adopt a mechanical, literal and often dogmatic approach to religion. Among all the fundamentalist efforts in Trinidad, the Tabligh Jamaat has the strongest connections with India. Several of its members still attend four-month training programmes in India. Also, many Trinidadians obtained scholarships to pursue Islamic studies at the Dar-ul-Ulum Institute in Bangalore. Some have returned qualified as maulanas (scholars) and one person as a mufti (religious jurist). On his return to these shores, Mufti Shabil Ali established a Dar-ul-Ulum in Central Trinidad, patterned on the institute in India. The curriculum and methods of instruction (though now through the medium of the English language) have not changed much. Even its use of the compounds as classrooms in the isolated rural community of Cunupia, Trinidad, reminds one of India. INDIAN ISLAM





The Tabligh Jamaat strongly opposes Western sartorial styles for both males and females. It favours the use of many Urdu expressions instead of English ones. This group today has a significant international influence, especially among the Indian diaspora groups.

ISLAMIC TRUST In mid-1975 Abdul Wahid Hamid, an Indo-Trinidadian historian, formed the Islamic Trust in which he was joined by the former associates of Pasha. His interpretation of Islam was similar to Pasha’s, although his methodology was somewhat different. Hamid, however, had never met Pasha. For fear of being perceived as divisive, founders of the trust never intended to form a separate Muslim organization, but functioned as a service bureau and as ‘catalysts’ in the Muslim community. The trust established a reference library and a bookshop and held classes at various venues throughout the country. It published numerous books and brought out a monthly magazine called Muslim Standard. The trust forcefully expressed itself over a number of social and political issues, leading the then prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Eric Williams, to comment that the Muslims had become aggressive in their missionary activity (Hamid 1978: 4). The publication was eventually banned from mosques controlled by mainstream organizations, mainly on account of its scathing criticisms of Kamaluddin Mohammed, a minister and leader of the traditional Muslim community. The Nur-e-Islam Mosque Board, of which Mohammed was the chairman, issued a statement in the Trinidad Guardian stating that the Muslim Standard was the product of ‘a few recalcitrant young Muslims’ and does not represent the views of the Muslim community. Hamid nevertheless considered himself part of the traditional Muslim community. He taught history at the ASJA (the country’s largest Muslim organization) Boys’ College, held Arabic classes at various ASJA mosques and schools and even delivered a paper on the invitation of ASJA at its Teachers Conference in late 1976. Since Pasha’s time, the group had attracted many persons of African descent to Islam. In February 1977 the Afro-American leader of the IPNA (Islamic party in North America), Muzaffar-ud-Din Hamid, came to Trinidad as a guest of ASJA. Muzaffar-ud-Din delivered public lectures at various venues including the ASJA Boys’ College and the ASJA mosque in Port of Spain. He then held several private meetings with the associates 316 NASSER MUSTAPHA

of the trust (as they preferred to be called) and discussed the constitution of the IPNA with them. He pointed out that the trust was merely functioning as a ‘reformist group’ rather than as a ‘revolutionary’ one and that social change was proceeding at too slow and gradual a pace with their methods of functioning. Instead of concentrating their efforts on reforming a ‘decadent Muslim community’, they were urged to work towards the establishment of a new Islamic society. This brought about a split, with the majority of the African members leaving the trust and forming the Islamic Party of the Caribbean. The Islamic Party acquired a large building in Laventille, a depressed suburb of the capital (Port of Spain), which was used both as a mosque and living quarters for its members. In 1982, this group eventually joined forces with two other Afro-based groups to form the Jamaat-ul-Muslimeen (the group which attempted to overthrow the elected government in July 1990). The trust, considerably weakened by this turn of events, nevertheless continued its work. In late 1977, Abdul Wahid returned to London and continued to write and publish his views of Islam. Evolving out of the Islamic Trust was the Islamic Dawah Movement, a more formalized body with registered members and a constitution. A number of other smaller groups evolved from the trust, including the Muslim Youth Brigade, the North-Eastern Muslim Youths, and Iqra Productions (Ali 1991: 29). A handful of trust associates, probably inspired by events in Iran, adopted the Shi-ite interpretation of Islam. They sometimes pray at the regular mosques, but operate in isolation from other Muslims. A few Shi-ites are said to be linked to the Jamaat-ul-Muslimeen.

VI Ali (1991) in a thesis outlining the historical development of Muslim organizations in Trinidad and Tobago, observes that there are two federated groups of Muslim organizations: the Muslim Coordinating Council (MCC) and the United Islamic Organizations (UIO). The MCC consists of three better established groups incorporated by acts of parliament, that is, the ASJA, the TIA and the TML, whereas the UIO is made up of 13 smaller and recently established groups, not having the same legal status as incorporated bodies. The 13 UIO groups are: Dar-ul-Ulum, Iqra Productions, Islamic Dawah Movement, Islamic Funeral Services Trust, INDIAN ISLAM ON FUNDAMENTALIST TRENDS





Islamic Missionaries Guild, Islamic Trust, Islamic Resource Society, Islamic Housing Cooperative, Muslim Credit Union, Muslim Youth Brigade, North Eastern Muslim Youth, Tobago Muslim Association and University of the West Indies Islamic Society. The Jamaat-ul-Muslimeen has left the UIO while the Majlis-ul-Ulama is no longer functional. Compared to the UIO groups, the MCC is conservative and has cordial relations with the state. Its groups have (or had, as is the case with the TIA) larger memberships and their leadership consists of middle-class businessmen or professionals. They own most of the property in the Muslim community, mainly schools and mosques. The rank and file of these groups do not generally display high levels of commitment. The ASJA and TIA are Hanafis, but the TML is ghair mukallid. The majority of the members of the MCC groups are East Indians. The traditional women’s garb, the hijab, is worn by a relatively small percentage of their followers and polygamy is generally unacceptable among them. The TIA, founded in 1927, is the oldest of the three organizations, with five primary schools and three mosques under its control. This group has been largely inactive over the years (Kasule 1986: 11), but has been recently attempting to resurface with some success. Both the ASJA and the TML were originally part of the TIA (Samaroo 1987: 9). The ASJA was founded in 1936, when differences occurred over the then leader of the TIA, Moulvi Ameer Ali, who was described by some members as an Ahmadi. ASJA has since grown into the largest and most influential Muslim organization in Trinidad and Tobago. It represents the orthodox, conservative Hanafi Muslims and supports practices such as mawlood (celebration of the Prophet’s birthday). ASJA has always maintained a strong link with India and Pakistan, mainly through scholars such as Maulana Ansari and Maulana Siddiqi. Over the years, some members of ASJA have been associated with the local Sufi Halqa. In 1947, Ameer Ali and his followers left the TIA and formed the TML. The group had been ostracized for a number of years by the Trinidad Muslims, mainly due to its Ahmadi affiliations. Since 1976, the Council of the TML voted in favour of severing links with the Ahmadi movement. To this day, the TML represents the ghair mukallids or non-conformists. Over the years the TML has been the most liberal of the Muslim groups in the country (with the exception of the Ahmadi Anjuman which evolved more recently). It strongly encourages women to seek education and to participate at all levels of the organization. It has five schools under its control and has an impressive record of achievements in the field in education. 318 NASSER MUSTAPHA

Table 15.1 Muslim Organizations in Trinidad and Tobago Muslim Coordinating Council (MCC) Organization



Official Orientation

Current Orientation

Hanafi Sunni Non-sectarian Ghair-Mukallid

Traditionalist/Modernist Traditionalist/Modernist Non-conformist/ Modernist

Official Orientation

Current Orientation

Hanafi Sunni Wahhabi

Hanafi Sunni Wahhabi/Traditionalist



5 8

Wahhabi Wahhabi/Open

Sunni with Wahhabi tendencies Wahhabi Wahhabi/Traditionalist

35 10 15

United Islamic organizations (UIO) Organization


Tabligh/Dar-ul-Ulum Islamic Missionaries Guild MCU Outside MCC IDM/IRS Others**

15 5

* The figures are approximate and based upon unstructured interviews, documentary evidence and attendance at various programmes. ** Includes North Eastern Muslim Youth, Muslim Youth Brigade, Islamic Housing Cooperative, Islamic Funeral Services Trust, Iqra Productions, Islamic Trust, Tobago Muslim Association and UWI Islamic Society.

The TML does not confine itself to any one of the four recognized schools of Islamic law and believes in the exercise of ijtihaad; nor does it subscribe to some of the traditional practices sanctioned by the ASJA but the relationship between them is nevertheless very cordial. Both orientations, namely, ahmadiyah and ghair mukallid, found within the TML over the years, are of Indian origin. Groups that constitute the UIO are generally more fundamentalist in orientation and have often been critical of established institutions. These groups have smaller memberships (with the exception of the Muslim Credit Union) drawn mainly from the youth. Apart from the Islamic Missionaries Guild and Dar-ul-Ulum, these groups do not own much property and most members display high levels of religious commitment. Members do not generally subscribe to certain traditional practices of the ASJA and the TIA. Though the UIO groups have agreed to ‘cooperate on the basis of righteousness’, much diversity exists among them with respect to interpretation of religion. Unique among them is the Dar-ul-Ulum Institute (outlined earlier), which is rigidly Hanafi in its orientation, but differs from the INDIAN ISLAM





ASJA or TIA Hanafis. The Islamic Dawah Movement, North-Eastern Muslim Youths, Muslim Youth Brigade and Iqra Productions have all evolved from the Islamic Trust and are similar in their interpretation of religious matters. They can be classified as Wahhabis (as defined earlier). The Islamic Missionaries Guild, though evolving from the ASJA, is officially Wahhabi but contains vestiges of traditionalism. The UWI Islamic Society is a transient student body and does not have a clear ideological position. The Islamic Funeral Services Trust, Islamic Housing Cooperative, Iqra Productions and the Muslim Credit Union are service-oriented groups that cater to all Muslims. The Tobago Muslim Association contains both Wahhabi and traditionalist elements. Finally, the Majlis-al-Ulama, a forum for Islamic scholars to discuss matters affecting the community has not been functional lately. The Jamaat-ul-Muslimeen, an organization consisting of over 90 per cent Afro-Trinidadian members is a Wahhabi institution. Its militant, aggressive and uncompromising approach puts it apart from all the other groups. In fact, although the Jamaat-ul-Muslimeen has found acceptability as an orthodox Muslim body, its involvement in the attempted coup of July 1990 has been vociferously condemned by all local Muslim groups outlined above, including the ‘more radical’ UIO groups (Ryan 1991: 68). In fact, this group was forced to resign from the UIO in March 1994. It operates independently of all other Muslim organizations. Some former members of the Jamaat-ul-Muslimeen have formed the Islamic Resource Society, the IRS, which joined the UIO in 1995 and the Islamic Housing Cooperative in 1996.

VII As we have seen, Indian interpretations of Islam continue to exert a significant influence upon Muslims belonging to both traditional and fundamentalist groups in Trinidad and Tobago. Though the influence of the Middle East has been growing over the past decade it is still not as strong as the Indian influence. Close and continuous contact of East Indian Muslims has contributed to the growing diversity of religious practices and interpretations in Islam. Further, even the conflicts that characterize interpretations of Islam in India have been carried over to the Caribbean. The visits of a number of 320 NASSER MUSTAPHA

missionaries from India and Pakistan have contributed significantly to the emergence of numerous schisms and fissions among the local Muslim groups. Among the two major groups of Muslim organizations in Trinidad and Tobago, the UIO is more fundamentalist. The fundamentalist groups are weaker in both membership and control of resources, but are more active in proselytizing activities. They are more vociferous on matters that affect Muslims and are more likely to come into conflict with the established authority. Their women generally wear traditional Muslim garb (hijab) and free mixing of the sexes is not encouraged. They generally demonstrate equality of the sexes, with the exception of the Tabligh movement in which there is a tendency to relegate women to an inferior, domestic status. Though all fundamentalist groups regard polygamy as permissible on account of its religious sanction, it is widely practised only among members of the Afro-based Jamaat-ul-Muslimeen and the India-based Tabligh movement. Contact between Trinidad Muslims and the Middle East have increased over the past decade mainly through the influence of Arab-trained scholars. About 20 youngsters left these shores to pursue studies at universities in Saudi Arabia; some of them have already qualified. In comparison, approximately four times that number went to India on scholarships to pursue Islamic studies at Bangalore, Deoband and Aligarh. India still constitutes the preferred destination of the majority of Islamic scholars from Trinidad and Tobago.

NOTE 1. The term ‘East Indian’ refers to migrants from India. It is popularly used in the local literature for differentiating their group from other ‘Indians’ in the West, such as ‘West Indians’ and ‘American Indians’.

REFERENCES Akhtar, K.B. and A.H. Sakr. 1982. Islamic Fundamentalism. Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Igram Press.






Ali, F. 1991. A Historical Development of Muslim Organizations in Trinidad and Tobago. Caribbean Studies (BA) Thesis, UWI, St. Augustine. Central Statistical Office. 2000. Population and Housing Census 2000. Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago: Government Printery. Clarke, C.G. 1986. East Indians in a West Indian Town. London: Allen and Unwin. Hamid, A.W. 1978. ‘Muslims in the West Indies’. Paper presented to the Muslim Minorities Seminar, Islamic Council of Europe. Hess, B., E. Markson and P. Stein. 1991. Sociology. New York: MacMillan. Herklots, G.A. 1921. Islam in India. London: Kurzon Press. Hiro, D. 1989. Holy Wars: The Rise of Islamic Fundamentalism. New York: Routledge. Irving, T.B. 1982. ‘Foreword’ in K.B. Akhtar and A.H. Sakr, Islamic Fundamentalism, pp. 7–14. Iowa: Igram Press. Jha, J.C. 1973. ‘The Indian Heritage in Trinidad’ in J. La Guerre (ed.), From Calcutta to Caroni, pp. 3–22. Trinidad: Longman Caribbean. Kasule, O.H. 1986. ‘Muslims in Trinidad and Tobago’, Journal of the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs 7(1): 195–224. Khan, F. 1987. ‘Islam as a Social Force in the Caribbean’. Paper presented to the Conference of the History Teachers Association of Trinidad and Tobago, June 1987. Klass, M. 1961. East Indians in Trinidad. New York: Columbia University Press. Maududi. S.A.A. 1963. A Short History of the Revivalist Movement in Islam. Lahore: Islamic Publications. Muslim Standard. 1975, 3(December): 10–11. Niehoff, A. and J. Niehoff. 1960. East Indians in the West Indies. Milwaukee, USA: Milwaukee Public Museum Publications in Anthropology, no. 6. Quick, A.H. 1990. Deeper Roots: Muslims in the Caribbean: Before Columbus to the Present. Nassau, Bahamas: AICCLA. Rafeek, M. 1954. A History of Islam and Muslims in Trinidad. Trinidad Muslim League Inc. (commemorative brochure). Rizvi, G.A.A. 1965. Muslim Revivalist Movements in Northern India, Agra: Agra University. Ryan, S. 1991. The Muslimeen Grab for Power: Race, Religion and Revolution in Trinidad and Tobago. Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago: Imprint Caribbean Ltd. Samaroo, B. 1987. ‘The Indian Connection: The Influence of Indian Thought and Ideas on East Indians in the Caribbean’, in D. Dabydeen and B. Samaroo. India in the Caribbean, pp. 25–59. London: Hansib Publishing Ltd. ———. 1988. ‘Early African and East Indian Muslims in Trinidad and Tobago’. Paper presented at a conference on Indo-Caribbean History and Culture, University of Warwick, May 1988. Sanyal, U. 1996. Devotional Islam and Politics in British India: Ahmad Riza Khan Barelwi and His Movement 1870–1920. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Sivan, E. 1992. ‘Radical Islam’ in A. Giddens (ed.), Human Societies. Cambridge: Polity Press. Smith, R.J. 1963. ‘Muslim East Indians in Trinidad: Retention of Ethnic Identity Under Acculturative Conditions’. Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, University of Pennsylvania. Thurston, E. 1909. Castes and Tribes of Southern India (7 volumes). Madras: Christian Literature Society. Titus, M.T. 1930. Islam in India and Pakistan. Madras: Christian Literature Society.





ur contemporary moment is characterized by a global resurgence of religion. This resurgence is taking place in all social systems—from the technologically most advanced to the most traditional ones—and has manifested itself in many forms—religious fundamentalism, support to terrorism, or spiritual renewal of self and society. The public resurgence of religion in most advanced societies has taken place in spite of the predictions of the prophets of modernity that with the march of time religion would lose its public significance, and if at all it persists, it will only be as a residue in individual lives, as an aspect of personal faith. As one perceptive student of contemporary religious resurgence tells us: Faith persists and in persisting allows us to build a world more human than one in which men, nations or economic systems have become gods. Twenty years ago it seemed as if religion had run its course in the modern world. Today a more considered view would be that its story has hardly yet begun (Sacks 1991: 93) *Originally published in the Sociological Bulletin, vol. 43, no. 2, 1994, pp. 177–92.

This story of the persistence of faith and the public resurgence of religion is as much true of the United States as it is true of a society such as India. Since the late 1960s a wave of religious movements has swept American society. These movements have been of various kinds—mystical, Christian fundamentalist, and evangelical left. They have brought religion back to the secular city and in the process have challenged various institutional and symbolic boundaries of modernity—those, for example, between religion and politics, private and public morality, religion and science, and state and society (Cox 1984; Wuthnow 1988). The public resurgence of religion in the United States occurs at a time when all-pervasive and significant changes touching upon all the domains of life and subsystems of society are noticed. From the script of life to the organization of the economy and the discourse of politics, a vast restructuring is taking place due to the emergence of a post-industrial society (Bell 1973; Block 1987). Economic restructuring has led to the ‘deindustrialization of America’, political restructuring has led to the breakdown of consensus regarding the welfare state and social democracy, and the rise of new forms of work arrangements has broken down the stability of individual life based on occupation and employment (Buchman 1989; Giri 1993a). The resurgence of religion is taking place in this wider context of structural and discursive transformation in the United States. This resurgence, as we shall see, is a response to the challenges of contemporary changes, such as the colonization of the life-world by the system-world and the reduction of the meaning of life to measures of money and power. For instance, homelessness is a major problem in contemporary United States, which is directly related to its post-industrial transition and the consequent valorization of capital through investment in the built environment. Religious association, church groups and religious movements have responded to this crisis by building shelters for the homeless and affordable houses for the low-income groups. When the built environment of life renders inequality invisible by ‘residential separation and an often shocking indifference to human misery ... religious associations are among the few institutions with large memberships that partly mitigate these tendencies towards segregated lives’ (Bellah et al. 1991: 268). At the same time religious initiatives are not simply responses to societal problems; they also provide a new identity to individuals as seekers of meaning, truth, and justice for both the self and for others. As Giddens writes: ‘New forms of religion and spirituality represent in a most basic sense a return of the


repressed, since they directly address issues of the moral meaning of existence which modern institutions so thoroughly tend to dissolve’ (1991: 207).



In his insightful essay, ‘Religion in Postindustrial America’, Talcott Parsons commented on the prevalent situation in the United States thus: ‘It is legitimate to speak of a fundamentally new phase in the development of Western religious tradition. The most salient feature of this situation is emergence of a movement that resembles early Christianity in its emphasis on the theme of love’ (1978: 313). He had in mind the religious movements of the 1960s which were part of the emergent counter-culture in the United States. He had not anticipated the rise of other kinds of movements, such as Christian fundamentalism, which have become important cultural forces. What strikes one most about the cultural history of the United States is the confrontation between the forces of liberal modernity and of religious fundamentalism. This tension is specifically visible during the period of transition from the small-town rural society to the culture and complexity of the big cities. During the early decades of this century fundamentalists gained an upper hand in setting the terms of the debate about the future of America, as exemplified in the leadership of W.J. Bryan, the famous political leader of his times (Cox 1984). But since the 1920s the fundamentalists had been sidelined by the forces of modernity and had to live as a ridiculed minority. However, in the last few decades Christian fundamentalist conservatives have emerged as a major force in the political and cultural spectrum of the United States. The social and economic crises of the late 1960s and mid-1970s facilitated this revival of religion in American politics. With the election of Jimmy Carter, a compassionate Born Again Christian, this evangelical entry into politics and other key institutions of American society gained a visible legitimacy. Towards the end of the 1970s, however, it was the Christian Right, more appropriately the New Christian Right, that took the centre-stage of evangelical activism and politics.




MORAL MAJORITY Moral Majority is probably the most widely known among the fundamentalist Christian groups. It was founded in July 1979 by Reverend Jerry Falwell. Because of its chauvinist and anti-intellectual posture and fundamentalist stance Moral Majority has been usually defined as nothing but a ‘March of the Folly’. But Moral Majority is more than this: it also embodies a struggle to redefine America. It does so by working as a cultural movement, bent on creating a new collective identity for the Americans. It opposes the philosophy of secular humanism and liberal Christianity— the main currents of thought in the American heartland. It characterizes secular humanism as a godless, morally indecent and sexually permissive creed. Crucial to its anti-secular manifesto is Moral Majority’s conviction that secular humanism has twisted the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States to mean the separation of God from government and society. The other major target of fundamentalism in secular humanism is modern science and its numerous authoritative and unquestioned social institutions. Specifically significant here is Moral Majority’s opposition to the teaching of scientific evolution in the schools and its campaign for the inclusion of creationism in the syllabus. Its critical posture to the logic of modern science is not necessarily a total rejection of science (Cox 1984). Its culture of anti-scientism is not the same as the close-minded anti-scientism of the early twentieth-century fundamentalists, which resulted in the infamous Scopes trial in which a teacher of a religious school in Tennessee was subjected to a court trial for teaching Darwin in his class. For Cox, Moral Majority advocates the teaching of Creation on an equal basis with Evolution, not because the Bible teaches Creation but because it believes that biblical creationism can be established scientifically. Therefore, contemporary fundamentalists are not anti-scientists per se, but they regard their ideology as ‘the expression of a subculture that has refused to accept the modern division of labour by which theology was to deal with the inner life of faith and science with everything else (ibid.: 55). Egalitarianism and individual choice as aspects of the secular humanistic discourse are also Moral Majority’s target. In place of the current egalitarian discourse of ‘positive discrimination’ and ‘equality of opportunity’, Moral Majority emphasizes upon individual competition. Jerry Falwell 326 ANANTA GIRI

defends capitalism even in the name of Christianity (Cox 1984: 63). However, it is to be noted that this pro-business and pro-establishment orientation of the present-day fundamentalists is at odds with the pro-poor and the anti-corporation stand of the earlier fundamentalists of W.J. Bryan’s generation.

AGAINST LIBERAL CHRISTIANITY In recent decades, the National Council of Churches (NCC)—the umbrella organization for mainstream Protestantism in this country—has become Moral Majority’s main target. The NCC has been attacked for representing a value system and world-view that appears to the New Christian Right to be much closer to secular humanism than to historic Christianity’ (Heinz 1983: 135). The first tenet of the fundamentalist anti-liberal theology is its literal reading of the Scripture. The fundamentalists interpret the Bible literally and look to it for answers for almost everything. They also reject the interpretation of modern theology that faith is a ‘personal encounter with God which carries with it no necessary cognitive content and needs no historical mediator’ and insist that ‘faith is not just a relationship: it also has a doctrinal content. God not only reveals himself. He also reveals certain truths about himself. Faith is substance as well as form’ (Cox 1984: 57). In its struggle to provide an alternative definition of America, different from that provided by secular humanism and liberal Christianity, Moral Majority carries its battle to the symbol-producing centres of contemporary United States, mainly the churches, schools, neighbourhoods and the family. Moral Majority fights for the traditional family, for laws against abortion, for autonomy and tax-exempt status for the fundamentalist educational and cultural institutions, and for control over the secular ones. It legitimizes itself by bringing forth the theme of religious awakening in American history and by presenting the current fundamentalist resurgence as the harbinger of another great religious awakening (Lechner 1985). The second theme it employs in its search for legitimation is the notion of providential Americanism, which believes that the United States always had a special ‘covenant’ with God. Moral Majority legitimizes its




objective and agenda as a cultural movement by arguing that this covenant is now broken. In their struggle to legitimize their definition of America, Christian fundamentalists have made extensive use of television. In fact, televangelism is now an important cultural force in the United States which embodies a ‘critical link between mass media and social movements’ (Hadden and Shupe 1988: 40). While it is true that the communications revolution is now ‘reshaping American religion’ (ibid.) and ‘the move from the revivalist’s tent to the vacuum tube has vastly amplified the voices of defenders of tradition’ (Cox 1984: 69), the mechanical reproduction of prayer and soul therapy in these electronic churches also detaches the people of faith from the bases of living tradition. Contemporary fundamentalist resurgence has been misunderstood by its students—journalists, academic critics and social scientists—because they ‘fail to see that fundamentalism is an enclave, a little world that has been preserved by a range of schools, churches, colleges in which many of the assumptions of pre-modern world still obtain. In the subculture of fundamentalism people talk and think differently’ (Cox 1984: 56). Nancy Ammerman’s study, Bible Believers, provides us a thick description of this subculture of fundamentalism. In her study of Southside, a New England fundamentalist church, she found that for the fundamentalists, religion is grounded in an institution (the church) and in a document (the Holy Bible). Southside churchgoers are quite dogmatic about the literalness of the Bible. In fact this uncompromising attitude to the literalness of biblical truth distinguishes them from their closest neighbours, the evangelicals (Ammerman 1987: 4). For the Bible believers, all knowledge is contained in the Bible. For these fundamentalists any one who contradicts the ‘plain words of the Scripture’ is doing the work of Satan whether he knows it or not (ibid.). ‘The assembling together of believers’ in the church, mainly on Sunday but also on other evenings during the week is a very important event in the life of the Southsiders. ‘Although they may not hear church bells calling them to morning prayers and evening vespers, their days and weeks and lives are no less regulated by the churches’ cycle of events’ (Ammerman 1987: 119). As a Southside churchgoer says: ‘A good Sunday service gives me something for the whole week’ (ibid.). The various church fellowship meetings are also very important where the participants tell each other stories about their success, ask for prayer for their needs. The way things are done at church provides the underlying structure for how believers expect the world to be. In this togetherness and fellowship, the 328 ANANTA GIRI

shepherd is the pastor. The pastor has enormous authority and one of the situations in which that authority is manifest is the preaching situation in the church. The pastor speaks to the believers and ‘they learn from what he says’ (ibid.: 119). ‘None of them expects to have close personal friendship with the pastor; rather they expect to admire and imitate him’ (ibid.: 120). The most important challenge for the Southside believers is to nurture their children in the line of the admonition of the Lord. In the early stages of childhood, the children of the Bible believers learn about religious initiative and guilt. From the religious culture at home, they get ‘substance over which to feel guilty: not going to church, forgetting to read the Bible, disobeying, or playing with an unsaved child’ (Ammerman 1987: 171). The children of the Bible believers go to their own Christian church academy. The parents of the Southside kids see public schools as the greatest challenge to the transmission of the fundamentalist culture, because for them these schools are the repositories of false ideas. However, while being assured of a true Christian training in the church schools, the parents nevertheless worry about the prospect of such a predominantly biblical education and the quality of training in the field of natural science and engineering. The operation of the academy is a site for political activism and political contention for the Bible believers. As Ammerman tells us: ‘Much of the political activity at Southside, in fact, is aimed at defending fundamentalists’ ability to establish and run Christian institutions as they see fit’ (1987: 201). Ammerman sees fundamentalism as basically a cultural movement. For her, Fundamentalists are not defending declining prestige or economic position, but a culturally coherent way of life’ (ibid.: 193). She also places fundamentalism against the backdrop of social change in the United States when she writes: ‘When rapid technological change exceeds our ability to respond feelings of lostness are to expected. At such times, growth of fundamentalism can also be expected’ (ibid.: 192).

BEYOND FUNDAMENTALISM: A CRITICAL LOOK Fundamentalism is part of a broader movement in the United States, which has challenged some of the ‘secular assumptions’ of American society and with it God has finally arrived in Washington (Bellah et al. 1991). But when God is brought to Washington, do his followers lose RELIGIOUS RESURGENCE



some of his vision? According to Robert Bellah, yes they do. Bellah and his colleagues offer a profound critique of the tendency in Christian fundamentalism to bring God to Washington. In their words, ‘In mediating between state and the churches, so as to preach religious visions of a good society from public pulpits ... specialized para-church institutions may have the effect of making the churches more like the state ....’ (ibid.: 185). Moreover, ‘in the process of learning the state’s language of legal rights, cost-benefit utilities, and justice as due process, they have forgotten the language of covenant and communion’ (ibid.: 193). If Parsons had argued that new religious movements must achieve ‘a new level of integration with the secular society’ (1978: 322) Bellah and his colleagues show how some of the leaders of such movements argue that religions, while positively relating to society, must not be mere functional appendages to the integrated social system, they must offer a total critique of the contemporary condition, which stifles the human spirit in many ways. Bellah et al. (1991) tell us how there is a sign of such a critical engagement in the contemporary religious resurgence in the United States. The ideal of a ‘transformed Christ’ is dear to many young church leaders who ‘grew on the 1960s’ (Bellah et al. 1991). Mary Hatch, one of the church leaders whose views Bellah and his colleagues discuss at great length, tells us: ... the mainline churches have done a lousy job in naming the suffering of middle-class existence in our time. We haven’t told the truth about it. That’s the church’s greatest sin—not saying that the competitive driven existence that divides what it is to be a man or a woman, a white or black, is a form of human suffering’ (ibid.: 210). For Hatch, the church must educate its parishioners about the fact that ‘consumerism ... denies the needs of the poor in the name of our anxious desire. But most of all, consumerism kills the soul, as any good Augustinian can see, because it places things before the valuing of God and human community’ (ibid.: 211). For Hatch, the mainline churches have stifled people’s imagination and the preaching and teaching they provide ‘simply reify what people get from the newspaper and television’ (Bellah et al. 1991: 207). The reason for such stalemate lies ‘deeper than membership losses, and political controversy. A lot of it stems from assigning religion to the private realm ...’ (ibid.). For Hatch, the churches should be ‘more like basic Christian 330 ANANTA GIRI

communities on the liberation model ...’ (ibid.: 206). She holds that the ‘church ought to form its worship and liturgy around waking people up and getting them moving in the spirit instead of putting them to sleep with a thirty-minute lecture’ (ibid.: 206, 208). Hatch pleads for revitalizing the American social gospel tradition, which she treats as a ‘uniquely American movement’, which ‘uses American democratic norms and prophetic Christian ideals to criticize both society and the church, including the undemocratic aspects of America’s political economy and the privatization of bourgeoisie Christianity’ (ibid.: 210). In the new religious movements there is now an effort to go back to the Bible. Hatch believes that people can use the Bible as a ‘working document’ because of the ‘incredible pluralism’ within it (Bellah et al. 1991: 209). According to Robert Cooper, a Methodist minister: ‘The buzzword today is spiritual formation. You hear that all over the Methodist Church’ (ibid.: 199). But mainline churches with their rationalist emphasis are unable to infuse the churchgoers with this living spirit. Hence they are leaving the mainline churches to join the spirit-filled evangelical churches. In the words of Bellah and his colleagues: The crucial point in such trends is that the erosion of mainline religion’s strength has been a matter more of ethos than of numbers. It remains numerically strong but with a growing consciousness of itself as beleaguered cultural minority, caught between the widening free ways of secular city and the rising bastion’s religious right, and divided from within by conflict between spirit-filled evangelicals and dispirited if still stubbornly principled liberals (ibid.: 188).

THE SANCTUARY MOVEMENT The above discussion points to the diversity within the resurgence of religion in the secular city. While the New Christian Right represents one end of the spectrum of religious resurgence in the contemporary United States, the other end is represented by many base-communities which are inspired by the Latin American movement of liberation theology and evangelical movements for social justice, human dignity and equality. One such initiative is the famous Sanctuary Movement in the United States, which strives to provide sanctuary to the refugees from Central America who leave their homelands due to murder threats, political RELIGIOUS RESURGENCE



persecution and economic insecurity (Wiltfang and McAdam 1991). It was started by Jim Corbett of Tucson, Arizona. Corbett and his friends provided biblical justification for their action by invoking the Book of Numbers where Moses was commanded by God to establish ‘cities of refuge for the people of Israel, and for the Stranger and the Sojourner among them ...’ (Tomsho 1987: 26). The pastor of the Tucson Presbyterian church which was the first church to declare itself a sanctuary wrote to the then US Attorney General: ‘We have declared [our] church as sanctuary for undocumented refugees from Central America .... We believe that justice and mercy require that people of conscience actively assert our God-given right to aid anyone fleeing from persecution and murder’ (ibid.: 31). When we listen to the activists we get a sense of the conviction that animates American citizens who defy the state law in the name of biblical responsibility. In the words of one such activist who was arrested on the charge of smuggling illegal aliens and found guilty by the jury, ‘We have lost sight of the fact that when our sister and brother anywhere are hurt, we are hurt .... I am a woman with a heart and a mind. My faith commitment connects me to people and injustice’ (ibid.: 149). The Sanctuary refugees come from the Central American countries of Guatemala and El Salvador where Christian base-communities are also active, providing assistance to people in their fight against and flight from the military regimes. Base-communities are characterized by lay control. These communities are places of festivity which offer a critical analysis of the secular situation in the light of the biblical message (Cox 1984). These base-communities are run on the vision of liberation theology, which also provides a critical source of inspiration to the evangelical actions for social justice. Liberation theology stresses on ‘orthopraxis’, which favours the poor rather than ‘orthodoxy’ (ibid.). In its theological imagination God is a suffering God who is suffering along with the humans in their confrontation with evil. Its logos (word) is a corporate world plagued by corporate and class conflict (ibid.: see also Walzer 1985). Base-communities also exist in the United States (Pravera 1981). Cox writes about one such Catholic parish in Cape Cord, Massachusetts: ‘Even a casual visitor to St Francis Xavier cannot help noticing that something is happening in the American Catholic church which could hardly have been foreseen two decades ago’ (1984: 103). According to one of the Catholic fathers, this change lies in the fact that the American Catholic church is changing from ‘one that in this century won national acceptance and even respectability to one that now, under very different and emerging


circumstances, dares to challenge the national and international structures of injustice, selfishness and complacency of which our nation is undeniably a part’ (ibid.: 104).

HABITAT FOR HUMANITY Habitat for Humanity is a broad-based ecumenical and nondenominational Christian initiative in collective action and critical reflection, which builds houses for low-income families in the United States as well as in other countries around the world. As of January 1993 Habit has house-building projects in 815 American communities and in 40 overseas countries. Habitat for Humanity was founded as an international ministry of housing in 1976 by Millard Fuller, an ambitious young Alabama attorney whose competence and drive was believed to have made him a millionaire at a very early age (Carter 1985). His wealth and reputation were rapidly expanding, when his wife separated from him. He found no meaning in his pursuit of riches and got reconciled with his wife, by giving away his fortunes and starting life anew in the service of Christ. ‘No More Shacks’ is the daring vision of Habitat for Humanity (Fuller 1986). In this striving, Habitat is founded on the biblical principles of ‘Economics of Jesus’ and ‘Theology of Hammer’ (Fuller 1991). Habitat’s Theology of Hammer is put into practice in building houses. Theology of Hammer not only celebrates intervention and embodiment, but also prepares the context for transcending doctrinal differences and becoming genuinely ecumenical. For the German theologian, Johannes Baptist Metz, Christianity can be ecumenical only when it strives to meet the practical needs of ordinary people and thus reclaim the ‘alien world’ for the ‘Son of Man’ (Metz 1970: 88). Metz’s assessment enables us to appreciate the broader implication of what Millard Fuller says: One of the most exciting features of Habitat for Humanity is that people who do not normally work together at all are coming together everywhere to work in this cause: the affluent and the poor, ... Roman Catholics and Protestants, and every racial and ethnic group you can think of. We might disagree on how to preach or how to dress or how to baptize or how to take communion or even what RELIGIOUS RESURGENCE



communion is for. We may disagree on all sorts of other things— baptism, communion, what night to have prayer meetings, and how the preacher should dress .... [However] we will agree on the use of the hammer as an instrument to manifest God’s love (Fuller 1986: 127).

MORAL CRITICISM AND THE PARADIGM OF BUILDING In their recent moral critique of the institutional arrangement in contemporary United States, Bellah and his colleagues tell us that the contemporary American way of life minimizes seeking of any ‘larger moral meaning ...’ (Bellah et al. 1991: 43) and Americans have pushed the ‘logic of exploitation as far as it can go’ (ibid.: 271). In this context, they plead for a new paradigm for the actors and the institutions of the United States—what they call the pattern of cultivation. The paradigm of cultivation refers to the habit of paying attention to the needs of one another and belonging to communities and traditions. Attention is described here normatively and refers to pursuing goals and relationships which give us meaning, and is different from ‘distraction’ and ‘obsession’ (ibid.). For the authors of Good Society and for the participants in its conversation, while channel flipping, TV watching, compulsive promiscuity, and alcoholism are forms of distraction, spending time with one’s children, repairing the broken car of a neighbour and building houses for those who don’t have a roof over their head is a form of attention (ibid.). In Habitat we see such an idealism and attentiveness at work. If the actors in Bellah’s conversation on good society express their idealism through the idiom of cultivation, the actors of Habitat express it through the idiom of ‘love in the mortar joints’. The paradigm is a paradigm of building—building homes and building communities. Fuller talks about pursuit and building as appropriate models of the care of the self, as appropriate modes of being in the world and self-engagement. Like Bellah’s actors, Fuller also presents his idea of pursuit as a normative one and argues that ‘a spiritual dimension to our various pursuits is essential to make sense of what life is all about’ (Fuller 1992b: 4–5). Fuller challenges the educated and affluent in North America: ‘Don’t sell out for a big salary, a picket fence and 2.3 children. These things will take care of themselves if you aim high and go for the joy and reward of a life of accomplishment, excellence and building a better world’ (Fuller 1992a). 334 ANANTA GIRI

Here it must be noted that many commentators of the emergent American consciousness point to a pervasive spiritual urge within a section of the population so that critical exhortations from interlocutors such as Fuller do not fall only on deaf ears. For instance, one observer tells us that a strong social ethic is emerging as a major component of the new spirituality. What she writes rings a bell in the discourse and practice of the actors of Habitat for Humanity. ‘This ethic might be called an activist form of mystical endeavour, for it supports transformative work in society as an outgrowth and manifestation of transformation of the self. Still further, movement people regard their immersion in transformational activity as a work of healing’ (Albanese 1993: 138). Another observer of contemporary American religiosity argues that the religious scene is characterized not only by ‘pastiche styles of belief and practice, combining elements from such diverse sources as Eastern meditation, native American spirituality [etc.] ....’ but by a ‘profound searching’ (Roof 1993b: 165). This profound searching is ‘not so much that of navel gazing, but a quest for balance—between self and others, between self-fulfillment and social responsibilities’ (ibid.).

DYNAMICS OF RELIGIOUS RESURGENCE Two important theories of social change in the modern world, namely, secularization and Marxism, had predicted the demise of religion with the progressive modernization of society. The theory of secularization had spoken of the process of differentiation in societal institutions by which religion would retreat from a privileged position in society to a private sphere of the individual. Differentiation and privatization were supposed to be accompanied by a third process, namely the process of desacralization, which refers to the ‘tendency to explain the everyday world in terms of material reality rather than supernatural forces’ (Wald 1992: 40). The theory of secularization also propounded that as a consequence of modernization people would ‘define their personal identity and political interests not in terms of religion but as a function of their standing in the market place ...’ (ibid.: 5). Wald (1992: 6) further holds that ‘the forecast of religious decline in the modern world has been reinforced by another influential theory of social change—Marxism’. Marx had suggested that religion ‘appealed most strongly to the oppressed who desperately needed some explanation for RELIGIOUS RESURGENCE



their plight’ (ibid.). But with the end of oppression and the transformation of ‘intolerable social conditions’ religion would simply evaporate along with these social transformations (ibid.: 7). Our preceding account of the dynamics of religious resurgence in the United States demonstrates not only the persistence of religion in technologically advanced societies but the crucial role it plays in public life, including efforts to make the ‘intolerable social conditions’ more humane and just. At the same time it also points to a very complex dialectic at work between religion and technology in the contemporary United States. Religion has not only gone through a process of rationalization of faith and practice but has used tools of advanced technology to present itself to the public. ‘... [T] he very terms of religious discussion are increasingly being dictated by norms of technical rationality, as evidenced in such diverse developments as televised religion, creation science, the church growth movement, and religious nuclear disarmament campaigns’ (Wuthnow 1988: 316). For Wuthnow thus the survival and revival of religion has been made possible by the way religion accommodates itself ‘in perhaps irreversible ways to the dominant ethos of scientific technology’ (ibid.: 316). But our account also shows how the picture of adjustment between religion and technology constitutes only one part of the story. The other part is a quest for spiritual renewal of self and society where religious resurgence indicates ‘perhaps not only regressions but also exploratory movements … beneath the threshold of the wellinstitutionalized orders of science and technology’ (Habermas 1984: 25).

WIDENING THE UNIVERSE OF DISCOURSE Indian intellectuals are currently engaged in a debate on the relevance of secularism to contemporary Indian society. For some of them, secularism is a Western ideal and is not suited to the cultural ethos in India while for others the ideal of secularism is as significant for modern India as it is for the modern West, because secularism is not only at the core of our identity as citizens of a united India but also at the core of the organization of roles, occupations and institutions in contemporary India. But though this debate does not pay attention to the global processes of retreat from secularism and the resurgence of religion it is essential to be sensitive to the hopes, fears and aspirations of those who participate in such a 336 ANANTA GIRI

simultaneous process of deconstruction and reconstruction rather than hastily reject the resurgence of religion as the inevitable doom of humanity. It is with this objective that I have presented here an anthropological view from afar. This provides us a different vantage point to rethink our taken-for-granted assumptions about the ascendancy of politics and the decline of religion in the modern world (Béteille 1980). Faith persists in the modern world because it challenges the narrow view of human beings that utilitarianism, rationalism, and secularism have put forward. It also caters to the modern man’s essential need for familiarity with the transcendent source of values. Thus, the retreat from secularism and the revival of religion in the United States is taking place not simply because of the fact that more and more individuals are now realizing that science, technology and rationality fail to give them meaning in both their personal and occupational lives. They are realizing that it is not enough to play one’s role efficiently in modern organizations but to ask the more fundamental questions of well-being, justice, and fairness. They are realizing that modern and post-modern developments have caused infinite fragmentation in their lives and they are striving to put these fragments back together again into a meaningful whole. At the heart of many religious movements in the United States is an urge to participate in a spiritual transformation of self and society. Religions have always had two dimensions—social and spiritual (Pande 1989, 1991, 1992), but sociologists have deliberately ignored the spiritual dimension of religion and its significance as a perennial source of criticism and transformation (Chardin 1956). Secularism is making a retreat because it has failed to resolve even some of the institutional problems of modern society, leave alone providing a guide to our quest for ultimate concern—a concern which is not just abstract and isolated but an integral seeking, covering the whole space from food to freedom. Secularism has deliberately put us in the dark about the fact that there is a hierarchy of meaning in our lives and without a continuous touch with a Transcendental Sacred individuals cease to be bearers of critical consciousness and hence institutions get fossilized (Habermas 1984; Giri 1993b; Griffin 1988; Unger 1987). Modern intellectuals have not cared to understand the spiritual dimension in the work of self, culture and society. What is striking is that even Indian intellectuals have not looked at their secular assumptions critically. Thus it is no wonder that while talking about the career of secularism in modern India they can only talk of Nehru, not Gandhi. It might be true that in trying to bring a secular India into being Nehru did not turn his ‘back on religion’ but it is also true that Nehru did not take religion RELIGIOUS RESURGENCE



seriously. But Gandhi took both religion and secularism seriously and sought to achieve both through spiritual sadhana and cultural movements. The story of the revival of religion in a technologically advanced society, such as the United States, shows us that there are multiple meanings of both religion and secularism and the Gandhian agenda of secularism through spiritual transformation is probably the only alternative we have as we are stirred by the call of faith in a complex and plural world. As Madan argues: Perhaps men of religion such as Mahatma Gandhi would be our best teachers on the proper relation between religion and politics, values and interests, underlining not only the possibilities of interreligious understanding, which is not the same thing as an emaciated version of mutual tolerance or respect, but also opening out avenues of a spiritually justified limitation of the role of religious institutions in certain areas of contemporary life (1992: 408). For Madan, ‘in multi-religious societies, such as those of South Asia, it should be realized that secularism may not be restricted to rationalism, that it is compatible with faith, and that rationalism (as understood in the West) is not the sole force of a modern state’ (ibid.: 404). But Madan does not realize that this intermixture between secularism and faith is not simply a given one—as Madan seems to be suggesting—but has to be an object of a spiritual sadhana. Though it is true that ‘... in our participation in religious experience we can have immediate access to a distinctive kind of value realizable as spiritual freedom ... exclusive dependence on religious participation [also] tends to encourage the error of intolerance, which fails to see an experience different from one’s own as having equal authenticity’ (Pande 1991: 431). But appreciating such an approach to religion and secularism requires us to adopt an appropriate stance towards the world-view of modernity and an ‘interpretive stance towards religion’ (Wuthnow 1991: 14). This does not mean that ‘we must abandon rigour, or view religious fanaticism with sympathy’ but it means trying to ‘interpret the significance of contemporary movements in terms of hopes and aspirations of their participants, including their hopes for salvation and spiritual renewal ...’ (ibid.). At the same time, taking an appreciative stance towards the significance of religion, especially its hidden spirituality, implies facing the daunting task of distinguishing the grain from the chaff, that is, religious bigotry from spiritual movements. Those who use the name of religion or God to break 338 ANANTA GIRI

another believer’s place of worship are misusing both religion and politics; they represent what Heller and Feher (1989) call the ‘bad conscience’ of the modern world and they destroy the spiritual essence of a religion. In this delineation of Christian fundamentalist movements we have also seen them at work (Harding 1987). But those Bible believers who make a chauvinistic equation between Christianity and the national destiny of the United States do not exhaust the scenario of religious revitalization there. The American civil religion is not limited by their chauvinism since it has almost always incorporated vital international symbolism in its horizon (Wuthnow 1988). The challenge that Rienhold Niebuhr presents to religious bigots is as much true for Indians as it is for Americans: We cannot expect even the wisest of nations to escape every peril of moral and spiritual complacency; for nations have always been constitutionally self-righteous. But it will make a difference whether the culture in which policies of nations are formed is only as deep and as high as the nation’s ideals; or whether there is a dimension in the culture from the standpoint of which the element of vanity in all human ambitions and achievements is discerned. But this is the height which can be grasped only by faith .... The faith which appropriates the meaning in the mystery inevitably involves an experience of repentance for the false meanings which the pride of nations and cultures introduces into the pattern. Such repentance is the true source of charity; and we are more desperately in need of genuine charity than of mere technocratic skills (Niebuhr quoted in Bellah et al. 1991: 231). Destroying other people’s faith and home in the name of religion is fundamentalism and its critique is possible and in fact most effective when forwarded from within the horizon of faith. As Sacks challenges us: Fundamentalism is the belief that timeless religious texts can be translated into the time-bound human situation, as if nothing has changed. But something has changed: our capacity for destruction and the risk that conflict will harm the innocent .... It is the virtue of those who believe unconditionally that rights attach to individuals as God’s creation, regardless of the route he or she chooses to salvation. That is counter-fundamentalism, the belief that God has given us many universes of faith but only one world to live together (Sacks 1991: 81). RELIGIOUS RESURGENCE



NOTE This essay builds upon the work on religious revitalization in contemporary United States that I had done as part of the course on ‘Anthropological Approaches to Judaism and Christianity’ that I had taken with Professor Gillion Feeley-Harnik at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA. The last section of the essay constituted a lecture delivered at Allahabad Museum and Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. This essay is a revised version of my working paper, ‘Religious Movements in the Contemporary United States’, published by the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. I thank Professors Gillion Feeley-Harnik, G.C. Pande and members of the audience in Allahabad for their comments and criticism. I thank Professor M.N. Panini for his comments, criticism and encouragement.

REFERENCES Albanese, Catherine. 1993. ‘Fisher Kings and Public Places: The Old New Age in the 1990s’, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 527(May): 131–43. Ammerman, Nancy. 1987. Bible Believers: Fundamentalists in the Modern World. New Brunswick and London: Rutgers University Press. Bell, Daniel. 1973. The Coming of a Postindustrial Society. New York: Basic Books. Bellah, Robert, Richard Madsen, William Sullivan, Ann Swidler and Steven M. Tipton. 1985. Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life. New York: Harper and Rowe. ———. 1991. The Good Society. New York: Alfred A. Knof. Béteille, André. 1980. Ideologies and Intellectuals. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Block, Fred. 1987. Revising State Theory: Essays in Politics and Postindustrialism. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Buchman, Marlis. 1989. The Script of Life in Modern Society: Entry into Adulthood in a Changing World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Carter, Jimmy. 1985. ‘Hands for a Home’. Habitat Commentary (a pamphlet of Habitat for Humanity). Americus, GA, USA: Habitat for Humanity. Chardin, Tielherd de. 1956. Man’s Place in Nature: The Human Zoological Group. London: Collins. Cox, Harvey. 1984. Religion in the Secular City: Towards a Postmodern Theology. New York: Simon and Schuster. Fuller, Millard. 1986. No More Shacks. Waco, Texas: Word Book Publishers. ———. 1991. ‘Making Room at the Inn. The Church Confronts Homelessness’. Paper presented at the Bowen Conference, Handersonville, North Carolina. ———. 1992a. ‘Building a Better World’. Commencement Address at Technical University of Nova Scotia. 9 May. ———. 1992b. ‘Housing Things which Makes for Peace’. Baccalaurate Sermon. North Park College, Chicago, Illinois. 22 May.


Giddens, Anthony. 1991. Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Cambridge: Polity Press. Giri, Ananta. 1993a. ‘Social Policy and the Challenge of the Postindustrial Transformation’, Indian Journal of Social Science 6(4): 371–93. ———. 1993b. ‘Connected Criticism and the Womb of Tradition’. Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. Working Paper. Griffin, David. 1988. Spirituality and Society: Postmodern Visions. Albany: State University of New York Press. ———. 1989. God and Religion in the Postmodern World. Albany: State University of New York Press. Habermas, Jurgen (ed.). 1984. Observations on the Spiritual Situation of the Age: Contemporary German Perspectives. Cambridge, AA: The MIT Press. Hadden, Jeffrey and A. Shupe. 1988. Televangelism: Power and Politics on God’s Frontier. New York: Henry Holt and Co. Harding, Susan. 1987. ‘Convicted by the Holy Spirit: The Rhetoric of Fundamentalist Baptist Conversion’, American Ethnologist 14(1): 167–81. Heinz, Donald. 1983. ‘The Struggle to Define America’ in R. Liebman and R. Wuthnow (eds), The New Christian Right: Mobilization and Legitimization. New York: Aldine Publishing Co. Heller, Agnes and F. Feher. 1989. The Postmodern Political Condition. New York: Columbia University Press. Lechner, Frank. 1985. ‘Fundamentalism and Socio-Cultural Revitalization in America: A Sociological Interpretation’, Sociological Analysis 46(3): 243–60. Madan, T.N. 1992. ‘Secularism in Its Place’ in T.N. Madan (ed.), Religion in India, pp. 394–409. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Metz, Johann B. 1970. ‘Does Our Church Need a New Reformation? A Catholic Reply’, Concilium 4(6): 81–91. Pande, Govind Chandra. 1989. The Meaning and Process of Culture as Philosophy of History. Allahabad: Raka Prakashan. ———. 1991. ‘Two Dimensions of Religion: Reflections Based on Indian Spiritual Experience and Philosophical Traditions’ in Eliot Deutch (ed.), Culture and Modernity, pp. 430–51. Honolulu and London: University of Hawaii Press. ———. 1992. ‘Culture and Cultures’. Unpublished Manuscript. Parsons, Talcott. 1978. ‘Religion in Postindustrial America: The Problem of Secularization’ in Talcott Parsons, Action Theory and the Human Condition, pp. 300–22. New York: The Free Press. Pravera, Kate. 1981. ‘The United States: Realities and Responses’, Christianity and Crisis 21(September). Roof, Wade Clark. 1993a. ‘Preface to the Special Issue on Religion in the Nineties’, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 527: 8–10. ———. 1993b. ‘Toward the Year 2000: Reconstructions of Religious Space’, The Annals of American Association of Political and Social Science 527(May): 155–70. Sacks, Jonathan. 1991. The Persistence of Faith: Religion, Morality and Society in a Secular Age. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson. Tomsho, Robert. 1987. The American Sanctuary Movement. Austin, Texas: Texas Monthly Press. Unger, Roberto M. 1987. False Necessity: Anti-Necessitarian Social Theory in the Service of Radical Democracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Wald, Kenneth D. 1992. Religion and Politics in the United States. Second Edition. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. Walzer, Michael. 1985. Exodus and Revolution. New York: Basic Books. Wiltfang, Gregory and Doug McAdam. 1991. ‘The Gifts and Risk of Social Activism: A Study of Sanctuary Movement Activism’, Social Forces 69(June): 987–1010. Wuthnow, Robert. 1988. The Restructuring of American Religion: Society and Faith Since World War II. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ———. 1991. ‘Understanding Religion and Politics’, Daedalus 120(3): 1–20.



Venkatarayappa, K.N. 1962. ‘A Study of Customs in Rural Mysore’, 11(1 and 2). Bardis, Panos D. 1964. ‘Early Christianity and the Family’, 13(2). Ahuja, Ram. 1965. ‘Religion of the Bhils—a Sociological Analysis’, 14(1). Sharma, S.L. and R.N. Srivastava. 1967. ‘Institutional Resistance to induced Islamization in a Convert Community: An Empirical Study in Sociology of Religion, 16(1). Patwardhan, Sunanda. 1968. ‘Social Mobility and Conversion of the Mahars’, 17(2). Gowdra, Gurumurthy K. 1971. ‘Ritual Circles in a Mysore Village’, 20(1). Jain, S.P. 1971. ‘Religion and Caste Ranking in a North Indian Town’, 20(2). Sharma, Ursula M. 1974. ‘Public Shrines and Private Interests: The symbolism of the Village Temple’, 23(1). Caplan, Lionel. 1976. ‘Class and Urban Migration in South India: Christian Elites in Madras City’, 25(2). Rao, C.R. Prasad. 1978. ‘Causal Determinants of Secular Orientation among Farmers of Three Villages in Andhra Pradesh: A Path Analytic Study’, 27(1). Agrawal, Binod C. 1999, ‘Cultural Invasion from the Sky: Hinduization of Indian Television?’ 48(1 and 2).


Rowena Robinson is Associate Professor in Sociology, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Bombay. She has earlier taught at Delhi University. She is author of Conversion, continuity and change: Lived Christianity in Southern Goa (Sage, 1998) and Christians of India (Sage, 2003), and editor (with Sathianathan Clarke) of Religious conversion in India: Modes, motivations and meanings (OUP, 2003).


A.R. Desai was Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology, Mumbai University, author of several books including The social background of Indian nationalism (Popular Prakashan, 1948) and State and society in India: Essays in dissent (Popular Prakashan, 1975) and editor of several works including Rural sociology in India (Popular Prakashan 1969), Peasant struggles in India (Oxford 1982) and Agrarian Struggles in India: After Independence (Oxford 1982). Saurabh Dube is Professor of History, Centre for Asian and African Studies, El Colegio de Mexico, author of Untouchable pasts (Albany: SUNY Press, 1998; South Asia reprint, Vistaar/Sage, 2001); Sujetos subalternos (Mexico: El Colegio de Mexico, 2001); and Stitches on time (Durham: Duke University Press, forthcoming) and editor of Pasados poscoloniales (Mexico: El Colegio de Mexico, 1991); Enduring enchantments (special issue of South Atlantic Quarterly, Duke University Press, 2002); and Historical anthropology and Postcolonial passages, both forthcoming from Oxford University Press.

Tanveer Fazal is Research scholar at the Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Ananta Giri is Associate Professor at the Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai and author of Values, ethics and business: Challenges for education and management (Rawat 1998) and Global transformations: Postmodernity and beyond (Rawat 1998). D. Dennis Hudson is Professor of World religions at the Department of Religion, Smith College, Northampton, MA 01063, USA. N. Jayaram is Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology, Goa University, editor of Sociological Bulletin, author of Sociology of education in India (Rawat 1990) and co-editor of Social Conflict (OUP 1998). A.R. Momin is Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology, Mumbai University, author of Islam and the promotion of knowledge (Institute of Objective Studies, New Delhi 2001) and co-editor of Census as Social Document (Rawat 1996). Nasser Mustapha is Lecturer in the Faculty of Behavioural sciences, University of the West Indies. Proshanta Nandi is Professor of Sociology, University of Illinois, Springfield, IL, USA and co-editor of Globalization and the Evolving World Society (E.J. Brill 1998). M.S.A. Rao was Professor of Sociology at the University of Delhi. He taught at the universities of London, Syracuse, Pennsylvania, Duke and Virginia. He was the author of Social Change in Malabar, Urbanization and Social Change, Tradition, Rationality and Change, Social Movements and Social Transformation; co-authored Cities and Slums; edited Urban Sociology in India, Social Movements in India, Studies in Migration; and coeditor Food, Society and Culture and Dominance and State Power in Modern India. He was the recipient of the Ghurye Award and the Sarat Chandra Roy Gold Medal. Ursula Sharma is Professor of Comparative Sociology and Director of the Centre for Social Research, University of Derby, author of Women’s work, class and the urban household: A study of Shimla, North India (Tavistock 346 SOCIOLOGY



1986), Complementary medicine today: Practitioners and patients (Routledge 1995), Caste (Open University Press, Milton Keynes 1999) and co-editor of Contextualizing caste: Post Dumontian approaches (Blackwell 1994). Kunj Bihari Singh (no information available) Nirmala Srinivasan is author of Identity crisis of Muslims: Profiles of Lucknow youth (Concept Publishing House, New Delhi 1980). L. Thara Bhai is Professor of Sociology at the Department of Sociology, Madurai Kamaraj University, and editor of Aging: Indian perspective (Decent Books, New Delhi 2002). C.N. Venugopal is retired Professor of Sociology, Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University, author of Religion and Indian society (Gyan Publishing House 1998) and co-author of Sociology for law students (Eastern Book Company 2002).





Abu Ansar, 90 Acharya, Srinivasa, 127 Aggarwal, P.C., 97 Agricultural Labour Enquiry, 65 Ahl-i-Hadith movement, 96 Ahmad, Abdul Mansur, 283 Ahmad, Aziz, 87, 94, 96 Ahmad, Emajuddin, 295 Ahmad, I., 267 Ahmad, Imtiaz, 87–88, 90, 93 Ahmad, Ishtiaq, 279 Ahmad, Mirza Ghulam, 307, 313 Ahmad, Mumtaz, 294 Ahmad, Sayyad, 306–7, 314 Ahmad, Shaikh, 306 Ahmad, Zarina, 90 Ahmadi, Anjuman, 318 Ahmed, Feroz, 289 Ajlaf communities, 89, 92–93 Akbar, 306 Alavi, Hamza, 290 Albanese, Catherine, 335 Albuquerque, Afonso de, 183 Alexander, K.C., 261–62 Ali, Ameer, 313, 318 Ali, F., 303, 317

Ali, Mufti Shabil, 315 Ali, Tariq, 284, 287, 290 All India Muslim League, 314 All India Radio, 56 Althusser, Louis, 102 Amalorparvadass, D.S., 114 Ambedkar, B.R., 257, 264 American and General Conference Menonites, 233 American Evangelical Mission, 247 Ammerman, Nancy, 328–29 Ananthamurthy, U.R., 143 Anjuman Sunnat-ul-Jammat Association (ASJA), 313–16, 318–20 Ansari Shaikhs, 90 Ansari, Ghaus, 88, 90 Ansari, Maulana, 318 Appadurai, Arjun, 17 Aradhya Saivism, 138 Arakeri, S.S., 263 Arya Samaj, 30, 80, 152, 247 Asad, Talal, 232 Ashraf, K.M., 89 Ashraf communities, 89 Ashraf-Ajlaf dichotomy, 93, 98 Ashrafization, process of, 89–94, 97–98

Asta-varana, adoption of, 144 Aurangzeb, 47, 306 Awami League, 296 Awliya, Shaikh Nizamuddin, 85 Azad, Abul Kalam, 48 Azan Case, 105 Azavedo, A.E. d’Almeida, 192 Aziz, Shah Abhul, 96 Aziz, Syed Abdul, 313 Bach, Johann Sebastian, 202 Backward Classes, 264 Badran, Hisham, 315 Bahadur, Kalim, 288 Balak Nath Baba cult, 152–57, 160–63 Balban, 89 Baldaeus, Philippus, 201 Bande Mataram, 45 Bangladesh, language and religion trend, 292–97 Bangladeshi National Party (BNP), 296 Barelvi, Sayyid Ahmad, 96 Basava, 137–38, 140–41, 144 Basavaraju, L., 142 Baviskar, B.S., 15 Bayly, Susan, 206, 208, 232 Beidelman, Thomas, 232 Bell, Daniel, 324 Bell, Rudolph M., 193 Bellah, Robert, 324, 329–31, 334, 339 Bengali Muslims, 281 Bengali nationalism, 282–84, 292–95, 297 Berger, P., 102, 117 Béteille, André, 337 Beyreuther, Erich, 224 Bhagyachandra, 128 Bhai, L. Thara, 26, 165 Bhajan Mandalis, 56 Bhakti movement, 85 Bhandarkar, R.G., 126 Bharat Sevak Samaj, 56 Bharatri, Raja, 163 Bhartiya Christiya Sevak Samaj, 115 Bhutto, Zulfikar Ali, 285 Bible Believers, 328 Bidney, B., 59 Billah, Khwaja Baqi, 96

Binder, Leonard, 278–79 Bishop Chitamber, 115 Bizenjo, Ghaus Baksh, 288 Block, Fred, 324 Borofsky, Robert, 249 Bose, K., 166 Bose, Subash Chandra, 166 Bougle, Celestin, 135 Bowers, F., 130 Boxer, C.R., 178, 181–82, 184 Brahminic(al) Hinduism, 184, 257, 259 Brahmo Samaj, 80 Brajabasi, Adhikari Kamdeva, 128 Brass, Paul, 38, 111 Braudel, Fernand, 192 Breman, J., 258 Brentano, 69 British India Association, 104, 110 Brown, Judith M., 39 Bryan, W.J., 325, 327 Buchman, Marlis, 324 Buddhism, 28, 39, 63, 70–71, 137–38, 263–64, 267, 293 Bull Romanus Pontifex, 178 Burghart, Richard, 249 Bynum, C.W., 192 Callaway, Helen, 248 Calvin, Jean, 219 Camphor Flame, 21 Capitalism, 68–70 Caplan, L., 260–63 Carmen, J.B., 263 Carter, Jimmy, 325, 333 Caste and Social Stratification among Muslims in India, 267 Caste system, 87–89, 135 Catholicism, 69, 73, 177, 302 Chaitanya, 127–29 Chaitanya Charitamrita, 129 Chaitanyaism, 127, 130 Chaitanyaite Vaishnavism, 26, 127–28, 130–31 Chand, Tara, 95 Chandavarkar, N.G., 80 Charairongba, 126–27 Chardin, Tielherd de, 337 Cherman Christians, 261


Chhatisgarh, see, Colonial Chhatisgarh Chidanandamurthy, M., 139, 141 Chishti, Shaikh Muinuddin, 85 Chishtiya order, 85 Chitravahana dynasty, 125 Christian fundamentalism, 30–31 Christian fundamentalists, 328 Christian socialism, 115–16 Christianity, 18, 21–22, 28, 39, 49, 63, 71, 141, 149, 267, 293; of UP, 100– 17; study of, 100–17; Satnampanth and, 244–47 Church imperialism, 115–16 Churihars, of Ganges Valley, 87 Clarke, C.G., 303, 309 Cohn, B.S., 256 Colonial Chhatisgarh, caste relationship in, 247; Christianity in, 231–50; convert communities, 238–44; missionary lifestyle in, 235–37; Satnamis in, 232– 33, 244–47; Satnampanth in, 232–34, 244–47; studies of mission projects and missionaries in, 232–34 Colonial cultures of rule, 235, 248 Colonialism, 100 Comaroff, Jean, 232, 234, 237, 240, 248– 49 Comaroff, John, 232, 234, 237, 240, 248 Committee on Religious and Moral instructions, report of, 55–57 Communal Awards, 112 Communalism, 31, 100, 102–3, 108–17 Constantino, Dom, 188 Constitution of India, article 19, 117 Conversion, 85, 106, 126, 138; among depressed castes, 260–63; analysis of, 260–63; dilemmas of, 264–66; in colonial Chhatisgarh, 231–50; literature on, 179–83; meanings of, 232; motives behind, 183–84; of Goa to Catholicism, 177–95; perception of converts, 239–41; process, 186–94; socio–historical perspective, 177–95; sociology of, 28–31; studies of mission project and missionaries, 232–34, 248–50; to Islam, 305; use of beef and pork as means of effecting, 192

Convert communities, adultery and, 240– 41; caste relationship, 247; conflict with missionaries, 240; nature of, 238–44; perception pattern of, 239– 41 Cooper, Robert, 331 Corbett, Jim, 332 Corpus Christi feast, 193 Cow Riots (1905), 110 Cox, Harvey, 324–28, 332 Creole society, 309 Criminal Tribes Act, 166 Cults, comparison of, 160–63; nature of, 149–50; of Baba Balak Nath, 152–55, 160–63; of district Kangara, 150–51; of Ludru, 156–63; study of, 149–63 D’Almeida, Pedro, 191 D’Costa, A., 179–80, 186, 189–91, 194 D’Souza, B.G., 180, 185 D’Souza, D., 104–5, 108 Dalit-Muslim alliance, 267 Dalit-Shramik Alliance, 268 Danish East India Company, 199 Dara Shikoh, 94 Dar-ul-Ulum, 317, 319 Das, Arvind, 103 Das, Syamananda, 127 Das, Veena, 17, 21 Datta, Narottam, 127 Day-books of catechists, 241–44 De, S.K., 127, 129 De-sanskritization, process of, 90 De Souza, T.R., 182, 184–85 De Stuers, Cora Vreede, 89 De-ashrafization, process of, 89–94, 98 Death in Banaras, 21 Dehlavi, Shah Abdul Aziz, 94 Dehlavi, Shah Waliullah, 96 Depressed classes, dilemmas of conversion, 264–66; emancipation through Proselytism, 256–69; expectations and experience, 260–63; Hinduism as justificatory ideology, 259–60; internal differences and localized incorporation, 257–58; marginal status of, 256–69


Der Friedensbote, 233 Derrett, J.D.M., 187 Desai, 24 Desai, A.R., 54 Devanandan, P., 116 Dharma, concept of, 72–75 Diffie, B.W., 182–83 Diksitar, Muttuswami, 203 Dirks, Nicholas B., 249 Disciples of Christ, 233 Documenta Indica, 193 Dravida Kazhagam Movement, 63 Dube, S.C., 17, 25, 28–29, 86 Dube, S.E., 74 Dube, Saurabh, 231, 234, 241, 244, 247– 50 Dumont, Louis, 21–22, 26, 88, 134, 141, 249, 263 Dunham, Barrows, 66–67 Durrani, Maulana, 313 Dutch East India Company, 207 Dutt, Romesh, 108 Eaton, Richard, 232 Eck, Diana, 21 Economic development, case of Tirupati temple, 81; Hinduism and, 71–82; religion and, 68–82; sectarian reformatory movements and, 79–81 Ehrar League Party (EL), 113–14 Eisenstadt, S.N., 17, 70 Ekorama, 137 Encyclopedia of Sociology, 41 Enloe, Cynthia, 101 Ethnic process, and minority identity, 100–17 Ethnicity, theoretical issues, 101–3 Fabian, Johannes, 248 Falwell, Jerry, 326–27 Fanfani, A., 73 Faraidi movement, 96 Farquhar, J.N., 128 Fazal, Tanveer, 31, 275 Fischer, Louis, 44 Fishman, Joshua, 287 Forrester, Duncan B., 232 Forward Bloc, 166

Francke, August Hermann, 205 Frederick IV, 199 Fuller, C.J., 21, 261–62 Fuller, Millard, 333–35 Fundamentalism, 30–32, 46, 328–29 Fundamentalist and revivalist movements, 19 Gadgil, D.R., 65–66 Galanter, M., 264 Gama, Vasco da, 183 Gandhi, Mohandas, 38, 44, 49–51, 337– 38 Gandhi nationalism, 113, 116 Ganganarayan, 128 Gankovsky, Y.V., 278 Garib Nawaz, 127 Gaura Dharma movement, 128 Geertz, Clifford, 101 Gensichen, Hans-Werner, 203–4 German Evangelical Mission Society, 232–33, 238 Ghurye, G.S., 72, 77, 126, 133, 136–37, 256 Giddens, Anthony, 324 Giri, Ananta, 30, 324, 337 Gita-Govinda, 127, 129 Glazer, N., 101 Globalization, impact on religion and culture, 18–19, 24, 30–31 Goa, conquest of, 183–84; conversion to Catholicism, 177–95; literature on conversion, 179–83; pre-Portuguese social organization in, 184–85; sociohistorical perspective of conversion of, 177–95 Gods and Men, 72 Goheen, J., 74–75 Gokhale, J.B., 263 Gold, Ann, 21 Gold, Daniel, 21 Gorakh Nath, 152 Gough, E.K., 268 Grafe, H., 216–17 Gramsci, Antonio, 281, 284 Grant, J.W., 263 Guha, Ranajit, 249


Hsu, Francis, 141 Hudson, D. Dennis, 28–29, 199, 224 Huq, Abdul F., 296 Husk Culture, 104 Hussain, Hayat, 294 Hutton, J.H., 133, 143

Habermas, Jurgen, 336–37 Habitat for Humanity, 333–35 Hadden, Jeffrey, 328 Hamid, Abdul Wahid, 308, 316 Hamid, Muzaffar-ud-Din, 316 Hanifa, Imam Abu, 307 Hanifa Sunnis, 307, 311 Haq, Farhat, 288 Harding, Susan, 339 Haribhaktivilasa, 129 Harihara, 140 Harijan, 50 Harrison, Selig, 287 Hasan, Mushirul, 112 Hatch, Mary, 330–31 Haynes, Douglas, 249 Hechter, Michael, 283 Heesterman, J.C., 21 Heinz, Donald, 327 Heras, H., 179–80 Herklots, G.A., 304–5 Herzfeld, Michael, 249 Hess, B., 302 Hijr, Tribhuvan Nath, 95 Hill, Christopher, 69 Hindu caste system, 134 Hindu Hearth and Home, 21 Hindu ideology, 134 Hindu-Muslim, antagonism between, 48; commonality of interests, 46–48; cultural syncretism, 85–86; violence, 19 Hindu nationalism, 115 Hindu Rajputs, 87 Hindu-Sikh violence, 19 Hinduism, 20–22, 24, 26–27, 30, 39, 51, 63, 68, 71–76, 85, 94, 96, 106, 126, 149, 162, 256, 259–60, 263–65, 267; economic development and, 68, 71– 82; hypothetico-deductive approach, 72–73, 76, 79–81; Islam and, 85; mystical rituals, 78; ritual practices, 76–79; symbolic and ritual practices, 190; votive offerings, 77–78; vows, 76 Hiro, D., 303 Hobsbawm, E.J., 38 Hollister, J.N., 106–8, 114 Hooper, J.M.S., 224 Houtart, F., 189


Ibn Khaldun, 88 Ikram, S.M., 95 Iltutmish, 89 Ilyas, Muhammad, 315 Imperial Gazetteer of India, 89 India Divided, 47 India, class stratification in, 65–66; cultural unity, 49–50; Hindu-Muslim commonality of interests, 46–48; key to integration, 41–44; land of veritable diversity, 39–40; leadership’s espousal of secularism in, 45–46; pluralistic society, 39; secularist ideology, 46–48; spirit of assimilation and brotherhood, 43; unity based on diversity, 41 Indian Islam, influence on fundamentalist trends in Trinidad and Tobago, 302– 21 Indian Muslims, castes among, 87–89 Indian National Congress, 41, 47–48, 109, 113–14, 166 Indian nationhood, 39 Indian Sociological Society (ISS), 15 Individual conversion, 260 Indo-Islamic ‘Great’ Tradition, 25 Indo-Islamic ‘Little’ Tradition, 25 Indo-Islamic traditions, 84–98; ashrafization and de-ashrafization, 89–94; classical tradition, 86; emergent national tradition, 86; great tradition, 94–95, 97–98; Islamization and, 95– 98; little tradition, 87–89, 97; local tradition, 86; regional tradition, 86; subcultural traditions of special groups, 86; western tradition, 86 Indology, 20–21 Indus Valley Civilization, 49 Inkeles, Alex, 17 Inner Conflict of Tradition, 21 Iqra Production, 317, 320 OF



Iranian Muslims, 88 Irving, T.B., 302 Isaacs, H.R., 262, 266 Islam, 141 Islam, 18, 25, 28, 30, 39, 46, 63, 85, 94, 96, 112, 267, 279–82, 284–88, 292– 93, 305; conversion to, 267–68 Islam, Nasir, 291 Islam, Nazrul, 284 Islamic Dawah Movement, 317, 320 Islamic fundamentalism, 288, 303–4 Islamic Funeral Services, 317, 320 Islamic Housing Cooperative, 318, 320 Islamic Missionaries Guild, 314–15, 318– 20 Islamic Party in North America (IPNA), 316–17 Islamic Party of Caribbean, 317 Islamic Resource Society, 318–20 Islamic Revolution of 1979, in Iran, 303 Islamic Trust, 316–18, 320 Islamization, 90 Iyengar, S. Srinivas, 166 Jahan, Rounaq, 283 Jain, R.K., 21 Jainism, 39, 63, 137–38 Jamaat-i-Islami, 294 Jamaat-ul-Muslimeen, 317–18, 320–21 Japhet, S., 262 Javed, Nasim, 279, 295 Jayadev, 127, 129 Jayaram, N., 29–30, 256, 268 Jayawardena, C., 80 Jha, J.C., 308 Jinnah, Muhammad Ali, 113, 277–78, 280, 314 John, Prester, 180–81, 183 John, T.K., 116 Johnson, 61 Judaism, 63, 69, 302 Juhnke, J.C., 232 Kaifi, Dattatreya, 95 Kamban, 207 Kanaujia Sabha, 247 Kangra district, Hindu cults of, 150–51 Kapp, K.W., 71–72

Karma, concept of, 72–75 Karna, M.N., 287 Karve, D.G., 75 Kasule, O.H., 318 Kautsky, Karl, 106 Kayasth Conference, Allahabad, 110 Kayasth Sabhas, 110 Keengkomba, 125 Kennedy, Dane, 248 Kennedy, M.T., 127–29 Khan, Ahmad Riza, 311 Khan, Ayub, 278, 281 Khan, F., 309 Khan, Nasim, 294 Khan, Ras, 95 Khan, Syed Ahmad, 47, 108, 110, 307 Khan, Wali, 287 Khanzada Muslims, of Rajputana, 87 Khare, R.S., 21 Khilafat Movement, 112 Khuddam-i-Islam (Servants of Islam), 314 Khusrau, Amir, 94–95 Klass, M., 256, 303 Kokni Muslims, 91–92, 97 Kolenda, P., 258 Kosambi, D.D., 184–85, 195 Kothandapani, P.K., 171 Kraus, J.B., 69 Krishna cult, 126–27 Krishnacharan, 128 Krishnadas, 128 Kshatriyas, 26 Kulkarni, A.R., 187 Kumar, Ravinder, 80 Kunjabihari, 128 Kyamba, 125 Labbais, 207 Lairoibi, Sija, 128 Lal-Bal-Pal, 45 Land Settlement Act, 104 Lapp, J.A., 232, 236 Larma, Manabendra Narayan, 293 Lawrence, Henry, 104 Lechner, Frank, 327 Lehmann, Arno, 199, 202, 204–5, 215– 16, 220


Lemercinier, G., 189 Lerner, D., 17 Liberalism, 42 Ling, Trevor, 294 Lingayat ideology, 134–35 Lingayat movement, 27; anti-pollution dimensions and, 141–44; concept of, 135–37; development of Lingayat sect, 137–41; ideology of, 133–45; social divisions among Lingayat, 144– 45 Lingayat sect, 136–37; development of, 137–41 Lingayatism, 26–27, 79–80, 133, 137–38, 141–43, 145 Linguism, 100, 103 Lohr, J.J., 232–34, 238 Lohr, Oscar, 232, 244 Lakshman, Sapan, 128 Loomis, Charles, P., 41 Luckmann, Thomas, 102 Lucknow Conference of Methodists, 115 Lucknow Pact of 1916, 112 Ludru Baba cult, 155–63 Luke, P.Y., 263 Luther, Martin, 199, 203, 219, 223 Lyall, Alfred, 105 Lynch, O.M., 256, 259, 263, 265–66

Manor, James, 232 Manu, 213 Maraikkayars, 207 Marginalization, theses of, 256–57, 265 Marques, A.H. de Oliveira, 192 Marriott, M., 20 Martin, Claude, 108 Marula, 137 Marx, 335 Marxism, 335 Mass conversion, 260 Mathew, G., 261, 267 Matin, H.M., 281 Maududi, Maulana, 315 Maududi, S.A.A., 278, 306 Maya, concept of, 72 McAdam, Dough, 332 McCormack, W., 134 Mehta, Asoka, 39 Mehta, Pherozeshah, 41 Meitei Society, 26 Meitei Vaishnavism, 130–31 Meiteis, 125–31 Menonite mission, in Chhatisgarh, 235 Meos, 97 Merton, R.K., 59, 61–62 Metz, Johannes Baptist, 333 Mignolo, Walter, 232, 248–49 Miller, D.B., 258 Minority identity and ethnic process, 100–17 Mirasis, of north India, 87 Mirza Mazhar, 94 Mishra, V., 71 Misra, S.C., 85, 87 Missionary, authority of, 237; lifestyle of, 235–37; social practices introduced by, 238 Mithya, concept of, 73 Mohammed, Kamaluddin, 316 Moksha, concept of, 72 Momin, A.R., 25, 84, 86, 90, 93 Momins Muslims, 91–93 Monier-Williams, M., 126 Moors, responses to Protestant mission, 206–11 Moynihan, P., 101

Madan, T.N., 21, 24, 30, 338 Madhva, 72 Mahar, J.M., 259 Mahmud, Syed, 95 Mahroom, Tilokchand, 95 Majlis-ul-Ulama, 318, 320 Majumdar, D.N., 90 Majumdar, R.C., 89 Malabarian pagans, response to Protestant mission, 211–19 Malaviya, Madan Mohan, 46–47 Malik, Iftikan, 291 Malinowski, 20 Malkani, K.R., 288, 290 Malkans, 87 Malledevaru, H.P., 142 Mandelbaum, D.G., 258, 263 Manipur Vaishnavism, 26; sociological interpretation of, 125–31




Muhajir Qaumi Movement (MQM), 288–89 Muhajirs, 288–90, 297 Muhammad, Prophet, 90 Mujaddid Alf-i-Thani, 306 Mukula Thevar community, 166 Mullens, J., 262 Murphy, Gardner, 104 Murshid, Tazeem M., 282–83, 293, 296– 97 Muslim communalism, 110–11 Muslim Coordinating Council, 317–19 Muslim Credit Union, 318–20 Muslim identity, 280 Muslim India, 294 Muslim League, 112–15, 292, 294 Muslim nationalism, 277, 282 Muslim Standard, 314, 316 Muslim Wahhabis, 115 Muslim World League (RABITA), 313 Muslim Youth Brigade, 317–18, 320 Muslims and Christians of UP, history since 1857, 103–8; of Bhiwandi, 91; regional communalism, 108–10; regionalism to communalism, 110–17; study of, 100–17 Mustapha, Nasser, 31, 302 Naale, W.C., 268 Nadar, Vannia Ananda, 168–70 Nadar, Velmuruga, 168 Naguri, Shahul Hamid, 207 Namdhari sect, 80 Nandavanam shrine, 168–70 Nandy, Ashis, 24 Nandi, Proshanta K., 23–24, 32, 37, 39 Nanjundaradhya, M.G., 142 Naqshbandiya saint, 94 Naseem, Daya Shankar, 95 Nash, June, 232, 248 Nation building, Christian participation in, 116 Nation-states, 38 National Agriculturalist Party (NAP), 113–14 National Council of Churches (NCC), 327

National identities, India and Pakistan, 31; place of religion in constitution of, 31 National integration, religion and, 54–67 National Muslim Organization, 109 Nationalism, 42; concept of, 38–39 Nationality/nationhood, among early freedom fighters in India, 32–52; concept of, 38–39; religiosity and visions of, 32–52 Navalar, Arumuga, 213, 224 Nayyar, K.K., 281 Nazneen, D.R.J.A., 295 Nehru, Jawaharlal, 45, 49 Nehru, Neena, 43 Neo-Buddhism, 63 New Christian Right, 325, 327, 331 Nicholas V, Pope, 178 Nidhiram, 128 Niebuhr, Rienhold, 339 Niehoff, A., 303 Niehoff, J., 303 Nimandi Vaishnavism, 126 Nimbarka, 126 Nizami, K.A., 85, 89, 95 Non-Renunciation, 21 North–Eastern Muslim Youth, 317–18 Obeyesekere, Gananath, 249 Ochandamman Koil, 171–72 Ochavi, 171 Oddie, G.A., 195, 232 Omvedt, G., 267–68 Ong, Walter J., 249 Oommen, T.K., 275–76, 287, 291, 297– 98 Ossio, Juan, 249 Padroado system, 178 Pagan Tamil society, 211–19 Pakistan, Bengali nationalism, 282–84; Kashmir issue, 291; language and nationhood in, 275–98; language and territory criticality, 287–90; other in, 290–91; quest for identity, 284–86; state and its ideology, 277–81 Pakistan National Party (PNP), 285, 288 Pal, Bipin Chandra, 45


Pamheiba, 127 Panchachara, adoption of, 144 Pande, Govind Chandra, 337–38 Pandit, Bansi, 42 Panditaradhya, Mallikarjuna, 137–38 Paramalai Kallars community, 171 Patel, M.A., 93 Parry, Jonathan, 21 Parsons, Talcott, 325, 330 Parvathamma, C., 79–80, 134, 144 Pasha, 314–16 Patel, Haji Mian, 92 Patronage and Exploitation, 258 Paul, M.M., 235 Paulus, Anjori, 239 Pearson, M.N., 181–82 Pentecostal Bands of the World, 233 Pereira, Rui Gomes, 180–82, 185, 190 Peter, S.J., 262 Phadnis, Urmila, 282, 284, 293, 296 Philip, T.V., 107 Pickett, W.J., 106, 108, 262 Pieris, Ralph, 70–71, 78 Pillai, Arumugam, 166 Pluetschau, Heinrich, 199–202, 205, 208, 219, 223; Protestant mission to India, 199–224 Pluralistic society, 39 Pocock, D.F., 21 Polanskaya, L.R., 278 Pollution-purity, notion of, 136 Pollutions, 141–44 Portuguese colonialism, 180–83 Poulantzas, N., 102 Prakash, Gyan, 249 Prarthana Samaj, 80 Prasad, Rajendra, 47–48 Pravera, Kate, 332 Pressier, Friedrich, 204 Prestler, H., 113, 115 Prins, Gwyn, 232–33, 249 Priolkar, A.K., 180–81 Proselytism for emancipation, 260–63 Protestant Christian fundamentalists, 303 Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, 69 Protestant ethic hypothesis and economic development, 69–70

Protestant ideology, 240 Protestant mission, communication of message, 202–6; literature distribution, 202–6; Malabarian pagan response to, 211–19; Moors response to, 206–11; social and religious developments of, 199–224; to India, 199– 224; Ziegenbalg Pluetschau efforts, 199–224 Protestantism, 69–71, 73, 79, 81, 106, 116, 237, 262 Pulavar, Umaru, 207 Pulaya Christians, 261 Punjabi-Muhajir détente, 282 Purti, Boas, 240–41 Qadiriya Order, 94 Qasim, Muhammad bin, 304 Quick, A.H., 308 Quraishi Shaikhs, 90 Rachfahl, 69 Radcliffe-Brown, A.R., 20 Rafeek, M., 314 Raghavanka, 140 Raheja, Gloria Goodwin, 249 Rahiman, 95 Rahman, Mujibur, 282–83, 292, 295 Rai, Lajpat, 45 Rajanaikan, 204–5, 219 Rajput Muslims, 87, 93 Ram cult, 126–27 Ramananda, 26, 126 Ramanuja, 72 Ramanujam, A.K., 245, 249 Ramayanam, 207 Ramgopal, 128 Ranade, Mahadev Govind, 45–46, 80 Rao, M.S.A., 24, 68, 134 Rao, R.P., 180 Rao, R.V. Ramachandrasekhara, 41, 47, 52 Ras Lila, 128–29 Rationality, concept of, 45 Rawan, Jagat Mohanlal, 95 Reality, concept of, 45 Redfield, Robert, 43, 86 Reeves, P.D., 111–12


Regional communalism, 108–10 Regionalism, 100, 103 Rego, Silva, 189 Religion, commercialization of, 24; disintegrative role, 62–64; economic development and, 68–82; integrative functions of, 60–62, 66; modernity theorists and, 17; national integration and, 54–67; social functions of, 66; sociological understanding of impact of, 18; sociology of, 17–22; truth in, 51 Religious identity, 18–19 Religious resurgence, in contemporary United States, 323–39 Ressler, J.A., 236 Revana, 137 Richter, William L., 284–86 Robertson, H.M., 69 Robinson, F., 110 Robinson, Rowena, 15, 177 Rodrigues, V., 262 Rogerius, Abraham, 201, 205 Rogers, Francis, 180 Roof, Wade Clark, 335 Rosaldo, Renato, 232, 249 Rose, Arnold M., 41 Rose, H.A., 155, 161 Roseberry, William, 232 Roy, Asim, 207 Roy, Ram Mohan, 38 Ruknudeen, Haji, 314 Rural Tamil Nadu, emergence of shrines in, 165–72 Ryan, S., 303, 313, 320 Sacks, Jonathan, 17, 323, 339 Sadhu Samaj, 56 Sahajiya Cult, 129 Sahlins, Marshall, 232–33 Samad, Yunus, 280 Samaroo, B., 305, 308, 313, 318 Samuelson, K., 69, 73 Sanahal, R.K., 128 Sanchayita, 43 Sanctuary Movement, in United States, 331–33

Sangari, K., 19 Sani, Mujaddid Alf, 96 Sanskritization, process of, 90, 259 Santidas, 26, 126 Sanyal, U., 311 Saqqaf, Syed Husein (Pasha), 314–16 Saraswati, Dayanand, 152 Sarma, D.S., 50 Sastri, Syama, 203 Sastri, Vedanayaga, 203, 220–21 Sastry, K.A.N., 137, 140 Sathianathaier, 213–14, 217 Satnam Path Pradarshak Sabha, 247 Satnami Mahasabha, 247 Satnamis, 232–33 Satnampanth, 234; Christianity and, 244–47; myths, 244–46 Schaeffer, Jonathan D., 249 Scheduled Castes, 264, 267–68 Schrag, Peter, 101 Schuman, Howard, 283 Scott, David, 232, 248 Scott, James, 249 Seal, Anil, 103–4, 108–9 Sebastian, 191 Sectarian reformatory movements, economic development and, 79–81 Secularism, 17; leadership’s espousal of, 45–46 Secularization, 335–39 Self-Respect Movement, 169 Selungba, Ngangbam, 128 Seminar, 282 Sen, D.C., 128 Seybold, Theodore C., 232 Shahid, Shah Ismail, 306 Shaikh Siddiques, 90 Shank, J.W., 231 Shankara, 72–73, 137 Shariatullah, Haji, 96 Sharma, Ursula, 26–27, 149 Shaw, A.J., 115 Sheth, D.L., 276 Shetty, V.T.R., 267 Shia feudalism, 112 Shia-Sunni riots (1888), 105, 112 Shias, 308 Shivacharya, Shivakumara, 145


Tableegh movement, 96 Tabligh Jamaat, 311, 315–16 Tagore, Rabindra Nath, 43–45, 284 Takveeat-ul-Islamic Association (TIA), 317–20, 315 Tamil Nadu, shrines in, 165–72; Nandavanam shrine, 168–70; Ochandamman koil, 171–72; Thevar Samadhi, 165–68 Tanner, Von Th., 232, 244 Tantrikism, in South India, 134 Tatacarya, Kumara, 213 Taussig, Michael, 232, 248–49 Tawney, R.H., 69 Taylor, D., 116 Telugu Vaishnava Nayakas, 207 Text and Context, 21 Thakur, Narottam, 127 Thakur, Sri Rup Parmananda, 128 Tharoor, Shashi, 39–40 Thevar, Indirani, 166 Thevar, Muthuramalinga, 165–68 Thevar, Ukkirapandi, 166 Thevar Samadhi, 165–68 Thomas, M.N., 263 Thomas, Nicholas, 248–49 Thompson, E.P., 40, 103–4 Thurston, E., 76–77, 305 Tilak, Bal Gangadhar, 45 Tirupati temple, role in economic development, 81 Titus, M.T., 306–8 Tiyas of Kerala, 80 Tobago Muslim Association, 318, 320 Tomsho, Robert, 332 Towards Understanding Islam, 315 Tranquebar, Protestant mission to, 199– 224 Trevor-Roper, H.R., 69 Trinidad and Tobago, conflicts and divisions among Muslims in, 310– 13; diversity of religious practices in, 320–21; Hanafi Sunnis, 307, 311; influence of Indian Islam on fundamentalist trends in, 302–21; Islam in, 308–10; Islamic Trust, 316–17; modernists, 308, 312; Muslim organization development in, 317–20; origin of

Shivaji, 47 Shiya-ud-Daula, 105 Shri Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam, 80 Shri Path Pradarshak Sabha, 247 Shultze, Benjamin, 204 Shupe, A., 328 Siddhantagama, 141 Siddiqi, Maulana, 318 Siddique, Abu Bakr, 90 Sikhism, 30, 39, 264 Simab, Nazeer Ahmad, 314 Sindhi Nationalism, 288 Singer, Milton, 20, 70–71, 75 Singh, Kunj Bihari, 26 Singh, M.D., 247 Singh, Yogendra, 17–18, 86, 96 Siraj-ud-Daula, 104 Sirappuranam, 207 Sivan, E., 303 Sleeman, M., 106 Smith, David, 17 Smith, R.J., 303, 310 Society in India, 258 Sociological Bulletin, 15–16, 22–23, 28, 30 Sociology, of conversion, 28; of religion, 17–22; teaching of, 16 Sombart, 69 Spirituality, concept of, 45 Srimadhagavad, 129 Srinivas, M.N., 20, 75, 80, 134, 150, 259 Srinivasamurthy, M.R., 139 Srinivasan, Nirmala, 100–1 Srinivasan, R., 267 Stalin, J., 101 Stein, Burton, 81 Stirrat, R.L., 232 Stoler, Ann, 232, 235, 248 Structure and Cognition, 21 Sufi, Shaikh Hamiduddin, 85 Sunni capitalism, 112 Sunnis with Wahhabi tendencies, 307 Sutra of Truth (Sattiya Suttiram), 212 Swamikal, Dandapani, 212–13 Syed, Anwar H., 277, 285 Syed, G.M., 288, 290 Syrian Christians, 261





Islamic fundamentalism in, 304–5, 313–17; reform Islamic thoughts, 306–8 Shias, 308, 312–13; Sunni/ Qadiani conflict, 313–17; Sunnis with Wahhabi tendencies, 307–8; Tabligh Jamaat, 311, 315–16; traditionalist, 311 Trinidad Muslim League (TML), 314, 317–19 Two nation theory, 277, 284, 289 Tyagaraja, 203 Uberoi, P., 19 Ulakanathan, 171 Unger, Roberto M., 337 United Islamic Organizations (UIO), 317–21 United States, against liberal Christianity, 327–29; dynamics of religious resurgence in, 335–36; fundamentalism in, 328–31; Habitat for Humanity, 333– 34; moral criticism and paradigm of building, 334–35; moral majority, 326–27; New Christian right in, 325, 327; religious fundamentalists in, 325; religious resurgence in, 323–39; Sanctuary Movement, 331–33; widening the universe of discourse, 336–39 Universality, concept of, 45 University of West Indies Islamic Society, 318, 320 Untouchability, practice of, 136, 144 Vachanas, 134, 140, 142 Vaishnavism, in Manipur, 125–31; establishment of, 126 Vaishnavite converts, 87 Vaisyas, value of, 72 Vajhi, Mulla, 95 Values, system of, 72 Varna-dharma, 212–13 Varna system, 72 Varshney, Ashutosh, 291 Vaz, Andre, 190 Veerasaivism, 79–80, 263 Venogopal, C.N., 17, 26–27, 133 Vidyasagar, Ishwar Chandra, 38

Vijayaraghava, 213–14 Virashaiva sect, 136 Vishwa Hindu Parishad, 265 Viswaradhaya, 137 Vivekananda, Swami, 42, 45 Vyasa, Veda, 46 Wadley, Susan, 21 Wahhab, Muhammad bin Abdul, 96 Wahhabi movement, 306 Wahhabi Sunnis, 312 Wahhabism, 306, 314 Wahid, Abdul, 317 Wald, Kenneth D., 335 Waliullah, Shah, 306 Walzer, Michael, 332 Weber, Max, 24, 68–70, 73–74, 290 Weinstein, D., 193 Western nationalism, 277 White imperialism, 115 Whitehead, Henry, 232 Who were the Shudras?, 257 Who were the Untouchables, 257 Wicki, J., 187–91, 193 Wiebe, P., 262 Wilcox, Wayne, 278, 280 Wilder, Andrew, 286 Wilkinson, T.S., 263 Williams, Eric, 316 Wilson, B., 150 Wiltfang, Gregory, 332 Winius, G.D., 182–83 Word and the World, 21 World Parliament of Religions, Chicago, 42 Wuthnow, Robert, 324, 336, 338–39 Yalman, Nur, 78 Yinger, J.M., 62–63, 66 Zelliot, E., 264 Zia-ul-Haq, 285–86 Zia-ur-Rahman, 295 Ziegenbalg, Bartholomaeus, Protestant mission to India, 199–224 Zoroastrianism, 63