Contents - In the Shadow of the Larger Faiths: The Minor Faiths of South Asia (Issue 27)
Posts tagged ‘syncretism’
By Sipra Mukherjee
Minor faiths appear to be born of the needs of the people at particular junctures of history. These moments of time may be found to be marked by the birth of not one, but of many such rebellious faiths. While most of these ‘rebellions’ fade into oblivion, one or two remain, drawing strength from the injustices and the wrongs that the ‘larger’ religion has been unable to address.
By Epsita Halder
Lakshmana Sena built a mosque and khanqah for Shah Jalaluddin Tabrizi in Pandua. But mosques were a phenomenon where the state came into contact with the Sufi saints. Outside that, basically the sufi pirs were disseminating Islam through the mystical path of Sufism. As Sufi pirs from northern India were dying and being buried in Sylhet, Pandua and everywhere, their graves started to be revered as the symbol of his spiritual height.
By Ria De
It is in response to this immediate provocation that a group of students decided to organize the Asura Week as an expression of resistance against the increasing efforts at Hindutvization of campuses. It was also meant to create the circumstances for the university community to participate in debates and discussions on the ways in which majoritarian Hindu festivals such as the Ganesh Chaturthi, Durga Puja, Holi, Onam, and others have historically been produced as secular and national festivals by marking Dalit Bahujan festivals and icons as communal, sectarian, and primitive.
By Karthik Venkatesh
In 1926, Mangoo Ram proclaimed a new religion — Ad Dharm – for the lower castes. His initial following came from his own community, the Chamars. The following reached such sizeable numbers that it forced the colonial authorities to enumerate them as a separate religious community (qaum) distinct from Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims in the 1931 census. They were to be Punjab’s fourth qaum and Mangoo Ram’s vision was that the Ad Dharm would eventually draw into its fold all of Punjab’s lower castes.
By Carmen Brandt
While the majority of Bangladesh’s inhabitants have easy access to global media that might tell them how to be ‘good’ Muslims, many Bedes even today live under the simplest circumstances, in boats or plastic tents without electricity, that also do not allow them to be connected to a mosque community where they could learn the basics of Islam as prevailing locally.
By Esther Syiem
The philosophy of Khasi religion is reflected in the common dictum: tip briew tip Blei; kamai ϊa ka hok; and tip kur tip kha commonly known as the Divine Decree. It lays the foundation of a society that must take into account the interpenetration of the physical with the extra-physical. Its brevity may easily be mistaken for simplicity but it does not allow reduction to a few simplistic norms.
By Rohini Mokashi-Punekar
Jotirao Phule was born into a lower caste Mali family in a Brahmin hegemonic society, about a decade after the British defeated the Peshwas in 1818. This may explain his lifelong resistance to caste and gender hierarchy, which was fuelled and given shape by his exposure to Western radical literature and missionary writings and his involvement in contemporary Indian reform movement in the Bombay Presidency. Convinced that only secular education could liberate the oppressed classes, he began a school for untouchable girls in 1848, an unprecedented social initiative, followed by several others for untouchable boys, girls of all castes and a night school for working class adults.
By Md. Dilwar Hossain
The story goes that Aul Chand (birth date unknown, died 1769), a Sufi Fakir, founded the Kartabhaja sect at Ghoshpara, an area inhabited largely by impoverished Muslims and Hindus of the lowly castes. This was in the Nadia district of West Bengal. His first disciple Ramsarn Pal was a Sadgop, a caste of the lower order. The message of love and tolerance attracted the lower class people greatly dissatisfied by the rigid nature of established religions.
By Aratrika Bhattacharya
Comprising of members from the Vaishnava Hindus and Sufi Muslims, Bauls occupy a unique position as devotees, mystics, naturalists, tantric and wanderers in India and Bangladesh. Baul–Fakirs are identified by their unique clothing and music, with an ektara and bowl for alms in hands. Clubbed, in colonial accounts, as subordinate categories within the larger ‘Hindu’ identity as Bairagi, then as Vaishnava and later on as Baolas, Bauls were “held in very low estimation by respectable Hindus.”
By Srishti Pandey Sharma
The Gurudwara of Pothimala is situated in the village of Guru Harsahai, District Firozpur in Punjab. The village is named after the elder son of Guru Jiwan Mal Sodhi who was the fourth direct descendent of the fourth Sikh guru, Guru Ram Das (1534-1581). The Gurudwara derives its name from the fact that Guru Nanak’s personal Pothi (Small book) and Mala (rosary) are housed in this religious place/Gurudwara. The uniqueness of this Gurudwara lies in the fact that this place of worship blurs religious boundaries and there is a coming together of people from the three distinct identities of Hinduism, Sikhism and Islam.
By Preetinicha Barman Prodhani
The god, Sona Ray, is the tiger deity, who protects the faithful from the tiger. The Koch-Rajbanshis were rich with their agricultural lands and herds of cattle. But the threat of the tiger always haunted the farmers and the herdsmen. This threat of an unknown fate haunted them when they went to their fields. The worship of Sona Ray could assure them protection from this impending fear. Traditionally, this ritual was carried out by a group of young herdsmen.
By Ishita Banerjee-Dube
Mahima Swami’s deification and his faith’s success rested on his simple message worked out in radical practices. The message advocated belief in a formless, all pervasive, indescribable/beyond writing (Alekh) Absolute who has created the world out of his mahima (radiance/glory) and was accessible to all through pure devotion. This rendered redundant temples and rituals, priests and pilgrimage, and interrogated complex ritual and social hierarchies of caste and kingship, and the role of Brahmans as mediators between gods and men.
By Joel Lee
I was intrigued, then, to find the old Lal Begi conundrum still agitating Lucknow census enumerators sixty years after all that was supposed to have been settled. I was even more intrigued when the friends I began to make in the Balmiki community led me to their Lal Beg shrines. These were small but active shrines: shrines at which Muslims from neighboring bastis discreetly officiated, reading the fatihah and rendering sacrificial animals halal. The old caste prophet was not dead, after all.