Bhakti Religion in North India

Community Identity and Political Action

Edited by David N. Lorenzen

Subjects: Religion And Politics
Series: SUNY series in Religious Studies
Paperback : 9780791420263, 331 pages, November 1994
Hardcover : 9780791420256, 331 pages, December 1994

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Table of contents

A Note on Transliteration


Introduction The Historical Vicissitudes of Bhakti Religion,
David N. Lorenzen

Part I: Community Identity

The Making of a Religious Paradox: Sikh Khalsa, Sahajdhari as Modes of Early Sikh Identity
Harjot Oberoi

The Social Significance of Radhasoami
Mark Juergensmeyer

Sanskritization, Caste Uplift, and Social Dissidence inthe Sant Ravidas Panth
Joseph Schaller

The Instability of the King: Magical Insanity and the Yogis' Power in the Politics of Jodhpur, 1803-1843
Daniel Gold

The Kina Rami: Aughar and Kings in the Age of Cultural Contact
Roxanne Poormon Gupta

Part II: Theology

The Theology of the Locative Case in Sacred Sikh Scripture (Gurabani)
Michael C. Shapiro

The Nirgun /Sagun Distinction in Early Manuscript Anthologies of Hindu Devotion
John Stratton Hawley

The Lives of Nirguni Saints
David N. Lorenzen

Chokhamela : Piety and Protest
Eleanor Zelliot

The Avatar Doctrine in the Kabir Panth
Uma Thukral

The Vitality of the Nirgun Bhajan: Sampling the Contemporary Tradition
Edward O. Henry

Part III: Political Action

Interpreting Ramraj :Reflections on the Ramayana, Bhakti, and Hindu Nationalism
Philip Lutgendorf

The Politics of Devotion to Rama
Peter van der Veer

Social Identities, Hindu Fundamentalism, and Politics in India
Susana B. C. Devalle

List of Contributors



In India, religion continues to be an absolutely vital source for social as well as personal identity. All manner of groups--political, occupational, and social--remain grounded in specific religious communities. This book analyzes the development of the modern Hindu and Sikh communities in North India starting from about the fifteenth century, when the dominant bhakti tradition of Hinduism became divided into two currents: the sagun and the nirgun.

The sagun current, led mostly by Brahmins, has remained dominant in most of North India and has served as the ideological base of the development of modern Hindu nationalism. Several chapters explore the rise of this religious and political movement, paying particular attention to the role played by devotion to Ram. Alternative trends do exist in sagun tradition, however, and are represented here by chapters on the low-caste saint Chokhamel and the tantric sect founded by Kina Ram.

The nirgun current, led mostly by persons of Ksand artisan castes, formed the base of both the Sikh community, founded by Guru Nanak, and of various non-Brahmin sectarian movements derived from such saints as Kabir, Raidas, Dadu, and Shiv Dayal Singh. Two chapters discuss the formation of a distinctive Sikh theology and a Sikh community identity separate from that of the Hindus. Other chapters discuss the validity of the sagun-nirgun distinction within Hindu tradition and the interplay of social and religious ideas in nirgun hagiographic texts and in sectarian movements such as the Adi Dharma Mission and the Radhasoami Satsang.

David N. Lorenzen is the author of Kabir Legends and Ananta-Das's Kabir Parachai, also published by SUNY Press.