Rapt in the Name

The Ramnamis, Ramnam, and Untouchable Religion in Central India

By Ramdas Lamb

Subjects: India And South Asian Studies
Series: SUNY series in Hindu Studies
Paperback : 9780791453865, 250 pages, August 2002
Hardcover : 9780791453858, 250 pages, August 2002

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Table of contents


Notes on Transliteration


1. Providing the Context

2. Historical Development of the Ram Tradition

3. Ramnam and the Ram Story in Hindi

4. Religion and the Low Caste in Central India

5. The Ramnami Samaj: Its Contemporary Forms

6. Ramnamis' Contemporary Use of the Manas and Ramnam

7. The Ramnami Life: Six Biographic Sketches

Conclusion: A Question of Values

Appendix I

Appendix II





An introduction to the Ram bhakti tradition and a fascinating account of its practice among a group of Central Indian Untouchables.


In Rapt in the Name, Ramdas Lamb provides an intriguing account of the Ram bhakti tradition in India. Less well-known in the West than the tradition of devotion to Krishna, the Ram tradition is an important component of Hinduism. Ram is the most-worshipped form of the divine in North India today and has long been particularly important to those of the lower castes throughout India. Lamb explores both the evolution of the tradition and the rise of lower caste religious movements devoted to Ram, specifically the Ramnami Samaj, an Untouchable religious movement in Central India.

Lamb's study of the Ramnamis has spanned nearly three decades, first on a personal level as a Hindu monk and later as both a friend and a researcher. He discusses the historical origins, as well as present-day forms and structure of the Samaj, including a description of its distinctive ritual dress and practices. Among the more innovative aspects of the sect is its adaptation of the story of Lord Ram that is uniquely woven into its devotional repetition of his name (Ramnam). In addition, Lamb shares biographical sketches of six Ramnamis, each of which reveals the freedom of individual exploration and expression that is integral to the sect. This is a fascinating account of religious life and adaptation on the periphery of society.

Ramdas Lamb is Associate Professor of Religion at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.


"Drawing on extensive fieldwork among the Ramnamis and other Untouchable groups, the author strikes a harmonious balance between the informed consideration of various theoretical issues and the presentation of rich and unique ethnographic documentation. This book represents a significant addition to the literature on contemporary and folk religion in India. " — Philip Lutgendorf, author of The Life of a Text: Performing the Ramcaritmanas of Tulsidas

"Few have written about adherents' beliefs and practices within 'Untouchable' religious movements with this kind of insight and scope before. This book has some wonderful material in it. " — Paula Richman, editor of Questioning Ramayanas: A South Asian Tradition