Beyond The Hindu Frontier. Jaina-Vaiṣṇava Syncretism In The Gujarātī Diaspora (part I)
- The Akram Vijñān Movement
- Worldwide Mission
- Schism And Continuity
- Religious Hierarchy
- The Ritual Of Knowledge
Article 51A(f) of the Indian Constitution recognises what many politicians and anthropologists still fail to do: India does not represent a civilisational whole1 but has a "composite culture".2 That this statement does not merely reflect the wishful thinking of the constituent assembly but historical fact is no more evident than in the continued presence of the ancient traditions of Buddhism and Jainism in India,3 which contemporary religious nationalists have for decades unsuccessfully tried to incorporate into the indefinable 'Hindu' mould; not to speak of the presence of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, and diverse tribal communities. This article tries to demonstrate through the analysis of the unique conversion ritual of the Akram Vijñān Mārg, a new religious movement in the Gujarātī-speaking world, that the supposition of a civilisational unity of India or of South Asia is a theoretical abstraction which obstructs rather than illuminates the understanding of the cultural and religious history of the Indian subcontinent. Heterogeneity and processes of bricolage, mixture, syncretism or hybridisation are not merely the consequence of external cultural interaction, migration and travel, that is the advance or retreat of a well-defined cultural frontier,4 but situated at the very heart of religious and cultural life beyond the homogenising cultural politics of the state5 and organised religion.6 The article is based on intermittent fieldwork between 1997-2004 in Amadāvād/Ahmedabad, London, Mumbaī/Bombay, Surat, and Vaḍodarā/Baroda.
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