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Two Morgenstierne Lectures
November 2, 2016 - 12:15-16:00
Reframing a traditional instititution Hindu monasteries (matha) in Modernizing India Angelika Malinar
Since the beginning of the Common Era monastic institutions dedicated to the study and practice of different religious-philosophical knowledge traditions played an important role in the cultural-political landscape of India. While Buddhist and Jaina monasticism has been widely studied, the importance of monasteries in the history of Hinduism has received less attention. The lecture firdeals with the history and multiple functions of Hindu maṭhas serving religious, educational as well as political-economic purposes. It then focusses on the changing perceptions of this traditional institution in the colonial period. Colonial administrators sought reduce the multi-functionality of the monasteries by defining them as purely religious institutions subject to charitable law. Their traditional educational function was to be taken over by schools and colleges based on the British system. This process was accompanied by a criticism of maṭhas as places of exploitation and indoctrination. Yet, they remained important institutions of social and religious life in modern Hinduism. In the postcolonial period they, on the one hand, continued to be subject to various forms of state administration, and, on the other hand, partially resumed their role as important centres of education. The contemporary situation will be discussed with respect to the role of Hindu monasteries in Orissa / Odisha.
Walking for Maryam’s grace Christian piety in the Pakistani Punjab Paul Rollier
Every year, thousands of Pakistanis walk over great distances to reach the village of Maryamabad and celebrate the nativity of the Virgin Mary. This paper offers an ethnographic account of the three-day walk from Lahore to Maryamabad, and the subsequent mela held around the shrine of Mary. Following a group of male Lahori youth, I document the growing popularity of this gruelling yet playful ritual established by Belgian Capuchins in the 1940s. Most pilgrims are working-class Punjabi Christians, descendants of untouchable caste converted to Christianity. But the language of ritual practices deployed in this setting is interchangeable with that of Muslim shrines, allowing for a wide participation of non-Christians. Often described as excessively Islamized, or as a superficial recasting of Hinduism, the performance of local Christian piety upsets the received nomenclature of Pakistan’s religious communities as discrete entities. In particular, I show how the pilgrimage enables participants to display an assertive Christian identity, but in so doing compels themselves to contend with accusations of Hindu idolatry and with their status as vulnerable ‘untouchables’. While the nature of this ritual trivializes religious affiliation by accommodating non-Christian participation, it reinscribes local Christians’ past Hindu identity within the world of caste.