Kerry P. C. San Chirico. "Between Hindu and Christian: Khrist Bhaktas, Catholics, and the Negotiation of Devotion in Banaras" (Oxford UP, 2022)
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On the second Saturday of each month, on the outskirts of the ancient city of Varanasi, Shiva's own city, thousands of shudra and Dalit devotees worship Yesu (Jesus) at a Catholic ashram. In an open-air pavilion more than three thousand women and men alternately sit, stand, and sing; they offer testimonials of healing, and receive the blessings of encounter from an unlikely deity. Facing this ocean of humanity is a 12-foot billboard Christ, arms outstretched, urging in Hindi: "Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest." At the lectern stands a saffron-clad priest offering teachings punctuated by hallelujahs, met with boisterous echoes.
Between Hindu and Christian: Khrist Bhaktas, Catholics, and the Negotiation of Devotion in Banaras (Oxford UP, 2022) sheds light on a novel movement of low and no-caste devotees worshipping Jesus in the purported heart of Hindu civilization. Through thick description and analysis, and by attending to devotees and clergy in their own voices, Kerry P. C. San Chirico examines the worldview and ways of life of these Khrist Bhaktas, or devotees of Jesus, along with the Catholic priests and nuns who mediate Jesus, Mary, and other members of the Catholic pantheon in a place hardly associated with Jesus or Christianity. San Chirico places this movement within the context of the devotional history of the Banaras region, the history of Indian Christianity, the rise of low caste and Dalit emancipatory strategies, and the ascendance of Hindu nationalism. Attending to convergences and disparities between devotional Hinduism and charismatic Catholicism, Between Hindu and Christian demonstrates that religious categories are not nearly as distinct as they often seem.
Raj Balkaran is a scholar of Sanskrit narrative texts. He teaches at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies and at his own virtual School of Indian Wisdom. For information see rajbalkaran.com.
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