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Rapt in the Name

The Ramnamis, Ramnam, and Untouchable Religion in Central India

Ramdas Lamb

Publication Year: 2002

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.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page

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pp. vii


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pp. ix-x

Notes on Transliteration

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pp. xi

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pp. 1-10

"Hinduism has long been a mixture of popular and orthodox religious beliefs and practices. Much of the focus of the academic study of Hinduism has been on Sanskrit texts and the evolution of brahmanical (priestly) and brahmanized thought. Sanskrit texts have been used to circumscribe what has come to be considered the normative tradition and have thus been the foundation upon which most assumptions, in India and abroad, about the history and practice of..."

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1 Providing the Context

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pp. 11-24

"As with the ethnographic portion of most research on India, the present study is heavily dependent upon fieldwork. Whenever I read a study or watch a documentary about people, especially in a culture foreign to the researchers, I cannot help but speculate as to the kind of personal relationships that exist or existed between researcher and subject. As a student of fieldwork who has been involved in observing India and its people for over thirty years, it has become..."

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2 Historical Developmentof the Ram Tradition

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pp. 25-34

"Devotion is the focus and goal of the practices of the Ramnami Samaj, and the primary vehicles to achieve this are chanting and recitation of the Ram story. Whether it is sitting together in a group at one of their frequent gatherings or just waiting for a bus, they often fill any idle time with these. Their chanting consists primarily of verses extracted from any of several versions of the Ram story, and amidst their chanting, they will also break into impromptu..."

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3 Ramnam and the Ram Story in Hindi

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pp. 35-44

"Since the time of its control by the Haihaya dynasty, the overwhelming religious ethos among the non-tribal peoples of Chhattisgarh has been Ram bhakti. Although until recently no sacred texts had been written in the Chhattisgarhi dialect of Hindi, many of region’s people have long found relatively easy linguistic access to devotional writings on Ramnam and the Ram story through Hindi authors using other, but related, dialects. The two primary composers of such..."

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4 Religion and the Low Caste in Central India

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pp. 45-76

"In looking for those movements that had found fertile ground in the relatively barren and economically depressed region of Central India prior to the formation of the Ramnamis, traces of and reference to many can be ascertained. Some arose only to die away within a few generations, while others were able to survive and thrive beyond the initial stimulus and nurturing of their charismatic..."

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5 The Ramnami Samaj: Its Contemporary Forms

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pp. 77-112

"A little more than a century has passed since the Ramnami Samaj began, and during that time it has played an important role in the evolving religious, social, and political consciousness of the harijan community in Chhattisgarh. Amidst all the changes that have taken place in that time, three unique structural aspects of the sect have evolved: its organizational makeup, its members’ ritual dress, and..."

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6 Ramnamis’ Contemporary Use of the Manas and Ramnam

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pp. 113-134

"Two principal elements of the contemporary Ram bhakti tradition have been incorporated into the orthodox Hindu value system: the Ramcaritmanas and the practice of Ramnam. The Manas has been accepted and given legitimacy as a sacred..."

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7 The Ramnami Life: Six Biographic Sketches

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pp. 135-174

"One of the more often voiced criticisms of organized religions is that they tend to inhibit individuality and create passive followers rather than independent thinkers, individuals, and leaders. Such a statement is too simplistic to be accurate. What can be said historically as well as in the present day is that religious affiliation is the consequence of birth and thus requires little or no forethought...."

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Conclusion: A Question of Values

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pp. 175-182

"One of the central themes of this study has been a rethinking of the formation and function of Hindu social and religious life, for whatever else can be said about India, it is, first and foremost, a land of multiple value systems. Collectively, these systems organize every aspect of life in a series of categories and levels, usually in the form of a set of continuums that stretch from their centers to..."

Appendix I

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pp. 183-194

Appendix II

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pp. 195-196


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pp. 197-214


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pp. 215-218


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pp. 219-229


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pp. 231-237

E-ISBN-13: 9780791488560
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791453858
Print-ISBN-10: 0791453855

Page Count: 238
Illustrations: 10 b/w photographs
Publication Year: 2002

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Ramnami-samaj.
  • Rāma (Hindu deity) -- Cult.
  • Dalits -- Central India -- Religion.
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