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Lines in Water

Religious Boundaries in South Asia

edited by Eliza Kent

Publication Year: 2013

This collection examines the projections and fantasies, conflict and cooperation, and borrowing and purifying that takes place around religious boundaries in South Asia and in the South Asian diaspora. These essays illustrate how people negotiate social divisions constructed on the basis of religious differences by describing, defining, maintaining, and blurring those religious boundaries in diverse ways. The authors approach religious traditions from a variety of angles including healing and pilgrimage practices, artistic performances, and national holidays. The principal strength of the volume lies in the way its regionally specific case studies generate insights that are more commonly associated with religious pluralism.

Published by: Syracuse University Press

Cover, Front Flap

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pp. 1-2

Title Page, Series Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 3-8


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

This volume emerges from a conference held at Syracuse University in April 2004, “Drawing a Line in Water: Religious Boundaries in South Asia.” Dara Shikoh (1616–59 CE), son of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, purportedly said that distinguishing between different religions was like drawing a line in water. ...

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pp. 1-36

Since independence, communal violence in South Asia has attracted considerable attention. The spectacle of medieval mosques demolished by mobs and luxury hotels besieged by heavily armed gunmen makes for riveting broadcast news, but these tragic events have come to stand for India in a way that distorts the on-the-ground reality. ...

I. Attractive Boundaries

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pp. 37-38

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1. Sufis and Movie Stars: Charismatic Muslims for Middle-Class Hindus

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pp. 39-56

When we draw a boundary line in a fluid ethnic mix such as we find in South Asia, the other that we find is usually one that we create. Standing in opposition to us, that other sometimes appears inimical as well, but— enemy or not—it can also exert its own appeal. Instances of this attractive dynamic regularly occur in contemporary India. ...

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2. An Other’s World: Healing at Husain Tekri Sharif

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pp. 57-77

In contemporary India, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and Sikhs commonly seek healing and intercession at the thousands of structures built in memory of notable Muslim individuals, chiefly Sufis and, to a lesser extent, martyrs. The most common Hindi/Urdu term for these structures is dargah, a word derived from the Persian noun meaning both “portal” and “court,” ...

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3. Vavar Swami: A Hindu–Muslim Saint of Kerala

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pp. 78-98

Through careful scrutiny of colonial and postcolonial history, one can grasp the complex process by which clear-cut communal identities have gradually emerged in South Asia. Recent research shows how the earlier permeability of religious boundaries tends to be replaced by an increasingly sharp divide between Hindu, Muslim, and Christian communities.1 ...

II. Porous Boundaries

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pp. 99-100

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4. Syncretism and Sin: An Independent Christian Church in Colonial South India

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pp. 101-124

Once a pejorative term used by missionaries and theologians to refer to the unholy mixture of beliefs and practices from different religious traditions, syncretism has of late seen a resurgence in popularity. As Rosalind Shaw and Charles Stewart (1994) argue, syncretism—particularly when redubbed synergy, hybridity, or acculturation— ...

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5. The Living Tradition of Ismaili Ginans: Negotiating Cultures in Poetry and Performance

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pp. 125-158

In 1908, His Highness Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III, the forty-eighth Imam of Ismaili Muslims, won a famous lawsuit that has come to be called the “Haji Bibi case.” The case had to do with property that he claimed belonged to him and his community. It hinged on the interpretation of a lengthy ginan ...

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6. Liminal Hindus: Disputed Boundaries and Their Impacts on Sindhi Hindus

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pp. 159-184

The partition of British India in 1947 created a political border between the newly independent nations of India and Pakistan that was ostensibly based on the religious identification of the majority in each area (with the exception of Kashmir). In this act of drawing boundaries, political leaders asserted—or surrendered to—a conception ...

III. Firmly Drawn Boundaries

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pp. 185-186

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7. Mapping Boundaries: The Science of Knowing Communal Identity in British Cartography

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pp. 187-212

“Each Hindu pocket is becoming more concentrated with its own people, while the story is the same for Muslim-dominated locations,” observed a police officer in the state of Gujarat following the 2002 communal violence there. What the press often described as spontaneous riots actually took the shape of pogroms— ...

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8. In a Single House: Fluid Boundaries in Performed Urdu Poetry

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pp. 213-238

Although night had come to Mughal Sarai, a settlement on the outskirts of the North Indian city of Varanasi,1 the Urdu poetry festival known as a mushaira being held there was just getting started. Younger poets and a few older poets known more for their sonorous voices than for the quality of their poetry ...

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9. Fluid Boundaries and the Assertion of Difference in Low-Caste Religious Identity

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pp. 239-268

The boundaries of religious traditions are being actively contested in India today, though in practice their internal and external structures are fluid and open. Each religion takes a wide array of forms, reflecting the diversity of the communities and adherents who find relevance and meaning within it, ...

IV. Transcending Boundaries

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pp. 269-270

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10. Religious Healing and Ritual Relationships at a Religious Crossroads in South India

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pp. 271-299

The small gravesite of the Sufi pir Sheikh Hussein Qadiri Chishti, originally nestled in a rocky, thorn-bush landscape on the outskirts of Hyderabad, has grown up gradually over the years since the sheikh’s death in 1998 into a fully established, enclosed shrine (dargah). ...

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11. “Ainn-Bai’s Sarvadharm Yatra”: A Mix of Experiences

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pp. 300-329

I spent two weeks in Rajasthan in the rainy season of 2006 while on a brief trip to gather teaching resources for an undergraduate course titled “India’s Religious Worlds.” This part of the trip was not a research visit. I called it my “monsoon yatra”—yatra being a capacious term for all varieties of travel. ...

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12. From Liminal to Social in the Modern Age: Transcendent Sacrality and Social Service in the Aghor Tradition

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pp. 330-355

The theme of our volume, drawing lines in water, conjures up a metaphor that is especially conducive to looking at changes that have taken place in the Aghor tradition of cremation-ground ascetics—especially with reference to followers of Aghoreshwar Mahaprabhu Baba Bhagwan Ram, otherwise known as Baba Bhagwan Ram, ...

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13. Indian Arrival Day: Shifting Boundaries in the Celebration of a National Holiday in Trinidad

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pp. 356-390

In Trinidad, Hindus, Muslims, and Christians with Indian ancestry celebrate Indian Arrival Day, a national holiday commemorating the arrival of the first group of indentured servants from India on May 30, 1845. In public venues, including schools, places of worship, and community centers, people tell the story of arrival ...


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pp. 391-394


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pp. 395-412

Back Cover, Back Flap

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pp. 431-432

E-ISBN-13: 9780815652250
E-ISBN-10: 0815652259
Print-ISBN-13: 9780815633198
Print-ISBN-10: 081563319X

Page Count: 416
Illustrations: 14 black and white illustrations
Publication Year: 2013