ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Religious Reform and Cultural Revivalism

Gurus and Their Followers edited by Anthony Copley; Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2000; pp XXII + 235, Rs 475.

This collection of essays brings together research on a broad spectrum of new religious reform movements in late 19th century colonial India, which had their roots in Hinduism. In totality these movements can be understood as a collective response to the stress of modernisation and the challenge of foreign ideologies. Alternatively, they have been seen as distinct and discrete responses, often regional rather than all-India in scope, within different faiths. But the question is asked at the very outset – are there any agreed parameters and paradigms in their study?

There has also never been any agreement over the categorisation of the new religious movements. Farquhar, in 1915, categorised them as modern religious movements. Kenneth Jones (1989) preferred to categorise them as socio-religious reform movements. Several contributors in this collection of essays edited by Anthony Copley reject this categorisation, in particular the essays that address the story of Sri Aurobindo. However, several members within the movements studied readily described themselves as members of a new religion. Followers of the movements under review still revere their founders and ritualise certain texts, and some movements did take on the character of sects.

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