Jalaram Bapa: Vernacular Practice and Belief in the Gujarati Hindu Diaspora

Location: OCHS Library
Speaker: Dr Martin Woods
Date: March 4, 2011
Time: 14:00 to 15:00

The scholarly literature concerning Gujarati Hinduism in the U.K. has tended to pay attention to so-called ecumenical, rationalised and representative Hindu beliefs and practices. This has been at the expense of any scholarly enquiry as to the role that regional, vernacular traditions play in the religious lives of Gujarati Hindus in this country. This paper will argue that the Jalaram Bapa tradition, through vernacular practices and beliefs concerning miraculous events and narratives, is offering a contemporary and alternative religious expression to that offered by kind of representative Gujarati Hinduisms located in the U.K. today. Furthermore, it is doing so in a very public manner that appears to validate regional, vernacular traditions as opposed to marginalising or dismissing them. Dr. Martin Wood is Lecturer in Hinduism and Methodologies in the Study of Religion, Bath Spa University College, Honorary Research Fellow, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Bristol. His doctoral research examined Gujarati Hinduism in the U.K. and New Zealand concerning identity, authority and beliefs and practices relating to devotional food offerings. Dr. Woods has now begun for focus his research more specifically on the 18th Century Gujarati saint Jalaram Bapa and the significant tradition that has developed since his death in the Gujarat and the wider Gujarati diaspora. He examines the Jalaram Bapa tradition in relation to other Hinduisms, especially those considered more representative (Swaminarayan, ISKCON) addressing questions of religious identity and presence in the public domain particularly in relation to the interaction between vernacular (miracles, healings, visitations, and possessions) and more rationalised beliefs and practices.