Vernacular Christianity in Colonial India
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This book is a critical biography of Baba Padmanji (1831-1906), a firebrand native Christian missionary, ideologue, and litterateur from 19th-century Bombay Presidency. Though Padmanji was well-known, and a very influential figure among Christian converts, his contributions have received inadequate attention from the perspective of ‘social reform’ — an intellectual domain dominated by offshoots of the Brahmo Samaj movement, like the Prarthana Samaj in Bombay.
This book constitutes an in-depth analysis of Padmanji’s relationships with questions of reform, education, modernity, feminism, and religion, that had wide-ranging repercussions on the intellectual horizon of 19th-century India. It presents Padmanji’s integrated writing persona and identity as a revolutionary pathfinder of his times who amalgamated and blended vernacular ideas of Christianity together with early feminism, modernity, and incipient nationalism.
Drawing on a variety of primary and secondary sources, this unique book will be of great interest for area studies scholars (especially Maharashtra), and to researchers of modern India, engaged with the history of colonialism and missions, religion, global Christianity, South Asian intellectual history, and literature.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction 2. Autobiography and Hagiography 3. Engaging the Avant-Garde 4. The Christian Vernacular Genre 5. Yamunaparyatan: The First Marathi Novel 6. Concluding Remarks
Deepra Dandekar is a historian of gender and religion, having written her Ph.D. on childbirth rituals in Maharashtra, published in 2017. Writing on religious minorities, migration, and the intellectual history of 19th and 20th-century India thereafter, she retains a special interest in the history of Christianity and the importance of narratives for history writing. Her last book The Subhedar’s Son: A Narrative of Brahmin-Christian Conversion from Nineteenth-century Maharashtra was published in 2019, and she presently works as a researcher at the Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin, Germany, on an independent research grant on Muslims in modern Maharashtra.