In the Shadow of the Mahatma: Bishop Azariah and the Travails of Christianity in British India, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

In the Shadow of the Mahatma

Bishop Azariah and the Travails of Christianity in British India, 1st Edition

By Susan Billington Harper


500 pages

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This is a biography of Vedanayagam Samuel Azariah (1874-1945), bishop of the Anglican Church in India from 1912 until his death in 1945. His life sheds new light on the challenges and opportunities faced by religious minorities throughout the world today. As a Christian leader in a non-Christian culture, he negotiated complex cultural, social, political, and economic pressure with exceptional skill and diplomacy. As the first Indian bishop of an Anglican diocese, and as modern India's most successful leader of depressed class and non-Brahmin conversion movements to Christianity, Azariah was equally at home with the untouchables of rural India and the unreachables of the British Empire. From this platform Azariah inevitably came into contact - and, ironically, also into conflict - with the dominating presence of Mahatma Gandhi.

Susan Billington Harper here reconstructs major events and issues of Azariah's public life, including a previously unstudied controversy with Gandhi over the issue of conversion and relgious freedom in the 1930s. Based on hitherto untapped primary sources, including diocesan records and vernacular oral histories expressed in both stories and songs, this fascinating volume not only provides the first critical study of Bishop Azariah's life but also offers important - at times challenging - insights for those interested in modern India and the place of Christianity within it.


'The … portrait of Bishop Azariah does full justice to a charismatic personality who must always remain among the greatest of Indian Christians.' - Church Times

Table of Contents

Maps and Illustrations, Abbreviations, A Note on Transliteration, Acknowledgments, Introduction, PART I: THE RISE, Local Background: Secure Roots and a Spiritual Core, Pan-Asian Ecumenism: A Vision beyond Nations, Indigenous National Base: A Nonpolitical Missionary, PART II: THE REIGN, Bishop in the British Empire: Church-State Conflict under the Raj, Bishop in the Indian Church: Race and Identity Formation, Bishop in Andhra: Local Transformation through Conversion, PART III: THE RESOLUTIONS, Overcoming Divisions in Christendom, Overcoming Caste and Culture in India, PART IV: THE RIFT, The Conflict with Gandhi and Political Nationalism, Conclusion, Bibliography, A. Primary Materials, L Manuscripts, II. Interviews, III. Letters, IV. Azariah’s Publications, V. Henry Whitehead’s Publications, VI. Printed Primary Sources, B. Secondary Sources, I. Works about Azariah, II. Printed Secondary Sources, Index

About the Author

Susan Billington Harper is a program officer for religious scholarship at the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Regional Studies