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Les (Re)conversions à l'hindouisme (1885-1990) : politisation et diffusion d'une "invention" de la tradition / (Re)conversions to Hinduism (1885-1990): The Politisation and the Diffusion of an 'Invention ' of Tradition

Abstract : The suddhi movements led successively by the Arya samaj and the Hindu Mahasabha between 1885 and 1925 were founded on the reinterpretation of the Hindu purification ritual, but they included techniques of the Christian and Moslem rituals of conversion as well, so as to counter the proselytism of these two religions. Such an innovation-which led, notably, to attempts at bettering the social status of the untouchables-was opposed by the orthodox, whose support of the suddhi was mostly due to their feeling that the Hindu supremacy was threatened, and their conviction that there should be as many Hindus as possible. In the late 1920s, the movement subsided. After the Independence, the Constitution guaranteed the freedom to propagate one's faith-and therefore, the freedom to proselityze and convert-, and this right was maintained in spite of the growing hostility of local political leaders opposed to the proselytizing activities of the Christian missionaries in the 1950s. This opposition made it easier for Hindu nationalists to keep on agitating against the proselytism of the religious minorities in a latent and selective fashion-since conversions to Sikhism or Buddhism were not objected to. Not until the 1980s did this movement become apparent through a significant number of (re)conversions to Hinduism, and when it did, it was in reaction to the conversion to Islam of groups of untouchables. In that case, the suddhi was not used: simpler rites were performed, which gained the support of many representatives of Hindu orthodoxy. More than in the past, it had become a political matter, as the antagonism between Hindus and Moslems was again taking a violent form. The relative weakening of the restrictions formerly imposed on the (re)conversions by the caste system now tends to make the Hindu proselytizing practices increasingly similar to those prevailing in the Christian and Moslem circles. Still, the Hindus are far from constituting a community of believers which one could enter and leave at will.
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Christophe Jaffrelot. Les (Re)conversions à l'hindouisme (1885-1990) : politisation et diffusion d'une "invention" de la tradition / (Re)conversions to Hinduism (1885-1990): The Politisation and the Diffusion of an 'Invention ' of Tradition. Archives de Sciences Sociales des Religions, Éditions de l’EHESS, 1994, pp.73-98. ⟨hal-01009826⟩

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