Of the approximately 5 million members claimed world-wide by the Bahá'í authorities, nearly 2 million Bahá'ís are said to reside within the Republic of India.1
This means that close to 40% of the international Bahá'í community is to be found within the borders of this South Asian nation, a statistic that not only reflects the important position India currently holds within the world-wide Bahá'í community, but also suggests that this country may have an important impact on the future direction the religion might take. The study of the history and sociology of the movement in the subcontinent is therefore an increasingly vital component of Bahá'í studies as an academic field.
I discern five distinct stages of development during the nearly 150 years of Bahá'í history in India: 1) the Babi, or pre-Bahá'í period; 2) the initial stage of Bahá'í community development (1872 -1910); 3) the first steps toward national unity (1910-1921); 4) the period of the Guardianship and the evolution of the community as part of an international administrative order (1921-1957); and 5) the era of mass teaching (1957 to the present).2 Beyond containing their own unique personalities and events, these periods also display distinct patterns of community organization and missionary endeavor. I will here be interested in justifying this periodization of the history of the community, as well as in asking what dynamics (both internal and external) led to the changes that moved the community from one stage to the next.
The Bahá'í Faith is a contemporary religious movement active nowadays in over three hundred countries and dependencies throughout the world. Evolving from the Babi movement,3 which spread throughout Iran and Iraq in the mid-nineteenth century, the Bahá'í Faith has slowly moved beyond the pale of Shi`ite Islam and thereby established itself as an independent religion. The movement's founder, Mirza Husayn 'Ali of Nur, Bahá'u'lláh (1817-1892), is considered by adherents to be a messenger of God equal in station to, among others, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha and the Hindu avatars. Banished from Iran in 1853 by the order of Nasiru'd-Din Shah, he lived in exile, being sent to Baghdad, Istanbul (Constantinople), Edirne (Adrianople), and, finally, the prison city of Acre (Akka or now Akko) located in the bay near Haifa in what was then Ottoman Syria and is now Israel. After Bahá'u'lláh's death the leadership of the community passed to his eldest son, Abbas Effendi, Abdu'l-Bahá (1844-1921), who following his release from captivity in 1908 visited both Europe and North America. In 1921 Abdu'l-Bahá's grandson, Shoghi Effendi, succeeded to the head of the Faith, having been named Guardian of the movement in Abdu'l-Bahá's will. During the Guardianship (1921-1957) the Bahá'í Faith increased both in size and administrative capabilities by establishing communities in over 130 countries and developing local, national and international administrative institutions. From 1957 to 1963 the Bahá'í Faith was guided by The Hands of the Cause, a group of initially 27 individuals (22 men and 5 women) who had been personally appointed by Shoghi Effendi to help him oversee the international activities of the movement. Since 1963 the affairs of the Faith have been directed by the Universal House of Justice, a body of nine men (women are currently prohibited from serving on this body) elected every five years by national representatives, whose headquarters is located in Haifa. (A more extended overview of the religion's history may be found here ).
THE BABI PERIOD
The Babi movement, the predecessor to the Bahá'í faith, had some connections with India. Two of the most important Babi histories make mention of several prominent Indian believers. The major Bahá'í historian for this period, Muhammad-i Zarandi, Nabil-i Azam, informs us that one of the Bab's original disciples (Letters of the Living) was an Indian known as Shaykh Sa'id-i-Hindi. Following instructions he took the Bab's claims throughout several provinces of Iran and into his own homeland. The fruits of this latter venture, however, were far from productive, as his only success was the conversion of a certain Sayyid in the town of Multan.4 After this the Shaykh's activities are not recorded.
Another Indian who was ordered by the Bab to journey to India was a dervish referred to in Mirza Husayn of Hamadan's history Tarikh-i-Jadid as "the Indian believer."5 He came to the prison of Chihriq where the Bab was being held and managed to meet him, receiving from him the title "Qahru'llah." After several encounters with local religious authorities, including a brief arrest in the city of Khuy, he set out for India on foot. Whether or not he completed his journey is unknown.
A third significant convert during this time was a blind Sayyid, Jinab-i-Basir. Nabil states that he was the above mentioned Sayyid converted by Shaykh Sa'id-i Hindi. In contrast the Tarikh-i-Jadid claims that Jinab-i-Basir heard of the Bab's appearance in Bombay from where he traveled to Mecca and met him in person.6 After the Bab's death Jinab-i-Basir, along with several other Babis, made extravagant claims, but he was eventually "faced-down" by Bahá'u'lláh who made his own claim to divinity.7 Jinab-i-Basir was later executed for his beliefs in Luristan.
That there were other Indian believers is made evident by Mahjur's monograph on the Babi insurrection in Mazandaran. He lists four Indians as being among the 318 Babis who fought at Fort Shaykh Tabarsi.8 Moreover, in the 1850s the Afnan clan, relatives of the Bab,9 established a trading center in Bombay. Although some knowledge of the Bab's claims had thus penetrated into South Asia and fired certain local millenialist expectations, there was lacking the needed doctrinal and ritual coherence that is required of community. Both the physical distance from the sources of inspiration, as well as the disruption and turmoil evident amongst the Babi communites in Iran, especially following the Bab's execution, made community virtually impossible. Thus it would not be until the movement came under the influence of Bahá'u'lláh and, later, of Abdu'l-Bahá, that a true community would begin to develop.
THE BEGINNINGS OF THE INDIAN BAHA'I COMMUNITY (1872-1910)
Two members of the Afnan clan who were resident in Bombay, Haji Sayyid Mirza and Sayyid Muhammad, became Bahá'ís in the 1860s, and they wrote to Bahá'u'lláh requesting that a Bahá'í teacher be sent to India. Bahá'u'lláh asked Sulayman Khan Tunukabani (known as Jamal Effendi), who was both a Sufi and a learned scholar of Arabic and Persian, if he would take on the task, and his arrival in Bombay in 1872 can be rightly said to signal the beginning of organized missionary activity in the subcontinent.
After a short stay in Bombay Jamal Effendi began a teaching tour that took him across the entire country and was highlighted by his attending the ceremony in Delhi at which Queen Victoria was proclaimed The Empress of India. The proselytizing style he employed can be gleaned from an account penned by one of his Indian converts, Sayyid Mustafa Rumi of Madras:
It was his custom to notify his arrival to the Governor or highest official of the place in British India and the ruling prince in an Indian state. He would then pay a visit to them and deliver the message. His list of those to whom he delivered the Message contains names of almost all the high officials and princes of the land.10
Thus Jamal Effendi established an elitist
approach to teaching the Bahá'í Faith in India, and it was this style of teaching that would dominate Bahá'í missionary activity in India for decades.
It seems that for the most part Jamal Effendi's efforts were met with courteous interest if not overt enthusiasm. The progressive character of many of the Bahá'í principles spoke well to reformers, and the universality inherent in many of the religion's teachings was welcomed by those who feared communalism. There were, however, exceptions. Both in Bombay and Calcutta Jamal Effendi raised the ire of conservative religious leaders. What the liberal wing of Indian intellectual leadership saw as forward looking, traditionalists viewed as dangerous. These conservative Muslim and Hindu anti-Bahá'í polemics were muted by the relatively small number of converts Jamal Effendi was able to attract by the time of his departure in 1878.
Jamal Effendi left behind him three prominent converts (Rafi u'd-Din Khan of Hasanpur, Haji Ramadan of Rampur and Sayyid Mustafa Rumi), who would begin the slow process of building the Indian community. During this time the Afnan's printing press in Bombay produced the first ever Bahá'í books to be printed. The Book of Certitude and the Secret of Divine Civilization were both published in1882. In order to further the publishing work, prominent Bahá'í calligraphers such as Mishkin-Qalam and Mirza Muhammad Ali came to Bombay.
After the death of Bahá'u'lláh and the inauguration of the ministry of Abdu'l-Bahá, the Bahá'í community in Bombay was split as a consequence of the activities of the followers of Mirza Muhammad Ali who had challenged his half-brother's right to legitimate leadership. As a result, Abdu'l-Bahá directed a number of prominent emissaries to India, both Persian and Western, to guide the community and encourage teaching. Among these were Mirza Mahmud Zarqani, Aqa Mirza Mahram, Mirza Hasan Adib, Ibin-i-Asdaq, Lua Getsinger, Mrs. H. Stanndard, Sidney Sprague, Hooper Harris and Harlan Ober. By 1908 the work of these individuals along with a small group of local converts had produced functioning communities in Bombay, Calcutta, Aligarh and Lahore. Of these, the Bombay community took the forefront in both teaching and translation work. Its advancements in the area of translation marked the first time any of Bahá'u'lláh's writings had been translated into one of the native languages of India. Bombay also managed to acquire the first Bahá'í cemetery in India, and Abdu'l-Bahá designed the layout of the sight. The activities of the Bombay community were commented upon by Sydney Sprague who in 1908 reported: "There are three meetings a week held in Bombay and there are as a rule eighty to a hundred men present."11 He also noted that it was not easy to become a Bahá'í: "It often means a great sacrifice on the part of a believer, a loss of friends, money and position."12
During this period, a number of Indian Zoroastrians ("Parsis") were converted to the Bahá'í Faith, thereby forming a nucleus of future Bahá'í leadership in India. The conversions came about as a result of the work of agents who had originally been sent abroad by the Indian Zoroastrian community to help their coreligionists in Iran. There they came into contact with the Bahá'í Faith and supported its activities. Later, several Iranian Zoroastrian converts to the Faith traveled to Bombay (notably Mulla Bahram Akhtar-Khavari) and actively promulgated their new religion among local Zoroastrians.13 Although they were met with opposition by some of the conservative dasturs, these missionary converts were quite successful in opening the Zoroastrian community to Bahá'í concepts and teachings.
This second stage of development, which manifested the first true signs of Bahá'í community in India, was characterized by two main features. The first was the previously noted elitist approach to teaching the Faith. Following the lead of Jamal Effendi, the nascent Bahá'í communities focused their efforts on local leaders and members of the intelligentsia. Association with reform movements such as the Theosophical Society and the Brahmo-Samaj14 proved popular, as did lectures and pamphleteering. The fact that Islamic reform movements of the period were often characterized by strong strains of revivalism and separatism did not make them as fertile grounds for Bahá'í interaction, although there is evidence that Bahá'ís did make an attempt to raise their claims with the leader of the Ahmaddiya movement, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadiyan.15 The main assumption underlying the focus on literate members of the middle and upper classes was that legitimate conversion to the Bahá'í Faith required fairly extensive knowledge on the part of a new believer of the religion's doctrines and principles, which in turn required a fairly high level of education. In following this tack the Bahá'ís were in many ways mirroring the attitudes of the reform movements with which they came into contact. Reform was primarily the prerogative of the upper classes who often looked to English liberal ideas and institutions for inspiration. There was little thought of speaking to the masses. Even in the secular Indian political arena it was English educated Indians in the professions who came to form, in effect, a new class, which prior to the arrival of Gandhi on the national scene was virtually cut off from the mass of the population. Moreover, the fact that for the most part the Bahá'í message was presented in Persian, Arabic, Urdu, or English added to the sense of exclusivity, as these languages were generally associated with cultural elites.
The second feature concerned the nature of Bahá'í community organization which was almost exclusively local in orientation. Throughout the country various Bahá'í communities acted virtually independent of one another. Although they had as their sources of spiritual unity the figures of Bahá'u'lláh and Abdu'l-Bahá, when it came to organizing teaching plans and developing community administration there was little sense of national unity.
In looking at the factors that helped move the Indian Bahá'í community into this stage of development, the ability to make contact with the established sources of authority through personally sent emissaries stands out as vital. Up until the time of Jamal Effendi's arrival in Bombay those Babis and then Bahá'ís who traveled to, or resided in, the subcontinent remained effectively isolated and without central leadership. The use of traveling teachers, especially by Abdu'l-Bahá, helped bridge this gap of isolation, and although the individual communities remained relatively autonomous, the symbolic sense of leadership that was now available provided a much needed sphere of spiritual orientation. Also of considerable importance was the establishment of the Afnan's printing press in Bombay which not only resulted in greater contact with other Bahá'í communities in the Middle East but also gave to that city a unique Bahá'í cultural identity. Extensive telegraph, rail and steamship networks, initially established by European entrepreneurs and colonial governments for their own purposes, now linked the Middle East and British India and were key technological prerequisites for this greater integration of the community, as well.
THE FIRST STEPS TOWARDS NATIONAL UNITY (1910-1921)
With the advent of a national teaching plan in 1910 a new phase of Bahá'í history in India began. In January of that year a convention comprised of members of India's various religious communities was held in Allahabad. The Bahá'ís were invited to the convention, and Sayyid Mustafa Rumi presented a talk which was enthusiastically received by the delegates. As a result of this interest it was decided that "teaching" (proselytization) activities in the subcontinent should be accelerated, and before the year had ended a national teaching campaign was launched. The program called for the election of a nineteen member teaching council which would coordinate propagation activities across the entire country. The council officially came into existence in August, 1911.16
Although not winning many converts, the teaching campaign of 1911 was of marked importance to the Indian Bahá'í community, since it signified the first real attempt systematically to proselytize for the faith on a national basis. The next major step in this direction took place approximately ten years later. In December, 1920, the First All-Inida Bahá'í Convention was held in the city of Bombay.17 Representatives from India's major religious communities were present as well as Bahá'í delegates from throughout the country. For three days the delegates heard speeches, consulted with one another and drafted resolutions that would become the focal point of the community's goals for the next decade. The resolutions included the collection of funds to build a Bahá'í temple, the establishment of a Bahá'í school and the expansion of teaching and translation work.
While the pattern of missionary elitism continued during this phase of development, the shift toward organizational centrism is new and demands explanation. To some degree this movement was a natural consequence of expanded teaching plans that required greater logistical coordination. Thus the resolutions of the 1920 Convention were logically tied to the experiences of the 1910 teaching plan. But why the emphasis in 1910 on the national approach to teaching? I would suggest that one significant factor in this regard was the growing sense of Indian nationalism that was found among Indian intellectuals and reformers of the period. Indeed the landmark Government of India Act of 1909, although communal in structure, initiated a new kind of association of Indians with Britishers in fashioning legislation for all of British India and has been called by one modern historian the first tentative path toward responsible parliamentary government for India.18 Thus the political milieu in which the then Bahá'í community found itself operating was one that focused its thinking in national terms, and such an attitude may well have influenced the community's view of itself. Here it is important to remember that the Teaching Plan of 1910 was initiated as a result of Bahá'í participation in a non-Bahá'í, national event - The All-India Allahabad Religious Convention.
THE PERIOD OF THE GUARDIANSHIP (1921-1957)
In April, 1923, Shoghi Effendi created the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of India and Burma and thereby formalized the idea of an Indian national community. The role he bequeathed to this body is made evident in the following message sent in November, 1925:
I pray that your newly constituted National Assembly may grow from strength to strength, may coordinate and consolidate the ever expanding activities of the friends of India and Burma and inaugurate a fresh campaign of Teaching that will redound to the glory and power of the Most Great Name.19
Under the guidance of the National Spiritual Assembly and the supervision of Shoghi Effendi in Haifa, the Indian Bahá'í community slowly began to feel the effects of the emerging worldwide Bahá'í administrative system. Increasingly during the period of the Guardianship Indian teaching plans were timed and coordinated with those of other countries. In addition to welcoming "travel teachers" (itinerant missionaries) from different parts of the world, Indian Bahá'ís gradually began to generate regular teaching campaigns modeled on the lines of those initiated by Shoghi Effendi in the United States. Thus when in 1937 the American community introduced the Seven Year Plan, the Indian NSA decided they should organize a similar project, and accordingly a Six Year Plan was drawn up and scheduled to commence in 1938. Although for monetary reasons the start of the plan was delayed until 1940, the first Bahá'í summer school was able to be held in Simla in 1938, and when the plan did get underway it produced immediate results. By 1941 three new local communities with functioning assemblies had been established: Hyderabad, Kota and Bangalore. The next year saw three more local spiritual assemblies established, and several Bahá'í groups (communities with less than nine members) were also formed. The rigorous teaching efforts continued during the final years of the plan, and by its completion date in 1944 the Indian community was comprised of twenty-nine local spiritual assemblies.20
The achievements of the Six Year Plan encouraged the Indian Bahá'í community to launch another teaching campaign in April, 1946. Although disrupted by the turmoil accompanying the 1947 Partition of the subcontinent into India and Pakistan, the Four Year Plan met with much the same results as its predecessor. By April,1947, an additional eight local spiritual assemblies had been created and the same number of groups established. Due to these figures the NSA received nearly 600 pounds sterling from Bahá'í communities throughout the world to finance yet another teaching project, and consequently in 1951 the Indian Bahá'í community embarked on its third successive teaching campaign.21 This effort resulted in the formation of eight more local spiritual assemblies and the translation of books and pamphlets into as many as fifteen different languages.22
An indication of the new status the Indian Bahá'í community (which now numbered approximately seven hundred) had achieved in the worldwide Bahá'í community, is that New Delhi was chosen as one of four sites for international teaching conferences in 1953, each held on a different continent. The Delhi convention of October, 1953, helped mark both the completion of India's third major teaching project in the preceding fifteen years and the inauguration of Shoghi Effendi's world-wide Ten Year Crusade. The 450 Bahá'ís who attended the conference (from such varied countries as the United States, Canada, Iran, Iraq, Australia and New Zealand) outlined strategies for the upcoming Crusade and engaged in an active program of public relations which included a reception in one of New Delhi's large hotels. The event was attended by over a thousand persons. In addition a delegation was able to meet with the Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. When the conference was concluded on October 15, 1953, Indian Bahá'ís once again found themselves embarking on a teaching project, a plan which by the time of its completion in 1963 would not only find the Bahá'í international community under new leadership, but would also have revolutionized the composition of the Indian Bahá'í community.
While the period of the Guardianship witnessed important structural and administrative changes in India, the style of teaching remained fundamentally the same as in earlier periods. It was still to the urban, educated members of Indian society that Bahá'í teachers primarily directed their message. The base was broadened to some degree by the fact that literacy rates in India rose during this period, especially in urban areas. Moreover, the translation of Bahá'í literature into a number of different Indian languages meant that Bahá'í written publications could receive a wider audience, but in terms of logistics the large metropolitan centers such as Bombay, Calcutta and New Delhi remained focal points of activity. Even though as early as 1933 (when referring to translation work) Shoghi Effendi had written: "I would urge you to concentrate your energy on this important and essential preliminary to an intensive campaign of teaching among the masses in India"23, his suggestion was not followed. Lecture tours and university visits were incapable of reaching the masses, yet these activities remained by and large the order of the day.
There were, however, two important exceptions to this trend. The first originated during the Six Year Plan and proved to be a real stimulus to community growth. This was a decision by a number of Indian Bahá'ís to leave the large urban centers and establish residences in smaller towns and cities. Significantly these moves added several new local spiritual assemblies to the community's total, and consequently pioneering became a primary goal of all future plans.
The second event took place in the central Indian city of Ujjain in 1944 when the newly formed assembly was asked to participate in an Arya Samaj sponsored meeting. Mr. Mahfuz'l-Haq Ilmi, a well-known Bahá'í travel teacher, addressed the group on the subject of Bahá'í social principles. His speech attracted the attention of one Kishan Lal Malviya, a scheduled caste leader from Shajapur (a district northeast of Ujjain). Following the conference Kishan Lal came into contact with the Ujjain Bahá'í community and eventually declared himself a Bahá'í. At about the same time another scheduled caste leader, Dayaram Malviya, also converted. Thus in 1944 the first villagers in central India entered the Bahá'í Faith, and while their conversions were not immediately capitalized upon by local Bahá'ís, both men were destined to play prominent roles in the new course the Bahá'í teaching mission would take in the 1960s.
There can be little doubt that the impetus which brought the Indian Bahá'í community into this stage of its development and allowed it to show the first real indication of being more than just a few loosly connected groups of metropolitan believers was the personage of Shoghi Effendi and his vision of the Bahá'í World Order. While it is true that during the first two decades of the twentieth century signs of movement in the direction of a more unified and cohesive community were present in India, it took the power and prestige that an institution like the Guardianship could command, as well as the organizational skills and energy that Shoghi Effendi brought to the position, to help actualize earlier trends. Symbolic of this new identity was the NSA which he created and helped guide. But even with such dynamic leadership and a new sense of being an active part of an expanding international organization, at the time of Shoghi Effendi's death in November, 1957, there were still less than a thousand Bahá'ís in the entire country.
THE MASS TEACHING ERA - (1961 to present)
Just prior to Shoghi Effendi's death small-scale mass conversion to the Bahá'í faith had begun in East Africa. As part of the Ten Year Crusade a new attitude toward missionary work had begun to develop among a certain segment of Bahá'í leadership. Whereas the traditional approach to conversion had been based on the assumption that new believers should be well-informed as regards the details of Bahá'í theology, history and administration, there were those who believed that if the Bahá'í Faith was going to experience significant growth such stringent requirements would have to be removed. Moreover, the traditional approach virtually excluded the illiterate segments of the world's population. In one of his last letters Shoghi Effendi himself had endorsed this perspective. He wrote to the NSA of South and West Africa that: "The essential thing is that the candidate for enrollment should believe in his heart the truth of Bahá'u'lláh. Whether he is illiterate, informed of all the teachings or not, is besides the point entirely."24
The first organized move in the direction of taking the Bahá'í message outside of the towns and cities of India took place in 1959. A teaching conference was held in village Rampur (not far from Varanasi/Benares), and although it did not result in mass conversions, it did provide the first close contact between urban Bahá'ís and large numbers of Indian villagers. The conference also produced several recommendations that had significant implications for future Bahá'í missionary work throughout India. These included the mass prdoduction of simple leaflets for distribution in nearby villages, the establishment of study classes in Rampur and the regular participation of urban Bahá'ís in Rampur's religious festivals.25
One of the individuals who was convinced of the benefits of the new teaching approach was Hand of the Cause, Dr. Rahmatullah Muhajir. In early 1960 following the Rampur conference he met with the Indian NSA and advised them to focus their teaching activities on the rural areas. Moreover he suggested that they take the lead in this direction by personally going to villages to proclaim the message. Shortly thereafter Mrs. Shirin Boman Meherabani traveled to the city of Indore in the state of Madhya Pradesh where she took council with her brother. He informed her of a nearby Bhilala tribal village where some Bahá'í contact had been made. The village was named Kweitiopani and was located approximately fifty miles from Indore in the Dewas district. During the next few weeks Mrs. Meherabani made several excursions to Kweitiopani and then invited those who believed in Bahá'u'lláh to declare themselves as Bahá'ís. As a result nearly 75% of the village's largely illiterate population of two-hundred put their thumb prints on enrollment cards. Kweitiopani became the first rural community in India to experience mass conversion.
Following the Kweitiopani conversions Dr. Muhajir returned to India and requested that a village teaching conference similar to the Rampur conference be planned for central India. After consultation it was decided that village Sangimanda in Shajapur District of Madhya Pradesh (the region has traditionally been referred to as Malwa) would be a suitable cite. The decision was based on the fact that it was the home village of Kishan Lal Malviya, the scheduled caste leader who had declared back in 1944. With his help arrangements for the conference were made and in late January, 1961, Dr. Muhajir arrived in Ujjain and proceeded by jeep to the village.26 An open-air meeting was held at which more than 300 people listened to Bahá'í speakers. At the conclusion of the conference over two hundred villagers declared.
The Kweitiopani and Sangimanda declarations set in motion a tide of mass conversions in central India. Leaders in the new crusade included Mrs. Meherabani and her son-in-law, Mr. K.H. Vajdi who traveled extensively by jeep in the rural areas of Malwa. Over the next two year period more than 85,000 declarations were received. The majority of these came from the scheduled castes in Malwa and the rural regions surrounding the city of Gwalior. The impact the conversions had on the Bahá'í international community was reflected in a message sent by the Hands of the Cause (who until the election of the Universal House of Justice in 1963 were directing Bahá'í international affairs) to the national conventions around the world:
India, one of the first countries in the world to receive the light of a newly-born Revelation has, during the past year, witnessed a tide of mass conversion not only wholly unprecedented in that country but without parallel anywhere in the entire world during the last one hundred years of Bahá'í history.27
Following the lead of Bahá'í teachers in Malwa and Gwalior, Bahá'ís in other parts of the country began to initiate rural mass teaching campaigns. Successes similar to those in Madhya Pradesh were experienced in areas of Uttar Pradesh, Andrah Pradesh and Gujarat. In response to the continued expansion, in 1964 Shoghi Effendi's widow and Hand of the Cause, Ruhiyyih Khanum, made an extended trip to India where she toured the mass teaching areas and encouraged village teachers to maintain the momentum.28
The results of the mass teaching campaign in India during its first decade of implementation can be seen in the enormous increase of both numbers of declared believers and local spiritual assemblies. Whereas in 1961 there were a total of 78 local spiritual assemblies and less than 1,000 believers, by 1970 these figures had risen to 3,350 assemblies and 312,602 believers.29
There was a slight lull in growth during the mid-1970s, though significant conversions took place following 1977, and there was a steady increase in reported declarations until the late 1980s, after which growth appears to have reached a plateau. In the late 1990s the Indian Bahá'í community claims a membership of over two million persons, though the reliability of this claim is complicated by questions over the meaning of signing a "declaration card" in India’s syncretistic religious atmosphere. Special regional teaching projects such as the South Indian Teaching Project (1977 -1980) and the East India Teaching Project (1978-1980) were, and have been, the focal point of missionary activity since that time. This has been the result of an administrative policy for India adopted by the Universal House of Justice which in the 1980s divided the country into twenty-two state teaching committees that have been delegated the authority and power to manage the administrative and proselytizing work in their respective states. Indeed, these state bodies (now called "state Bahá'í councils") are currently in charge of all aspects of administration within their states (except the deprivation of voting rights) that were earlier handled by the NSA.
The events of the mass teaching period raise several important questions, and despite the fact that complete answers lie beyond the scope this paper30, they should at least be mentioned and commented upon. The more significant questions would include: 1) What factors caused the shift in Bahá'í missionary activity from a more conservative and elitist approach bound to the metropolitan centers to a policy focused upon reaching the rural masses? 2) How can we account for the positive response to the Bahá'í message by so many Indian villagers? 3) In light of the new teaching approach, what did/do the declarations mean both religiously and sociologically? and 4) what impact has the mass teaching period had on the administrative structure of the Indian Bahá'í community?
As mentioned earlier, there are references in the late writings of Shoghi Efendi that demonstrate his support for bringing uneducated believers into the Bahá'í Faith, so in openly incorporating this policy into their teaching mission the Indian community was not, theoretically at least, departing on a radical course. The question remains, however, as to why this policy was not established until the early 1960s. Looking at dynamics from within the Faith itself, three answers come to mind, one fairly apparent and the other two more speculative. One significant factor was the personage of Hand of the Cause, Dr. Muhajir. Although he realized that the mass teaching approach would bring with it certain organizational problems, and that there would be individuals opposed to its results on the grounds of "loss of control," it was his constant support and encouragement that led to the initial village teaching sojourns. As Mrs. Shirin Boman Meherabani indicated in a personal interview in 1973, without his vision and guidance it is questionable as to whether the Indian NSA would have moved in this direction. A second factor which may well have come into play (and was expressed to me by several prominent Indian Bahá'ís) was the growing awareness among Indian Bahá'ís that past policies, if not having failed, were at least wanting in terms of building a strong and dynamic community. After close to a century of missionary work there were still less than a thousand believers in the subcontinent. A new strategy was obviously needed. And then there was the fact of Shoghi Effendi's death, which may have created greater space for individual initiative on the one hand, and on the other may also have led those mourning his loss to redouble their efforts to fulfill his stated wishes for mass proselytizing.
There are also external factors to consider. Of primary importance in this regard was the fact that by the early 1960s India had experienced over a decade of democratic government, and although Indian society still remained highly hierarchical in structure, the influences of the democratic spirit, as expressed in both the public education system and the work of leading intellectuals, combined with the Gandhian ideal of social service, had helped chip away at certain elitist attiudes, especially among the young. The more psychologically democratic social milieu likely made mass teaching to low caste and illiterate villagers seem more natural, in a movement which claimed as one of its leading social principles the "Oneness of Mankind," than it may have been in prior decades.
Finally there is the reality of the initial successes experienced by the village teachers. Had the teaching in Kweitiopani and Sangimanda not produced the desired declarations, or had the flood of new converts that followed in surrounding villages and regions failed to materialize, the plan may have been discarded. In other words, one of the causes of the success of the mass teaching policy was success itself! For a movement that within less than two years had increased its enrollment numbers from less than one thousand to over eighty-nine thousand there was cause enough to continue on the new path.
This leads us naturally into our second question. Why did the Bahá'í teachers experience such success? Why did large numbers of villagers sign declaration cards? Based on my field research in Malwa in 1973-74 I have come to two basic conclusions. The first has to do with the caste backgrounds of many of those who declared, while the second is related to the teaching approach adopted by Bahá'í missionaries. It should be noted, however, that since this research was limited in both time and space these conclusions must remain essentially speculative. Hopefully future research will either confirm or amend them.
Kweitiopani was a tribal village (Bhilala), and Sangimanda contained large numbers of scheduled caste Hindu inhabitants (Chamar and Balai). It was in these two villages that mass conversions first took place, and the pattern set there was largely followed throughout the various regions of Malwa during the initial years of the mass teaching campaign. This should not be surprising, as it fits a fairly well established pattern of religious conversion in India whereby non-caste tribal groups and lower castes seek to improve their social standing through conversion to a new religion.31 Here the Bahá'í principle of the oneness of mankind, which directly confronts the accepted human inequalities of the traditional caste system, was probably significant. Villagers from this social strata were no doubt open to the egalitarian teachings of urbanized outsiders and may well have thought that by joining such a movement their own social standing might improve. While I do not have specific figures related to other regions and later decades, it is my understanding that Bahá'í declarations have continued to be significantly aligned with the lower segments of various regional social hierarchies.
But the teachings of social equality cannot alone account for the declarations. In the first place, there were, and have been, other than scheduled caste converts, and secondly there were, and are, other egalitarian religious movements in the field that could draw lower caste Hindus away from their religion if this were the only issue. Moreover, a one-dimensional secular explanation may not do justice to what many Bahá'ís might see as the spiritual force and attraction of their message. While not being able to evaluate the belief component of this latter position, I do feel that the manner in which the message was delivered is significant and goes some way to answering our question. Here I am alluding to 1) the conscious effort made by Bahá'í village teachers to present their message in Hinduized symbols and concepts and 2) the policy of not requiring new converts to completely reject (either symbolically or behaviorally) their own religious traditions.
Although in theory the Bahá'í Faith had long advocated the oneness of the world's great religious traditions, the reality of having to present the message to largely illiterate or semi-literate Hindu villagers resulted in a more systematic attempt to identify with the Hindu tradition. In this vein, Bahá'í teachers began to emphasize what might be called a culturally adaptive proselytizing technique whereby indigenous concepts and symbols were used as channels of communication. This can best be seen in the presentation of Bahá'u'lláh as an avatar. More specifically, he was often associated with the kalkin avatar who according to the Vishnupurana will appear at the end of the kali yuga for the purpose of reestablishing an era of righteousness.32 Other examples of this approach included emphasizing the figures of Buddha and Krishna as past Manifestations of God (avatars), references to Hindu scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita,the substitution of Sanskrit-based terminology for Arabic and Persian where possible (i.e., Bhagavan Baha for Bahá'u'lláh), and the incorporation in both song and literature of Hindu holy spots, hero-figures and poetic images.33 In this vein it should also be noted that there appears to have been a fairly deliberate attempt made by Bahá'í teachers to distance the movement from its Islamic identification. A good example of this can be seen in the Hindi translations of Bahá'í scriptures and prayers that appeared during this period which are so heavily Sanskritized as to make it difficult to recognize their non-Hindu antecedents.
Associated with this more sympathetic approach to Hinduism was the policy of gradualism regarding the introduction of Bahá'í institutions and mores into village life. Bahá'í administrators and teachers certainly desired eventual structural and behavioral change, yet they did not force new declarants to immediately cast off traditional ways. For example, although Bahá'í social teachings are anti-caste in outlook, outside of Bahá'í meetings there was no militant attempt to purge new believers of conventional caste behavior.34 Similarly, while participation in new Bahá'í rituals was encouraged, it was not made a requisite for membership. Only declared belief that Bahá'u'lláh was the avatar for this age was deemed necessary.
In making use of these tactics the Bahá'í teachers did not demand that new contacts completely reject their own heritage either in word or deed. Rather they allowed them to maintain both psychological and behavioral links with the past while at the same time opening up new arenas of belief and action. This compartmentalization fit in well with established mechanisms for change within the traditional village social structure and was perhaps the most significant reason for the large numbers of village conversions that took place during this stage of community development.35
The above analysis raises the question of the meaning of these declarations of faith. Were they true conversions, or were they something else? In attempting to answer this question it might be helpful to compare the Bahá'í experience with another contemporary conversion movement in India, the Neo-Buddhist movement.
In 1956 close to a half million members of the scheduled Mahar caste converted to Buddhism. In so doing they took part in a conversion ceremony at Nagpur where they were asked to repeat, among other things, twenty-two oaths, eight of which were specifically anti-Hindu. These eight included denunciations of Hindu deities (among which were Rama and Krishna) and prohibitions against taking part in certain Hindu rituals. The oath concluded with the following statement: "I embrace today the Buddha Dharma, discarding the Hindu religion, which is detrimental to the emancipation of human beings other than the brahmins as low born."36
To some degree Bahá'í missionary activity shared certain commonalities with the Buddhist movement. Although unlike the Buddhists, Bahá'ís made a specific effort to remain free of the political arena,37 both groups spoke to scheduled caste discontent and both presented the negative elements of the larger tradition as fundamentally alien to the true core of that heritage. The Neo-Buddhist movement did so by presenting Buddhism as the essence of Indian spirituality while Bahá'í teachers spoke of regeneration of true Indian spirituality through the teachings of the new avatar, Bahá'u'lláh. Where the Bahá'í Faith departed fundamentally from the approach of the Neo-Buddhists, and where the question of the meaning of Bahá'í conversion becomes highlighted, is that the Bahá'ís saw no need to make their declarants ritually renounce the Hindu tradition. Moreover, as shown above, they did not require a dramatic behavioral departure from either Hindu ritual or traditional village patterns of social interaction.
Now if a symbolic rejection of one's previous religious affiliation is a requirement for conversion, then I think it could be argued within this comparative context that the Bahá'í declarants were not converts while the Mahars were. On the other hand, if a more liberal definition of conversion is allowed for, one which does not demand such official rejection, and provides for a compartmentalized approach to change that gradually introduces new theological and behavioral norms over an extended period of time (perhaps generations) then both groups were converts. In this regard it is interesting to note that despite the official rejection of Hindu beliefs and practices, Eleanor Zelliot reported that "Some Buddhists and some observers find no change at all in the life-style of Buddhists."38
My own analysis would see many of the Bahá'í declarations as fitting into a category that shares something in common with conversion yet is somewhat differentiated from the more commonly accepted understanding of this term. Here I make reference to that category of religious movement that has traditionally been called bhakti. Bhakti sects have flourished in India for centuries, and many of them have had as part of their internal dynamic anti-caste attitudes. They have differed from conversion movements in that they have come from within the Hindu tradition and have generally been more narrowly religious in orientation. Their primary concern has not been social change but devotion to a specific avatar. While they have been aware of the conditions of the depressed, they tended to represent "a new symbolic language for the aspirations of the depressed rather than any fulfillment of these aspirations."39 The Bahá'í Faith fits into this category in three ways: its respect for elements in the Hindu tradition; its presentation of Bahá'u'lláh as avatar; and, at least during the period of time under discussion here, its preference for symbolic and utopian expressions of change rather than direct social action. If this assumption is correct, the Bahá'í Faith may have been seen by many mass teaching converts as a half-way house: one which allowed them to express certain deviant ideas without having to reject in word or deed the larger cultural heritage of which they were a part.
Regardless of how many actual converts came into the Faith during the mass teaching period, the impact of the new numbers was definitely felt in terms of structural and organizational changes that subsequently occurred within the Indian Bahá'í community. As early as 1962 the process of decentralization was begun with the creation of special area teaching committees, and, as noted above, by the late 1970s state teaching committees had assumed most of the powers of the former NSA. Thus the process of centralization that began as early as 1910 was significantly reversed during this stage of development.
One of the foremost challenges created by the mass teaching campaigns was the need to establish networks of communication linking the villages and the greater administrative system. As one of the main goals of the Bahá'í Faith is to create a world-wide community of believers who are knowledgeable in the teachings of the movement and active in community affairs, it was soon apparent that a follow-up system of "deepening" (education in the tenets and practices of the Bahá'í faith) was required. In response to this need, in the early and mid-1960s several Bahá'í teaching institutes were founded in the mass teaching areas. During visits to the new village communities Bahá'í teachers would encourage certain believers to attend week-end or week-long educational sessions at the institutes. These participants would then return to the rural areas where they would act as instructors in individual villages. In addition to these institutes, later decades saw the creation of numerous regional and village schools which not only acted as centers for both Bahá'í and primary (secular) education but in some instances also became focal points for regional economic and social development projects.
Another major structural shift that has occurred during the mass teaching stage of development pertains to the relative number of rural versus urban Bahá'ís involved in the management of teaching and deepening efforts. Before this time nearly all such activities were in the hands of a small urbanized elite. Since the successes of mass teaching, however, ever-growing numbers of specially trained teachers from the villages have slowly taken on an increasing responsibility in this regard. Organized along state and regional lines, these corps of indigenous rural believers make periodic village tours during which time they act not only as missionaries and educators (giving deepening classes) but also as vital links of inter-community communication. In this latter role they carry specific information to the village assemblies from the various teaching committees and in return see to it that the greater Bahá'í administrative institutions are kept apprised of individual community conditions and needs. Thus, as the Universal House of Justice emphasized in 1966, the village teachers "must increasingly bear the brunt of responsibility for the propagation of the Faith in their homelands."40 In so doing they have taken much of the weight of community development from the shoulders of the urban intelligentsia.
In looking back at the various stages of development outlined above, it becomes evident that over time there has been a general shift in the nature of the dynamics that have helped shape both the content and structure of the Indian Bahá'í community. The transition from Babism to Bahá'í was external to India, having to do essentially with developments in Iran. Likewise the initial stage of community development was primarily influenced by external elements, most notably in the form of traveling teachers and Iranian expatriates. However, by the early years of the twentieth century, when the Indian community began to take its first steps in the direction of national unity, a number of internal factors specific to the Indian context came to the fore. These factors were largely associated with cutural and nationalist developments among the bourgeoisie and intelligensia (the two groups from which Bahá'í converts were mainly drawn) as well as with the technological and commercial means then being used to unite the subcontinent. Although there was an administrative shift during the period of the Guardianship that often focused the community's vision outward to the larger Bahá'í international scene, the internal dynamics of the previous period, which were accelerated by the movement toward independence and culminated in Independence and Partition, continued to have a significant impact on the Indian Bahá'í community. And when we come to the mass teaching era, internal factors have become predominant. Despite the initial influences of the messges of Shoghi Effendi and the administrative proddings of Dr. Muhajir, once the rural campaigns were underway they essentially came to express the yearnings of the scheduled tribes and castes for a new identity in independent, socialist India. Moreover, the policy of not demanding that new declarants completely separate themselves from their former religious affiliation can be seen as an essentially Indian approach to conversion which in some ways was actually at odds with the demands that Shoghi Effendi had made on those who had come into the Faith during the period of the Guardianship. To some extent this may have been due to the "vacuum of power" which the Bahá'í Faith experienced between 1957 and 1963. In the absence of a Guardian, Bahá'í travel teachers and scheduled caste leaders were able to bring fellow villagers into the community by making use of this compartmentalized approach to proselytization. Thus by the time the first Universal House of Justice was elected such a method had become firmly established in the subcontinent, and the fruits of that approach in the form of a more decentralized administrative system manned by a large number of indigenous believers will likely help maintain,if not increase, the significance of internal forces in the future.
In December, 1986, the Indian Bahá'í House of Worship, the only such Bahá'í temple on the Asian continent (located near New Delhi), was dedicated and opened to public visitation. Thus had the recommendation made at the First All-India Bahá'í Convention of 1920 finally come to fruition. Present at the dedication ceremony were not only Bahá'í dignitaries from throughout the world and leading Indian urban Bahá'ís, but groups of poor village believers who were housed in a "tent city" erected on the outskirts of the capital. This gathering was in many ways symbolic of the new Indian Bahá'í community that had emerged over the past two and a half decades. Now the largest Bahá'í community in the world, it faced the daunting task of trying to incorporate as many of its new converts as possible into its mainstream. The extent to which the community can meet this challenge will certainly influence the impact it will have on Indian society in general. It may well also determine much about the future growth and outlook of the Bahá'í Faith as a whole.
1. These figures are based on official Bahá'í statistics. Since they only indicate the number of declarations (signed affirmations of belief in Bahá'u'lláh) and not active membership in a local Bahá'í community (regular attendance at functions, participation in the administrative process through voting etc.) the question of what they mean sociologically remains problematic. If the participatory qualification is required, then the numbers would fall off dramatically in both instances. Some estimates at the low end have placed the worldwide adult Bahá'í population at closer to 1.5 million and the adult Bahá'í population in India at 100,000 to 150,000.
2. With the emphasis during the last decade given to economic and social development projects, the Indian Bahá'í community may well have entered a new 6th stage. Such an analysis, however, lies beyond the scope of this paper.
3. Sayyid 'Ali-Muhammad (The Bab) was a young Shirazi merchant who beginning in 1844 made a series of religious claims within the Ithna-Ashariya Shi`ite eschatological tradition including being the promised Qa'im or Mahdi. He was executed for heresy in July, 1850. For details regarding the Babi movement see Abbas Amanat, Resurrection and Renewal: The Making of the Babi Movement in Iran, 1844-1850, (Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1989), and Denis MacEoin, "Hierarchy, Authority and Eschatology in Early Babi Thought," in Peter Smith, ed. In Iran: Studies in Babi and Bahá'í History, Volume 3. (Kalimat Press, Los Angeles, 1986), pp. 95-155.
4. Nabil-i A'zam (Muhammad-i Zarandi), The Dawnbreakers, trans.and ed. by Shoghi Effendi, ( Bahá'í Publishing Committee, New York, 1932), p. 652.
5. Mirza Husayn of Hamadan, Tarikh-i Jadid, trans. and ed. by E. G. Browne, (Cambridge, 1893), p. 241.
6. Tarikh-i Jadid, pp. 245-246.
7. Juan R. Cole, ""Baha'-Allah, Mirza Hosain `Ali Nuri." Encyclopaedia Iranica, ed. Ehsan Yarshater, (Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1983-), vol. 3, pp. 422-429.
8. E. G. Browne, "Further Notes on Babi Literature," in Materials for the Study of the Babi Religion, (Cambridge University Press, 1961), p. 238.
9. The Afnan clan were the descendants of two brothers-in-law of the Bab as well as the descendants of his maternal uncles.
10. Bahá'í Newsletter (India), #31, May, 1944 ( National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of India and Burma, New Delhi), pp. 1-2.
11. Sydney Sprague, A Year With the Bahá'ís of India and Burma, ( Priory Press, London, 1908), p. 15.
12. A Year With the Bahá'ís of India and Burma, p. 17.
13. For details regarding Zoroastrian coversions to the Bahá'í Faith see Susan Stiles, "Zoroastrian Conversions to the Bahá'í Faith in Yazd, Iran" (unpublished Master's thesis, University of Arizona, 1983) and Susan Stiles, "Early Zoroastrian Conversions to the Bahá'í Faith in Yazd, Iran," in From Iran East and West ed. by Juan R. Cole and Moojan Momen (Kalimat Press, Los Angeles, 1984).
14. The Theosophical Society was founded in 1875 in New York by Helena Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott. The movment established an Indian headquarters near Madras which was directed after 1893 by Annie Beasant. The Theosophical Society viewed religion as the highest expression of intellectual endeavor and Hinduism as the highest form of religion. The Brahmo-Samaj was founded in 1828 by Rammohan Roy to help reform Hinduism. On the Theosophical Society see: K. Paul Johnson, The Masters Revealed (State University of New York Press, Albany, 1994) and Joscelyn Godwin, The Theosophical Enlightenment (State University of New York Press, Albany, 1994). Regarding the Brahmo-Samaj see: B. Majumdar, History of Indian Social and Political Ideals from Rammohan to Dayandanda, Calcutta, 1967; and V.C. Joshi ed. Rammohum Roy and the Process of Modernization in India, New Delhi, 1975.
15. Apparently Mirza Mahmud Zarqani openly challenged Ghulam Ahmad to a debate in Lahore in August, 1904. This challenge was carried in a local newspaper "Paisa Akhbar" (August 27, 1904). Ghulam Ahmad refused to debate with Zarqani on the grounds that he had to appear in court at Gordaspur regarding trial proceedings.
16. "Letter from N. R. Vakil, Star of the West, vol. II., #7-8, August, 1911 (Chicago), p. 14.
17.K. K. Bhargava, "Echoes of First All-India Bahá'í Conference," Star of the West, vol. XII, #13, November, 1921 (Chicago), p.220.
18. Stanley Wolpert, India, (Prentice Hall, New Jesrsey, 1965), pp 119-120.
19. Shoghi Effendi, "Message of November 24, 1925," Dawn of a New Day, (Bahá'í Publishing Trust, New Delhi, 1970), p. 11.
20. The Bahá'í World, vol.IX, 1940-1944, (Bahá'í Publishing Trust, Wilmette, 1945), p. 60.
21. With the Partition of British India into India and Pakistan in 1947, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of India and Burma became the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of India, Pakistan and Burma. In 1957 Pakistan received its own NSA while a separate NSA for Burma was established in 1959.
22. The Bahá'í World, vol IX, p 69.
23. Dawn of a New Day, p 42.
24. "From a letter written on Shoghi Effendi's behalf to the National Spiritual Assemby of the Bahá'ís of South and West Africa, July 9, 1957," Arise to Serve, (Bahá'í Publishing Trust, New Delhi, 1971), p 97.
25. Bahá'í Newsletter (India), #100, January-February, 1959, p 2.
26. The Bahá'í World, vol. XIII, p 299. For more information on Dr. Muhajir from a Bahá'í perspective see: Iran Muhajir, Dr. Muhajir: Hand of the Cause, Knight of Bahá'u'lláh (Bahá'í Publishing Trust, London, 1992).
27. The Bahá'í World, vol. XIII, p 298.
28. Violette Nakhjavani's Amatu'l-Baha Visits India, (Bahá'í Publishing Trust, New Delhi, n.d.) recounts the events of this trip.
29. These statistics were provided to me by the Indian NSA in November, 1973, while I was in India carrying out field work toward my doctoral dissertation on the Bahá'í Faith in Malwa (Australian National University, 1975).
30.For a more detailed analysis of Bahá'í missionary activities in Malwa see: William Garlington, "The Bahá'í Faith in Malwa," in Religion in South Asia, ed. by G. A. Oddie, (Manohar, New Delhi, 1977) and William Garlington, "Bahá'í Conversions in Malwa, Central India," in From Iran East and West, ed. by Juan R. Cole and Moojan Momen (Kalimat Press, Los Angeles, 1984).
31. . For analyses of various conversion movments in India see the various articles in Religion in South Asia.
32. Vishnupurana, 4, 24, 98-101.
33. This is not to say that before the mass teaching period Bahá'ís in India had not made references to Hinduism. As far back as the First All-India Bahá'í Convention in 1920 a Mr. Ayer gave a lecture which identified Bahá'u'lláh with the avatar tradition. The same is true for the use of the Bhagavad Gita, to which Bahá'u'lláh himself had made reference. Rather, it is to point out that during the 1960s it appears that a more conscientious attempt was made to direct the Bahá'í message towards the Hindu tradition, and thus many teachers made a greater effort to familiarize themselves with both the avatar concept (and its various modes of expression in Hindu scripture and literature) as well as other Hindu beliefs and practices. This new focus was related to me by a leading Bahá'í teacher in Ujjain and Indore who helped organize special teaching classes in this regard. For example, a book written as a teaching tool at the Inodre Teaching Institute (The New Garden) contained several pages on Krishna and Buddha as Manifestations of God. Also the influx of new Hindu converts who in turn became village teachers added to this approach. As a primary vehicle for their teaching and deepening activities these new teachers began employing bhajans (devotional songs) which were filled with Hinduized symbols and terminology For examples see William Garlington, "Bahá'í Bhajans," World Order Magazine, vol.16, #2, Winter, 1982 (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States, Wilmette) pp 43-49.
34. For example caste restrictions related to marriage, commensality and ritual/devotional purity.
35. Compartmentalization, or the bracketing of certain behaviors into specific frames of social reference, has been an important conceptual tool among anthropologists who have studied the social dynamics related to change in Indian society in general and Indian villages in particular. The work of Milton Singer, (When A Great Tradition Modernizes) and M.N. Srinivas, (Social Change in Modern India) are significant examples.
36. Eleanor Zelliot, "The Psychological Dimension of the Buddhist Movement in India," in Religion in South Asia, p 128.
37.The recognized leader of the Neo-Buddhist Movement in India was Dr. B. R. Ambedkar who had personally raised himself from an untouchable background to a spot on the center stage of Indian politics. He had been independent India's first minister of law.
38. Zelliot, p 133.
39. D.B. Forrester, "The Depressed Classes and Coversion to Christianity," in Religion in South Asia, p 45.
40. "Letter to All National Spiritual Assemblies Engaged in Mass Teaching, Febrary 2, 1966, Arise to Serve, p 111.