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Department of Social Anthropology


Renouncing the World: An Ascetic Life and the Rise of Hindu Nationalism in India

Professor Sondra Hausner (University of Oxford)

In a frighteningly short period of time, the ideal of a Hindu nation has recently become the dominant political ideology of India, in stark contrast to the country that has been a fiercely proud secular democracy since its independence in 1947.  Rather than recount a traditional history of the Hindu nationalist movement, this paper tells the story of religious politics in independent India through the biography of a Hindu ascetic.  Our protagonist, known simply as Pagal Baba (b. 1937), has been a life-long member of the far-right nationalist movement, the RSS, but he has also been an ascetic from the age of nineteen.  Tracing Baba’s life through mid-twentieth century Indian history can show us how Hindu politics have gained traction in the region – and also how the image of the ascetic has come to define the nationalist movement in India. 

Friday, 5 November, 2021 - 16:15 to 18:00
Event location: 
Lecture room 1, Mill lane