Processes of Secularization in Contemporary India: Guru Faith in the Mata Amritanandamayi Mission
a1 University of Wales, Lampeter
The perceived resurgence of Hindu nationalist sentiments in India, particularly since the 1990s, occupies centre-stage in much of the current academic writing on contemporary Hinduism. This preoccupation with politicized Hinduism has meant that other developments in contemporary Hindu society, which run contrary to the dominant trend, have tended to go relatively unnoticed in recent academic literature. One such development has to do with religious belief and practice within some of the more popular modern guru organizations in India, many of which own and manage vast institutional and financial empires, command an international presence, and, within India, attract followers largely from educated, urban, ‘middle class’ sections of the country's population. Commentators in the past have tended to see the popularity of these guru organizations merely as a sign of intensified religiosity among urban middle class Indians. A closer look at these organizations and the place which many of them occupy in the lives of their followers, however, indicates that this apparently intensified religiosity also carries within it seeds of something quite different—trends towards the secularization of civil society.