Language and Religion in Modern India: The Vernacular Literature of Hindi Christians
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CitationPeter Dass, Rakesh. 2016. Language and Religion in Modern India: The Vernacular Literature of Hindi Christians. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Divinity School.
AbstractA persistent interest in a particular type of Christian witness is found in a substantial amount of Hindi-language Protestant (hereafter, ‘Hindi Christian’) literature in modern India. Across a range of texts like Hindi translations of the Bible, theo-ethical works, hymns, biblical commentaries, and poems, this literature calls attention to a form of Christian witness or discipleship that both is credible and recognizable and is public.
This witness aims to be credibly Christian: as I will show, Hindi Christian texts have regularly rejected a Hindu concept like avătār in favor of a neologism like dehădhāran to communicate a Christian notion of incarnation in a predominantly Hindu context. Yet, the variety of polytradition (or, shared) words found in Hindi Christian texts suggests a comfort with loose religious boundaries. The witness aims also to be recognizably Christian. For instance, Hindi Christian texts on theology and ethics persistently reflect on a virtuous Christian life with a view toward perceptions in multifaith contexts. Perceptions of Christians matter to the authors of these texts. The attention to Christian witness in such literature, then, is to a very public form of witness. A reading of the works of three prominent Hindi Christian scholars – Benjamin Khan, Din Dayal, and Richard Howell – will show how a focus on the pluralistic context of Hindi Christian witness has shaped influential texts on ethics, theology, and evangelism in Hindi.
This dissertation is a first attempt in the academy of religion to study Hindi Christian texts in modern India. As a result, it seeks to achieve two goals: provide an introduction to Hindi Christian literature, and understand a prominent theme found in such literature. It is by no means an exhaustive study of Hindi Christian literature. Rather, it maps a literary landscape and subjects one trope therein to further examination. Protestant Christian literature in India has generally portrayed the purpose of Christian discipleship in two ways: by describing it as a response to salvific grace and by denying it is works righteousness. Hindi Christian texts shed light on another rationale: to present a credible and recognizable witness in a multifaith public context.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:32108297