Work with hands, while chant the name of the divine

(hāte kām, mukhe nām): From Sahajia mysticism to Matua anti-caste materialism in nineteenth century Bengal; öffentlicher Vortrag von Dr. Rajat Roy (Presidency University Kolkata / University of Zurich) im Rahmen des Ethnologischen Kolloquiums

Datum: 19. März 2024
Zeit: 16.15 Uhr bis 17.45 Uhr
Ort: Universität Luzern, Raum 4.B02

This presentation explores the social-religious ideology of the Matua community, originating in the early nineteenth century among the untouchable Chandal (now Namasudra caste) in colonial Bengal. The Matua movement fiercely contested the entrenched caste hierarchy in Hinduism, critiquing both orthodox Hinduism and Vaishnavism in Sahajia (liberal) and Gaudiya (orthodox) forms. Founded by Harichand Thakur (1812-1878), the Matua religious ideology evolved into a sampradāya (community), challenging societal norms and popular Vaishnava practices.

Focused on the foundational Matua hagiography, “Sri Sri Harileelāmṛita” (1916), and the song collection "Sri Sri Mahāsaṇgkirtan" (1900), this talk employs textual analysis to unravel the social and religious complexities among the untouchables. It sheds light on their intricate relationship with caste, Hinduism, and Vaishnavism in Bengal, while also exploring the Matua religion’s political engagement during the late colonial period. 

By introducing critical caste perspectives previously unexplored in the region, the presentation emphasizes the dignity discourse within Matua hagiographies. This underscores the Matua community’s distinctive position in the religious and social landscape of colonial Bengal.