Occasional Papers in Shaykhi, Babi and Baha'i Studies, No. 2 (June, 1997)

The Baha'i Faith in India:

A Developmental Stage Approach

William Garlington

Of the approximately 5 million members claimed world-wide by the
Baha'i authorities, nearly 2 million Baha'is are said to reside within the Republic of
India.(1*) This means that close to 40% of the international Baha'i
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 Baha'i 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 Baha'i
studies as an academic field.

I discern five distinct stages of development during the nearly 150
years of Baha'i history in India: 1) the Babi, or pre-Baha'i period; 2) the initial
stage of Baha'i 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 Baha'i 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 Baha'i 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, Baha'u'llah (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 Baha'u'llah's death the leadership of
the community passed to his eldest son, Abbas Effendi, Abdu'l-Baha
(1844-1921), who following his release from captivity in 1908 visited both
Europe and North America. In 1921 Abdu'l-Baha's grandson, Shoghi Effendi,
succeeded to the head of the Faith, having been named Guardian of the movement in
Abdu'l-Baha's will. During the Guardianship (1921-1957) the Baha'i 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 Baha'i
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 movement, the predecessor to the Baha'i faith, had some
connections with India. Two of the most important Babi
histories make mention of several prominent Indian believers. The major
Baha'i 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

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 Baha'u'llah 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 Baha'u'llah and, later, of
Abdu'l-Baha, that a true community would begin to develop.


Two members of the Afnan clan who were resident in Bombay, Haji
Sayyid Mirza and Sayyid Muhammad, became Baha'is in the 1860s, and they
wrote to Baha'u'llah requesting that a Baha'i teacher be sent to India. Baha'u'llah
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

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 Baha'i
Faith in India, and it was this style of teaching that would dominate
Baha'i 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 Baha'i 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-Baha'i 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 Baha'i 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 Baha'i calligraphers such
as Mishkin-Qalam and Mirza Muhammad Ali came to Bombay.

After the death of Baha'u'llah and the inauguration of the ministry
of Abdu'l-Baha, the Baha'i 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-Baha
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 Baha'u'llah's writings had been
translated into one of the native languages of India. Bombay also managed
to acquire the first Baha'i cemetery in India, and Abdu'l-Baha 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 Baha'i: "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 Baha'i Faith, thereby forming a nucleus of future
Baha'i 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 Baha'i 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 Baha'i
concepts and teachings.

This second stage of development, which manifested the first true
signs of Baha'i 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 Baha'i communities
focused their efforts on local leaders and members of the intelligentsia.
Association with reform movements such as the Theosophical Society and the
Brahmo-Samaj (14*) 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 Baha'i interaction, although there is evidence that Baha'is 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 Baha'i 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 Baha'is 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 Baha'i message
was presented in Persian, Arabic, Urdu, or English added to the sense of
exclusivity, as these languages were generally associated with cultural

The second feature concerned the nature of Baha'i community
organization which was almost exclusively local in orientation. Throughout
the country various Baha'i communities acted virtually independent of one
another. Although they had as their sources of spiritual unity the
figures of Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha, 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 Baha'i
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 Baha'is who traveled to, or resided in, the
subcontinent remained effectively isolated and without central leadership. The
use of traveling teachers, especially by Abdu'l-Baha, 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
Baha'i communities in the Middle East but also gave to that city a unique
Baha'i 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.


With the advent of a national teaching plan in 1910 a new phase of
Baha'i 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 Baha'is 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 Baha'i 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 Baha'i Convention was held in
the city of Bombay.(17*) Representatives from India's major religious
communities were present as well as Baha'i 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 Baha'i temple, the establishment of a Baha'i 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
Baha'i 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 Baha'i participation in
a non-Baha'i, national event - The All-India Allahabad Religious


In April, 1923, Shoghi Effendi created the National Spiritual
Assembly of the Baha'is 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 Baha'i community
slowly began to feel the effects of the emerging worldwide Baha'i
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 Baha'is 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 Baha'i 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 Baha'i
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 Baha'i
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 Baha'i communities throughout
the world to finance yet another teaching project, and consequently in 1951 the Indian
Baha'i 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 Baha'i community
(which now numbered approximately seven hundred) had achieved
in the worldwide Baha'i 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 Baha'is 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 Baha'is 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 Baha'i international community under new leadership, but
would also have revolutionized the composition of the Indian Baha'i

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 Baha'i 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 Baha'i literature into a number of different
Indian languages meant that Baha'i 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 Baha'is 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 Baha'i travel
teacher, addressed the group on the subject of Baha'i 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 Baha'i community
and eventually declared himself a Baha'i. At about the same time another
scheduled caste leader, Dayaram Malviya, also converted. Thus in 1944 the
first villagers in central India entered the Baha'i Faith, and while their
conversions were not immediately capitalized upon by local Baha'is, both
men were destined to play prominent roles in the new course the Baha'i
teaching mission would take in the 1960s.

There can be little doubt that the impetus which brought the Indian
Baha'i 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 Baha'i 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 Baha'is in the entire country.

THE MASS TEACHING ERA - (1961 to present)

Just prior to Shoghi Effendi's death small-scale mass conversion
to the Baha'i 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 Baha'i 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 Baha'i theology, history and
administration, there were those who believed that if the Baha'i 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 Baha'u'llah. 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 Baha'i
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 Baha'is and large numbers
of Indian villagers. The conference also produced several recommendations
that had significant implications for future Baha'i 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 Baha'is in Rampur's religious

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 Baha'i 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
Baha'u'llah to declare themselves as Baha'is. 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 Baha'i
speakers. At the conclusion of the conference over two hundred villagers

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 Baha'i 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
Baha'i 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 Baha'i history. (27*)

Following the lead of Baha'i teachers in Malwa and Gwalior,
Baha'is 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

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 Baha'i 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 Baha'i 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 paper(30*), they should at least be mentioned and commented upon. The
more significant questions would include: 1) What factors caused the shift in
Baha'i 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 Baha'i
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 Baha'i community?

As mentioned earlier, there are references in the late writings of
Shoghi Efendi that demonstrate his support for bringing uneducated
believers into the Baha'i 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 Baha'is) was the
growing awareness among Indian Baha'is 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
Baha'i 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 Baha'i 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 Baha'i 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 Baha'i declarations have continued to be
significantly aligned with the lower segments of various regional social

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
Baha'is 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 Baha'i 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 Baha'i 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, Baha'i 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 Baha'u'llah 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 Baha'u'llah), 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 Baha'i teachers to distance the movement from its Islamic
identification. A good example of this can be seen in the Hindi
translations of Baha'i 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 Baha'i institutions
and mores into village life. Baha'i 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 Baha'i social teachings are anti-caste in outlook, outside of
Baha'i meetings there was no militant attempt to purge new believers of
conventional caste behavior.(34*) Similarly, while participation in new
Baha'i rituals was encouraged, it was not made a requisite for membership.
Only declared belief that Baha'u'llah was the avatar for this age was
deemed necessary.

In making use of these tactics the Baha'i 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

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 Baha'i 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 Baha'i missionary activity shared certain
commonalities with the Buddhist movement. Although unlike the Buddhists,
Baha'is 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 Baha'i
teachers spoke of regeneration of true Indian spirituality through the
teachings of the new avatar, Baha'u'llah. Where the Baha'i Faith departed
fundamentally from the approach of the Neo-Buddhists, and where the
question of the meaning of Baha'i conversion becomes highlighted, is that
the Baha'is 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 Baha'i 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 Baha'i 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 Baha'i Faith fits into this
category in three ways: its respect for elements in the Hindu tradition;
its presentation of Baha'u'llah 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 Baha'i 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 Baha'i 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 Baha'i 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 Baha'i faith) was required. In
response to this need, in the early and mid-1960s several Baha'i teaching
institutes were founded in the mass teaching areas. During visits to the new village
communities Baha'i 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 Baha'i 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 Baha'is 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 Baha'i 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 Baha'i community. The transition from Babism to Baha'i 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 Baha'i 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 Baha'i 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 Baha'i 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 Baha'i Faith experienced between 1957 and 1963. In the absence of a Guardian, Baha'i 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 Baha'i House of Worship, the only
such Baha'i 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 Baha'i Convention of 1920 finally come to fruition.
Present at the dedication ceremony were not only Baha'i dignitaries from
throughout the world and leading Indian urban Baha'is, 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 Baha'i community that had emerged over the past two and a half
decades. Now the largest Baha'i 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 Baha'i Faith as a whole.


1. These figures are based on official Baha'i statistics. Since they only
indicate the number of declarations (signed affirmations of belief in
Baha'u'llah) and not active membership in a local Baha'i 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 Baha'i population at closer to 1.5 million and
the adult Baha'i 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 Baha'i community may well have entered a
new 6th stage. Such an analysis, however, lies beyond the scope of this

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 Baha'i 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, ( Baha'i 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. Baha'i Newsletter (India), #31, May, 1944 ( National Spiritual Assembly
of the Baha'is of India and Burma, New Delhi), pp. 1-2.

11. Sydney Sprague, A Year With the Baha'is of India and Burma, ( Priory
Press, London, 1908), p. 15.

12. A Year With the Baha'is of India and Burma, p. 17.

13. For details regarding Zoroastrian coversions to the Baha'i Faith see
Susan Stiles, "Zoroastrian Conversions to the Baha'i Faith in Yazd, Iran"
(unpublished Master's thesis, University of Arizona, 1983) and Susan
Stiles, "Early Zoroastrian Conversions to the Baha'i 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
, 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

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 Baha'i 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,
(Baha'i Publishing Trust, New Delhi, 1970), p. 11.

20. The Baha'i World, vol.IX, 1940-1944, (Baha'i 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 Baha'is of India and Burma became
the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of India, Pakistan and
Burma. In 1957 Pakistan received its own NSA while a separate NSA for Burma
was established in 1959.

22. The Baha'i 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 Baha'is of South and West Africa, July 9, 1957,"
Arise to Serve, (Baha'i Publishing Trust, New Delhi, 1971), p 97.

25. Baha'i Newsletter (India), #100, January-February, 1959, p 2.

26. The Baha'i World, vol. XIII, p 299. For more information on Dr. Muhajir from a Baha'i perspective see: Iran Muhajir, Dr. Muhajir: Hand of the Cause, Knight of Baha'u'llah (Baha'i Publishing Trust, London, 1992).

27. The Baha'i World, vol. XIII, p 298.

28. Violette Nakhjavani's Amatu'l-Baha Visits India, (Baha'i 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 Baha'i Faith in Malwa (Australian National University,

30.For a more detailed analysis of Baha'i missionary activities in Malwa see:
William Garlington, "The Baha'i Faith in Malwa," in Religion in South
, ed. by G. A. Oddie, (Manohar, New Delhi, 1977) and William
Garlington, "Baha'i 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 Baha'is in
India had not made references to Hinduism. As far back as the First
All-India Baha'i Convention in 1920 a Mr. Ayer gave a lecture which
identified Baha'u'llah with the avatar tradition. The same is true for the
use of the Bhagavad Gita, to which Baha'u'llah 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 Baha'i 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 Baha'i
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,
"Baha'i Bhajans," World Order Magazine, vol.16, #2, Winter, 1982
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is 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.

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