EPW: Modernity and godmen


To the well-off sections of the society, where the followers come from higher echelons of caste and class, it is not so much about the need for faith but the dire need to protect their self-image of being distinguished and exceptional. The logic could be one where you follow a guru who is great and larger-than-life, and in following him, or realising that greatness one reassures one`s self that he or she is also unique and exceptional. As modernity propels a process of homogenisation of social roles, while all along demanding uniqueness and laying premium on individuality, one might realise this in following a sect that is different from the run-of-the-mill religiosity. Reflected glory becomes a compulsive mode for ego-gratification, and recognising that the guru could be fallible also raises doubts about ones own exceptionality. It is also these sections of society that are looking for reasons and causation in ones life without locating them within a larger society; they need explanations and solutions that begin and end with themselves….

While leading spiritual gurus like Sri Sri Ravishankar reiterate the need to privatise education so that people realise its importance and thereby a meritocratic order is restored, sacred pilgrim sites such as Tirupathi work through given notions of social capital and connections. A visit to Tirupathi will allow one to realise how its daily operations are based on connections with ministers (VIP darshan is made possible through the recommendation of the minister of endowment or the chief minister’s office), and there is a self-evident display of social status and money. These everyday practices in the psycho-cultural domain reinforce the dominant notions of power in the political domain. It is therefore not surprising why Narendra Modi, with his aggressive posturing and masculine image looks powerful, and why the likes of Rahul Gandhi look uninitiated and lethargic. The dominant and the dominated, governed and those governing, the elite and the subaltern are inextricably linked through the same socio-cultural practices, disallowing not only claims to an “autonomous domain” but also making it difficult to unabashedly celebrate the cult of the subaltern.

Vol – XLIX No. 3, January 18, 2014 | Modernity and god man


About Dilawar

Graduate Student at National Center for Biological Sciences, Bangalore.
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