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Unravelling the divine: The Ramnamis of Central India

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Date(s) - 10 Jul 2012
6:00 PM - 7:30 PM

S M Joshi Hall

Written on the body: The Ramnamis of Central India

As part of our lecture series Ramdas Lamb will give a lecture on the Ramnamis in Central India at S M Joshi Hall, Pune. Ramdas Lamb’s Rapt in the Nameprovides an intriguing account of the Ram bhakti tradition in India. Less well-known in the West than the tradition of devotion to Krishna, the Ram tradition is an important component of Hinduism. Ram is the most-worshipped form of the divine in North India today and has long been particularly important to those of the lower castes throughout India. Lamb explores both the evolution of the tradition and the rise of lower caste religious movements devoted to Ram, specifically the Ramnami Samaj, an Untouchable religious movement in Central India. Lamb’s study of the Ramnamis has spanned nearly three decades, first on a personal level as a Hindu monk and later as both a friend and a researcher. He discusses the historical origins, as well as present-day forms and structure of the Samaj, including a description of its distinctive ritual dress and practices. Among the more innovative aspects of the sect is its adaptation of the story of Lord Ram that is uniquely woven into its devotional repetition of his name (Ramnam). The Ramnamis, over time, have tattooed their bodies with the name ‘Ram’, write it on their clothing and adorn their walls with it. Their primary focus has been on chanting verses from the Ramchartimas, chanting verses from it. The Ramnamis have no elaborate rituals, no temples and use only small bells during their prayers.

In addition, Lamb shares biographical sketches of six Ramnamis, each of which reveals the freedom of individual exploration and expression that is integral to the sect. This is a fascinating account of religious life and adaptation on the periphery of society.


Date: July 10, 2012

Time: 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm

Venue: S M Joshi Hall, Near Ganjawe Hall, Opp. Patrakar Bhavan, Ganjawe Hall, Pune

Ramdas Lamb teaches introductory religion courses as well as courses dealing with contemporary religion and society, fieldwork, and mysticism. The focus of his current research is on monastic traditions and religion among the low castes in central and northern India. He was a Hindu sadhu (monk) in north India from 1969 until 1978.