New Delhi | The evolution of a modern sect of Hinduism, the Swaminarayan Hinduism, its history, theology and the arts has been explored in a new multidisciplinary book. Titled Swaminarayan Hinduism: Tradition, Adaptation, and Identity, (OUP) and edited by Raymond Brady Williams, a professor at Wabash College, US and Yogi Trivedi an adjunct professor at the Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University, the book seeks to offer a better understanding of the tradition’s growth, beliefs and practice.
Art historian Kapila Vatsyayan who is also the chairperson of Asia Project at the India International Centre released the book here last evening with Acharya Shrivatsa Goswami, an eminent scholar and Vaishnava philosopher. Swaminarayan Hinduism, which witnessed its inception in 19th century Gujarat, is a contemporary spiritual tradition, in which followers worship Swaminarayan as a form of Vishnu.
The popularity of the faith has mushroomed over the last 40 years with the proliferation of worshippers across the globe in large numbers. Swaminarayan sampraday began as a very vibrant religious community albeit with fewer satsanghis and not a very big presence beyond Gujarat. Today, it has it has spread to virtually all the areas where Indian migrants have gone, Williams said.
The 500-page-long book provides novel information about the sect’s history, theology as well as its transnational development, with contributions from a diverse group of over 30 scholars from varied academic disciplines, geographical regions and cultures. It has led to an increase in the interest in this group among academics. This book was generated out of a conference held at Akshardham in 2013.
We invited 30 of those scholars to write chapters for this book, Williams said. It also brings forth the latest academic research on the sect, based on aspects like arts, architecture, sociology, and migration studies, while analysing the philosophy, conduct, and principles that guide Swaminarayan Hindus.
It started as a sampraday at a time of a massive social, economical, political and religious change and now at a time of an immense cultural, political, religious change globally it has the same kind of vitality of those early days, Williams said.