Cover image for Untouchable pasts : religion, identity, and power among a central Indian community, 1780-1950
Untouchable pasts : religion, identity, and power among a central Indian community, 1780-1950
Dube, Saurabh.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Albany : State University of New York Press, [1998]

Physical Description:
xvii, 308 pages : illustrations, map ; 24 cm.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS432.S359 D834 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating

On Order



Constructs a history of an untouchable and heretical community, the Satnamis of Central India.

Author Notes

Sanrabh Dube is Visiting Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at El Colegio de Mexico.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Dube's book is an ethnographic history that recounts the history of the Satnami movement from several different perspectives. On the one hand, Satnami history is told ethnographically from the bottom up through Satnami myths, rituals, and beliefs. On the other hand, Due presents it from the top down through archival research that places the movement within the context of colonial rule and Western missionary activity. The book's main thesis is that the movement, which began among the untouchable Chamar caste as a way of challenging the ritual hierarchy of Hinduism, recreated that hierarchy, especially in the areas of gender relationships and sacerdotal authority. The first part of the book summarizes the main features of the Satnami sect-caste and locates its innovative moves within the contexts of social and political change deriving from Christian evangelism and the agrarian policies of the British Raj. The second examines Satnami myths and the construction of group identity, and details the use of written history as an instrument of reform within the community. Dube's focus on the role of myth and ritual and the attempt to write history from multiple perspectives sets this book apart from other studies such as Dennis Templeman's The Northern Nadars of Tamil Nadu (1996), which tend to put more emphasis on political and economic structure. All levels. S. A. Tyler; Rice University

Table of Contents

Prefacep. xi
List of Abbreviationsp. xvii
Chapter 1 Introductionp. 1
Chapter 2 The Making of Satnampanth, 1780-1850p. 25
Chapter 3 Malguzars, Gurus, and Missionaries, 1850-1900p. 47
Chapter 4 Satnamis in Village Life, 1900-1950p. 79
Chapter 5 A Contested Past: The Myths of Satnampanthp. 115
Chapter 6 Reform and Authority: The Satnami Mahasabha, 1925-1950p. 145
Chapter 7 Contending Histories: Old Stories and New Pastsp. 183
Chapter 8 Conclusionp. 207
Appendix 1 Genealogy of Satnami Gurus, Four Generationsp. 223
Appendix 2 Population of Satnamis, 1901-1931p. 224
Glossaryp. 227
Notesp. 231
Bibliographyp. 281
Indexp. 297