SOAS University of London

SOAS South Asia Institute

Brahmos and Swaminarayanis: The Ambiguous Legacy of Reform

Brian Hatcher
Brian A. Hatcher (Tufts University)

Date: 23 May 2019Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 23 May 2019Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B104

Type of Event: Seminar


This lecture draws on a book-length project that explores the emergence of the Swaminarayan Sampraday and the Brahmo Samaj while addressing the critical legacy of reform-based discourse as it came to shape accounts of modern Hinduism. For this lecture I focus on how Rammohun Roy, founder of the Brahmo Samaj, was viewed by British observers active in early nineteenth-century Gujarat, who compared him to Sahajanand Swami, founder of the Swaminarayan Sampraday, who was then also the focus of British attention. My goal is both to expose how the category of reform became a comparative tool for early observers and to gesture toward another, less normative framework within which early colonial polities like the Brahmo Samaj and the Swaminarayan Sampraday might be compared.


Brian A. Hatcher is Professor and Packard Chair of Theology in the Department of Religion at Tufts University. He earned his Ph.D. in the Comparative Study of Religion from Harvard University in 1992.  He is the author of Idioms of Improvement: Vidyasagar and Cultural Encounter in Bengal (1996), Eclecticism and Modern Hindu Discourse (1999),Bourgeois Hinduism, or the Faith of the Modern Vedantists: Rare Discourses from Early Colonial Bengal (2008), and Vidyasagar: The Life and After-life of an Eminent Indian(2013). He has translated Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar’s Hindu Widow Marriage (2011) and recently edited the textbook, Hinduism in the Modern World (2016). He is currently completing a monograph comparing the emergence of the Swaminarayan Sampraday and the Brahmo Samaj in early colonial India.

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Organiser: SOAS South Asia Institute

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