Travelling Hindu Missionaries

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Seminar Date
September 15, 2010
This paper is part of a chapter which looks at the various international Hindu missionaries who began visiting South Africa at the beginning of the twentieth century. Such missionaries travelled across the globe conducted lectures, formed religious institutions and worked with existing institutions in their attempts to propagate the Hindu religion and work for the betterment of Hindu people abroad. Highly influential in creating and maintaining "institutional Hinduism" in South Africa they impacted greatly on the policies pursued by the Maha Sabha which was formed under the leadership of one, Swami Shankaranand. After his departure from the country the Sabha fell into a twenty year period of dominancy until 1934 when it was revived at a conference presided over by another such missionary. While there were numerous missionaries who visited the country, this paper looks at three who were particularly significant in the revival of the Maha Sabha after its twenty year period of inactivity. In accounting for their work in South Africa, the chapter seeks to explore the following issues. What were the policies pursued by these missionaries? How were they received by local Hindu leaders, Hindu people in general, other Indians as well as other South Africans? Where they a source of promoting unity, division or both? Did missionaries differ in their mission and if so in what ways? What role did they have on the local institutions like the Maha Sabha? What were their political views and did they differ in this regard? Is it possible to trace the influence of their experiences in South Africa on their work overseas? Can the study of religious missionaries serve to highlight the web interconnectivity that existed between places where Hindus settled in large numbers?
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