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Subproject A7

Ritual Transfer between South Asia and the Occident from a Historical and Religious Studies Perspective

Department and Research Field: South Asian History and Religious Studies
Subproject A7 has been concluded June 30, 2009.

Subproject Management

Prof. Dr. Gita Dharampal-Frick

South Asian Institute
Department of History
Im Neuenheimer Feld 330
69120 Heidelberg

Phone: +49 - (0)6221-54 89 09
Fax: +49 - (0)6221-54 63 81


Dr. Martin Brandtner

Project Program

Subproject A7 researches the intercultural processes of ritual transfer between the Indian subcontinent and the occident based on selected case studies.

Examining the west-east direction of the transfer, we will focus on the implantation of Christian rites into a culture that is substantially influenced by Hinduism. Furthermore, we will examine the changes within the Hindu rituals caused by the intervention of the Europeans.

Looking at the east-to-west transfer, we will analyze the new reform trends that developed in reaction to colonial and missionary ritual criticism and lead towards a rationalistically accentuated “neo-Hinduism”. Our research will elaborate on how this “neo-Hinduism” and its most prominent representatives began to be met with remarkable response – also from the occident – from the late 19th century on.

The World’s Parliament of Religions, held 1893 in Chicago, must be seen as an important turning-point and milestone for the inversion of the transfer direction. After the conference, the Hindu-Buddhist rituals traditions also spread to America and Europe. The subproject examines these traditions based on rituals of occidental, Buddhist, theosophical and life-reforming groups as well as two religious movements from the end of the 20th century (Vipassana and ISKCon).

Main Topics

A7.1: 1500-1893: Ritual transfer, ritual criticism and “ritual management” in the interaction of Christian mission, British Raj, “orientalism” and Neo-Hinduism (Researcher: Prof. Dr. Gita Dharampal-Frick)

A7.2: 1893-present time: Processes of the inclusion of Hindu-Buddhist religions and rituals into the Occident (Researcher: Frank Neubert, M.A.)