Popular Hindu Movements

David N. Lorenzen

in The Oxford Handbook of Global Religions

Published in print October 2006 | ISBN: 9780195137989
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

Popular Hindu Movements


One way of thinking about Hindu religion and society is to distinguish between the traditional religious society led mostly by brahmans and the large number of popular movements that have been led mostly by members of other caste groups. In India, religious movements are associated not only with different social classes but also with different castes. The followers of those popular Hindu movements that are led by non-brahmans are usually open to members of all castes, including scheduled castes. The social ideologies of brahman-led and non-brahman Hindu movements differ most clearly over the religious status of varna asrama dharma, the ideology of the caste system itself. This article discusses a few important regional non-brahman movements whose social dynamics have been well studied and which embody fairly explicit elements of dissent against the religious and social ideology of brahmanical Hinduism. These non-brahman Hindu movements include those of the Naths or Kanaphata Yogis, the Virasaivas or Lingayats of the Karnataka region in South India, and panths associated with poet-saints Kabir and Ravidas.

Keywords: Hinduism; brahmans; scheduled castes; India; religious movements; castes; panths; varna asrama dharma; Naths; Virasaivas

Article.  3528 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Interfaith Relations ; Hinduism

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribeRecommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »