Christianity in India: From Beginnings to the Present

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Christianity in India: From Beginnings to the Present | Robert Eric Frykenberg

Christianity in India: From Beginnings to the Present

Robert Eric Frykenberg

Oxford History of the Christian Church

Oxford University Press



596 pages

Robert Frykenberg’s insightful study explores and enhances historical understandings of Christian communities, cultures, and institutions within the Indian world from their beginnings down to the present. As one out of several manifestations of a newly emerging World Christianity, in which Christians of a Post-Christian West are a minority, it has focused upon those trans-cultural interactions within Hindu and Muslim environments which have made Christians in this part of the world distinctive. It seeks to uncover various complexities in the proliferation of Christianity in its many forms and to examine processes by which Christian elements intermingled with indigenous cultures and which resulted in multiple identities, and also left imprints upon various cultures of India.

Thomas Christians believe that the Apostle Thomas came to India in 52 A.D./C.E., and that he left seven congregations to carry on the Mission of bringing the Gospel to India. In our day the impulse of this Mission is more alive than ever. Catholics, in three hierarchies, have become most numerous; and various Evangelicals/Protestant communities constitute the third great tradition. With the rise of Pentecostalism, a fourth great wave of Christian expansion in India has occurred. Starting with movements that began a century ago, there are now ten to fifteen times more missionaries than ever before, virtually all of them Indian. Needless to say, Christianity in India is profoundly Indian and Frykenberg provides a fascinating guide to its unique history and practice.

Robert Eric Frykenberg, Professor Emeritus of History & South Asian Studies, University of Wisconsin – Madison (U.S.A.)


List of Maps
List of Illustrations

1. Introduction: Christians, Christianity, and Christendom

Initial Expansions across the World
Proliferation and Propagation
Primal Religions and Christianity
History and Historiography

2. Contextualizing Complexity, I: India’s Lands, Peoples, and Social Structures

Geo-environmental Settings
Ethno-demographic Settings
Language Settings
Kinship Settings: A Classical Stereotype
Socio-structural Settings: Varn­āshramadharma
Village Setting: Primordial Political Entities

3. Contextualizing Complexity, II: India’s Dominant Religious Traditions: Sanātana-Dharma and Dar-ul-Islam

Al Hind and Dar-ul-Islam

4. Thomas Christians and the Thomas Tradition

The Thomas Tradition
The Acts of Thomas
The Thomas Parvam and Other Evidence
The Church of the East
The Waves of Refugees
The Refugees from Dar-al-Islam

5. Pfarangi Catholic Christians and Padroado Christendom

The Missionaries of Medieval Europe
The Pfarangi Fleets of Portugal
The Padroado Real of Goa
The Imposition of Catholic Padroado Christendom
The Jesuit Missions in the Mufassal

6. Evangelical Christians as Missionary Dubashis: Conduits of Cross-Cultural Communication

The Impetus of Missionary Pietism
The Dubashi Pandits of Tranquebar: Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg and his Tamil Associates
The Dubashi Missionaries of Madras: Benjamin Schultz, Johann Philip Fabricius, and Telugu
The Raja-Guru and Sishiyas of Thanjavur: Christian Friedrich Schwartz and his Disciples

7. India’s Raj and Political Logic: The Unification of India, a Southern Perspective

Metaphors and Paradigms
Pre-modern Systems of Power
Baniya Company and Kompanee Bahadur
Dynamics of Imperial Logic
Stages of Imperial Expansion
India’s Raj and Imperial Paramountcy

8. Āvarna Christians and Conversion Movements

Āvarna Movements in the South
Conversion Movements Further North

9. Missionaries, Colonialism, and Ecclesiastical Dominion

Travancore: Anglican Attempts to Dominate Thomas Christians
Tirunelveli: The ‘Rhenius Affair’ and Missionary Colonialism
‘Tanjore Christians’, Anglican Missionaries, and Caste
Colonial Domination and Dual Identity

10. Indian Christians and ‘Hindu Raj’

Christian Resistance to the Raj
‘Hindu’ Resistance to New Christians
Hindu–Christian Disputes and Encounters
Official Responses to Religious Controversy
‘Hindu’ Establishment and the State
Struggles over Defining ‘Public’ Space

11. Elite Education and Missionaries

‘Oriental’ Learning and Modern Education
Indigenous Demands for Modern Education in English
Early Official Efforts to Spread Education
Pressures for Modern Education in English
Mahajans vs. Missionary Educators
Ascendancy of English in Upper-Class Education
Missionary Compromise and Elite Co-option

12. Catholic Renewal and Resurgence

Catholic India in Decline and Disarray
The Padroado–Propaganda Struggle, or ‘Goa Schism’
The Consolidation of Catholic Christianity in India
Conflicts with Thomas Christians

13. ‘Trophies of Grace’ and their Public Influence

Pandita Ramabai Saraswati: The Mahatma of Mukti
Other Sample ‘Trophies of Grace’

14. Adivāsi Movements in the North-East

Naga Christian Movements: A Paradigm of Metamorphosis
Adivāsi Movements of Meghalaya and Mizoland

15. Conclusion and Epilogue

Critical and Comprehensive Concerns


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