Between Hindu and Christian: Khrist Bhaktas, Catholics, and the Negotiation of Devotion in Banaras

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Between Hindu and Christian: Khrist Bhaktas, Catholics, and the Negotiation of Devotion in Banaras | Kerry P. C. San Chirico

Between Hindu and Christian: Khrist Bhaktas, Catholics, and the Negotiation of Devotion in Banaras

Kerry P. C. San Chirico

Oxford University Press



352 pages

On the second Saturday of each month, on the outskirts of the ancient city of Varanasi, Shiva's own city, thousands of shudra and Dalit devotees worship Yesu (Jesus) at a Catholic ashram. In an open-air pavilion more than three thousand women and men alternately sit, stand, and sing; they offer testimonials of healing, and receive the blessings of encounter from an unlikely deity. Facing this ocean of humanity is a 12-foot billboard Christ, arms outstretched, urging in Hindi: "Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest." At the lectern stands a saffron-clad priest offering teachings punctuated by hallelujahs, met with boisterous echoes.

Between Hindu and Christian sheds light on a novel movement of low and no-caste devotees worshipping Jesus in the purported heart of Hindu civilization. Through thick description and analysis, and by attending to devotees and clergy in their own voices, Kerry P. C. San Chirico examines the worldview and ways of life of these Khrist Bhaktas, or devotees of Jesus, along with the Catholic priests and nuns who mediate Jesus, Mary, and other members of the Catholic pantheon in a place hardly associated with Jesus or Christianity. San Chirico places this movement within the context of the devotional history of the Banaras region, the history of Indian Christianity, the rise of low caste and Dalit emancipatory strategies, and the ascendance of Hindu nationalism. Attending to convergences and disparities between devotional Hinduism and charismatic Catholicism, Between Hindu and Christian demonstrates that religious categories are not nearly as distinct as they often seem.

Kerry P. C. San Chirico, Associate Professor of Theology and Religious Studies, Villanova University

Note on Translation and Transliteration


1. At the Confluence of Rivers: Situating the Khrist Bhaktas of Banaras

2. More Streams at the Sangam: Indian Christianities, Isai (Christian) Banaras, and Subaltern Emancipations

3. Adi Kahaniyan: A History in the Telling

4. An Encounter with the Light of Truth

5. The Substance of Things Hoped For: Visvas in the Kali Yug and Worldview in the Making

6. The Evidence of Things Not Seen (Through the Things That Are): Kindling Presence, An "Abundant Place," and the Stuff of Salvation

7. The Shape of Things to Come: Imprudent Prognostications on Khrist Bhakta and Indian Catholic Futures


Appendix 1 A Sermon in Translation (with Gloss)

"Kerry San Chirico manages no small feat in bringing the Khrist Bhakta movement, one that eludes ready-made labels, to clarity and life. Rooted in the heart of Hindu India, Catholic priests serve members who take Jesus as their chosen deity and yet largely remain unbaptized. Unraveling historical, social, and religious strands to elucidate the movement's vitality, San Chirico masterfully brings us close, as well, to the stirrings and lives of those who take part." - Corinne Dempsey, author of The Goddess Lives in Upstate New York: Breaking Convention and Making Home at a North American Hindu Temple

"This is an elegantly written study of the Khrist Bhaktas, a devotional movement that exists in the indeterminate space between Hindu bhakti and Catholic charismatic practice, on the one hand, and between the institutional church and the Hindu nationalist state on the other. San Chirico's analysis of this anomalous movement opens a remarkable window on a grassroots process of indigenization and hints at the fate and possible future of Christianity in the north Indian 'Hindi belt'" - Ann Taves, Distinguished Professor Emerita of Religious Studies, University of California at Santa Barbara

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