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Brahmain always talk about caste for their survival, because they are afraid of their identity. - OUR VIEWS

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Rapt in the Name: The Ramnamis, Ramnam, and Untouchable Religion in Central India. By Ramdas Lamb. SUNY Press, 2002, x and 237 pages. In November, 2000, the eastern sliver of Madhya Pradesh, a state in central India, was carved off to create a new state named Chhattisgarh. This new state is home to one of the largest populations of Dalit (untouchable) and tribal communities in India, and is also, not surprisingly, one of the poorest regions in the nation. Though the religions of Madhya Pradesh, called the Central Provinces under the Raj, have been of great interest to researchers for some time, few scholars have attempted to investigate the religious life of Chhattisgarh as a distinct region.

A untrue story published by castist brain who want to devide the Indian society just to misguide researcher and other people of India and abroad. The untrue story is marked in red and not to be taken in cognigence. This portion is published just awaken the Intelligent mass to take a note How the Caste system is introduced by the deviding forces of India, benificieries of Society. Satnami movement was basically antibrahanical movement, and process of Casteless society in India. It was a challange to deviding forces as a result hundreds of communities left their original Hindu caste and joined Satnam Panth. Pandit Sundarlal Sharma was the person who converted Satnam Panth in to Satnami Caste and blocked the Satnami Movement using Brahmin Brain by introducing Rama in Chhattisgarg. Most of the community including good brahmins and Chamar both joined Satnam Panth with the inspiration of Guru Ghasidas and Raja Guru Balakdas. How this ill will attack has been made on the Satnam society an example is given in Red colour. All humanical thought should condemn the attack.

Ramdas Lamb's Rapt in the Name is among the first to do so. Lamb examines the Ramnamis, an "antinomian devotional sect" (ix) which originated among the chamars of eastern Chhattisgarh in the 1890s. The chamars-traditionally leather workers but now rarely so- are the largest Dalit community in India and are near the bottom of India's socio-religious hierarchy


Lamb's text is an excellent complement to Saurabh Dube's Untouchable Pasts: Religion, Identity, and Power among a Central Indian Community.

1780-1950 (1998), which focused on another religious movement among the Chhattisgarhi chamars, the Satnami Samaj ("Society"). The Satnami movement was so successful among Chhattisgarhi chamars, in fact, that many now list satnami as their caste name. Both texts appear in the outstanding.

SUNY series in Hindu Studies, ably edited by Wendy Doniger. Rapt in the Name begins with an historical overview of the interaction of orthodox, upper-caste Hinduism, on the one hand, and the popular religiosity of India's masses, on the other. Lamb summarizes the state of scholarship on the topic and provides succinct and useful definitions for the terms scholars have used to describe it (e.g. brahmanization, sanskritization, vedacization, etc.).

The two central practices of Ramnami devotion are chanting Ramnam ("the name of Ram") and reciting Ramkatha ("the story of Ram"). These practices are shared by the larger Ram tradition in India, and so Lamb offers, in Chapter Two, an account of the historical development of that tradition, and in particular of the Ramkatha. The Sanskritic and orthodox versions of the Ram story, such as Valmiki's Ramayana, present him as a very human hero with, at most, suggestions of divinity.

But in later vernacular versions of the story such as Tulsidas's sixteenth-century Ramcaritmanas (Manas), Ram and everyone associated him (e.g. his wife, Sita) undergo a koinonia process of apotheosis. In addition, whereas texts such as the Ramayana tend to reinforce the predominance of brahmans and the impurity of the lower castes, texts such as the Manas undermine this hierarchical perspective by emphasizing the devotion of low-caste Ram bhaktas (devotees).

What makes Chhattisgarh such an interesting field of study is the unusually high degree of religious ferment in the region, particularly among the lower castes. In Chapter Four, Lamb briefly discusses two other religious movements prominent in the region, the Kabirpanthis and the Satnamis. Though the Kabirpanth in Banaras, that bastion of Hindu orthodoxy, has become a rather upper-caste sect, the Chhattisgarhi sakha ("branch") has managed to retain its lower-caste appeal. The Satnami movement originated with a Chhattisgarhi guru (Ghasidas, 1756-1850) but was almost certainly inspired by other earlier movements of same name. Both the Kabirpanthis and the Satnamis are religiously indebted to Kabir and the sant tradition of which he was a part. The orthodox hierarchy has rejected both movements, primarily because they draw upon low- and out-caste communities and yet aspire to religious and social equality with upper-caste Hindus.


Parasuram, the founder of the Ramnami Samaj, was born a chamar, in a poor village in eastern Chhattisgarh, midway through the nineteenth century. Stricken with a disease many believed to be leprosy in his mid-thirties, Parasuram decided to leave home, renouncing family life, in order to spare his family the shame and ostracism his disease would bring them.

On the eve of his departure he had an encounter with a mysterious sadhu, a wandering ascetic who told him that Lord Ram was pleased with his devotion, and that, if his faith was deep enough, the name of Ram would appear written on his chest during the night. It did, and Parasuram's family and villagers celebrated the miracle.

Eventually Parasuram gained a following which he instructed to chant Ramnam and recite Ramkatha. Parasuram increasingly emphasized nirgun bhakti (devotion to Ram "without properties," as equivalent to Brahman, the principle of Being articulated in some more philosophically-oriented traditions of Hinduism) and insisted that the only devotional act necessary was chanting Ramnam. Like the Kabirpanthis and Satnamis, the Ramnamis drew the ire of upper-caste Hindus, particularly because of their practice of tattooing "Ram" (rama) on their bodies to demonstrate devotionand to link themselves with Parasuram.

The upper-caste Hindus believed the practice, which associated Ram's name with the bodies of impure outcastes, was sacrilegious. ??? Book Reviews

In addition to tattooing Ram on their bodies, the Ramnamis have developed several other distinctive practices. They are encouraged to wear ordhni, cloth covered entirely with the name of Ram, when chanting Ramnam (thus the title's play on words).

Ramnami men-and occasionally women-wear mukut (literally, "crown"), a hat made with peacock feathers, which are traditionally associated with incarnations of Vishnu such as Ram. In addition, the Samaj holds an annual mela (festival) which brings together Ramnamis from around Chhattisgarh, as well as visitors from other religious communities.

Each mela is centered on a stambha, a large pillar covered with Ramnam.

More than a dozen fine black and white photographs complement Lamb's description of these visually stunning practices.

In Chapter Six, Lamb demonstrates how the Ramnamis localized the Ramkatha, which, as already mentioned, is not unique to the Ramnamis.

In the early days of the Samaj, the Manas was used primarily as a source of mantras perceived to be spiritually efficacious. As literacy increased in the community, Ramnamis began to realize that the Manas contained some verses and sections which upheld the dominance of brahmans and denigrated the lower castes. This discovery motivated Ramnamis to become more literate in order to be able to choose verses from the corpus that were more positive in their presentation of lower castes.

At Ramnami bhajans, where these verses were chanted, or exchanged in philosophical debate (called "takkar"), a distinctly Ramnami Ramkatha began to emerge. The process continues today, and the Ramkatha has come to be recited less for the spiritual efficacy of its phrases than for the meaning contained therein. Perhaps the greatest strength of this chapter, and indeed the entire volume, is that Lamb consistently presents the Ramnamis as a dynamic, evolving community in which religious symbols are not static, timeless forms, but are rather constantly reinvented and given new meanings in response to changes within the Samaj and in the world about it.

Lamb includes six biographical sketches of Ramnamis in the penultimate chapter. With these biographical sketches, Lamb exhibits the diversity of the Ramnami community. Chhattisgarhis were attracted to the Ramnami movement for various reasons. Some were impressed by the aesthetic beauty of Ramnami bhajans. Others experienced psychological healing within the community. Still others saw in the Ramnami Samaj a community which refused to accept brahmanical orthodoxy but instead flaunted its autonomy and distinctiveness.

The biographical sketches also highlight the creativity, freedom and initiative of female Ramnamis. ??? koinonia

In the final chapter Lamb compares the various ways that low-caste religious groups prevalent in Chhattisgarh have attempted to relate to the orthodox religious system of India.

Within the Kabirpanthi, Satnami, and Ramnami communities, three distinct approaches can be discerned. The Kabirpanthis have attempted to elevate their status in the Indian socio-religious hierarchy by sanskritizing their religious practices, that is, by bringing their beliefs, rituals and symbols more closely in line with those of the dominant Hindu castes.

The Satnamis, on the other hand, have increasingly sought the same results by political agitation. Unlike these two movements, the Ramnami Samaj has never sought caste-Hindu status. Rather, Ramnamis have attempted to remain as independent as possible from the control of brahmanical Hinduism. Unlike most low-caste religious movements, the Ramnamis have not attempted to hide their distinctive religious practices; instead, they have flaunted them as a source of identity and pride. This approach has caused the Satnamis and Kabirpanthis to resent the Ramnamis.

The Satnamis and Kabirpanthis believe that the behavior of Ramnamis undermines their efforts to achieve social and religious elevation. The volume includes two appendies. The first discuses the distinctive features of two major categories of scripture in the Hindu tradition, shruti and smriti. The second appendix discusses the last section of Valmiki's Ramayana, which many believe to be a brahmanical insertion because it contains the violent story of a low-caste Hindu beheaded by Ram for having the audacity to practice austerities (austerities are considered by the orthodox to be restricted to upper-caste Hindus). Both appendices are helpful, though the information they contain may have been more useful if integrated into earlier chapters.

Rapt in the Name is an attractive, well-written, thoroughly researched and insightful text. It would be most appreciated by scholars of Indian religions, especially those interested in learning more about the religious experience of Dalits than is generally possible in texts on Hinduism. But because it is so clearly written, Rapt in the Name would also be accessible to students with a minimum of exposure to Hinduism and would help balance introductory texts on the subject which are, with several notable exceptions, generally more focused on upper-caste and brahmanical Hinduism.

Chad Mullet Bauman

Princeton Theological Seminary

Note: This Ramnami story is all togather a different story which is given below.

The real story says that, Parsuram a village landlord of Charpara Village near Malkharoda in Sakti Tahsil of old Bilaspur District. He was big former by occupation. He was having religious sentiment as well. During that time Satnam movement was on peak and upper caste people were afraid of increasing popularity and population of Satnamis day-by-day. To stop the Satnam Movement, a diversion techniques were thought by High caste Hindus instead of confrontation with Satnamis which may lead to their popularity. Thua the Sawarna Hindu hired and brought a Panda from Allhabad and sent him in the house of Parsuram in a planned manner. The Panda started reading Ramayan daily in his house and use to say about Ram story. Before that Parasuram never heard any hting about RAM story. It was the two way game rhe Sawarna hindu played one by diverting Satnam movement and other way to spread the mission of Arya Putra Ram who killed Shambhuk a Shudra philosopher.

In the similar pattern an other Panda was deputed at the house of Shivprasad and other landlord of Gwalindih near Sarangarh on the other bank of Mahanadi river. Shivprasad was very close friend of Parasuram. This planning was totaly kept secret. This was continue for some time to gain cofidance amongst these people.

Next year that Panda wearing with yellow clothes engraved RAM RAM in it and came to the house of Parasuram. This time he gave one Gutaka Ramayan to him. He encouraged Parasuram to read daily Gutaka which will give him a lot wealth and other things. Panda daily instigated to write Ram as written on his clothes. One day innocently on instigation he put RAM word on his forehead which was praised by Panda. On advise of Panda he called one Godanaharin and put permanent mark "RAM"on his forehead.

The similar incident was repeated on Shivprasad Goutiya who engraved "RAM RAM" on his forehead. Both were kept unknown about development. One day ShivPrasad came to his friend Parasuram's house to meet him. When Parasuram saw his friend having engraved "RAM RAM" on his forehead he got astonished that he is well versed about Ramkatha before him. There was a good arguement between them and Parasuram found that writing one "RAM" appears to be incomplete and RAM RAM appears complete. Parasuram wanted to put another "RAM" on his forehead but it was not giving a central appearance and decided to put two RAM on either side of his forehead. This way he wrote RAM RAM RAM on his forehead. They encouraged their relatives to engrave RAM on their forehead as a good sign of holiness.

This masaage spreaded like fire on eastern part of Chhattisgarh as a result some of the high caste Hindu felt antagonised and filed a case against Parasuram and Shivprasad. The matter went up to Nagpur court. Parasuram hired advocate who placed before court that "they are not abusing RAM of Ramayan. He is a different RAM a son of King Dashrath and husband of Sita. He SITA RAM. Our RAM is a notion woed as combination of Surya, Candrama and Agni(a symbol of solar, moon and Fire)." Parasuram won the case and there after they started celebrating the victory by oraganising Mela alternatively on either side of Mahanadi river. They also put the symbol of victory as "JAI-SATMBH" similar to Guru Ghasidas as they were earlier follower of Satnam.

Now this holi symbol of RAM has become unholi symbol of Untouchables. Those who worshiped RAM whole heartedly are being regarded as worthless people of the society. After spreading education amongst the society now they have stopped writting the unholi symbol of RAM.