REVIEW ARTICLE/SUDHIR CHANDRA*
A Figure of Paradox
Julius Lipner, Brahmabandhab Upadhyay: The Life and Thought of a Revolutionary, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1999, pp. xxiv+409 Rs. 425.
If your heart is in the right place and your mind not vitiated by the eruption of all kinds of fundamentalism, you will celebrate the uncanny sensitivity that the social sciences seem to reflect. Much before the ire of Hindutva was abruptly turned against the Christians of the country — transforming them into a 'marked' community for the first time in their own land — almost as a premonition, though quite realizing what ugly aggression would soon unfold — scholars were busy attempting a variety of synchronic and diachronic studies of what one could now call the Christian question in India. Beginning roughly with Susan Bayly, Saints, Goddesses and Kings (1989), there has been a spurt of scholarly studies, such as Antony Copley, Religions in Conflict (1997), Gauri Viswanathan, Outside the Fold (1998), Rowena Robinson, Conversion, Continuity and Change (1998), and Ines G. Zupanov, Disputed Mission (1999). Julius Lipner's biographical study of one of the most gifted and enigmatic of our modern converts to Christianity is an illustrious addition to these studies.
'Christian and Hindu, holy man and savant, prophet and revolutionary nationalist - Upadhyay is a figure of paradox.' Julius Lipner thus introduces the subject of his biography, and goes on to explicate: 'Upadhyay resists neat pigeon-holing. It is difficult to make sense of him in terms of the disjunctive categories usually employed to interpret the social, religious and political phenomena of nineteenth century India. Was he a Hindu or a Christian? Surely he couldn't be both! Was he a reformer or a revivalist of Hinduism, of Christianity? He was tried for sedition, so was he a political extremist? One of "us" or one of "them"? Enigmas cloak the man.'
* Author of The Oppressive Present, and Enslaved Daughters, currently working on Religion, Culture and the Nation.
Social Scientist, Vol. 29, Nos. 3 - 4, March-April 2001