Negotiating secularity: Indira Gandhi, Anandamayi Ma and the Eliya Rajah of Travancore

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Tensions between views of India as a secular state and India as Hindu are aggravated by the association of politics with the secular public and religion with the private personal. Studies of modern gurus, even where they challenge this divide, tend to reduce the personal to the political or vice versa, thus perpetuating it further. By tracing the connections between a Prime Minister, a modern ‘godwoman’ and the head of an erstwhile Princely State, I establish how they may respectively be associated with discourses of secularity, spirituality and servanthood. However, I argue that these all converge ultimately upon a discourse of service, whether to guru, deity, kingdom or nation. This suggests a model of service as an alternative basis for analysing the ways in which secularity is negotiated in modern India.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-198
Number of pages39
JournalInternational Journal of Hindu Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2016


  • secularism, India, guru, Indira Gandhi, Travancore, Anandamayi Ma, seva, service, princely states,


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