All Religions Merge in Tranquebar

Religious Coexistence and Social Cohesion in South India

Oluf Schönbeck (with Peter B. Andersen)

  • Published:
  • Pages: 160 pp., maps and illustrations (many in colour)
  • Series number: 8

With clashes of faith increasingly common globally, the study of religious conflict is also increasing. This book reverses that perspective by addressing a case of peaceful religious coexistence and social cohesion, namely in the South Indian town of Tranquebar. This former Danish colonial settlement and birthplace of the Lutheran mission to India is now a famous heritage site. Although badly hit by the 2004 tsunami and today dominated by Hindus, the town has avoided the religious conflict so often found in present-day India. This in-depth study demonstrates that the role played by religion is invariably tied up with other social factors (like stratification and economic development) and may serve as a basis for unity as well as division.

With globalization helping those who assert incompatible differences between their respective faiths, clashes of faith are increasingly common in different parts of the world. As a result, the study of religious conflict is also increasing.

This book reverses that perspective by addressing a case of peaceful religious coexistence and social cohesion, namely in the South Indian village of Tranquebar (Tharangambadi) in Tamil Nadu. The birthplace of the Lutheran mission to India in 1706, this former Danish colonial settlement is now a famous heritage site.

Although badly hit by the 2004 tsunami and today numerically dominated by members of a Hindu fishermen’s caste, so far the town has managed to steer clear of the kind of religious conflicts too often found in a number of states in present-day India, including Tamil Nadu. This in-depth study, based on post-tsunami field studies in 2006 and 2007, examines the ways in which Hindus, Muslims and different Christian denominations interact in their day-to-day lives. Further, it demonstrates that the role played by religion – as far as social cohesion is concerned – is invariably tied up with several other factors (social stratification, economic development, educational institutions and such social communities as caste councils, etc.) and may serve as a basis for unity as well as division.

author image not supplied

Oluf Schönbeck is a research fellow at the Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen. Recently researching the Lutheran mission in South India, his research interests also include contemporary Sufism and devotional rituals.

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by Janet M. Powers, Gettysburg College (U.S.A.)
From journal:
RELIGION

"(…) this survey summary also provides an exceptional window into the multi-religious society of southeast Tamilnadu, with its older generation of illiterate fishermen, its current 84% school enrollment, and incursions from the West, both old and new."

"(…) this survey summary also provides an exceptional window into the multi-religious society of southeast Tamilnadu, with its older generation of illiterate fishermen, its current 84% school enrollment, and incursions from the West, both old and new."

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