The politics of heterodoxy and the Kina Rami ascetics of Banaras

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Charles Long


heterodoxy India, hinduism

Subject Categories

Social and Cultural Anthropology


The Kina Rami, a sect of aghori ascetics, take their name from Kina Ram, a Rajput Sant of the seventeenth century. This thesis examines the history and reform of the Kina Ram sect while placing it within the larger framework of heterodox Shaivism. Using an anthropology of religion approach, the author uses fieldwork data and observations to discuss the sociopolitical issues related to extreme religious behavior within Indian religion and to mount a critique of scholarship that would seek to locate such behavior solely within the framework of Brahmanical Hinduism. Finally an overview is presented of the reform of the Kina Ram sect under the influence of the modern-day saint Avadhut Bhagwan Ram. The author demonstrates the contemporary use of traditional Kina Rami heterodox symbolism within the context of Avadhut Bhagwan Ram's reformist organization, Sri Sarveshwari Samooh. While these reforms are demonstrated to be continuous with the traditional goals of the Kina Sect, they nonetheless represent a new compromise position in relation to the larger Brahmanical Hindu tradition.


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