International Journal of Hindu Studies

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 43–59 | Cite as

The Śrī Maṅkala Vināyakar Satsaṅg Group: Religious Practice and Middle-Class Status in Tamil Nadu, South India

  • Nicole A. WilsonEmail author


This article presents an organized group of middle-class, multicaste Hindu housewives living in the suburbs of Madurai, Tamil Nadu—the Śrī Maṅkala Vināyakar Satsaṅg (SMVS) Group. Hindu satsaṅg groups are common throughout India and revolve primarily around devotional singing, although the word satsaṅg also denotes a grouping/community specifically organized around a guru and their students. Using my experiences participating in and observing this specific satsaṅg group and its practices, I demonstrate how caste, class, and Hindu religious practice intersect in contemporary urban Tamil Nadu. Through an examination of how religious knowledge is shared and learned in the SMVS Group, I show that what are viewed as high-caste Hindu performances of piety (for example, Sanskrit recitation) are formative in many Hindu women’s perceptions and constructions of their middle-class identities. Further, I highlight the study of multicaste women’s social networks, both urban and rural, as a nuanced and valuable lens through which to study middle-class identity in India.


middle class satsaṅg caste social networks Hinduism Tamil Nadu 


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A version of this article was presented at the panel “ ‘Where Class Meets Religion’: Reshaping the Middle-Class and Hindu Worlds in Contemporary India” at the American Academy of Religion annual meeting, San Diego, November 25, 2014. I would like to thank Jennifer D. Ortegren for organizing the panel and her tireless work in making this special issue a reality. I am also grateful to the peer reviewers and editors at the International Journal of Hindu Studies who patiently and painstakingly assessed the many permutations of this article.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Berkeley City CollegeBerkeleyUSA

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