Assertive Sprout from Wounded Psyche: Glimpses into Dalit Spirituality

  • A. Maria Arul Raja SJ


The spirit of self-assertion of the people reduced to be untouchables, calling themselves as Dalits, in the South Asian scenario claim their space in the symbolic, social and political realms. They seek to create and resolve conflicts in view of terminating the systems of discriminatory hierarchy leading them to become co-humans with others. With the strategies of assimilation, transference and revolt in relation to the agents of oppressive systems, they keep on activating their assertive agency even within the restricted socio-political space. The exploratory nature of their ethical discourses have the matrix of rationality, social benefit and historical concreteness leading towards egalitarianism. With their conflicting consciousness, the religion-making capacity is frequently deployed by them for interrogating the dominant discourses legitimizing caste oppression. The close proximity of the Dalits with the crude reality of material world seems to empower them to evolve realistic tools of perceptive analysis of their suffering. Accordingly they seem to intuitively live out the insight that the “imposed suffering as passion” has to be resolutely resisted with “voluntary suffering as action”. This is quite different from the habituated manner of blaming the victims for their suffering in the classical traditions. When Dalits fall back to their interior movements, they could be further empowered in the following realms of their struggles: (1) dynamics of interiorisation, (2) strategy of articulation, (3) ideological clarity.

Key Authors

Ambedkar, B. R. Chatterjee, P. Clarke, S. Gramsci, A. Ilaiah, K. Raja, A. M. A 


Dalit spirituality Oppressive caste system Egalitarian ethics Exploratory ethics Conflicting consciousness Imposed suffering Voluntary suffering 


  1. Ambedkar, B. R. 1984. The Buddha and His Dhamma, 3rd ed. Bombay: Siddharth Publications.Google Scholar
  2. April 20th. 2000. “Treat Caste on a Par with Racism.” The Hindu. Chennai.Google Scholar
  3. Béteille, Andre. 1972. “Pollution and Poverty.” In J. M. Mahar (ed.), The Untouchables in Contemporary India. Tuscon: University of Arizona Press.Google Scholar
  4. Chatterjee, Partha. 1989. “Caste and Subaltern Consciousness.” In R. Guha (ed.), Subaltern Studies VI: Writings on South Asian History and Society. Delhi: Oxford University Press, pp. 169–174.Google Scholar
  5. Clarke, S. 1998. Dalits and Christianity: Subaltern Religion and Liberation Theology in India. Delhi: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Cobb, K. 1995. “Reconsidering the Status of Popular Culture in Tillich’s Theology of Culture.” Journal of American Academy of Religion LXIII.Google Scholar
  7. Coser, L. A. 1968. “Social Aspects.” In D. L. Sills (ed.), International Encyclopaedia of Social Sciences-Vol. III & IV. London: Macmillan & Co.Google Scholar
  8. DPS. 2000. A Dalit President Speaks. Chennai: Dalit Media Network.Google Scholar
  9. Dube, S. 1998. “Myths, Symbols and Community: Satnampanth of Chhattisgargh.” In P. Chatterjee & G. Pandey (eds.), Subaltern Studies Vol. VII: Writings on South Asian History and Society. Delhi: Oxford University Press, pp. 121–158.Google Scholar
  10. Dubois, J. 1906. Hindu Manners: Customs and Ceremonies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Dumont, L. 1970. Homo Hierachicus: An Essay on the Caste System (M. Sainsubury, trans.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  12. Editorial. 1998. “Caste Conflict in Tamil Nadu.” The Hindu (Chennai), October 7.Google Scholar
  13. Gramsci, A. 1971. “Notes on Italian History.” In Q. Hoare & G. N. Smith (eds. & trans.), Selections from the Prison Notebooks. London: Lawrence & Wishart.Google Scholar
  14. Ilaiah, Kancha. 1996. Why I am Not a Hindu: A Sudra Critique of Hindutva Philosophy, Culture and Political Economy. Calcutta: Samya.Google Scholar
  15. Kshirsagar, R. K. 1994. Dalit Movement in India and Its Leaders (1857–1956). New Delhi: M.D. Publications.Google Scholar
  16. Maliekal, J. D. 2001. “Identity Consciousness of the Christian Madigas Story of a People in Emergence.” Jeevadhara XXXI.Google Scholar
  17. Moffat, M. 1979. An Untouchable Community in South India: Structure and Consensus. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  18. NCDHR. 1999. “A Charter of Dalit Human Rights.” In National Campaign Manifesto: Dalit Human Rights. Secundrabad: National Campaign for Dalit Rights.Google Scholar
  19. Omvedt, G. 1996. “The Anti-Caste Movement and the Discourse of Power.” In T. V. Sathyamurthy (ed.), Region, Religion, Caste, Gender and Culture in Contemporary India. Delhi: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Parish, S. M. 1997. Hierarchy and Its Discontents: Culture and the Politics of Consciousness in Caste Society. Delhi: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Queen, C. S. 1996. “Dr. Ambedkar and the Hermeneutics of Buddhist Liberation.” In C. S. Queen & S. B. King (eds.), Engaged Buddhism: Buddhist Liberation Movements in Asia. Albany: University of New York, pp. 55–62.Google Scholar
  22. Raja, A. M. A. 1999a. “Some Glimpses into Dalit Religiosity.” The Rally (June).Google Scholar
  23. Raja, A. M. A. 1999b. “Harmony in the Midst of Anarchy: The Anatomy of the Spirit of Dalit Liberation.” Vidyajyothi Journal of Theological Review 63, pp. 416–428.Google Scholar
  24. Samiti, D. V. 1990. Dalit Organisations: A Directory. New Delhi: Indian Social Institute.Google Scholar
  25. Scott, J. C. 1985. Weapons of the Weak. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Shah, G. 1990. “Dalit Movements.” In Social Movements in India: A Review of the Literature. New Delhi: Sage.Google Scholar
  27. Spivak, G. C. 1985. “Subaltern Studies: Deconstructing Historiography.” In R. Guha (ed.), Subaltern Studies Vol. IV: Writings on South Asian History and Society. Delhi: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Srinivas, M. N. 1972. Social Change in Modern India. Bombay: Orient Longman.Google Scholar
  29. Srinivas, M. N. 1984. “Some Reflections on the Nature of Caste Hierarchy.” Contributions to Indian Sociology 18 (2), pp. 151–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Viswanathan, S. 1998. “Caste-Based Mobilisation and Violence.” Frontline (Chennai), November 6.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Maria Arul Raja SJ
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Dialogue with Cultures and Religions (IDCR), Loyola CollegeChennaiIndia

Personalised recommendations