Karline McLain F'12
ACLS Fellowship Program 2012
The Afterlife of Shirdi Sai Baba: The Growth of a New Religious Movement in India
This project is a critical history of an increasingly popular new religion dedicated to the worship of the Indian holy man Shirdi Sai Baba (d. 1918). The Shirdi Sai Baba movement seeks to provide a counterforce to rigid sectarian ideologies in its union of Hindus and Muslims, and sheds new light on debates about religious synthesis and syncretism in India. Drawing upon multiple archival materials (hagiographies, hymns, photos, films) and field research in India, this project explores the many and shifting meanings of Shirdi Sai Baba to his devotees over the past century, bringing to light a contemporary Indian movement that has been largely neglected by scholars of South Asia and has yet to receive consideration in the comparative study of global new religions.