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Page 6 of 8

Cultural Assimilation and Development: Study of Gahira Guru Cult among the Tribes of Chhattisgarh

Govinda Chandra Rath
G.B. Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad

There is a consistent debate on accepting the non-converted tribes of India as Hindu who have not yet accepted Christian, Islam, Buddhism or any other recognized way of religious life. At the same time it is also the fact that a large section of these population came to close of the Hindu culture through continuous process of cultural assimilation for centuries. This cultural assimilation is held in different phases of their life and the trend of each phase became different from one to other. The cultural assimilation in past was mostly ritual and behavioural whereas that in present time, held mostly after independence, added developmental indicators in the core of its active agenda. It is observed that this new addition provides a solid base for sustainability of the cult. The present paper will envisage it by studying the Gahira Guru Cult founded by Swami Rameshwar Kanwar , a local tribe, among his fellow tribe men of Surguja, Raigarh, Korba and Jaspur districts of Chhattisgarh after 1950s. In early fifties, his initial attempt was to mobilize the community men, the Kanwar, for an amazing past in the reference of the great Indian epic the Mahabharat by organizing the Kaurao Jati Sudhar Movement that transformed into a social reform movement by the sixties and into a platform for political activities by the seventies. His Sanatan Dharma Sant Samaj founded in 1953 not only introduced religious reform but opened a Sanskrit Vidyalaya in 1965. It played a major role in transforming the lives of the tribes who started realising the importance of education. By 2003, it becomes a full-fledged residential educational campus with one middle school, two High Schools and one Higher Secondary School consisting of about 700 students. It was run at the voluntary public donation of one handful of rice per family per day (mutthidan) at the initial stage and now it gets full financial support from the Chhattisgarh Government. An informal communication reveals that some hundreds of students from this Sanskrit Vidyalaya got appointment as Sikshaymitra in Government Schools this year. It shows how this cult induced endeavour helps in progress of education among the tribes. It leaves a space for us to enquire about the internal dynamics of this process. The paper will investigate how the cult able to bring orientation for education and to what extent it influences the inter and intra community relationship in course of time. How does the cult began at the local level got integrated in the state system and find expression in varieties of developmental indicators in course of time.

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