Disenchanting India

Disenchanting India

Organized Rationalism and Criticism of Religion in India
New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Print publication date: 2012
Print ISBN-13: 9780199812608
Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012
DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199812608.001.0001



  1. Humanities & Social Sciences Online:
  2. Religious Studies Review:
  3. International Journal of Hindu Studies:
  4. Anthropology & Mission:
  5. Alternative Spirituality and Religion:
    Christopher Cotter, Vol. 4, Issue 1, 2013, 184-187.
  6. Thought and Action – Prabhakar Nanawary:
  7. Academia – Nathaniel Roberts 


In academic no less than popular thought, India is frequently represented as the quintessential land of religion. Disenchanting India qualifies this representation through an analysis of the contemporary Indian rationalist organisations (those that affirm the values and attitudes of atheism, humanism or free-thinking).To understand the genesis of organised rationalism in India the book addresses the rationalists’ emphasis on maintaining links to atheism and materialism in ancient India and outlines their strong ties to the intellectual currents of modern European history. At the heart of Disenchanting India lies an ethnography of the organisation “Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti” (Organisation for the Eradication of Superstition) based in Maharashtra. This account describes the organization’s efforts to promote a scientific temper and combat the beliefs and practices it regards as superstitious. It also includes an analysis of rationalism in the day to day lives of its members and in relation to the organization’s controversial position within Indian society.The book outlines the distinguishing characteristics of this organisation through a depiction of the rationalists’ specific “mode of unbelief” in comparison to “modes of religiosity”. Alongside a critical engagement with the work of Max Weber and Charles Taylor, the theoretical discussion of modes of unbelief further provides an original basis for comparative studies of similar movements in a trans-cultural perspective. Finally, Disenchanting India can be situated within the contemporary debates about the nature of rationalism in Indian intellectual life and cultural politics. It thereby engages with debates that are as crucial for Anthropology and Religious Studies as they are for Post-colonial Studies, Sociology and History.



Part I: Object of Inquiry: Indian Rationalists, Modes of Unbelief & Disenchantment
1. Indian Rationalists
2. Modes of Unbelief
3. Rationalization and Disenchantment
4. Methodological Remarks and Research Setting

Part II: History: Roots of Organized Rationalism in India
5. ”Narrative” of the Indian Roots of Rationalism
6. Evolution of Rationalism in Colonial India
7. Influence of the English Rationalist Movement
8. Organized Rationalism in 20th Century India
9. Recent History of Organized Rationalism in Maharashtra

Part III: Ethnography: Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti (ANiS)
10. ANiS in Action: The Science-Van
11. Organizational Structure and Set-Up of ANiS
12. Profile and Agenda of ANiS
13. Individual Interpretations and Applications of Rationalism
14. Rationalism as a Way of Life
15. ANiS in Context
16. Impact of ANiS

Part IV Theory: The Mode of Unbelief of ANiS