"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards."

- Søren Kierkegaard


Panth, matam, dharm, rah, and ṣirāṭ, meaning ‘The Way’, are some of the terms used by faith communities in South Asia to define their tradition’s path. This conference will explore how these ways were expressed in ritual, belief, and praxis to create distinction. For example, among the 19th century Khōjā of Sindh and Gujarat, the term satpanth ‘The True Way’, referred to numerous vernacular religious practices that incorporated Vaiṣṇav, Svāminārāyaṇ, Jain, Shia, and Sunni practices within a caste faith. Their liturgical materials originally were written in a caste script in a mélange of dialects from Sindhi, Gujarati, Kacchi, Rajasthani, and Urdu. This liminality was not exclusive to the north, in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka araputamiḻ, the Muslim dialect of Tamil in the Arabic script, records the cosmologies and worldview of Muslim merchant communities that intersperses Vaishnava imagery with Arabic vocabulary.

This conference is intended to bring together scholars of the Adivasi, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Sikhism, and Zoroastrianism to explore how aesthetics, authority, narratives, rituals, and script have been historically shared and divided by faith communities in South Asia. How do we make sense of such heterogeneity that was distant from ‘orthodox’ literature being produced in urbane Sanskrit and Persian? How did rural religion differ and connect to larger faith communities across linguistic and script divides? Where were ethno-religious boundaries drawn between pragmatic mobile merchant communities and how fluid were they until early colonization? South Asian vernacular religion in local languages is a large untapped historical archive from which scholars can produce incisive microhistories. This is an open call for scholars across disciplines who wish to engage with the themes of endangered/extinct languages and scripts, merchant religion, modern religious identity formation, and the transmission of sacred narratives across the Persianate, Turkic, and Indic worlds. Suggested topics include, but are not limited to, The nuances of panth traditions, Satpanth tradition, pre-colonial rural religions, ethno-religious boundaries of Indian religions and liturgical literature of panth traditions.


A two-day conference with a public keynote bringing together interdisciplinary Anglophone and Francophone scholars in the humanities, generally defined, to present and discuss the development of Khōjā identity over the past centuries among transnational communities in South Asia, East Africa, Western Europe, and North America. The output of the conference will be two edited volumes.

Date: 30-31 January 2019

Venue: J. P. Naik Conference Hall, Kalina campus, Vidya Nagari, Kalina, Santacruz East, Mumbai 98

University of Mumbai

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

09:15-09:30 Registration
09:30-10:00 Keynote address by Edward Simpson, SOAS
10:00-11:20 Defining Satpanth
Karim H. Karim, The quest for truth in Satpanth
Ali S. Samji, The conversion of ascetics in Bengāl and Bhoṭ
Zahida Rahemtulla,Shifting sources,inventing identities
11:20-11:35 Coffee break
11:35-12:30 Digital preservation and online communities
Pyarali Jiwa Ginans, granths and related literature
Iqbal Dewji, Crowdsourcing and wiki approaches to historical preservation
12:30-14:00 Lunch
14:00-15:30 Sacred literature of the Ginans
Karim Gillani, Satpanth Khoja ginans from South Asia
Nisha Keshwani Approaches to teaching ginans and Satpanth histories
Parin Somani, What is the difference between Ismaili ginans and Hindu bhajans?
Alijan Damani, Ginans
15:30-15:45 Coffee break
15:45-17:30 Oceanic encounters
Chayya Goswami, Mercantile communities of the Gulf of Kachchh
Abdul Hussainmiya, Arabu-Tamil and Malay manuscript traditions in Sri Lanka
Afsar Mohammad, Vernacular aesthetics of Sufi poetry
Philipp Bruckmayr, Vernacular Islam and Indic scripts in Southeast Asia
17:30-18:00 Bombay Khōjā Artefacts Exhibition- Sadiq Uttanwala & Nasreen Fazalbhoy
18:00-20:00 Dinner

Thursday, 31 January 2019

09:15-10:45 Vernacular Hinduism
Minakshi Rajdev, Mirasi and an existence from anonymous to pseudonymous
Premeela Gurumurthy, Ramanuja the reformer and his essence of Vaishnavism
Urvashi Pandya, Varkari Sampradya: Freedom of devotion
Trisha Lalchandani, The Persistence of Liminality: The Case of the Hindu Sindhis
10:45-11:00 Coffee break
Sibtain Panjwani, The British experience
Hasnain Walji, Francophone Indian Ocean communities
Liyakat Takim, The American experience
Paul Anderson, The Negotiation and Revising of Ismāʻīlī Khōjā Identity, Past and Present
12:30-14:00 Lunch
14:00-15:15 Interreligious exchange
Armeen Kaur Ahuja & Charulika Dhawan, Diachronic analysis of Guru Granth Saheb
Venu Mehta, ‘Gujaratization’ of Parsi Literatures
Michel Boivin, Devotion, community and society: introducing Daryalal, the Kutchi god
15:15-15:30 Coffee break
15:30-17:00 Interfaith connections
Amit Ranjan, Sarmad and Sufism in 17th century India
Yudit Kornberg Greenberg, Gita Govinda and the Biblical Song of Songs
Pavel Basharin, Manuscripts of Sayyids of Zong
Jonathan Varghese, Syriac Christianity and Indigenous Kerala
17:00-17:15 Coffee break
17:15-18:15 Khōjā film screening and discussion with the producer
18:15-18:30 Concluding remarks and future planning
18:30-20:30 Dinner


Michel Boivin

Michel Boivin is Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for South Asian Studies and he teaches Historical Anthropology of Muslim Societies in Colonial and Postcolonial South Asia at the School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences (EHESS, Paris). He also supervises a number of master and PhD students, at EHESS as well as at the University of Karachi where he is external examiner for PhD. In 2011, he has founded the Centre for Social Sciences in Karachi (CSSK), a French NGO whose aim is to foster the studies in Social Sciences related to Pakistan and South Asia.

Michel Boivin works on the construction on modern knowledge in the context of colonial and postcolonial South Asia, through the emergene of new social classes. Focussing on the Sindhicate area, he scrutinizes how the vernacular was constructed both in Muslim and Hindu societies before and after partition, in Pakistan as well as in India. He has authored about one hundred academic papers, and he has edited and published twelve books. The last one published in French is title Pakistan: Anthropology of an Islamic Republic (Téraèdre, Paris, 2015). In English, he has recently published Historical Dictionary of the Sufi Culture of Sindh in Pakistan and in India (Karachi, OUP, 2015).

Hasnain Walji

Dr. Hasnain Walji is a Co-Chair of the Khoja Heritage Project of The World Federation of KSIMC. He is an educator, historian, author, and an interfaith activist.

As a dedicated oral historian, for the past 30 years he has been researching and documenting the socio-religious history and evolution of the Khoja Shia IthnaAsheri Community. This has culminated in the production of a a groundbreaking anthropological documentary "The Khojas - A Journey of Faith" that spans the past 600 years of the Community's history. Hasnain has also served as Secretary General, Vice-President and as President of The World Federation of KSIMC and is the founding director of the Mulla Asghar Memorial Library and Resource Center in Toronto which houses a rare collection of over 100 manuscripts on the history of the Khojas in Gujarati and Khojki. He has authored 26 books on naturopathic medicine that have been translated from English to Chinese and other European languages. He has travelled the world in pursuit of his passion for increasing interfaith understanding in a quest to make this world a better place for his six grandchildren.

Iqbal Aktar

Dr. Iqbal Akhtar is an assistant professor with a dual appointment in the departments of Religious Studies and Politics & International Relations in the Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs (Florida International University). He completed his doctorate at the University of Edinburgh?~@~Ys New College School of Divinity. His current work explores the origin of the Kh?~Mj?~A peoples in the Subcontinent through extant oral traditions known as the kahaṇī in Sindhi, Gujarati, and Hindustani.

He teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses as well as independent studies which include but are not limited to: Islamic Political Thought, Advanced Interpretations of the Quran, Voice of the Prophet, Islamic Faith and Society, Women in Islam, and Islamic Mysticism (Sufism). He is the research director of the Western Indian Ocean Studies programme.

Kumail Rajani

Kumail Rajani is the Deputy Chair of Khoja Heritage Project of The World Federation of KSIMC. His major interest lies in Comparative Religious Studies, Islamic Jurisprudence, Shiite Hadith and Khoja History.

He is the founder of the KhojaPedia project. He has been supervisor to BA & MA dissertations on the topics related to Khoja History at various universities. Kumail successfully defended his MA dissertation at Al-Mostafa international University on “Bohras in the Scrolls of History and Ideas”. He is currently a PhD candidate at University of Exeter with an interest in Ismaili literature where he is also a Post Graduate Teaching Assistant. He has spent over 17 years at Islamic Seminary of Qum, pursuing advanced Islamic Studies as well as teaching BA and MA students at the Seminary. Kumail was born and brought up in Mahuva, Gujarat, India.

Dr Urvashi Manuprasad Pandya

Dr. Urvashi Manuprasad Pandya, Associate Professor and Head Department of Gujarati Language is working at the University of Mumbai for last 21 years. Teaching Gujarati Language and Literature for last 27 years (at various Colleges and Universities at Gujarat and Maharashtra at Under graduate, B.A level - (7 years) and Post graduate, M A and Research level (21 years). Her total experience exceeds 28 years (21 years at University of Mumbai and 7 years at various colleges of Gujarat and Baroda). She also worked for one year of Gurudev Tagore Chair of Comparative Literature, University of Mumbai as a I/C Head.

She has been awarded by the most prestigious academic award named "UGC Research Fellowship Award 2012-14 “by The University Grant Commission, New Delhi for the research Project titled “The contribution of the Female Saint writers in medieval Gujarati Literature with the special context of the tradition of Devotion in India: a socio-cultural study –work has been submitted to the UGC, New Delhi and the work is expected to be published in three volumes. Dr. Pandya has also been selected for the prestigious Research Associate ship at "IIAS", (Indian Institute of Advance Studies), Rashtrapati Nivas, Shimla and successfully completed the Research Project on “Feminist Phenomena in Indian Fiction: In the special context of Gujarati literature by women writer”. She is an established Gujarati Writer as an Art Critique, Poet , Translator, Editor and Researcher having Published total 13 books which includes Original Poetry Collection, an anthologies of Research, Translation of world and Indian literary texts, Critical articles and research Papers, Research work of the (UGC RESEARCH FELLOSHIP AWARD 2012-14) on world and Indian literary Texts, edited anthologies of world and Indian Literary work based on the movement/ thought of Feminism and Research work. The University has recognized her as a guiding teacher for Ph.D and M.Phil degree research work and till the date total 07 Ph.D and 011 M.Phil research students have been awarded for their respective degrees. She is also an honorary warden for the administration of S. P. Girl's- Hostel, University of Mumbai for last 16 years.


The World Federation of KSIMC

The World Federation was established in 1976. Its aim was to unify the disparate communities of the Khoja Shia Ithna Asheri community throughout the world under its umbrella. The World Federation recognised the needs and growth of the newly-settled Khoja Shia communities in the West, namely in the UK, Europe, USA, Canada, Dubai, and Australasia. The World Federation attends to the community’s financial, spiritual, and educational needs, and passionately follows its motto: ‘We exist to serve’. It is a registered charity in the UK, and is world renowned for its efficient and well-organised humanitarian and religious contribution to people throughout the world.

The World Federation of KSIMC works in the areas of International Relief & Development, Islamic Education, and Community Affairs, the last of which includes the Khoja Heritage Project.

Florida International University

The Department of Politics and International Relations at Florida International University combines traditional disciplinary strengths in political science with a multi-disciplinary approach to the study of international relations. The Department offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in political science and international relations, the Masters of Arts degree in international studies, and the Doctor of Philosophy in political science and international relations. Students can also pursue several combined degrees at the undergraduate or graduate level.

Faculty and graduate students conduct research that spans a number of geographic regions including North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, and East Asia. Thematically, the Department offers courses in the five traditional political science subfields of American politics, comparative politics, international politics, and political theory. Faculty and students also carry out research that transcends traditional boundaries.

L'Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales
The School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences

The EHESS is made up of over 47 research centres, 37 of which are shared with the Centre national de la recherche scientifique. It nevertheless does not constitute a research institute in the conventional sense of the word. Life at the school is centered on research training in which students work alongside experienced researchers, a perspective from which they gain privileged access to the mechanics of research in progress. The school can boast of an unparalleled range of research seminars, programs and publications, all of which embrace an interdisciplinary and multidimensional approach. It accordingly places a particular emphasis on area studies and it is a key aspect of school policy to actively promote conversation between the social sciences and other sciences, in particular the life sciences, as well as the arts.

Life at the EHESS is driven by its 300 plus tutor-researchers and 500 pure researchers based in its multiple research centres, in collaboration with over 450 technical support staff and 3000 enrolled students, and is supported by a consolidated budget of 40 million euro. The school also places great emphasis on its international agenda, maintaining links with a vast constellation of universities around the globe. It invites each year 150 foreign teachers to enrich its research activities and approximately one half of its students come from outside of France. The resources it offers to those pursuing doctoral and post-doctoral studies, as well as the number of publishing researchers based at the school, mark it out as a key hub for research in the social sciences in Europe.

University of Mumbai

The University of Mumbai or informally Mumbai University (MU), Maharashtra State, is one of the first three state universities and the first to accept women in India. It is one of the largest Universities in the world enrolling over half a million students and affiliated to over 711 colleges. Several world-renowned institutes in Mumbai, previously affiliated to the university, are now autonomous institutes.

The University of Mumbai offers highly sought-after Bachelors, Masters and Doctoral degrees as well as diplomas and certificates in many disciplines in English, with the top 10 UOM colleges having an acceptance rate of 10% or less. University Administration Building. The Elphinstone College in the late 19th century University Hall and Rajabai Tower circa 1905 University of Mumbai was established in 1857 following a petition by Sir Charles Wood from the Bombay Association to the former British government of India. It was modelled on the University of London with two founding Faculties namely the Faculty of Arts at Elphinstone College in 1835 and the Faculty of Medicine at Grant Medical College in 1845. Initially, the Town Hall building was used for the Mumbai University offices, which only conducted exams and dictated curricula to affiliated colleges.

After 1904, teaching departments, research disciplines and post-graduate courses were added, and several University departments were established, starting with the School of Sociology and Civics and Politics. After India achieved independence in 1947, the functions and powers of the University were reorganized under The Bombay University Act of 1953.

At Present there are total 66 Departments located at Vidynagari Campus, 760 affiliated colleges of all over Maharashtra state and UOM conducting approx. 475 various degree Examinations.

University of Mumbai has three sub centers named Thane Sub centre, Ratnagiri Sub centre and Kalyan sub centre.

Attend the conference

To attend the conference, please register via the link http://lnk.wf/KSCform.