Farmers and Pharmacists Practice the Science of Religion
This chapter explores the emergence and development of Himachal's vernacular science of religion, a discourse that has come to define the shape and scope of Himachali religion. Struggling to articulate their argument for recognition as an autonomous state, early Himachali leaders realized that literacy rates, kilometers of roads, and village electrification metrics alone were not sufficient justifications for establishing statehood. As India came of age as an independent nation, this need to see beyond metrics of development became a national, and not simply a regional, concern. As its mission, the first major independent census endeavored to “invest the dry bones of village statistics with flesh-and-blood accounts of social structure and social change,” and like other regions across India, Himachal began a series of “village surveys.” Contracted by the census bureau, these surveys employed educated villagers to construct reviews of the history and culture of their villages. While the surveys themselves did not become widespread authoritative texts, the idea that one could write the history of one's own village took root quickly. Soon, farmers, pharmacists, and shopkeepers alike were all working to preserve and articulate what they called “our religious culture.”
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