The Radhasoami Tradition in Canada and Its Future: Cultural Mobility and Ritual Practice

Prof. Diana Dimitrova1

1University Of Montreal, Montreal, Canada

This paper deals with the future of the Radhasoami tradition and studies its cultural mobility and ritual practices in transnational space, specifically in Canada. The Radhasoami is a reform movement that originates in India at the end of the nineteenth-century. It challenges and transcends orthodox Hinduism by rejecting the caste system and endorsing women’s education. My paper focuses on the ritual practice of the spiritual community during the satsang, or the collective religious service, in order to examine new developments pertaining to Radhasoami ritual and sacred space in Canada. In my presentation, I consider several aspects of the globalization of the Radhasoami movement in North America and its complex links with South Asian religion. My analysis of changes in ritual practice also discuss issues pertaining to cultural mobility. Some of the questions that I seek to answer are the following: Is the Radhasoami community in America global or local or translocal or transnational? Is it diasporic, cosmopolitan or traditional? How does one respond to local conditions in Canada? How do the conditions transnationalise? Is anything lost or gained in this cultural mobility? Does the new ritual space and practice provide an alternate “modernity” to that shaped by the West? How does this contribute to the building of new structures and spaces of thinking, being and believing? And ultimately, what is the future of the tradition in a global context? Thus, my paper examines the dynamic of the tradition in relation to several adaptations and accommodations of the ritual practice in the diaspora, and based on textual study of several Radhasoami texts, as well as on interviews with members of the community.


Diana Dimitrova is Professor of Hinduism and South Asian religions at the University of Montreal. She obtained her Ph.D. in Modern and Classical South Asian Studies, and English philology at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. Prior to joining the University of Montreal, she held several academic positions in the United States, Canada and Germany. She is the author of Hinduism and Hindi Theatre (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016); Gender, Religion and Modern Hindu Drama (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2008; and Western Tradition and Naturalistic Hindi Theatre (Peter Lang, 2004). She is also the editor of Divinizing in South Asian Traditions (Routledge, 2018, with Tatiana Oranskaia); Imagining ‘Indianness:’ Cultural Identity and Literature (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017; paperback 2019, with Thomas de Bruijn); The Other in South Asian Religions, Literatures and Film: Perspectives on Otherism and Otherness (Routledge, 2014; paperback 2017); and Religion, Literature and Film in South Asia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). Her current research interests deal with Hindu devotional and reform traditions, such as Radhasoami, body in South Asian religions, and Bollywood film.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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