9. A "Christian Hindu Apostle"?: The Multiple Lives of Sadhu Sundar Singh (1889-1929?)
Translocal Lives and Religion - Connections between Asia and Europe in the Late Modern World - Philippe Bornet
Philippe Bornet [+]
University of Lausanne
The chapter deals with Sadhu Sundar Singh and the way his life and experiences have been shaped by multiple influences, co-constructed by himself and his admirers, and made possible by a concept of sādhu that functioned as a key to unlock an “interstitial space” that was not controlled by any authority. In order to delineate the contours of that space it is necessary to go back to Sundar Singh’s early years in India, to re-contextualize his biographical trajectory in the framework of early 20th century revivalist (politico-)religious movements and to consider him in relation with initiatives to delink Christianity from its colonial background. Focusing then on his tour in Switzerland, 1922 – a tour out of which came an impressive number of publications that had a lasting effect – it is argued that the tour’s organizers were both projecting intentions on Sundar Singh, and overwhelmed with the actual performance and its effects. Furthermore, members of several religious movements were equally attending the meetings, producing various kinds of encounters: some leading to creative reconfigurations and some to open conflict. In sum, Sundar Singh is an excellent case study for a “connected religion” framework: since he made himself available for interpretations reflecting the different intentions of his interlocutors, the sources telling us about his biography are often written from very divergent standpoints – making a “connected religion” approach that brings the pieces of the puzzle together particularly appropriate.