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Pentecostalism in India

This lecture series is presented by Joel Kuhlin (PhD Student at the Center for Theology and Religious Studies, Lund University). Read more about his research here.


Part 1: Introduction

About the lecture

Pentecostalism has been described as perhaps one of the fastest growing religious movements globally during the 20th century. Today, one estimation is that up to 5-600 million Christians globally belong to this congregation. While still a fairly young branch of Christianity, this movement’s rapid growth does not happen only in places like South America and Africa, but also proves itself successful in areas of south and southeast Asia in general, and India in particular. One reason for Pentecostalism’s impressive track record, especially since the 1970’s, is its ability to take root and spread in a variety of cultural contexts and widely divergent traditions. 

In this context, Mr. Kuhlin gives a brief overview of his set of lectures by talking about the central traditions of Pentecostalism and its rhizomatic approach in India in this segment.


Part 2: What is Pentecostalism 

About the lecture

In this segment, Mr. Kuhlin goes over the etymology and history of the ‘Pentecostalism’ itself, detailing biblical history of how and when it emerged as a dominant segregation among Christians. In the latter part of the lecture, Mr. Kuhlin links the coming up of Pentecostalism globally with 3-part religious revivalism that were centered in Wales, India, and the U.S.A.

In India, the movement is linked with Pandita Ramabai (1858-1922), prominent feminist and scholar of early 20th century India who identified herself closely with Christianity. It was within her philanthropic foundation, the Mukti Mission, that the earliest instances of people experiencing the existence of the Holy Spirit came forward, and Pentecostalism became established in India.


Part 3: The Three Phases of Pentecostalism in India 

About the lecture

In this segment, Mr. Kuhlin details three phases or waves through which Pentecostalism spread in India. These three phases roughly correspond to three distinct time periods, namely the first phase being the earliest period as detailed in the last video, from 1905-1947. 

The second phase details the spread of Pentecostalism in the post-independence period in India from 1947-1970s, with a strong base in the Southern part and a rigid upper-caste leadership. 

The third phase, according to Mr. Kuhlin, corresponds to the time period in the post 1970s period, where the leadership underwent a significant change and when more underprivileged sections of the society became part of the community in India. This is, however, the phenomenon that Mr. Kuhlin calls as rhizomatic, and talks in detail about it in this segment. 


Part 4: Markers of Contemporary Pentecostalism in India

About the lecture

In this segment, Mr. Kuhlin talks briefly about the experiences of Pentecostals in the rural and urban parts of India. In rural pockets in India, Pentecostalism has become highly prominent among lower-caste and Adivasi communities, although there exist various challenges to these practicing communities from more established religions, especially in the political climate that exists today in India. 

On the other hand, Mr. Kuhlin details how in the urban areas, women participation has been on a steady rise, although they do not occupy any leadership positions. In the end however, this juxtaposition of rural and urban practice becomes important to gauge the markers of the religion in a contemporary setting, which has also rooted itself deeply within India’s religious landscape.