What is the charismatic movement? The main focus of this paper is to survey the Pentecostal or charismatic movement among the Dalits and the Tribals in India. In this Blog’s post, an attempt has been made to bring out the three major views to the story of the origin of Indian Pentecostalism, and briefly deal on the historical development of Pentecostalism in various parts of India.
What are the Charismatic Movements?
The term Pentecostal or charismatic is derived from the Greek word pentekosté meaning ‘fifty’ (day). The fifty is the Greek name of Jewish festival which known as the ‘Feast of Weeks’ in the Old Testament; which celebrates the fiftieth day after Passover observances.
According to Hollenweger, Pentecostalism has five roots. They are consisting of Catholic, Evangelical, Critical and Ecumenical roots and the Black roots.
According to William Menezis, who was a well-known Pentecostal historian in the early years; says that anyone who believed in the possibility of the great gifts of the Spirit; which described in the New Testament; and believes that the great gifts; which available to believers considered to be a charismatic.
According to Vinson Syrian there are five types of Pentecostal or Charismatic movements.
Classical Pentecostal or charismatic movement
They accept the “initial evidence” theory that holds that glossolalia (Speaking in other tongues) is the necessary first evidence of the receiving baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Mainline protestant Pentecostal or Charismatic movement
They are the believers of their own individual churches and do not leave their churches. They believe in the gift of speking in tongue but do not insist on the “initial evidence” theory.
Catholic Pentecostal or charismatic movement
They do not leave their mother church and do not insist on the “initial evidence” theory.
Independent Pentecostal or charismatic groups movement
They are mostly person oriented and these churches are known as “faith Churches”. Several Dalit Pentecostals come under these churches.
Third World indigenous Group
The perceptions of their faith experiences mostly rooted on their life experiences rather than on doctrines.
Origin of charismatic movement in India
The charismatic movement in India have many stories related to its beginning. Out of the various views, there are three major views to the story of the origin of Indian Pentecostalism.
a) Eurocentric View
The Eurocentric (North America-centred) view is one of the most traditional ways of understanding. The story of Indian Pentecostalism has been to see it as a product of North American Pentecostalism.
This Eurocentric view holds that Pentecostal Movement came to and spread in India through western Pentecostal Missionaries; who had the Azusa Street Revival experience. Alfred and Lillian Garr were the first two Missionaries among them. They came to Calcutta (East India) in early 1907.
In the German origin, another independent American missionary was Mr George E. Berg. He came to South India in 1908. He had the Azusa street experienced.
There were other western missionaries with a charismatic message who came to India, particularly south. Interestingly, there was a belief even among some of the early Pentecostals or charismatic from south India. All that Pentecostalism was brought to India by western missionaries.
But it is wrong to say that Pentecostalism in India began and spread with the western missionaries. One of the major reasons for producing such an idea is probably due to the careless report by the early western Pentecostal missionaries in India.
b) Native View
The Native View Supports that the Revival at Pandita Ramabai Saraswati’s Mukti Mission in Kedgaon, near Poona, India, in 1905-7. This is the beginning of Indian Pentecostalism. This view holds that Indian Pentecostalism had its beginning from within the country not from western countries.
However, many classical Pentecostals in India were not ready to see Mukti revival as a part of Pentecostal Movement. According to them this revival doenot continue to play any vital role in the making of Pentecostal Movement in India.
But today, many non-Pentecostals as well as Pentecostals consider ‘Mukti Revival’ as the beginning of Pentecostal revival in India.
c) Pentecostal-like Movements View
The Charismatic-like Movements view argues that the Charismatilism in India is began with ‘Charismatic-like Movements’ before and after the Mukti revival. This view affirms that the ‘Charismatic-like Movements’ in India preceded North American and European Pentecostalism by at least forty years, and were not related to Pentecostal happenings in North America.
The basis for this view are the story of few revivals; like the awakening of Tirunelveli (Tamil Nadu state in south India in 1860); and the Khasi Hills revival in 1905. But western historians did not see these movements as Pentecostal revivals; but termed them only as ‘Charismatic-like Movements’ with the excuse that these movements have some differences from the western Pentecostalism.
This is an example of the deliberate disposition of Euro-centric western Pentecostal advocates to convey Indian. Pentecostal revivals their due place in history, and an example of western missionaries’ control attitude.
Charismatic movement among the Dalits and Tribals in India
Most of the Charismatic movements in India took place among the Dalits and Tribals. So, when we speak of Pentecostal movements or charismatic movements in India; we are speaking about the charismatic movements that happened among the Dalits and Tribals in general. Regarding the charismatic movement in the south; Samuel Kutty commented that Pentecostalism attracted Dalits. And it became a mission to the Dalits. He adds that most Pentecostal missionaries focused on the depressed communities and had inspiring results. This case will be more or less similar to the rest of the country. Let us briefly see the Pentecostal Movements in four different parts of India.
a) Charismatic movement in South India
The Tirunelveli (Tamil Nadu) revival under the leadership of John Christian Aroolappen in 1860- 61 is the oldest revival in India with Pentecostal characteristics. In Kerala in 1909 a majority of people who were attracted to this Movement in its early period seemed to have from the Dalit background.
These Dalits were from both Christian and non-Christian background and mainly of Pulayas. The Parayasand the Kuravasthree of the main Dalits communities in Kerala.
The Dalits in Kerela were in continuous search for liberation in all aspects of life. They found the movement appealing to their aspirations in life and began responding to the Movement.
Along with the Dalits economically poor Syrian Christians; who were the members of some of the existing mainline churches; like Syrian Orthodox, Mar Thoma, Anglican (the present church of South India), and Brethren. They also embraced the Pentecostal faith. In all these south Indian revivals, people were filled with the Holy Spirit, and had the experience of speaking in tongues, and many other signs and wonders.
However, the people at that time did not have the scriptural knowledge to understand this experience as the Holy Spirit baptism; and the subsequent speaking in tongues; until when western Pentecostal missionaries came from western countries with their Pentecostal experience.
b) Charismatic movement in North India
In North India, the Sialkot (Punjab) revival of 1904 must be mentioned because it revived the missionary work in north India. A major role of this revival was leaded by the American missionary of John Hyde. It is said that each year the Sialkot convention witnessed baptisms of the Spirit and received various gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Dholka (Gujarat) awakening was another Pentecostal Revival’s story of Indian. particularly in the north. There took place an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in a boys’ orphanage in Dholka, nearby Ahmedabad, Gujarat in 1905.
There were also other local Spirit revivals in existence in North India before the Pentecostal missionaries from the south came. The Spirit revival in Banaswara, Rajasthan. This is significant because; it had no influence from non-Rajasthanis, and this movement produced some influential native leaders of Pentecostalism.
c) Charismatic movement in Central India
The Mukti revival is the most outstanding revival in Central India; among all indigenous revival in India. The Pandita Ramabai Saraswati’s Mukti Mission revival took place in 1905 that we mentioned earlier. The mission founded to care for orphans and widows, in Kedgaon, near Poona, Maharashtra.
In January 1905 Ramabai issued a call for prayer. Five hundred fifty women joined in this prayer. They prayed twice daily for revival.
The Pentecostal experiences such as experience of tongues and experience of other features were present in the Mukti revival. The Ramabai’s revival ministry attributed numerous miracles continuously into 1906. Mukti mission expanded with it’s the aim and doing miracle work include the blind, preschool education; an early hospital, and vocational and industrial support services.
d) Charismatic movement in North East India
A great revival broke out among the tribal communities in the Khasi Hills in North east India in 1905 at the Welsh Presbyterian mission. O. L. Snaitang, a leading theologian from Meghalaya state of North east India observes that though there had been long expectation of a spiritual awakening among the native Christians. In 1904 the Welsh revival was connected with the Khasi revival.
The west Khasi hills’s Pariong had the first experienced of this revival during the Presbytery meeting in 1905. And then spread to Mizoram and Korea in the following year. Nearby the north east region; another revival took place in Calcutta in 1907 with the coming of the western Pentecostal missionaries Alfred and Lilian Garr.
The work of the Pentecostal missionaries Alfred and Lilian Garr’s Azusa Street revival connected directly to all other Indian revivals.
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From this Blog’s post we find that Pentecostalism in India is not an imported religion from the West. But an outcome of many simultaneous indigenous Spirit revivals in existing churches across the country. The movement exploded from different part of the country among the poor and the depressed communities.
Although, the independent missionaries (mainly North American); specially the Pentecostal missionaries came from the West. But many of them became Pentecostals in India itself. We recognise the two major contributions made by these western missionaries.
Firstly, the Pentecostalism missionaries identified the Spirit revivals in India. They are assisting local participants to understand their Spirit experiences. Here similar to those of the early Christian community in Acts as well as of other Pentecostals around the world.
Secondly, they played an important role in enabling the Indian Pentecostals to organize the movement in a more systematic way.