Of Saris and Such
I have never stepped foot in India, but I once attended an Indian-American wedding in which my friend's bridesmaids walked down the aisle in colorful saris that would put a fashionable Western bridal shop to shame. Colors. When I first began thinking about this issue on India, that's what immediately came to mind-brilliantly decorated elephants, vibrant paint smeared on foreheads, ochre robes, and, of course, a rainbow of saris. It's a typical Western stereotype I've inherited. But as I ventured into unfamiliar terrain in order to edit Issue 87 of Christian History & Biography, I couldn't get colors out of my mind. Especially after I learned that the thousands of castes in India are divided into four "colors"—white, red, yellow, and black. And the lowest of the low, the "untouchables" and aboriginals, are marked as outcaste by being denied the dignity of a color class. They are the "colorless," the unseen.
I also discovered quickly that the kaleidoscope of traditions, people, movements, and unique cultural challenges that make up Indian Christianity defies the limited palette of our magazine pages. And so we have chosen to offer you a range of case studies. Apart from a few stories of pioneers like Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg, most are snapshots gathered from a transformative period in India's history when nationalists were protesting British rule, Indian intellectuals were responding to the ideas and challenges of Western culture, the idea of "Hinduism" as a world religion was beginning to take shape, Indian Christians were leading conversion movements, and converts were struggling with what it means to be both Christian and Indian.
In doing so, we've had to leave out many significant strands of this vast tapestry, notably the ...