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Right methodological discourse needed to understand indigenous faith in NE: Prof Bhagat Oinam

Oinam also stressed the idea of animism and the underlying presence of spirit in all of nature, both animate and inanimate.

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Imphal: “Right methodological discourses are needed to read and narrate the indigenous faith in the northeastern region of India,” said Prof Bhagat Oinam.

“A good intellectual and academic discourse requires setting proper perspectives and discourses while studying our social and religious worlds,” said Oinam while delivering the Foundation Day lecture of the Vivekananda Kendra Institute of Culture (VKIC), Guwahati here on Tuesday. The title of the lecture was “Phenomenological Reading of Indigenous Faith with Special Reference to North East India.”

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The academic, who is also the Director of the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Advanced Study and Chairperson of the Centre for Philosophy at the School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, said that there are different and various theoretical positions on who the indigenous are; however, the role of intuitive first-person experience as a significant methodological tool for academic and intellectual pursuit is needed.

 Reminding us of Swami Vivekananda’s position of blending scientific temper from the West with the spiritual foundation of Indian tradition, Oinam emphasized the need to employ the right theoretical perspective, whether that originates from the East or the West. The speaker cautioned against flooding our narratives with information.

Highlighting the theoretical position of Professor K.C. Bhattacharyya, who states that “indigenous” means those people and worldviews that are non-modern and non-western, Professor Oinam stated that by this definition all religious faiths, including Hinduism, will be considered “indigenous.”

 Contrary to this, the United Nations position limits the term “indigenous” to only marginalized and tribal communities, he added. 

Oinam also stressed the idea of animism and the underlying presence of spirit in all of nature, both animate and inanimate.

The professor highlighted the strong undercurrent of ethnicity in the religious worldviews of northeast India. He showed instances of how the indigenous world is a blend of ethnicity and transcendental worldviews. The worldviews and ritual practices of Adis in Donyi Polo religion, and Bodos in Bathou religion were narrated.

At the end, Professor Oinam emphasized the need to recognise the idea of an ever-pervading spirit in indigenous worldviews by employing the right theoretical discourses like phenomenology, which recognises the power of intuitive experience.

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