India Religious Records

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Prevailing Religions of the British Indian Empire, 1909

Buddhist Records[edit | edit source]

Buddhist temples keep records of death and cremations performed by and for the temple, and names of pilgrims visiting the temple. These records are kept at each temple. Death and cremation records may contain additional information on the deceased's family members.

Christian Records[edit | edit source]

For information about how to obtain records of Christian denominations see India Church Records.

Hindu Records[edit | edit source]

Prevailing Religions of the British Indian Empire, 1909: Hindus

Hindu Pilgrimage (Bahi)[edit | edit source]

These documents record the names of Hindus who make pilgrimages to sacred centers in India where certain religious rituals or ordinances are performed. They can be used to establishes individual identity and linkage back many generations. Some records date back as far as the 15th Century. However, the great majority are of the 18th Century to the present.

Generally these records include the name of the pilgrim, caste/occupation, birthplace, or family origin, present residence, father, grandfather, great grandfather, etc., sometimes going back many generations on both the maternal and paternal sides. Often names of sons, brothers, nephews, and cousins are given, each relationship being carefully and precisely indicated. Date of visit or register entry is given.

Records can be located in the homes and “offices” of the Panda (Hindu combination priest-businessman) in cities and towns scattered all over India but primarily in the North. The sacred centers are located in the states of Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh. Most of the centers are in Uttar Pradesh. There is one site in the south in the area of the city of Madura in the state of Tamil Nadu.

Islamic Records[edit | edit source]

Prevailing Religions of the British Indian Empire, 1909: Muslims

Pilgrimage (Vahi)[edit | edit source]

These documents record the names of Muslim pilgrims who visit certain centers in India where rituals are performed. They are used primarily to establish individual identity and linkage back many generations. Records date from about 1400 to present and can be found in homes and “offices” of Muslim family bards in Northern India.

Marriages (Kadi)[edit | edit source]

Islam has no priesthood, therefore no ordinances or sacraments. Marriages are entered into through a formal prenuptial agreement. The terms of the contract would be written and signed by the couple. Early marriages may have only required a spoken offer of marriage and acceptance. In either case, two male witnesses were essential to establishing the validity of the marriage.

These contracts contain the names and ages of the bride and groom, and date of the marriage. They may also include the birth dates and residences of the couple, the names of their parents or fathers. Generally, only the groom signed the contract. The contracts may also identify witnesses and any dower payments. In rare cases, a date of termination may also be stipulated. Contracts can be found in mosques and in the office of the marriage registrar and judge (Kazi). Earliest records date from about 1500.

Funeral (Janazah)[edit | edit source]

Religious law calls for bodies to be buried as quickly as possible after death, preferaby within 24 hours. Bodies are washed, wrapped in a white cotton or linen cloth (kafan), a prayer (Salat al-Janazah) offered, and the body entombed with the head facing Mecca. Cremation is forbidden by Islam as it is viewed as mutliation of the body. Registration of the death and burial follow local requirements.

Jainism Records[edit | edit source]

Prevailing Religions of the British Indian Empire, 1909: Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains

Sikh Records[edit | edit source]