Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale: A Charismatic Authority and his Ideology

Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)


Religious Studies

First Advisor's Name

Steve Vose

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

Erik Larson

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Albert Wuaku

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member


Bhindranwale, Punjab, Gandhi, India, Sikh, Khalistan

Date of Defense



Sikh leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale’s discourses were embraced by Punjabis because of his presence as a charismatic authority. The rebellion he led in Punjab resulted from his radical exploitations of issues concerning the Sikh community. He also developed militant and masculinist discourses. Religion was wielded as a tool, legitimizing Sikh violence as divinely commanded. Radical interpretations of Sikh scripture and folklore were initially preached to rural, less educated crowds. His discourses were acceptable to Sikhs not only because of the issues he called attention to but because of his charisma. While his sermons brought out their frustrations with the government, his charisma manipulated young men, his largest demographic of supporters, into embracing violence. This research-based study analyzes Bhindranwale from the perspective of the people that supported him. By applying multiple social parameters through which to understand Bhindranwale’s reign, this study hopes to bring his name to the forefront in academia.

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