Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)


Religious Studies

First Advisor's Name

Steven 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


Sikh, Bhindranwale, India, Punjab, Terrorism, Charisma, Weber, Anthropology, Sociology

Date of Defense



Sikh leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale’s militant and masculinist discourses were embraced by Punjabi Sikhs because of his presence as a charismatic authority, a concept first developed by sociologist Max Weber to understand the conditions surrounding and personal qualities of a figure which attracts followers. The rebellion he led in Punjab resulted from his radical exploitation of issues concerning the Sikh community. Religion was wielded as a tool, legitimizing Sikh violence as commanded by the Gurus. Radical interpretations of Sikh scripture and folklore were initially preached to rural, less educated crowds. While his sermons brought out their frustrations with the government, his charisma allowed him to manipulate young men, his largest demographic of supporters, into embracing violence. This study analyzes Bhindranwale from the perspective of the people that supported him. By identifying multiple social factors through which to understand Bhindranwale’s reign, this study exhibits his importance in understanding Sikhism in Modern India.





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