Best of All Worlds: Rangfraism. The New Institutionalized Religion of the Tangsa Community in Northeast India

  • Meenaxi Barkataki-Ruscheweyh (Author)

Identifiers (Article)


In recent years, elites in many small ethnic communities in northeast India have made attempts to revive, reform and institutionalize their traditional religious practices in order to stem the tide of conversion to world religions and also to use their new religion as a marker for their ethnic identity. In this paper, I focus on the small Tangsa community, living in the northeast Indian states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, and try to understand the processes and intentions that underlie the formation of their new reformed religion called Rangfraism. Friction with Christian missionaries and interaction with Hindu activists in this remote hilly frontier region have played a big role in the process of transforming their traditional system into their “new” religion. I try to ascertain which of the older practices have been retained, which have been adopted from other revival movements in the area and which have been appropriated from Christianity and Hinduism. While it will be clear that the leaders have attempted to take the best from all quarters in order to make their new religion more attractive, the analysis will also demonstrate how that very strategy has led to internal contradictions and, hence, to confusion and resistance.