I want to examine Muslim participation in religious practices in Hindu temples and during Hindu ceremonies. I am interested in understanding how this participation shapes the spiritual and worldview of the Muslims that participate in these activities. Further, I want to examine the interactions and conversations that Hindu’s and Muslim’s have in these spaces, particularly when it involves mixed gender interactions. Is there a vernacularization that occurs that bridges the two religions together in a space that is associated with the worship of a deity, something that could be seen as blasphemous by other Muslim communities? Do men and women freely communicate in these spaces, as often occurs in Muslim spaces frequently visited by Hindu’s and Muslims? What I hope to show is that the lived experiences of Muslim’s differ drastically from the strict religious binaries that are regularly perpetuated by Hindu nationalists, and that the long rule of Muslim Nizam’s in the Telangana region created an unconscious moral compass in those living in this region that transcends religion.
I want to conduct my research in the cities of Nizamabad and Hyderabad in the South Indian state of Telangana. I chose this region not only because I am familiar with it, but also because it was ruled by the Muslim empire longer than any other region in India. This region is significant because of the popularity of the God Venkateshwara, otherwise known as Balaji. The reason this is significant is that it is believed that the second wife of Venkateshwara was a Muslim woman named “Bibi Nanchari”. This belief has been widely rejected by the Hindu nationalist party. I contend that this rejection is due to the fact that this belief breaks with the patriarchal, strict interpretation of Hinduism that Hindu nationalists perpetuate, in which inter-faith marriages are strongly prohibited. Further, it is a regular occurrence to see Muslim’s attend services at Venkateshwara temples in these cities, which is a crucial element of the research I hope to conduct. In addition to this, I have made connections in these two cities. The connections I have made are at government agencies, police headquarters, and at the University of Hyderabad.