Modern South Asian Studies seminar HT21 Wk 1: Kalki and the Mahdi: The Twenty-Four Avatars of the Dasam Granth

Conveners: Imre Bangha, Polly O'Hanlon, and Kate Sullivan de Estrada

Speaker: Robin Rinehart (Lafayette College)


The Dasam Granth, a text attributed to the tenth guru of Sikhism, Guru Gobind Singh, includes a composition with accounts of twenty-four avatars of the god Vishnu. The concluding story narrates the deeds of the future avatar Kalki and his battle with a figure named Mir Mahdi. Sikh exegesis of this text has often centered on why tales of Vishnu’s avatars appear in a Sikh text; this presentation will analyze this Kalki narrative in relation to other accounts of Vishnu’s final avatar and Indic accounts of the mahdi, a figure who in Islamic theology appears at the end of time.


Robin Rinehart is Professor of Religious Studies at Lafayette College. Her publications include One Lifetime, Many Lives (Scholars Press 1999), a study of the hagiographies of Swami Rama Tirtha; Contemporary Hinduism: Ritual, Culture, and Practice (ABC-CLIO 2004); Debating the Dasam Granth (Oxford 2011); and articles on 19th and 20th century reform movements in the Punjab, on the Punjabi Sufi poet Bullhe Shah, and on the Dasam Granth.

Pre-registration required. Please visit to book either for this seminar or the whole series.