Religious life meant to be visible in Indian homes

  • A family's shrine in Kerala occupies the central room of the house. Family members gather in the evening to pray aloud and silently together.
  • Pictures of deceased loved ones, here with a brass oil lamp, hold places of honor and remembrance at home.
  • A shop in Kerala sells brass vessels, mostly for the home. Devi refers to the divine, or to sacred vessels for holy oil, which are ubiquitous in India, and have a place in almost all Catholic homes and churches.
  • A vendor near a Syro-Malabar church in central Kerala sells images for Catholic homes.
  • A bedroom in one Catholic home includes two small images of Mary and one of Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity.
  • An image of the sacred heart in the entry room of a family home in Kerala. The garlands in the back room grace pictures of deceased family members.
  • In many parts of Kerala, an image of the sacred heart is a common sight over the front doors of Catholics.
  • A shrine in the living rom of a home in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.
  • A bible and brass cross in the living room of a home in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.
  • In a family home in Veli, the shrine is in the dining room, and features an image of Mary, surrounded by photos of deceased loved ones. The family prays there before and after meals.
  • A religious image in a home in Veli, Kerala
  • A bedroom in a Catholic home, Veli, Kerala

For Indian Catholics, as for other Indians, religious life is not something that is confined to churches and their grounds. In India, religious life is visible in public — in the streets, at many shops and in advertisements for business and political purposes. To a remarkable degree, it is also abundantly evident in homes. Religious images are found in many rooms in the house, often integrated with images of deceased loved ones. Homes may feature religious pictures, small or larger brass oil lamps with a cross on top (a variation on the brass oil lamps ubiquitous in Hindu homes) and dedicated shrines with a whole array of images on a tabletop or wall.

Shrines in homes can be small or elaborate, and are usually located in a central hallway, dining room, or sitting room. Families gather to pray there in the evening, often with a scripture reading, before or after dinner. Family prayer at home generally combines bible reading, rosary, other devotional prayers, and shared quiet. Images on this site may give the impression that devotional prayer is the sole form of prayer in the home, but interviewees regularly said that in the last 50 years bible reading has become an important part of people's lives.

In parts of central Kerala, it is also common to see images of the Sacred Heart over the doorway to Catholic homes.  

In the Journal of Global Catholicism

Schmalz, Mathew (2016) "Dalit Catholic Home Shrines in a North Indian Village," Journal of Global Catholicism: Vol. 1: Iss. 1, Article 4. p.85-103.

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