‘Beginnings’ describes the origins and early development of the vernacular public sphere in Western India comprising reformist and traditionalist newspapers and the Parsi theatre. It shows how missionary critiques of Zoroastrianism led to the birth of the vernacular public sphere which functioned as a realm for the disenchantment of religious customs and beliefs. Instead of interlocution with the state, Parsi presses facilitated, on the one hand, the emergence of a social reform movement led by a bourgeois, middle-class intelligentsia, and on the other, the rise of a religious orthodoxy headed by the merchant leaders of the community (seṭhs). A fundamental characteristic of the vernacular public sphere was its visibility or, in other words, its theatricality. The most intimate features of communal life were deliberated and codified before a new colonial public. The chapter thus shows how religion not only shaped but was also shaped by the emerging vernacular public sphere.
- English theatre