The Society of the Divine Word (SVD), an International Missionary Order, from its very inception in 1875, felt the urgent need to understand the people and their cultures to whom, they were commissioned to go. Upon reaching foreign lands like China with its sophisticated culture or New Guinea with its indigenous culture, SVD missionaries painfully realized that understanding the world view, life view, attitudes, values and behavioural patterns of people was more important as well as more difficult than journeying into new geographical territories. The struggles and requests of new missionaries abroad prompted Fr. Wilheim Schmidt SVD, to venture into a new field of inquiry. For the regular publication of religio-cultural data from missionaries, he founded a journal, Anthropos in 1906 and later in 1932 an Institute with the same name.
As a student of St. Gabriel Seminary, Vienna, Stephen Fuchs, was already under the influence of this intellectual giant. After his ordination in 1934 he was sent to central India. During the Second World War all the German SVDs in India, were interned. Fr. Fuchs, an Austrian by nationality, was not imprisoned. With his anthropological background he began to study the culture of the Balahis in Nimar district in Madhya Pradesh. With the data already collected he returned to the University of Vienna. His doctoral thesis was published as The Children of Hari (1950). After his return to India, he founded an Indian branch of Anthropos Institute in Bandra (W). Fr. Mathias Hermanns SVD, the author of, The Origin and Development of Chinese Culture, (1935) who was expelled from the Communist China, joined the new Institute. Fr. Wilhelm Koppers SVD a close associate of W. Schmidt joined the Bandra Centre and started research on the Bhil tribe of Jhabua State, (now in MP) along with Fr. Leon Jungblut SVD. Prof. J.V. Ferreira, a close associate of S. Fuchs, after retiring as head of the department of Sociology, University of Mumbai, continues to collaborate as IIC Faculty. Many other scholars contributed to its growth. After 60 years of teaching and publishing, S. Fuchs retired and returned to Austria in 1996.
In 1976, Anthropos, in Bandra, was relocated in Andheri (E) with new infrastructure and was rechristened as Institute of Indian Culture. Dr.S.M. Michael SVD stepped into the shoes of S. Fuchs, when he returned to his home country. An author of many books and articles, Michael is Professor of Anthropology in the University of Mumbai since 15 years. He was appointed by Pope John Paul II as a Consultor to the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, Vatican. Very recently he is appointed Consultor to the Pontifical Council for Cultures by Pope Benedict XVI. He is also serving the Archdiocese of Bombay as the Chairperson of the Commission for Inter-religious Dialogue.
In the context of rapid migrations of people into towns and cities we encounter the challenge of cross-culturalization, by receiving as well as giving cultural elements from each other at a pragmatic level. Today we are confronted with globalization, frightening cultural domination by the West and lose of Indian cultural values and identity. As a consequence conflicts of cultures are on the increase. In this alarming world context study of cultures and civilizations should become a matter of unprecedented urgency. The Catholic Church in India is often accused of being foreign in many respects. Inculturation and adaptation of church to Indian Culture is another demand.
That Institute of Indian Culture was recognized in 1997 by the University of Mumbai as a Post-Graduate Research Centre for M.A. (by research) and Ph.D. in Anthropology and Sociology is another milestone. A few have already completed there research and degrees are awarded by the University. Currently more than a dozen students are registered for M.A. and Ph.D. researches. A library with over 50,000 books and dozens of scholarly journals is huge attraction for scholars. The staff members of Institute of Indian Culture have together published about 60 books and 300 articles in scholarly journals.
Another staff member, Dr. Augustine Kanjamala’s field of specialization is anthropology of missions. He is author of many books and one of the four University approved research guides here.
IIC works with the Vision of providing reliable and researched data on Indian culture, religion and society, towards the goal of building a just and humane society. The present director, Dr. Joseph M.T. is also a lecturer in Sociology at St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai. His fields of specialization are Sociology of Religion and Political Sociology. Fr. Joyson Kurian, the principal of St. Arnold’s High School is the treasurer of Institute of Indian Culture. Dr. Fr. Charles Vas, the founder-secretary of Sangeet Abhinay Academy is a community member at Institute of Indian Culture along with student priests Fr. Cosmos Ekka, Fr. Thomas Monteiro and Fr. Pratap Baria.
The Fathers of the Institute of Indian Culture also involve in pastoral ministry at the Sacred Heart Church, Mahakali Caves Road, other parishes nearby and the religious houses in the vicinity.
Institute of Indian Culture,
Mahakali Caves Road,
Mumbai – 400 093
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Website : www.iicmumbai.in