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The Casual VacancyDate: Friday, 05 October, 2012


J.K. Rowling whose new novel, The Casual Vacancy, features a Sikh family at the heart of its plot has said that she has been deeply influenced by Sikhism because of its stress on gender equality.

So, when she thought of introducing a "family of colour" in a predominantly white setting of her novel, "they had to be Sikhs." It was her way of paying tribute to Sikhism.

Speaking to the BBC as the book was launched on Thursday, Ms Rowling said what attracted her to Sikhism was its "egalitarianism".

"It's an amazing religion. My interest was sparked years and years and years ago when I was still in my twenties - and a girl I worked with briefly came from a Sikh family. We only ever had one serious conversation on the subject but it has stuck with me. She told me about the fact that men and women were explicitly described as equal in the holy book and that women are not excluded from any part of religious rites or observances. I couldn't believe it," she said.

The reason she wanted to have non-white characters in her novel though it was set in "very white place" was because she thought it was an "interesting way" to examine certain social attitudes in a novel that was about "exclusion, prejudice and divisions."

Elsewhere, Rowling has explained that she was "drawn by spirituality and faith" and had researched Sikhism to create a family of Sikh characters who figure prominently in The Casual Vacancy, having used "Christian imagery" in the Potter novels.

"I wanted the Sikh family at the heart of Pagford, and I wanted them to be second generation Britons. So they are insiders and outsiders simultaneously. In the book, it is Sikhism that provides religious morality, not the Church of England, which is represented by an empty church," Rowling said.

Early readers of the book said they were impressed by the way the Sikh family and Sikhism had been treated in the book.

The book devotes considerable attention to Guru Nanak, Guru Granth Sahib, the Khalsa, and the "night-time prayer, Kirtan Sohila."

The novel has been billed as the biggest publishing event of the year.

[Courtesy: The Hindu Newspaper, First Post, AFP. Edited for]

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