1. The epithet "obscure" used here is drawn from S. Dasgupta's famous work entitled Obscure Religious Cults and is intended to refer to religious movements which have hitherto failed to attract the attention of scholars. Dasgupta's book was first published in 1946.
2. For the Hindu time cycles, see Vettam Mani (1964: 4&2-6).
3. Agam is used here in the sense of "future" and must not be confused with the sacred Sanskrit texts referred to as Agamas.
4. The study of these sects could reveal interesting links between Vaishnava bhakti the nirgun sant parampara, in particular the tradition of Kabir and Islamic influence.
5. See the titles listed in the bibliography.
6. Ramdev was traditionally called Hindu Pfr or Hinduo ka Pfr, a denomination which may sound like a paradox since the word pir normally refers to a Muslim saint and preacher (Arabic Shaikh).
7. The absence of written documents and inscriptions seems to be the main reason why scholars have underestimated the role of Ismailism in the Subcontinent. Traces of its influences may be present in the oral tradition but not necessarily preserved in the present heritage of the Nizaris which represents a "normative" form of Ismailism which has been gradually purged of its undesirable elements.
8. I have based my study on Hohensberger's analysis of the Bhavi~ya Purana, on Bhatt and Remy's French translation of the Kalki Purana as well as on its Hindi version, all listed in the bibliography.
9. Jayaswal (1917: 146) claims that the figure of Kalki does not appear in texts older than the fifth century A.D.
10. Niskalank is an epithet of the Brahman occasionally found in old Sanskrit texts. In the Nath sampraday it came to refer to the formless god of the Kanphata. Jogls, the Absolute who does not incarnate himself. Niskalank Avatar can thus sound like a paradox at least according to Hindu philosophy. However, if one considers this denomination as being the Indic "translation" of the Islamic masum (innocent, stainless) and mahzar (divine epiphany) it acquires a radically different meaning which is in conformity with the Ismaili philosophy, its conception of God and of divine manifestations which cannot be said to be exact equivalent of the Hindu avatars
11.It was customary for the Nizari missionaries preaching in the Subcontinent to be known under various names, Hindu as well as Muslim. This is to be understood as a result of taqiyya, and as a method of conversion.
12. I am indebted to Mrs. Zawahir Moir for having supplied me with the prophetic ginans of Sadruddin and having generously shared with me her knowledge of this tradition.
13. Rikshisar or Rikh. Rikhi, are vernacular forms of the Sanskrit Rsi. In the Nizari tradition, all followers (Islamic, Momin) were also referred to as Rsis (ancient seers of India) or Munivars (ascetics). One can see a parallel -which can hardly be fortuitous -between the Vedic Rsis who had the revelation of the Vedas (lit. "knowledge"), which they were the first to chant and transmit, and the adherents of the Indian Nizari sect who, similarly, were revealed the hymns called ginans (from the Sanskrit jailna also meaning "knowledge") which they transmitted orally before they were finally transcribed. In this way, typical of Ismaili philosophy and methods, the Vedic model was not abolished but "corrected" and completed into a new one which could ensure a smooth passage from old beliefs and practices into the new "revelation".
14. The allusion to tobacco is meaningful: the texts thus can hardly be older than the eighteenth century.
15. Gujarati transcribed versions of Daylami Aradh can be found in Gohil (1994) and Shrimali (1989). I have collected an oral version in Rajasthan and I thus base my analysis on both Gujarati and Rajasthani texts.
16. pyala lena, "to take a cup" is an allusion to Sufi initiation. The ritual has also been practised. by Ismailis.
17. I am preparing, in collaboration with Zawahir Moir, an annoted translation of Pir Sadruddin's longest prophetic ginan and of the Rajasthani Daylami Aradh which will be submitted to a more detailed comparative analysis.
18. The name MeghrI, suggesting the untouchable Meghval (Megh) community, is meaningful, as a variant of Visav- Vasudha Kunvart, insofar as it stresses the role which Nizari Ismailism and its messianic ideology may have played among the depressed groups of the Subcontinent.
19. I am using the word "trace" in the sense proposed by Carlo Ginzburg (1989) and have deliberately used the "conjectural paradigm" as an historical method for trying to reconstruct lost chapters of Ismaili history in North India.
20. Vatikiotis (1957) has dwelt at length on the Messianic project of the Ismailis in its connection with socio-political ambitions. Their "universal empire was to be governed by one divinely-guided ruler, enabling him to establish a state of social equality
and permanent peace. Historically, no aims of such universal dimensions could be considered as void of revolutionary tendencies, Ivanow's position notwithstanding" (Vatikiotis: 116).