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Being Hindu (Unleashing the multiple dynamics Of Hinduism(Hindu, Hidustan, Hidutva))

Being Hindu (Unleashing the multiple dynamics Of Hinduism(Hindu, Hidustan, Hidutva))

By Baisali Mohanty

“After the egging, the pulping. In London in 2003, a protester threw an egg at University of Chicago at the Sanskrit scholar Wendy  Doniger, who was lecturing on the popular ‘Hindu’ epic the Ramayana. The egg missed its mark, but during the Q&A other protesters continued the assault, insisting that “non-Hindus” like Doniger have no right to tell them what ‘Hinduism’ is all about.” reports the US today. I quote this with an attempt to move on the lines of the popular discourse of present days, the debate on being a ‘Hindu’.

Who is a ‘Hindu’, What is ‘Hinduism’, quite simple as the answer sounds, the more complex it gets when one attempts to move underneath to secure a firm understanding. This month, as the Penguin  Books India agreed to withdraw Doniger’s ‘The ‘Hindu’s: An Alternative History from Indian bookstores and pulp any remaining copies. The settlement came in response to a complaint filed by Dinanath Batra, head of Shiksha Bachao Andolan, a ‘Hindu’ fundamentalist group that opposes sex education in Indian schools and textbooks that deviate from its ‘Hindutva (“Hinduness”) interpretation of Indian history.

It thus brings us to confront with a culture war, while on the same stand allowing us to grapple with a perplexing issue of  how would one define the “Hindu culture”, who’s culture is it, what does it encompass? As adequately highlighted by A.K Ramanujan”Is there an Indian  way of thinking?Moving on these lines  Doniger questions the so called, “Indian culture”, does this culture encompass the ideas and views of the pariahs (untouchable), women, dalits and other oppressed communities of the society. This Piece comes as  an  attempt to move beyond the ivory tower definition and secure a better structured understanding of what is Hinduism and who is a Hindu?

Hinduism has come to represent, all too simplistically, hosts of phenomena in contexts, which often seem either incomprehensible or contradictory. It has been used to refer to structural features, which, over the past few centuries have characterized various cultural, social, political and religious systems. Yet ,all of the elements in that loose and undefined complex of ideologies and institutions ,which have been brought together under his name,  together with all of the aggregate collage of what  has also been ‘organized’ and ‘syndicated’ under its banner, did not just gradually evolve. Nor did Hinduism simply spring, full blown, into being. Rather,it was constructed, piece by piece.[1]

According to Hindu nationalists, there is one unchanging and eternal Hinduism, which just so happens to be their own. While Doniger’s alternative history, pays heed to the voices of women and Dalits (“untouchables”), and observes changes in the tradition over time, while it also portrays that there are nearly as many Hinduisms as there are ‘Hindu’s ,as also highlighted by Romila Thapar who talks about Folk Hinduism, Indigenous Hinduism as opposed to Modern Hinduism.[2] For Doniger, Hinduism is a polyphonic symphony.[3] To Batra, it is one note, played over and over again.

Thus these conflicting ideas pushes us deep into the debates of defining these highly contentious terms, How then could we get through the ultimate truth, does Doniger’s multiple definitions prevails or the fundamentalists view point of one synchronized definition stands out or shedding off both these theories an alternative picture makes its headway .

 While we continue to emerge in the debates involved regarding the definition of Hinduism, Richard H Davis provides us with two central view points on Hinduism.[4]

The centrists view  identify a single, pan-Indian more or less hegemonic, orthodox tradition, transmitted primarily in Sanskrit language, chiefly by members of the brahmanic class. The tradition centers around a vedic lineage of texts, in which are included not only the Vedas themselves, but also the Mimamsa, Dharmasastra, and Vedanta corpuses of texts and teachings. [5]

On the other hand, the pluralist account, by contrast, envision a de-centered profusion of ideas and practices all tolerated and incorporated under the big tent of Hinduism. [6]According to  H.H.Wilson -The ‘Hindu’ religion is a term, that has been hitherto employed in collective sense to designate a faith and worship of an almost endlessly diversified description, to trace some of its varieties is the object of the present enquiry. He accepts some sort of overall ‘Hindu’ unity, but the emphasis is clearly on internal division and differences.[7] Hindu came to be the concept by people who have tried to give greater unity to the extreme cultural diversities which are native to the continent. Such efforts, have almost invariably been part of some institutional, ideological, or political agenda.

In the same line,Raymond Williams  in his phenomenal work ‘Culture and Society’ argues that there is no such thing as masses; it is only a way of looking at people, The ‘majority community’ syndrome is also a way of looking at people. There are ‘Hindu’s in the sense that there has developed in this country a way of looking at people or the so called” majority-community” as the ‘Hindus’. Nonetheless, the word Hindu has come to possess a unique valence in the context of India, otherwise denied to such words as India, Bharat, Aryadesa or Madhyadesa.

The usage of ‘Hindu’ since its very existence has encompassed two ambiguities 1)whether it refers to a religion or a region and 2) whether, as religion, it is to be understood in a centralist or pluralist manner.[8] Etymologically, the word ‘Hindu’ refers to a native of India, a negro, a black Arabian, Indian or Ethiopian or a Gentoo, a slave, a thief or a black. The word Hindu derives, by common consent, from the word Sindhu.[9] At the very best the distinction needs to be made between Hindu as a geographical concept designating anything and everything native to India, and Hindu as a category of ideas and phenomena more specifically cultural, social and religious.

For many scholars, the definition of this concept, anything native to the entire region of South Asia-can be characterized as comprehensively describing and encompassing phenomena of extreme complexity, multiplicity, and variety. This usage, begun by the ancient Persian and Greeks, if not earlier, ascribed no necessarily to a particular cultural, social, political, or other unity to the geographical area whereas, at the same time and in seeming contradiction to this perspective, it ascribed certain common peculiarities to all who lived within the geographical regions beyond the Indus.[10] It is this paradoxically “nativistic ” sense of the term which the muslims acquired and then applied to peoples whom they found within the continent.[11]

They used this term to distinguish between themselves as believers and native unbelievers. This term, both in Arabic and in Persian, was also called to distinguish Muslims from India-those who were called ‘Hindavi’ –from Muslims who came from other parts of the Islamic world.

Still later, native non Muslims of India used a similar term, Hindutva, to distinguish between themselves and muslim people or overlords. [12]However it was uncommon for references to be made to “Hindoo Christian” and “Hindoo Muslims” as distinct from those who were not native-born or culturally indigenous to the subcontinent.[13]

According to Frykenberg, Hinduism was constructed in three major ways in different phases of history, so to say Hinduism is not ahistorical  as several other argue,1)the logic of brahmanical ,or bio-social(purity/pollution) separation.2)the logic of Regal/Imperial or Contractual Integration and 3)the logic of constitutional or Indo-European Synthesis. The logic of each structural system can also be seen as a process, sometimes congruent or partially overlapping the others.

The first structure was brahmanical in orgin ,it lumped all mankind into a single category and then sub-divided this category into a color-coded system of separate species and sub-species, it was moreover the centrist view as earlier highlighted by Richard Davis.[14]

The second structure i.e political logic, drew upon political theory, from misty antiquity and from Indo-Islamic or Indo-Mughal, and finally from Indo-British precedents. Due to their limited numbers, when compared to the vast domains which they conquered, Muslims, like all of their predecessors, turned to locally indigenous elites for support[15].

Being Hindu, in this period ,did not refer to any particular religion, certainly not to a single Hindu religion. Hindu as part of a political logic required a supporting ideology which attempted to provide an overarching and legitimizing authority for an imperial structure within which all communities and religions could coexist. Thus, a devout Muslim could be reasonably good Hindu(Native ,that is, Indian)without ever being obliged to set foot inside a temple or to worship the gods of kafirs.[16]

The third structure that is indicative of what is now meant by the term Hindu is Indo-European. More precisely, it is Orientalist. In its origin, it also is truly Indian in the sense of being an  amalgam of Indo-British, Anglo –Brahman, and Anglo-Islamic elements.

This construction, resting directly upon the foundations of the earlier two structures, saw the erection of a new kind of Hinduism and Hindu self-consciousness as strategies for the careful and deliberate integration of all of India into a single entity. As with all previous regimes, indigenous resources-natural, cultural and intellectual-provided the means. The earlier epistemic, ontological and ritual traditions of varnashramadharma ,the color-coded and segmented system constructed by Brahmans, and the earlier structural features of mahachhakra  as epitomized in various durbars, provided the cultural and Imperial foundations for the Raj. Therefore, has even been plausibly argued , that “the Company’s Raj was actually, for most intents and purposes, a de facto ‘Hindu Raj’”. This development arose from two parallel and intermingling processes of further construction. Both, the official developments-one institutional and the other ideological –brought into being elements that produced, in the words of Romila Thapar, ’Syndicated Hinduism’. [17]

To further connect to this hitherto historical discussion of the terms Hindu (and Hindustan) with first modem and then contemporary developments in India,  one crucial question needs to be asked in order to make this transition; when did the ‘Hindus’ themselves begin to use the word self-referentially (granting that the word Hindu is not a Hindu word)?  Such usage begins to emerge at least by the sixteenth century, as pointed out by Joseph T. O’Connell.

 However,in the view of most contemporary scholars, it was only after the concept of Hinduism was constructed by these Europeans that the Hindus themselves adopted the idea that they all belonged to a single religious community. Although this argument about the construction or invention of Hinduism has a strong postmodern flavor, it was first developed by W.C. Smith in his 1962 book, ‘The Meaning and End of Religion’. Smith  strongly opposes any attempt by outside observers to impose their own categories and explanations on religious phenomena. In the case of Hinduism, he argues that the naming of this religion by Europeans was a mistake: there is no Hinduism either in the minds of the Hindus or in empirical reality itself.[18]

In religio-cultural terms itself, the presence of another religio- cultural complex now also characterized the land, namely, the Islamic. The British presence in India introduced another religio-cultural complex on top of it, namely, Western/Christian. Up to a point, the British presence in India could almost be considered benignly neutral, if not actually pro-Hindu, from a Hindu perspective.

What needs to be clearly recognized in this context is the role of politics in positing these communities in an oppositional, rather than an appositional, framework in relation to the Hindu. The existence of the Jews and Parsis testifies to the fact that minorities are not unknown to the Hindus but they did not pose a problem for Hindu polity because their presence was not vitiated by the ruler- ruled (i.e. political) factor. Until that factor emerged, even Islamic presence was not perceived as a problem.

 This fluid situation, however, began to solidify in the post-Mutiny period, once the rule of the East India Company was taken over by the British Crown. This consolidation of British rule was accompanied  by the consolidation of ‘Hinduism.’ The British presence in India had put another word into play- Hinduism, which further led to the arousal of several other ambiguities.[19]

 First being represented by the word Hindustan, the second by the word Hinduism, the third by the expression Hindu culture and the fourth by the term Hindutva abode of ‘Indians’ (Frykenberg 1989:31), or the abode of the Hindus (Monier-Williams 1960:1298). The word Hindustan may well serve as a metaphor of the first ambiguity. The word literally means ‘the land of the Hindus’ and had become a common word for India, specially north India, by the thirteenth century. It raises the natural query: how is the word Hindu to be taken here: as a resident of a geographical region or as the follower of a particular faith; or as the resident of a particular region who is also the follower of a particular faith? All these senses are possible because of the tremendous demographic overlap between the two categories. Ultimately the meaning remains unclear.

Thus the last quarter of the nineteenth century witnessed the emergence of both Indian nationalism and a pan-Indian Hinduism, thereby raising the question of the relationship between the two. This issue, which remains unresolved to this day, goes back to the ambiguity inherent in the word Hindu-does it stand for a country or a religion? The fact that both the words: India as well as Hindu, etymologically go back to the same word (Sindhu) dramatises this issue of ambiguity, which now reincarnated itself in the question: will Indian nationalism (or nationalisms) be territorial or religious in nature? The semantic ambiguity in the word Hindu itself also found expression in the question whether this ‘new’ Hinduism itself will be parochial or universal in character.

Thus, the divergence in Indian and Hindu nationalisms  after the collapse of the Khilafat movement.[20] The founding of the RSS in 1925 symbolized this breach . In the meantime neo-Hinduism was being revived along essentially universalistic lines, although it became somewhat revivalistic with the rise of the Arya Samaj. Nevertheless the Indian National Congress was able to contain this. It was in the 1920s that neo-Hinduism began to display a distinctly ethnic streak and evolved a word to go with it- Hindutva.  The word Hindutva gained currency after it appeared as the title of a book written by V.D. Savarkar, first published in 1923. V.D. Savarkar and Mahatma Gandhi may be regarded as the patron saints of the two distinct forms of Hinduism the ambiguity of the word Hindu gave rise to. Paradoxical as it might appear, both these trends arose out of the same problem-that of defining who is a Hindu. And both were in a sense a response to the attempted definitions of Hinduism under Western aegis.[21]

It is not often realised that one of the major concerns of V.D. Savarkar in evolving the concept of Hindutva was to avoid the political fall-out of an excessively narrow definition of Hinduism (in his view), which had the unhappy consequence of excluding the Buddhists, the Sikhs, and the Jains from the Hindu community.[22] By comparison, Gandhi did not have much trouble with their inclusion within or exclusion from Hinduism because from the point of view of the spiritual interpretation of Hinduism, which he espoused, this was immaterial. All religions shared in this spirituality in common with Hinduism, irrespective of whether they could formally be labelled Hindu or not.

In V.D. Savarkar’s tract: Hindutva: Who is a Hindu? ,religion does not figure in this ensemble and the “actual essentials of Hindutva are also the ideal essentials of nationality”.[23] The net effect of this exercise is to confer a Hindu nationality on all the followers of the four religions of Indian origin-Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. An important point to distinguish here is between the two expressions: “Indian religions” and “religions practised in India.” If the latter category is used to denote Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and so on, then the former category could be used to include only the adherents of the first four: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism.

According to the concept of Hindutva as elaborated by Savarkar, Hindu nationality would be restricted to “Indian religions,” in contrast presumably with Indian nationality which would be shared by the followers of all religions. This is one salient feature of Hindutva. The other, as noted already, consists of the fact that it posits an implicit distinction between religion and  culture, in order to bracket the four “Indian religions” together. Savarkar’s vision lay moribund for a long time, to the extent of being considered dead. [24]

In reality the  context, text and subtext has changed over time, depending on the period involved (whether it is the period extending from 1923-1947, or 1947-1975, or 1975-1991 or post-1991) and the person expounding it (whether it is V.D. Savarkar, M.S. Golwalkar or Balraj Madhok, for instance).[25]During the period when the Jan Sangh functioned as a party, the concept of Hindutva underwent an ideological shift. It took the form of identifying India with Hindutva, rather than Hindutva with India. As a result there was much talk of the need for Indianizing the Christian and Muslim minorities in India, rather than Hinduizing them.

 It should be noted that the Indian government, both in the language of the Indian Constitution adopted in 1950, and subsequent legislation, has virtually adopted the Hindutva definition of a Hindu-as one who belongs to any religion of Indian origin. Hence the need, in the modem study of Hinduism, to distinguish one who is Hindu under Indian law from one who is Hindu “by religion”[26].

Post-Independence conceptual developments in Hindutva basically turn on two differential axes–of religion (and/or) culture and nation (and/or) state. Hindutva thought in general has tried to align itself with the culture axis in terms of the first set of terms and with the nation axis in the second set of terms. Out of the religion/culture division, culture would be viewed as a broader category, just as the nation would be viewed as a broader category in relation to state. Hindutva thought then has tried to connect itself with the more encompassing of the paired categories, even occasionally at the expense of the other. Its agenda has been to thereby solve the problem of the presence of non-Hindu elements in Indian society and polity-primarily of the Muslims and Christians, and secondarily of such Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs as do not respond to the general interpretation of the term ‘Hindu’ it offers. By inviting them to partake only of Hindu culture and not religion, it makes it socially easier for these communities to become parts of the larger whole. It seeks to accomplish the same end politically by identifying itself with the aspiration of nationhood, as opposed to the machinery of a state, so that all could then belong to the Hindu nation in this reconstituted society and the state could then be effectively secular.[27] It is significant that the Hindutva rhetoric to this day has largely and centrally been that of a nation (Hindu Rashtra) rather than of a state (Hindu Raj) (even Shivaji spoke of ‘Hindu svaraj,’ not Hindu Raj)[28]. The key category is not Hindu statism but Hindu nationalism [29]. The internal contradictions of the word Hindu, however, imperil these exercises, whether one turns to religion or culture.

 One crucial move Savarkar initiated was the tendency to associate Hinduism with culture rather than religion. His motive in doing so was to create a conceptual category for “Indian religions” (as distinguished from “religions practised in India”). But with this end constitutionally achieved (although still in contention) it soon evolved the locution of Hindu culture, from within the space inside “Indian religions,” to embrace all the “religions practised in India,” in a manner analogous to the way it was employed by Savarkar to embrace all “Indian religions” while situated within Hinduism, through the concept of Hindutva. This curiously corresponds to that usage in the eighteenth century in the light of which designations such as ‘HinduMuslim’ and ‘Hindu- Christian’ were not oxymorons, with this difference that at that time an explicit pan-Indian identity in terms of Hinduism was not in the picture[30]. This shift in the terms of discourse also carries with it the same bivalence which has characterized the word in its earlier appearance as Hindu, Hindustan and Hinduism. Philip H. Ashby writes perceptively : Modern interpretations of Indian culture have generally fallen into two broad classifications. The first has identified Hindu culture with Indian culture, suggesting that the operating norm for the latter has been the great tradition of the Hindu religion and the social strictures and customs that have accompanied that tradition.[31]

The other interpretation, namely, that India’s culture is a composite not to be identified with the term “Hindu,” has been more realistic in recognizing that contemporary Indian culture, like all widespread and long enduring cultures, has been the product of many influences, from the early Dravidian of thirty-five or more hundred years down to the British and Western of the last hundred or two hundred years. This approach recognizes the variables and imponderables that at any given time work together to constitute a culture.[32]This view reflects something of both the position of the nineteenth century reform movements and the social-cultural ambivalence of the liberal intellectual and political elite of the twentieth century. Two conceptions of Indian culture now vie with each other for acceptance.

With the word Hindu, the two referents in terms of region or religion were  in contention; with the word Hindustan, this bivalence took the form of nature of the region itself; in the realm of religion it surfaced in the ethnic and in the universalistic orientations of Hinduism and now it manifests itself in the realm of culture. These developments reflect a difference in emphasis in terms of the evolving worldview (or at least India-view) . But along with them a more potentially significant conceptual divide now surfaces,  the question of whether the Hindutva movement is directed towards the formation of a Hindu nation or a Hindu state.[33] The concept of a nation-state merges the two and obscures the point, but it needs to be addressed squarely in the context of a country like India. Actually, a similar problem can be identified in the context of the nation itself. Here the crux of the issue lies in the distinction between a multi-nation state and a nation-state. Given its pluralism, India has in effect usually functioned as a multi-nation state, whether under Asoka, or Akbar or the British.

The attempt to unify India with the cultural nationalism of the “white umbrella,” when it has always been polychrome, revives the old ambiguity of whether Hindu means land/people or religion/culture.[34] The ambiguity now begins to manifest itself within the category of the state itself-national or multinational? This in addition to the question whether one has in mind an Indian state or a Hindu state. The last piece of the puzzle reincarnates the original conundrum.  Hindutva thus comes full circle.In its attempt to solve the problem of Hindu identity with that of Hindutva identity, it ends up becoming part of the problem once again. This however, should not be taken to mean, that our exercise has been in vain.

 Such an exercise does allow us to posit a bivalent ‘Hindu’ reality capable of multiple formulations in several ways: local/global; geographical/civilizational; ethnic/universal, and so on. It also enables one to identify four attempts to engage this ambivalent Hindu historical/empirical reality: in terms of the categories of (1) region; (2) religion; (3) culture and (4) nation. The first attempt is represented by the word Hindustan, the second by the word Hinduism, the third by the expression Hindu culture and the fourth by the term Hindutva.  Because of the complex nature of the Indian reality each approach runs into its own limitations; each generates its own dilemma.

The regional approach generates the dilemma: does India belong to the Hindus or do Hindus belong to India? The religious approach generates the dilemma: Is Hinduism a religion like any other religion or does it itself include other religions, denominationally or universalistically? The cultural approach generates the dilemma: Is Hindu culture constitutive of Indian culture or expressive of it? And finally, the national approach generates the dilemma: Should India opt for the secularism of Hinduism or the Hinduism of secularism? At the heart of each lies the question central to all issues of identity: does the other belong to me or do I belong to it?



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             and Diversity in the Sikh Tradition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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              Sectarians. London: T. F. Unwin.

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            First published in Asiatic Researches, 1828 and 1832.

[1] Frykenberg,“Contruction of Hinduism”journal of interdisciplinary History,1993,Vol 23,No.3,pp 523-550.

[2] Thapar,Romila.”Synicated Hinduism”,Seminar,CCXIII,1985,14-22.

[3] Doniger, wendy.”Hindus, An Alternative History”,

[4] Davis, Richard S. 1995 “Introduction.” In Religions of India in Practice, ed. David S. Lopez, Jr. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 3-52.

[5] Vedic sacrifice is the privileged mode of ritual conflict, the template for all subsequent Indian ritualism. Various groups enjoying vernacular languages in preference to Sanskrit, questioning the caste order, and rejecting the authority of the Vedas, may periodically rebel against the centre, but the orthodox,  through an adept use of inclusion and repressive tolerance, manage to hold the high ground of religious orthodoxy.

[6] An apt example of this view is represented in the work of the eminent scholar, J A B van Buitenen in the 1986 Encyclopedia Britannica.”In principle ,Hinduism incorporates all form of beliefs and worship without necessitating the selection or elimination of any. Hinduism is then seen as both a civilization and a conglomeration of religions, with a beginning, a  founder, nor a central authority ,or organization”

[7] Wilson, H. H. 1972. Religious Sects of the Hindus. Varanasi:I ndological Book House.

First published in Asiatic Researches, 1828 and 1832.

[8] Sharma,Arvind “On Hindu, Hindustān, Hinduism and Hindutva”Numen,vol.49,pp,1-36.

[9] It is remarkable that the direction of transformation of Sindhu -Hindu–Ind is paralleled in the account of the Buddhist pilgrim Xanzuang (= Hiuen Tsang, 7th century), by the words Shin-tu—Hien- tau-Tien-chu, and even more surprising that it becomes In-tu, at which point its connotation overflows into the religious, at least in Xanzuang’s interpretation of it.[9]

[10] One of the earliest datable, as distinguished from traceable, refer- ences to the word Hindu again comes from Persia, with the rise of the Achaemenid Empire (H.W. Rawlinson 1954:53-54). An inscription of Darius I which is “considered to have been carved between c. 518 and 515 BC, adds Hidu [Hindu] to the list of subject countries” (Raychaud- huri 1996:584). Similarly, clay tablets from Persepolis, in Elamite, “datable to different years from the thirteenth to the twenty-eighth reg- nal year of Darius” mention Hi-in-tu (India) (ib. 585). These examples, establishing the primacy of the territorial meaning, are confirmed by Herodotus (Historiae III, 91, 94, 98-102) in his employment of the word as ‘Indoi’ in Greek, which, “lacking an alphabetic character of the sound of h, did not in this case preserve it” (Narayanan 1996:14).

This ‘India’ was still confined to Sind, for it was under Xerxes that “for the first time in history an Indian expeditionary force fought on the soil of Europe” and even stormed the “bloody defiles of Thermopylae.” The ‘Indian’ recruits to the army were called by two names: “Gandharians and Indians,” thereby confirming that while the former were “from the province of Gandhara” (listed as a separate province), the Indians were “from the provinces controlled by the Persian empire to the east of the Sindhu and described as Sindhu in the Achaemenian inscriptions” (Mukherji ).

[11] . Richard King notes : “Although indigenous use of the term by Hindus themselves can be found as early as the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, its usage was derivative of Persian Muslim influences and did not represent anything more than a distinction between ‘indigenous’ or ‘native’ and foreign (mleccha).”[11]

[12] The regime of Vijayanagara is actually described in Sanskrit inscriptions as hindurajasuratrana. When early Europeans came into India-or South Asia-and described what they saw or experienced ,they distinguished between peoples and things that were indigenous-jabeled Gentoo and later Hindoo and peoples or things were not.

[13]As Romila Thapar points out in her discussion of the reception of Muslims into India, “The people of India do not seem to have perceived the new arrivals as a unified body of Muslims. The name ‘Muslim’ does not occur in the records of the early contacts. The term used was either ethnic, turuska, re- ferring to the Turks, or geographical, Yavana, or cultural, mleccha.” One should also note the distinctively negative nature of the term, the primary function of which it to provide a catch-all designation for the “Other,” whether negatively contrasted with the ancient Persians, with their Muslim descendants, or with the later European Orientalists who eventually adopted the term. Indeed the same is apparent from an examination of modem India law. For example the 1955 Hindu Marriage Act, section 2 (1) defines a ‘Hindu’ as a category including not only all Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs but also anyone who is not a Muslim, Christian, a Parsee or a Jew. Thus even in the contemporary context the terms ‘Hindu’ and ‘Hinduism’ are essentially negative appellations, functioning as an all-inclusive rubric for the non-Judeo-Christian ‘other.’

[14] Monier Monier-Williams,Brahmanism and Hinduism:Buddhism in its connexion with Brahmanism and Hinduism and its contrast with Christianity(London 1889),called this Brahmanism. His book Hinduism,first brought the term into general use in the west.The word Brahman is an indo-European cousin of our term breath.The term stood both for the class of priests,ritualists,and scholars who came into India with the Aryans,c.2000 encompasses all existences.

[15] Many of those to whom alien rulers turned for assistance, and upon whom they relied for support, came either from indigenous(Brahman and Brahmanized) administrative elites or from local warrior elites. These elites, especially those who were bureaucrats and bankers, came from scores of separate castes in various parts of the continent

[16] Hindu and India are twins. To be Hindu, in this sense, was comparable to being European or American. It was the same as Indian.

[17] Thapar, Romila. 1985. “Syndicated Moksha?” Seminar, September, pp. 14-22.1989.

[18] Smith, Wilfred Cantwell 1962 “The Meaning and End of Religion”. New York: The Macmillan Company.

[19] Lorenzen, David; 1999 “Who Invented Hinduism?” Comparative Studies in Society and History 41:630-659.

[20] The Khilafat campaign, which began with the Muslims joining forces with the Hindus “before the incredulous eyes of the British” (Spear 1994:784) in 1919, ended in a series of communal riots by mid-1920s (Page 1982:74).

[21] Western attempts at defining Hinduism followed two distinct courses: one moved in the direction of identifying it with Brahmanism (through caste) and the other in the direction of identifying it with spirituality in general (through ‘Hindu tolerance’They reflect perhaps the Enlightenment and the Romantic Movement at play respectively, on the onomastic theatre of  ‘Hinduism.’

[22] Savarkar, V.D. 1969 [1923] Hindutva: Who is a Hindu? Bombay: Savarkar Sadan

[23] It identifies the two core issues which he addresses: (1) who is a Hindu, and (2) what it Hindutva. The two issues are connected. He defines a Hindu as one who (1) regards the entire subcontinent as his motherland/fatherland (Savarkar 1969:84,119); (2) is descended of Hindu parents (ib. 129-131) and (3) and considers this land holy (ib. 113,134). These then constitute the three “essentials of Hindutva- a common nation (Rashtra), a common race (Jati) and a common civilization (Sanskriti)”

[24] This may be one way of explaining why Western scholars even in the 1960s were actually dissuaded by their Indian colleagues from showing interest in any political and cultural outfit associated with Hindutva, such as the Jan Sangh and the RSS (Ashby 1974:115). Ever since Mrs. Gandhi’s Emergency, however, these organisations, in their various incarnations, have been incrementally raising their profile and now stand centre-stage at the beginning of the new millennium (Jaffrelot 1996; Devalle 1995:306-322; Khilnani 1997:189-190).

[25] Up until the attainment of Independence in 1947 the thrust of the Hindutva movement, as represented by the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS, was first to resist what was viewed as a policy of appeasement towards the Muslims and to oppose the move towards the Partition of India, which was viewed as the logical outcome of this policy. During this phase the Hindutva movement was not about gaining political power. This shift in Hindutva thinking came about as a result of reflection at the ease with which the party in power, the Indian National Congress, could suppress the Hindutva forces in the wake of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948. This realization led to the formation of the Jan Sangh in 1951.

[26] Derrett, J. Duncan M. 1968 Religion, Law and State in India. New York: The Free Press

[27] Banerjee, Nitya Narayan 1990 Hindu Outlook. Calcutta: Hindutva Publications

[28] Savarkar, V.D. 1969 [1923] Hindutva: Who is a Hindu? Bombay: Savarkar Sadan

[29] Jain, Girilal 1996 The Hindu Phenomenon. New Delhi: UBSPD

[30] King, Richard 1999 “Orientalism and the Modem Myth of ‘Hinduism.”‘ Numen 26:166-172

[31] This we saw most clearly in the political area-for example, in the Jana Sangh’s ideological platform and its attempt to direct modern Indian political activity.

[32] Indian thinkers who adhere to this position have also emphasized with pride India’s powers of assimilation and its potential as a cultural model for the modem world.

[33] Sharma,Arvind “On Hindu, Hindustān, Hinduism and Hindutva”Numen,vol.49,pp,1-36.

 The writer is associated with the prestigious Lady Shri Ram College, New Delhi. She owns to herself various articles published in several International and National Magazines, including the prestigious bilingual magazine,Jasodhara. She is also associated with various social organizations such as the World Women Organization,OYSS Women etc.

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