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This article provides a textured history of the multivalent term “hindu” over 2,500 years, with the goal of productively unsettling what we think we know. “Hindu” is a ubiquitous word in modern times, used by scholars and practitioners in dozens of languages to denote members of a religious tradition. But the religious meaning of “hindu” and its common use are quite new. Here I trace the layered history of “hindu,” part of an array of shifting identities in early and medieval India. In so doing, I draw upon an archive of primary sources—in Old Persian, New Persian, Sanskrit, Prakrit, Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, and more—that offers the kind of multilingual story needed to understand a term that has long cut across languages in South Asia. Also, I do not treat premodernity as a prelude but rather recognize it as the heart of this tale. So much of South Asian history—including over two thousand years of using the term “hindu”—has been misconstrued by those who focus only on British colonialism and later. We need a deeper consideration of South Asian pasts if we are to think more fruitfully about the terms and concepts that order our knowledge. Here, I offer one such contribution that marshals historical material on the multiform and fluid word “hindu” that can help us think more critically and precisely about this discursive category.
Tolstoy had a sustained interest in a number of religions other than Christianity. This interest became urgent and comprehensive in the 1880s after his so-called conversion. In this chapter, I examine Tolstoy’s relation to Buddhism, Daoism, and Hinduism in terms of a crucial question that preoccupied the later Tolstoy: What is the good life? Indeed, I suggest that Tolstoy turned to these other religions precisely because of his concern to identify a universal wisdom about the good life. My examination proceeds through texts, such as War and Peace and A Confession, that exploit tropes, imagery, and parables drawn from Daoism, Buddhism, and the Hindu tradition. The upshot is to reveal the extent to which Tolstoy’s advocacy of self-resignation, the principal element in his attitude to nonviolent resistance, has roots in his investigation of these other religions, and not only in his interpretation of the Christian tradition.
This chapter considers thematic concerns addressed by some of the authors in the volume, from the perspective of those in the study of Hinduism and constitutional law. The focus is on three chapters in particular: Mark Nathan’s analysis of monasticism and celibacy in Korea; Richard Whitecross’ reflections on dual sovereignty in Bhutan; and Krishantha Fedricks’ writing on language ideology in Sri Lanka.
Psychology’s past in Eastern civilizations were an inherent part of the religious and moral philosophies. In an overview of those non-Western traditions in psychology, points of interaction between East and West occurred in Persia, which served as a crossroad between India and the Arab world. Ancient Indian culture followed the traditions of Buddhism and Hinduism. The writings of the Vedas, especially the Upanishads, provided the foundation for Hindu philosophy. In China, imported Buddhism taught that self-denial and proper thinking were necessary to achieve well-being. However, the older philosophical movement of Confucianism offered a stronger basis for Chinese intellectual progress. Both Buddhism and Confucianism were exported to Japan, where they were transposed into Japanese philosophies to support nationalistic aspirations. Two Middle Eastern cultures, Egyptian and Hebrew, are important as predecessors for the ancient Greeks whose philosophical formulations would provide the foundations for the emergence of psychology. Egyptian achievements in art and architecture left us a legacy, especially expressed in astronomy and medicine. The Jewish foundation of monotheism and law, along with an understanding of the person as a unity of spirit and matter, interfaced with the Greek culture that was to dominate the Mediterranean world.
The origin of the modern liberal conception of human rights has been traced to the concept of natural rights that has its source in natural law thought, leading some to draw a connection between Thomistic natural law and human rights. However, the Thomistic understanding of natural law is embedded in a religious framework, raising the relevance and possible relation of religious traditions to the contemporary concept of human rights. This chapter explores this relation in the context of Hinduism, which espouses a version of natural law in the idea of Dharma, and gives primacy to duty rather than rights. Can the fundamental tenets, principles and concepts of Hinduism help to develop conceptual groundwork for human rights without subscribing to the Western liberal conception of rights? Exploring this question, the chapter argues for human moral obligations as the link between natural law and human rights. It concludes that human moral obligations serve the same purpose as human rights without being embroiled in controversies that vitiate the Western liberal conception of human rights.
This article focuses on the meeting of faith traditions—interfaith dialogue—from the perspective of mystical consciousness. In doing so, it aims to understand the dynamics and potentialities of interfaith mysticism. The contribution of this article to religious studies, in combination with theological inquiry, is threefold: first, it illuminates how the Trinity is directly experienced in interfaith contexts; second, it provides an interfaith framework that accounts for the possibilities, complexity, and challenges of interfaith encounters; third, it shows how Gavin Flood’s three orders of discourse—traditions’ experience and texts, interpretation within traditions, and academic inquiry—can be applied to the study of interfaith mysticism, employing a phenomenological emphasis on hermeneutics. The inquiry is located within the context of representatives of Hindu mystical consciousness (Sri Ramana Maharshi, Sri Aurobindo) and the Christian interfaith tradition (Henri Le Saux, Bede Griffiths, David Steindl-Rast), in conversation with Raimon Panikkar’s and Francis X. Clooney’s approaches to interreligious studies.
What does Hinduism have to say about the rules of armed conflict? How might Hinduism enrich the modern global discourse on international humanitarian law (IHL)? What convergences might be found, and what areas of divergence? This paper examines and contextualizes the rules of armed conflict advocated in classical Hindu texts, especially in the epic Mahābhārata, where important norms of Hinduism are established. It also examines the other major epic, the Rāmāyaṇa, and the Dharmaśāstras (Law Codes), as well as the Arthaśāstra, which takes an alternative (realpolitik) approach. This paper focuses on conduct during armed conflict (jus in bello), now synonymous for many with IHL, rather than considerations leading up to war (jus ad bellum). The paper seeks to illuminate both convergences and divergences with IHL and highlight particular Hindu approaches on the righteous (dharmic) application of violence. Like IHL, classical Hinduism values (1) proportionality of force during armed engagement; (2) the minimization of human suffering during combat; (3) care for survivors of war; (4) immunity towards non-combatants, especially civilians; and (5) balancing military necessity with humanity. With respect to divergences, classical Hinduism extols non-violence in ways that critique even the warrior's duty to engage in righteous war (dharma yuddha). In contrast to IHL, the Hindu epics have some different limitations; for instance, they limit the right to combat to a particular caste, the kṣatriyas, though this concept could be modernized to mean uniformed personnel of the State. The epics also disavow certain practices that are legal under IHL, such as ambushes and surprise attacks against legitimate targets. The Hindu proportionality provision goes beyond IHL by prescribing that only warriors of the same type should fight. With its many deeply ethical considerations, Hinduism enriches modern IHL through its heightened emphasis on fair and humane conduct in battle and its call towards compassion on behalf of both combatants and non-combatants.
Chapter one introduces South Asia’s people, geography, and history until the late twelfth century, and examines indigenous religious traditions as well as ones introduced by forces from Central Asia and the Iranian world. For India, by which we mean historic South Asia, we discuss differences in the north and south by focusing on Chandella patronage in north India of temples at Khajuraho, and Chola rule in south India and the construction of the Rajarajeshvara temple in Thanjavur. Contemporary with the construction of the Rajarajeshvara temple is Mahmud of Ghazni’s rise to power in what is modern Afghanistan and his subsequent raids into India. While Ghaznavid sway over India was short-lived it paved the way for the introduction of Islam and Ghurid dominance.
There are a few hundred known sign languages around the world, and in such language communities, multilingualism is the norm. This multilingualism traverses modalities: signed, written, and, in some cases, spoken forms of language. Such a linguistic landscape inevitably leads to various forms of language contact between languages, including contact between two or more signed languages (characterised by lexical borrowing), signed language and spoken language (characterised by mouthings), and signed language and written language (characterised by fingerspelling, initialized fingerspelling). This chapter also covers sign language interference, code switching and code mixing, and the concept of bimodal bilingualism. The chapter concludes with a discussion of pidginization and creolization of sign languages and sign language endangerment, as well as general comments on the characteristics of contact between signed languages.
Traditionally, the problem of evil, in its various formulations, has been one of the strongest objections against perfect being theism. In the voluminous literature on this problem, the motif of evil has usually been discussed with respect to human flourishing. In recent decades more focused attention has been paid to animal suffering and the philosophical problems that such suffering poses for perfect being theists. However, this growing body of literature, in Anglo-American philosophical milieus, is largely aimed at sketching a specifically Christian or Christianity-inflected theodicy that would reconcile animal suffering with the existence of an omni-God. In contrast, there are few, if any, systematic attempts to put forth a Hindu theodicy that aims to offer morally justifiable reasons that God has for allowing animal suffering. In this article, we address this scholarly lacuna by illustrating how a Hindu perfect being theist might respond to the problem of animal suffering.
If democratic planning was to become a mass movement, as the government hoped, it would require the voluntary participation of Indian citizens. Chapter 5 examines how, in the absence of spontaneous participation, the state supported voluntary organizations to spread the message of the Five Year Plans and offer services toward their fulfilment. It analyses the paradox of the state intervening to stimulate voluntary support for its policies. The chapter traces efforts to involve youths through College and University Planning Forums, and other social groups through the Bharat Sewak Samaj (Service to India Society). It also analyses a curious experiment—the enigmatic Bharat Sadhu Samaj (Indian Society of Ascetics). A brainchild of Gulzarilal Nanda, the devout Minister for Planning, its goal was to publicize the Plans using Hinduism as a resource. The attempt reveals how the Nehruvian state propagated Five Year Plans—the very symbol of secular technocracy and scientific modernity—using saffron-robed Hindu monks and ascetics. The startling long-term fallout of this project was the Sadhu Samaj’s drift towards Hindu nationalism. Ultimately, this religious venture underlines the awkward relationship and largely failed wedding of technocratic and democratic dimensions of planning.
In the legal textual tradition of the Minhāj and the Tuḥfa, a particular subsequent text and its author mark a point from which to analyse Shāfiʿī experiments in the Indian Ocean rim. This chapter considers Fatḥ al-muʿīn, written by Aḥmad Zayn al-Dīn bin Muḥammad Ghazālī al-Malaybārī (d. ca. 1583), an autocommentary on his Qurrat al-ʿayn. Both the base text and the autocommentary form an independent family in the Shāfiʿī textual history with their own textual descendants, while they can also be considered as indirect progenies of the Tuḥfa, for they stimulated the Shāfiʿī legacy of Ibn Ḥajar and his oeuvre on the Malabar Coast and the wider territories around the Indian Ocean. They demonstrate how Indian Ocean Muslims made their way into the textual landscape of Shāfiʿīsm, and even into the heartlands of Islam. They added to the long pattern of Islamic thought in a traditional way and also advanced it. The chapter investigates how it criticised many methods and arguments of its intellectual predecessors and generated a different discourse within the school from its peculiar perspective from Malabar and the Indian Ocean at large.
This article focuses on debates about the relationship between religion, science and national identity that unfolded in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Bengal. Combining perspectives from religious studies and global history, it offers a specific approach to theoretical and methodological issues revolving around entanglement, agency and modernity. This will be operationalized, first, through an exploration of personal networks surrounding the Bengali Tantric pandit Shivachandra Bhattacharya Vidyarnava; his Bengali disciple, philosopher and nationalist educator, Pramathanath Mukhopadhyay and Shivachandra’s British disciple, the judge John Woodroffe. Second, an investigation of the connections between self-referentially ‘orthodox’ societies, so-called reformers, and the Theosophical Society will further illustrate the global exchanges that conditioned and shaped contemporary debates about religion, science and politics. This will complicate and shed new light on the contested relationship between modernity and tradition, or reformism and orthodoxy, opening new perspectives for further dialogue between religious studies and global history.
This chapter examines the contested concept of constitutional identity in the comparative constitutional law literature and situates it in the specific jurisdictional context of Nepal. In particular, the analysis concentrates on the foundational function of constitutions and explores the relationship between constitutionalism, identity politics, and constitutional design. Nepal is an ideal case study for exploring the notion of constitutional identity because it sits uneasily within the traditional taxonomies used in the discipline. For instance, Nepal is the only South Asian country that was never colonised and whose legal system does not operate in English, but in the country’s national language, Nepali. This unusual level of historical continuity in the process of nation-building has complicated the construction of constitutional identity, as demonstrated by the embattled historical relationship between the Shah-centered “national monarchy” and democracy, the enduring and controversial position of Hinduism in the constitutional framework, and the patterns of legal discrimination on the basis of identity that persist in the new 2015 constitution.
Chapter 1 does two things: it charts the history of European interpretations of Hinduism from early modern travel accounts to the emergence of comparative approaches to the study of world religions in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Following this it offers an overview of the long history of the Company’s policies on religion
as well as some of the significant turning points in the Company’s political status and in its institutional approach to research on Indian languages history and religion.
The main domains of Indian politics intersecting with religion are communal riots, elections and secular laws. To respond to ‘why and how’ religion matters in Indian politics, the chapter analyses the national habitus shared by all political and religious elites which was conceived both as Hindu and secular, therefore clashing with the people’s identification at the local level where class, cultural and religious allegiances were at play. The redefinition of the local communities along religious lines introduced by the nation-state is a critical factor in the rise of riots and of the BJP. The rise of Hindu nationalism, the contestation of national history, the sacred sites, and the status of women are analysed as main sites of politicization.
The colonial encounter with India in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries brought the British in contact with new ideas, philosophy, and a new religion. This interface between Britain and India and the subsequent interest in, study, and translation of Hindu and Sanskrit texts by British officials and scholars greatly influenced British Romantic poets writing in the nineteenth century. This engagement also shaped Indians writing in the English language. This essay examines this interface and the influence of Hinduism on British Romantic literature.
This chapter shows how Hindu nationalist ideology blurs the distinction between religion and state politics. Religious sentiments are subsumed into the national and cultural discourse to the extent that for many contemporary Hindus, nationalism has overtaken the function of faith as a perspective through which to understand the world. The chapter traces the current hospitable space in India for religious nationalism to the cultural nationalism in the late nineteenth century among both Hindus and Muslims that emerged in defense of self and identity against colonial cultural values. However, nationalism and faith have never bifurcated completely, and exclusivity became a defining feature of Hindu nationalism. Further, the chapter traces anti-Muslim violence to “the primary ingredients of the Hindutva ideological apparatus” and describes how the apparatus is used to incite communal violence. The chapter presents a penetrating analysis of how the Hindutva uses religion in intra-Hindu politics and how Hindutva’s accommodation of Hinduism’s diversity insidiously maintains primacy of particular rituals and myths employed to promote the concept of a monolithic nation with a “national soul” and in the service of uniting all Hindus in the name of the “Nation-God,” while leaving the internal inequalities intact.
I focus on the traffic in ideas between India and the rest of the world, covering religion, science and political ideas. India’s contribution to the global religious field was significant. While attempts at making Hinduism a ‘world religion’ were not uniformly successful, the circulation of the Hindu scriptures did impact the intellectual history of Europe and North America, contributing to a critique of the Enlightenment. Indian Islam was a major contributor to Islamic reformism, modernist as well as fundamentalist, and some major transnational Islamic movements had their origins in India. Indian Christianity recently acquired a significant global dimension, while India again became part of the world of Buddhism. I evoke India’s contribution to science through the scientists of world stature it produced. I also deal with how global ideologies such as liberalism, communism and fascism were appropriated in India in ways that were often profoundly original. I draw attention to the long-term success of the Indian version of fascism represented by the RSS and the BJP and present a study of Gandhi’s global impact. Finally, I look at the globally influential Subaltern Studies collective.
In the ongoing debate regarding the construction of the modern concept of “Hinduism”, recent research has considered the ways in which the pre-colonial encounter with Islam may have served as a catalyst in the crystallisation of an increasingly self-aware “Hindu” identity. Andrew Nicholson (Unifying Hinduism, 2010), in particular, has examined the genre of Sanskrit doxography to affirm that such a process of crystallisation was indeed taking place, as the transformations in this genre over time indicate a nascent Hindu identity emerging in the face of the “Muslim threat”. This article reevaluates Nicholson's account with reference to the writings of one Sanskrit intellectual operating at the height of Muslim power in South Asia: the figure of Madhusūdana Sarasvatī (fl. sixteenth-early seventeenth centuries). Madhusūdana's short doxography, the Prasthānabheda, often features in arguments for the pre-colonial roots of the concept of “Hinduism”; Madhusūdana's other doxographical writings, however, are typically neglected. Based upon an analysis of Madhusūdana's Siddhāntabindu and Vedāntakalpalatikā, this article suggests that a more nuanced consideration of the different audiences and authorial intentions that different doxographers had in mind can offer a modified picture of how early modern Sanskrit intellectuals were responding to the Muslim presence in the subcontinent.