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HomeOpinionDiaryIs Hinduism the same as Hindutva? Part-2

Is Hinduism the same as Hindutva? Part-2

Yesterday, the writer has explained the first three phases of the Hinduism, and here he starts with the fourth phases. 

The fourth phase that began 2,000 years ago witnessed the rise of chronicles such as Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas, where stories are used to reconcile the worldview of householders and hermits, and create the now familiar Hindu worldview. We are introduced to a fully developed mythosphere where the world has no beginning (anadi) or end (ananta), with multiple heavens and multiple hells, governed by action and reaction (karma), where all societies go through cycles of birth and death, just like all living creatures. This phase witnesses the rise of temples and temple rituals. We also see the rise of monastic Vedantic orders that frown upon the body and all things sensory, as well as occult Tantrik orders that explore the body and all things sensory. We also see the mingling of the Old Nigama parampara, where divinity is seen as formless with new Agama parampara, where divinity takes the form of Shiva and his sons, Vishnu and his avatars, and the Goddess and her many manifestations. With new orders and traditions emerging, we also see the consolidation of jati system (or caste, a European word), community groups based on vocation that isolate themselves by not intermarrying. Many academicians see caste as an essential feature of Hinduism designed to favour upper castes, an accusation that Hindutva rejects. Many Hindutva scholars insist caste has a scientific and rational base, and has nothing to do with politics or economics.

The fifth phase is 1,000 years old, and it witnessed the rise of devotion (bhakti) as a doctrine, where devotees passionately connected with deities through emotional songs, composed in regional languages, often bypassing the temple system. This was the time when a rigid caste hierarchy had entrenched itself firmly, basing itself on the doctrine of purity with some castes being seen as impure and unworthy of touch. They are even denied access to the community well. It is also the time when Islam enters India, peacefully in the south via sea-traders and violently in the north via Central Asian warlords, who destroy Buddhist monasteries and Hindu temples, which are also centres of political power, and eventually establish their rule, often resisted by Hindu kings such as Rajputs in the North, Ahoms in the East, Marathas and the Vijaynagar Empire in the Deccan. Hindutva sees the arrival of Islam and the rise of Delhi and Deccani sultanates, followed by Mughal rule, as marking the end of the great Hindu culture, a theme that Marxist historians declare to be paranoid communal propaganda. The latter highlight only Hindu-Islamic collaboration, going to the other extreme, argue non-Marxist historians.

The sixth phase is 300 years old when Hinduism responded to the rise of European power in the subcontinent, and the consequent arrival of Christian missionaries, and the rational scientific discourse. Some Hindutva scholars do not differentiate between the two. This age saw European scholars trying to make sense of Hinduism using both scientific methods as well as the Judeo-Christian lens. For them, monotheism was the true religion, and scientific; polytheism was pagan mythology. They started a massive exercise of translating and documenting the Hindu way of life. They looked for a holy book, a prophet, and, more importantly, a purpose. Eventually, to organise the complexity, they began defining Hinduism as Brahminism, distinguishing it from Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. This Orientalist framework continues to inform global understanding of Eastern faiths via schools, colleges and media.

A fluid oral culture thus got fixed by the 19th century. Hindus, newly educated in the Western ways, felt a deep sense of shame and embarrassment when asked about their customs and beliefs. Some decided to reform Hinduism to satisfy the colonial gaze. Others reframed it seeking out the “true essence” of Hinduism and rejecting “later corrupt” practices. Still others rejected Hinduism itself and saw all religion as a dark dangerous force to be replaced by rationality and a scientific temper. It is in this phase that Hindutva arose as a counterforce that challenged what they saw as the relentless and unfair mockery of all things Hindu at European, and later at American and Indian universities. Hindutva saw Marxism as well as all other Western discourses as just another form of the Christian discourse, seeking to wipe out all trace of the Hindu way of life, doing what Islam had done in Central and South East Asia in past centuries.

(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)

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