Hinduism as a modern religion - Academic references and analysis
#1
The object of this thread is to study the modern religion of Hinduism, not the various aspects of Indian thought that have been appropriated by the Hindu identity over the recent past. In the interest of staying on topic, and given that it is a subject that is fairly controversial in popular culture (although not so much in scholarly circles) this thread will be highly moderated.

If you disagree with the central premise of this thread- that the religious identity of Hinduism as one self-contained religion was not realized until a lot more recently than Hindu apologists claim, please create a different thread to discuss that. In this thread we will present and analyze scholarly references on the subject, discuss how the nationalistic response to Islam and Christianity drove the formation of the Hindu religious identity and how modern day Hindu revisionists are distorting this history, and dissect the consequences of the systematic cultural imposition of the Hindu religious identity over various indigenous groups and sects.

To start it of, I am posting some statements I made on facebook. I request others interested in this subject to post relevant links and present analysis.

Quote:Plenty of scholars have written about how Hinduism is actually a modern religion that was cobbled together (not intentionally- it isn't a conspiracy, but it was driven by nationalistic historical revisionism) from many much older Indian schools of thought, in reaction to the threat of the "outside" religions of Christianity and Islam. Some of these prominent scholars include David Lorenzen, Vasudha Dalmia and J Heesterman.
I highly recommend Dalmia's book "The Nationalization of Hindu Traditions: Bhāratendu Hariśchandra and Nineteenth-century Banaras" :

If you are pressed for time, you might just want to read this paper by Frits Staal, the Indologist and linguistics expert on Sanskrit who is credited as the scientist who single-handedly revived a supposedly ancient fire ritual in Kerala.
And if you think these people are biased, think again. Frits Staal, at least, is somewhat of a Hindu apologist. The views of these scholars vary a little, or course, but the facts are clear. Hinduism, IN ITS MODERN FORM AS ONE SELF-CONTAINED RELIGION, is a modern religion.

Another good source is THE BLACKWELL COMPANION TO HINDUISM a compilation edited by Gavin Flood. The opening chapter is titled COLONIALISM AND THE CONSTRUCTION OF HINDUISM, written by Gauri Vishwanathan. In this chapter, after describing how the diversity of beliefs on the subcontinent confounded the colonialists who tried to define it through their own lens of religion, she says:
Though Sanskritic Hinduism was far from representative of the worship of diverse peoples, it was made to define a whole range of heterogenous practices that were lumped together to constitute a single religious tradition termed "Hinduism".
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#2
I have come across Hindi author Mudrarakshas who wrote Dharmgraṃ thoṃ kā Punarpāṭh. According this this paper (A .pdf file will download if you click the link) by unknown authors:

Quote:The book is an outcome of Mudrarakshas’ reading of modern postcolonial theory and argues against the Brahmanic dominance (Hind. brāhmaṇ tantr) in history, politics, and literature, deconstructing Hinduism and reconstructing subaltern traditions of the marginalized in Hindu society. The first and longest chapter is a “re-reading of India’s past” (Hind. bhāratīy atīt kā punarpāṭh) and recovers Buddhist and Dalit history behind the colonial constructions of a monolithic Hinduism.
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#3
Recently, I happened to read historian Romila Thapar's essay entitled 'Mahmud and Somanatha'.
It can be read in full here.

Dr. Thapar has been at the forefront of scholastic efforts to counter historic revisionism in India. In this essay, she contextualizes and presents the beginnings of a scholastic consensus on the raid(s) on the Somanatha shrine, which to many revisionist historians is seen as the one event that can be pinpointed as the beginning of Hindu-Muslim antagonism. According to Dr. Thapar, this is an over-simplified narrative. Quoting from her own summary of the essay:
Quote:I have tried to show how each set of narratives turns the focus of what Somanatha symbolises: the occasion for the projection of an iconoclast and champion of Islam; the assertion of the superiority of Jainism over Shaivism; the inequities of the Kaliyuga; the centrality of the profits of trade subordinating other considerations; colonial perceptions of Indian society as having always been an antagonistic duality of Hindu and Muslim; Hindu nationalism and the restoration of a particular view of the past, contesting the secularising of modern Indian society. But these are not discrete foci. Even when juxtaposed, a pattern emerges: a pattern which requires that the understanding of the event should be historically contextual, multi-faceted, and aware of the ideological structures implicit in the narratives.

The essay itself is worth reading in full and is relevant to this thread as it addresses, among others,...
(i) the tendency among revisionists to inflate the antiquity of shrines as a device to exaggerate the antiquity of the faiths they are dedicated to
(ii) the idea that there was an 'Idea of India' based not entirely on religious nationalism but on a shared homeland, even during Mahmud's invasions.


A rather dramatic case in point for (ii), which has either been missed or is denied by the Francois Gautiers and Subramanian Swamys of this world, is accounts that Arab-descended Bohra residents of Gujarat during the invaders took up arms and sometimes embraced martyrdom while defending the homeland against their Turkish co-religionists. A glance at some Sanskrit inscriptions from the area and era can shake some of the foundational premises on which hardline Hindutva is based. Quoting from Dr. Thapar's essay...

Quote:In the 15th century, a number of short inscriptions from Gujarat refer to battles against the Turks. One very moving inscription in Sanskrit comes from Somanatha itself.31 Although written in Sanskrit, it begins with the Islamic formulaic blessing, bismillah rahman-i-rahim. It gives details of the family of the Vohara/Bohra Farid and we know that the Bohras were of Arab descent. We are told that the town of Somanatha was attacked by the Turushkas, the Turks, and Vohara Farid who was the son of Vohara Muhammad, joined in the defence of the town, fighting against the Turushkas on behalf of the local ruler Brahmadeva. Farid was killed and the inscription is a memorial to him.


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#4
This article by a JNU scholar entitled 'A Note on the Ramayana' has the following to say about the age of this Aadi Kaavya ('Primordial Poem')

Quote:From all the available literary evidence, it appears that the Epic Rmn was
compiled between 300BC-200AD, although the core story could be as old as 500BC
(Winternitz, 1996, Goldman 1984; Brockington, 1984, 2000). The main story as depicted
in the Hindu version of Rmn (which is the subject of present discussion), if historical, can
not be older than the kingdom of Kosala as the story revolves around it, and hence,
cannot be given a date prior to ~700 BC.

As an aside, this article also deals with how the motifs of the epic may have been drawn from fertility cults and cults of Brahma worshippers (later superseded by more dominant Vaishnavite/Shaivite cults). Mistaking Brahma for Brahman or vice versa is an elementary mistake made even in otherwise excellent and very readable books like Jennifer Hecht's Doubt and Michael Shermer's The Believing Brain in their Hinduism fast-forward sections. This article provides an oft-ignored disambiguation of that, and underlines the need for more serious Indological scholarship in general.

Quote:Brahmå (m) is not a vedic deity and is not mentioned either in the Vedas
or in the earlier Upaniœads. He is a personalized form of the abstract Bráhman (n) of the
late Vedas and Upaniœads. He is credited with some cosmogenic myths associated in the
later vedic period with Prajåpati, essentially he (Brahmå) is a fusion of a creator deity
with the impersonal absolute Bráhman in a more popular and therefore, personalized
form (Brockington, 1997).
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