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Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay and Modern Hinduism. In: Torkel Brekke (ed.): The Oxford History of Hinduism: Modern Hinduism. Oxford: OUP, 2019; pp. 54-71.

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2019, Torkel Brekke (ed.): THe Oxford History of Hinduism: Modern Hinduism

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This essay is a wide-ranging inquiry into an early and consistent monotheistic impulse in Hindu nationalist discourses and identity formation since the late nineteenth century. It argues that the consolidation of a pan-Indian Hindu demographic and religious identity, cutting across a formidable and awry range of local devotional traditions and deities, entailed a form of modernist transcoding that was tendentially monotheistic. It would seem that a singular Hindu national imagination could be secured only when such myriad energies–differing vastly in terms of caste, class, region, local cosmologies, linguistic, and cultural formations–could be harnessed into a monotheistic edifice of faith. Only then could that singular faith be parlayed into nationalist feeling for one Hindu nation. The aspired-for Hindu monotheism would then not just yield a Hindu nation in the world but would also be equipped to synchronize with other monothematic mantras of modernity like scientific progress, democracy, or techno-financial development. The essay visits some nodal moments of this historical narrative–the coming into being of a Hindu “tradition” under the auspices of colonial Indology, Rammohun Roy’s defense of Vedic monotheism, Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay’s efforts at using modern disciplinary knowledge (history, philosophy, science, aesthetics) to formulate a system of Hindu ethics and to establish Krishna as a singular messianic figure like Christ or Buddha, or a later moment in Savarkar’s time, when the theological question had to be sidelined altogether in favor of a more pragmatic Hindu cultural nationalism. The essay visits some cardinal points of tension and historical consequences in the fragmented, still unfolding story of this monotheistic drive.

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Encyclopedia of African Religions and Philosophy pp 293–294 Cite as

Hinduism: An Introduction

  • A. Sooklal 3  
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  • First Online: 01 January 2022

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The term Hinduism is synonymous with the Indian subcontinent, where over eighty percent of the population are of the Hindu faith. Hinduism is a term coined by the ancient Greeks and Persians, which literally means Indian. The Hindus themselves refer to their religion as Sanathana Dharma , the “eternal religion.” While the overwhelming majority of Hindus are concentrated in the Indian subcontinent, there are sizeable pockets of Hindus in North America, Europe, and Africa.

To the student of religion, Hinduism appears as a vast and seemingly complex religious system. Hence, it is almost an impossible task to compress the whole of Hinduism’s 5000-old years of history into a brief essay. However, certain fundamental principles form the core of the religion of the Hindus and will be briefly outlined. These include the Hindu scriptures, the concept of God, and the primary doctrines of Hindu religion and philosophy.

The sacred language of the Hindus is Sanskrit, which is an Indo-European...

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Banerjee, N.N. 1990. Hindu outlook . Calcutta: Hindutva Publications.

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Chennakesavan, S. 1980. A critical study of Hinduism . New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

Nikhilananda, Swami. 1968. Hinduism . Madras: Sri Ramakrishna Math.

———. 1979. Hinduism at a glance . Calcutta: Ramakrishna Mission.

Radhakrishnan, S. 1974. The Hindu view of life . London: Unwin Books.

Sarma, D.S. 1966. Renascent Hinduism . Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavang.

Zaehner, R.C. 1985. Hinduism . Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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ness" in India, and that there was no "Hindu dharitia," To that I may add that there was no need for Hindu consciousness, and secondly, it was not possible that it should have come into existence.

There was no need for any Hindu consciousness because the tribes outside India and their civilization were capable of mixing easily with the people and civilization of India. As all the different tribes in India had exchanged their civilization and formed a common civilization, so with the meeting of other tribes in Central Asia, Hinduism would have become expanded and modified. Hindus had a larger social philosophy and social consciousness beyond the consciousness of tribe and vama. It was a “Mānava," or human consciousness. They were in fact developing a dharma for humanity, but this process was arrested by the rise of the two narrow heresies of semitic origin.

Of these two systems, the one which made its existence felt in India, first, is Mohamedanism.

When the Mohamedans came, they called all people who were in India, but who did not belong to Mohamedan religion, Hindus. The foreigners, at this time, had a "religion" of their own and their own priesthood. They not only denied the authority of the Vedas, but regarded Vedas themselves and other Hindu shāstras as heathen documents. To them the sacred Brāhmaṇa was nothing short of an infidel. All castes and tribes which did not acknowledge Mohamedan religion were Hindus. In Persian language, as I understand, Hindu means an infidel, unfaithful, black, and so forth. To Hindus and specially to Brāhmanas the Mohamedans were extremely impure. Mohamedans were noted for their cruelty, and are so even to-day, to a certain extent, The actions of cruelty,

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India’s modi inaugurates abu dhabi’s first hindu temple.

Rhea Mogul

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday inaugurated Abu Dhabi’s first Hindu temple, the largest in the United Arab Emirates, boosting his credentials as a global statesman months before he heads to the polls in a nationwide election where he is seeking a rare third term in power.

The BAPS Hindu Mandir, built on a sprawling 27-acre site in the Abu Dhabi desert, is the city’s first traditional Hindu stone mandir, its pink sandstone columns topped by seven spires representing the number of Sheikhs that rule each of the Emirates.

Modi was greeted with a hug by the country’s President, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and presented with the Guard of Honor, showing how close the two nations have come in their strategic and economic relations.

Modi's inauguration of the temple comes before India's general election, scheduled for the spring.

But while Islam is the official religion of the UAE, Modi’s trip comes as Muslims in India say they feel marginalized and threatened as Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party’s Hindu nationalist policies gain momentum in the world’s largest democracy.

Yet, analysts expect this will not present an issue for Modi during his visit, given India’s rising prominence, its growing economy and strategic position on the global stage. And back home, analysts say Modi’s leading role in the temple’s inauguration could give his party a boost in the buildup to the election in a few months’ time.

In his decade of power, Modi has created an image of himself as “the protector of Hinduism,” said New Delhi based political analyst Asim Ali, and is now taking that message beyond India’s borders.

“He’s hoisting the flag of Hinduism across the world. It’s like the religion and pride of India going overseas,” Ali said.

“He’s sending a message to the world: India is the protector of the Hindu religion.”

‘Important cultural and political project’

The opening of the Abu Dhabi Temple comes just a few weeks after Modi inaugurated the controversial Ram Mandir, a temple built on the foundations of a centuries-old mosque that was torn down by hardline Hindu crowds in the early 1990s in northern India.

That ceremony was seen as a seismic shift away from modern India’s secular founding principles and was hailed by Hindu nationalists as a crowning moment in their decades-long campaign to reshape the nation.

AYODHYA, INDIA - JANUARY 22: A general view of the Ram Mandir on the day of its consecration ceremony January 22, 2024 in Ayodhya, India. The Ram Mandir, a temple built at a site thought to be the birth place of Lord Rama, a significant figure in Hindu religion, was be inaugurated on Jan. 22, 2024. (Photo by Ritesh Shukla/Getty Images)

Related article Photos: India’s divisive new temple saw half a million visitors on its first day open to the public

The temple opening in Abu Dhabi “must be seen as a political operation for Modi vis-à-vis constituencies abroad and at home,” said Nicolas Blarel, Associate Professor of International Relations at the Institute of Political Science, Leiden University in The Netherlands.

The temple has a storied history as its UAE-based devotees have long advocated for its construction, said Blarel, who focuses on foreign policy in South Asia and the Middle East.

The country of 9 million is home to about 3.5 million Indian nationals alone, making it the largest population of Indian citizens in the world.

In 2015, the UAE government allocated land for the development of the temple, in a major win for the diaspora.

“This then became a joint venture as both the Indian and UAE governments entrusted the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha the responsibility to build and administer the mandir,” Blarel said.

“Nine years later, this important cultural and political project has been materialized and framed by the BJP and Modi as further evidence of the global reach of India’s religious and cultural heritage, but also of cooperation with its diaspora.”

The BAPS Hindu Mandir temple sits in a vast 27-acre plot in the Abu Dhabi desert.

Growing business and economic ties

This is the Indian Prime Minister’s seventh trip to the Islamic country, and the third in the last eight months, indicating its importance to Modi in the lead up to the election.

“India-UAE relations have grown in economic terms, but perhaps more significantly in strategic and security terms,” said Kadira Pethiyagoda, a former diplomat and Brookings Fellow.

“This is the product of India seeking to expand its strategic reach into the Middle East and secure its energy sources,” added Pethiyagoda, author of “Indian Foreign Policy and Cultural Values.”

In a bid to boost the industrial sector and lift exports, the Indian government has sought to sign free trade deals, a move that’s been warmly received around the world.

Last September, US President Joe Biden, Modi and the leaders of the UAE and Saudi Arabia announced the launch of a new trade route connecting India to the Middle East and Europe through railways and ports.

President Joe Biden visits Raj Ghat memorial with Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi and other G20 leaders, Sept. 10, 2023, in New Delhi.

India’s billionaires, including Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani, have also invested big money in the country. Last August, the UAE was among six countries invited to join the BRICS bloc, which India is a part of.

“The UAE, like the other Gulf states, has been trying in recent years to diversify its strategic and security partnerships with Great Powers,” said Pethiyagoda. “This means moving away from sole reliance on the US toward partnerships with India, China and Russia.”

Given these reasons, analysts say there is little chance UAE will bring up the criticism of Modi’s government over its treatment of Muslims.

“If they do bring it up, it will be in private,” Pethiyagoda said. “Gulf governments have always taken a practical approach of non-interference in domestic affairs of major powers.”

And it’s also unclear how much extra support the UAE temple will give a prime minister already popular with devout Hindu followers.

The BAPS temple “will not win him much more adulation amongst BJP supporting Hindus than the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya has already garnered,” Pethiyagoda said.

“It may however win votes in the South where much of India’s Gulf workforce hails from and sends their remittances to, and where the BJP is weaker.”

He added: “It could also, if promoted properly, help to improve his reputation amongst some Muslim voters to whom it could be portrayed as Hindu-Muslim friendship.”


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