Hinduism and Colonialism. Was: Rajaram's bull/Hindutva (response to BhG)

Luis Gonzalez-Reimann reimann at UCLINK4.BERKELEY.EDU
Tue Aug 15 08:10:04 UTC 2000

>> At 04:35 PM 08/06/2000 +0000, Bharat Gupt wrote:

>I also tried to indicate in the two posts that colonial definition of
>"Hindu" (which now prevails) reduced the wider meaning of "Hindu" as a
>cultural entity (from Persian Ind,Greek India, Islamic
>to religious, i.e., the followers of the Vedas.

The notion that "Hindu" as a religious category is a colonial fabrication
does not stand up to scrutiny.  Let me quote from D. Lorenzen (1995:12) as
he discusses North Indian bhakti movements of the 15th and 16th centuries:

"...the poems of virtually all nirguNI saints beginning with Kabir and Guru
Nanak repeatedly refer to 'Hindus and Turks' and 'Hindus and Muslims
[musulaman]' in contexts that clearly show that the authors had in mind
religious, and not ethnogeographical, communities."

>But I drew attention to the fact that varna is not ONLY  a Brahminical
>because it has been accepted by all indigenous people and here even by
>Muslims also as social hierarchy.

Again, Lorenzen (p.20):

"It is easy to demonstrate that nirguNI religion, particularly in its early
stages, has embodied a fairly direct rejection of the ideology of

In this respect, the articles by Schaller and Juergensmeyer in Lorenzen's
volume are relevant.
The ref. is:

Lorenzen, David N., ed. 1995. Bhakti Religion in North India: Community
Identity and Political Action. SUNY Series in Religious Studies, ed. Harold
Coward. Albany: State University of New York Press.

>Was this new categorisation ...
> an administrative
>strategy for altering social behaviour of the governed ?

The following is a good analysis that might be of interest (especially to
those who would apply Said's Orientalism to India):

Rocher, Rosane. 1993. British Orientalism in the Eighteenth Century: The
Dialectics of Knowledge and Government. In Orientalism and the Postcolonial
Predicament, eds. Carol A. Breckenridge and Peter van der Veer, 215-49.
Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.


Luis Gonzalez-Reimann
University of California, Berkeley

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