Hinduism was not invented by the British (or Muslims)

I’m reading a book titled The Idea of the Muslim World: A Global Intellectual History. It’s works within the postcolonial framework. Unlike a lot of postcolonial scholarship it isn’t bluster and rhetoric riddled with basic historical errors. The author presents a lot of interesting facts. But, as I’ve said elsewhere I disagree with the thesis of the book, which is that modern Islamic identity can be understood primarily through its interaction with European colonialism.

This isn’t to say colonialism doesn’t matter. It does matter. It’s just that Muslims are not inactive substrate upon which European agents operate. Muslims, and Islam as a civilization, has its own life, orientation, and self-conceptions, which exist somewhat apart from Europeans, and the West (I say somewhat because it is hard to understand the modern West and Islam without their coevolutionary dance over the centuries). Colonialism did not create the idea of the Muslim world de novo, it operated upon the idea of the Ummah which predated the modern West, and in fact emerged in tension with the ancient late antique Near East and Turan in the 7th and 8th centuries AD.

But this post is not about Islam. From the comments:

The big tragedy during the unmitigated disaster that was the partition upon the Hindus, many realized was that while there was a thing known as Ummah, there was no such thing as the Hindus. There are Muslims, but they are actually the largest plurality. There was no such thing as the Hindus. There was the Brahmins. There was the Namashudra. There was the Punjabi. There was the Thakur…

This to my mind is a much stronger position to defend than the ideas above in relation to Islam. To a great extent modern day, Hindu nationalism seems to be about creating an analog to the Dar-ul-Islam and Christendom for Hindus, many centuries after Muslims and Christians. But, I do think I disagree with this. It seems clear that Megasthenes, al-Biruni, and Faxian all had a sense of Indians, or Hindus as we were all called then, as a distinct, albeit variegated, people.

Hinduism as a particular confession with a creedal orientation is a relatively recent affair. Perhaps you can date it to Adi Shankara. Or even as late as Arya Samaj. That doesn’t matter. Hinduism as a distinctive civilization of Indians, with consistent particular unifying beliefs, is very ancient and dates to antiquity.

One might object that this only applies to the twice-born varna. But the Maurya were like of sudra origin. And South Indian polities welcomed Brahmins, who they clearly saw as part of their civilization, albeit different and apart.

Of course one might change the goalposts with some semantics. I myself liked to be clever and would say that Hinduism was invented by Muslims or Westerners a few years ago. But thinking more deeply, I think that that was just a stylistic pose by me, attempting to burnish my heterodoxy, as opposed to reflecting the first order substance.

Addendum: Genetics is now making it clear to me that the matrix of “Dravidian” and “Indo-Aryan” proto-India were closely connected and emerged around the same time, probably in tension, conflict, and interaction. Religious ideas we’d term “Hindu” probably didn’t exist 4,000 years ago, but the openness of South and North India to engagement and cultural exchange in the historical period is not I think coincidental, but reflects primal commonalities derived from the tumult in the centuries after the decline of the IVC.

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66 thoughts on “Hinduism was not invented by the British (or Muslims)”

  1. Razib the comment was politically based. Of course Veda Vedanta Mahabharata or various jaatis or 6 schools of philosophy are not created by Islam.

    Muslims do not politically self divide along their own sub identities when in significant presence of non Muslims. This is not a minority majority thing. Not until the non Muslim element is completely decimated is when the other aspects of identity activate on the political arena.

    You can follow various Indian political alignments whether it is Muslim-Yadav in Uttar Pradesh or KHAM (Kshatriya Harijan Adivasi Muslim) in Gujarat or Namashudra Muslim in both pre partition Bengal and also post partition West Bengal, that’s the nature of things.

    Only Hindutva can and has the capacity of creating coalitions across all the Hindu castes. Political commentators refer to it as communal polarization. In that Hindutva requires a significant amount of political capital that is also rarely repeatable electorally. I am not the first one to state that in this regard Hindutva is an Islamizing influence of sorts on something that Hindus generally don’t do…not even on BP.

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  2. Muslims do not politically self divide along their own sub identities when in significant presence of non Muslims. This is not a minority majority thing. Not until the non Muslim element is completely decimated is when the other aspects of identity activate on the political arena.

    you’re kind of a bullshitter.

    but that’s OK, there are lots of you on these comment boards….

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    1. Thank you for calling him out.

      Serious question: Is it possible to go a few days on this forum without any mention of Muslims or Islam? It’s absolutely fine to want to discuss Islam, but it seems that there is inordinate focus on it these days. I know that a lot of people didn’t like the perceived excessive focus on the Hindu caste system but this is now going to the other extreme. Surely there are other topics of interest besides Hinduism vs. Islam and India vs. Pakistan.

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      1. i talk about genetics. so yeah.

        but the comments come back to india and pakistan and islam. primary reason i created open threads.

        it’s like some straight men. there are many things to focus on relating to women. but for them it always comes back to the ass….

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        1. Yes, it is quite amazing that whatever the ostensible topic someone always brings up Islam or Pakistan. Not only that, but many comments come out of absolute ignorance and/or a desire to put Muslims down.

          At this point, it’s getting very boring.

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  3. Razib, liked your article and have many thoughts. But will focus on Bharotshontan first. Did you make a typo Bharatshontan?
    “Muslims do not politically self divide along their own sub identities when in significant presence of non Muslims.”

    Maybe you meant “Islamists” [maybe 25% of muslims] or only violent jihadi Islamists [maybe 5% of all muslims]. But even so, I don’t agree with your assessment. Even violent jihadi Islamists frequently ask nonmuslims for help in fighting other violent jihadi Islamists. For example see Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Syria. All these countries saw massive violence between AQ and Daesh/ISIS.

    Maybe you can read my article series on muslims to get a sense of just how diverse the global muslim Ummah is.

    With respect to India, why did about 40% of Gujarati muslims vote for Modi? Why does the RSS have so many muslim members? Why the alliance between Sufis, twelver Shiites, RSS, BJP and Hindutva? Why the close relationship between Sistani and PM Modi now? Iraqis and Iranians are incredibly pro Indian. And yes that includes Hindu Indians. How do you explain the Kurds (who are fiercely pro American in addition to being pro Indian and pro Israeli)? Albanians? Kosovans? Bosnians? Azerbaijanis? How do you explain the conflict between the Ottomans and the Persians? Have you seen how many Persians and Arabs dislike each other? [Persians are deeply interested in their Arya heritage–which they share with South Asia.] How do you explain Malaysia and Indonesia?

    Got some work to do now. Will try to address Razib’s article later.

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  4. What we can call classic Hindu elements like the puranas, respect for vedas, brahmins, Pilgrimage sites
    almost all the gods and goddesses Hindus worship now are present from the earliest recorded history – or literary consciousness in Tamil notwithstanding the high decibel disavowal of Hinduism in Dravidian politics of the 20th century. That lends credence to the above theory. If there was ever a non-Hindu or pre-Hindu “pure” Tamil civilization, that existed even before Tamil – even archaic Tamil – was around in paleolithic times.

    I said ‘almost all the gods.. ‘ becuase modern day popular cults like Ayyappa seem to be just few centuries old. OTOH, Hindusmm grows or changes not by Replacement as in West Asia but by Addition and perhaps reuse old ideas/gods under new names.

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  5. Congratulations for being patient enough to read through so much post modernist stuff. You are better than I.

    “modern Islamic identity can be understood primarily through its interaction with European colonialism.” This is incredibly offensive. To explain why requires explaining the underlying assumptions of eastern thought, European enlightenment, and post modernism neo Marxism.

    Eastern thought assumes that all people are divine, free, potentially powerful, potentially wise.
    European Enlightenment thought (partly inspired by eastern thought) assumes that all people are sovereign, free, potentially powerful, potentially wise
    Post Modernism assumes that aside from a very small number of elites, people are not sovereign, not free, not powerful and not wise.

    Philosophies flow out of their assumptions; and the deep second level assumptions that under-gird these assumptions. The rest of these philosophies mostly flow out of their deep assumptions.

    Muslims are:
    1) sovereign (To muslims I would express this in Islamic theological language as Al-Bukhaari Sahih (6227) and Muslim Sahih (2841) narrated from Abu Hurayrah about the progenitor of hominids being created from the image of “God”)
    2) potentially free
    3) potentially wise
    4) potentially powerful

    And I agree with what Razib said on this.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    “But, I do think I disagree with this. It seems clear that Megasthenes, al-Biruni, and Faxian all had a sense of Indians, or Hindus as we were all called then, as a distinct, albeit variegated, people.”
    Agreed. The same can be seen in the thousands of ancient Hindu texts and stories.

    “Hinduism as a particular confession with a creedal orientation is a relatively recent affair. Perhaps you can date it to Adi Shankara. Or even as late as Arya Samaj. That doesn’t matter. Hinduism as a distinctive civilization of Indians, with consistent particular unifying beliefs, is very ancient and dates to antiquity.”

    Hmmm. Is Hinduism now “”a particular confession with a creedal orientation”? I am not sure. This requires further reflection on my part to intelligently comment.

    What is clear is that “Hinduism” [which I am defining here as the ten Darshanas {two of which are Jainism and Buddhism} and their various descendants {one of which is Sikhism}] has gone through massive reformations on several different occasions:
    1) With the arrival of each Manu, including the current one (7th of 14)
    2) With each Chaturyuga (23rd of 71 in our current Manu)
    3) With each Yuga
    3a) at the beginning of the current Satya Yuga
    3b) a big global flood [several big floods, the last ending 12 thousand years ago]
    3c) during the life of Vamana
    3d) during and after the life of Rama
    3e) during the most recent great flood and ice age (which ended around 9,700 BC) which might have been the event that led to the Chandra Vamsha lineage hominids replacing the Surya Vamsha lineage hominids
    3e) during and after the life of Krishna

    This comment is already too long, so let me elaborate only on the life of Krishna. Hinduism transformed massively during this time. The Vedas were organized and written down for the first time. Veda Vyasa wrote a commentator on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and then hid this from the world to be revealed at a future time, 18 Maha Puranas were compiled and organized, Mahabharata written and organized, Hari Vamsha written and organized, Manu Smriti and Dharma shastras declared invalid going forward, rituals changed and modified, marriages and customs in society altered. And this is only the smallest taste of the change.

    The next big change happened during the life of Buddha, which I suspect happened more than 3000 years ago. It is not for nothing that Buddha is considered the ninth avatar (Krishna is the 8th). Buddha changed everything.

    The next big change was begun by Gaudapada, Govinda, Shankaracharya. In some ways they built upon Buddha’s changes. It would take scores of pages to explain how they changed things.

    This is not to even mention that major regional reformations and changes that have happened.

    Hinduism or Arya or the east is never stagnant but always in motion. Always rapidly evolving. If the flow stops and becomes still, then it dies. This is also true of meditation. In meditation everything doesn’t stop. Rather we watch the natural flow.

    “One might object that this only applies to the twice-born varna. But the Maurya were like of sudra origin. And South Indian polities welcomed Brahmins, who they clearly saw as part of their civilization, albeit different and apart.”

    This part is true. Many of Hinduism’s greatest and most revered recent saints and leaders are untouchables. Including Dnyaneshwar and his two brothers and sister. It is no exaggeration to say that their influence is felt throughout Hinduism. Including through the six Shaivite orders, Dattatreya order, Sai Baba, Sufism and Tibetan Buddhism.

    The great ones have no rules, no varna, no jati. They can come from any part of the world.

    “Of course one might change the goalposts with some semantics. I myself liked to be clever and would say that Hinduism was invented by Muslims or Westerners a few years ago. But thinking more deeply, I think that that was just a stylistic pose by me, attempting to burnish my heterodoxy, as opposed to reflecting the first order substance.”
    Nice. Jesus affected Hinduism according to many Hindu paramparas and schools. Hinduism co-evolved with Islam too. Specifically Sufi Islam. There is something to this.

    However any claim that the “West” invented Hinduism would be pure nonsense.

    +++++++++++++++
    “Genetics is now making it clear to me that the matrix of “Dravidian” and “Indo-Aryan” proto-India were closely connected and emerged around the same time, probably in tension, conflict, and interaction. Religious ideas we’d term “Hindu” probably didn’t exist 4,000 years ago, but the openness of South and North India to engagement and cultural exchange in the historical period is not I think coincidental, but reflects primal commonalities derived from the tumult in the centuries after the decline of the IVC.”

    I would say that many different lineages or types of homo sapiens joined with Arya culture at various different times. And in many cases the texts imply they came from far outside of South Asia. However they all merged with and became part of Sanathana Dharma.

    I think even ancient Hinduism would have been recognizable. But practiced very differently. There would have remained a common thread with the present.

    The traditional explanation for the fall of IVC would be the drying of the Saraswati river. Yes this also transformed Hinduism. This is thought to have happened after the passing of Krishna. My hope is that geologists are allowed to estimate how the trajectory of the Saraswati evolved over time and dried up.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Quite nicely written Razib.

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    1. “Vedas were organized and written down for the first time” ???

      Only around 10th century AD Vedas were started to be written down. In South India , the antagonism to writing down vedas were even stronger. Vedas are always orally transmitted . Oral transmission has preserved the authenticity of chanting far more than written documents ever could. That’s why in any part of India , a particular chant is identical orally/aurally.

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      1. Veda Vyasa is traditionally regarded as the first person to write down the Vedas. He broke massive taboos by doing so.

        Oral tradition kept the Vedas for many thousands of years before Veda Vyasa.

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  6. ‘Hinduism was not invented by the British (or Muslims)’

    The excessive veneration of Vedas and Upanishads in modern Hinduism is most certainly a consequence of British efforts to study and translate them. There were far more important scriptures around such as the Puranas and the Agamas/Tantras which were dismissed as fanciful and lesser works despite them constituting the source of temple-worship and all its attendant paraphrenalia (idol worship, festivals, fasts and other observances and their basis). And temple-worship is still the dominant form of Hinduism by far.

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    1. “The excessive veneration of Vedas and Upanishads in modern Hinduism is most certainly a consequence of British efforts to study and translate them”

      I have never heard this point of view expressed before. By any traditional scholars or spiritual leaders or saints.

      Are you familiar with the ten Darshanas? Are you familiar with the various schools inside Uttara Mimamsa (Vedanta school)? Are you familiar with the Vedic Patshala system? Have you read the Valmiki Ramayana? Mahabharata? Any of the ten Maha Puranas? The Vedas are venerated by everyone other than Ajivika, Chaarvaaka, Buddhism. And even then generally not criticized. Buddha, I believe, never criticized the Vedas. The Jains respect the Vedas, albeit not as much as their own scriptures (which they believe are older). Jains believe that the Vedas were Jain scriptures (and younger than more ancient Jain scriptures) but in some cases might have been corrupted.

      Have you read:
      http://www.brownpundits.com/2018/02/03/ancient-arya-culture/

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      1. I said ‘excessive veneration’ for good reason. Also, “And temple-worship is still the dominant form of Hinduism by far.” You can’t explain temple-worship with any of the stuff that you name-dropped.

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        1. Temple worship is important. I don’t disagree.

          Veda-Agama is said. Agama has always been important. In some ways it is good that the post modernist Indonologists haven’t tried to distort the Agamas.

          Much of the technology of temples is in the Agamas and Padma Purana. At the same time parts of the the Vedas are sung in temples. This is one of the main reasons temples were created.

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  7. About the topic of Islamic world. I am more attracted and fascinated by Arnold Toynbee’s views on this as propounded in his multi-volume A Study of History. For Toynbee a unit of historical study is ‘civilization’ which has phases of growth , internal civil wars, internal and external proletariat, Universal State , break up of this Universal State, and again reconstituting of this state and after a few breakup and renewals , the civilization goes into decline and dissolution.

    In the Middle-east , he traces a Syrian civilization which came into being around 9th C BC. Due to internal wars it broke and it’s first universal state was made by Cyrus the great and the Achaemenid empire. Then it was part of Roman empire. Then the impetus for the third Universal state was given my Arab conquests in the aftermath coming of Islam. The Caliphate was the universal empire for the Syriac civilization which started in the 9th C BC. That also broke down and was ultimately destroyed by Mongols. With that the Syrian civ died.

    After the death of civilizations , in Toynbee’s reading , there are religious movements and they provide chrysalis for new civilization/s . That’s how Islamic Civilization arose in the 13th century. It soon split into Arabic and Iranian civs. Iranian proved more vital than Arabic and swallowed wholesale Arabic civ. They also had internal civil wars , and they had Universal states in the form of Ottomon Empire. That state is also gone and Islamic civ is on the verge of being absorbed in western civ.

    In Toynbee’s view, the Mughal and British empires provided Universal states for the Hindu civilization which started around 8th C AD. Hindu Civ is a successor to Indic Civ which started in vedic times and had Universal States in Maghada and Gupta Empires.

    Taking Toynbee’s view Islamic , Hindu and Western civs are separate and ‘what makes them tick’ is also separate

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  8. @Razib

    Hinduism as a particular confession with a creedal orientation is a relatively recent affair … Hinduism as a distinctive civilization of Indians, with consistent particular unifying beliefs, is very ancient and dates to antiquity.

    That is true to my knowledge. Hinduism was never a nebulous, catch-all phrase for people in a well-defined geographical area, but a marker of distinct culture that is comparably old (or, in some cases, older) as all other major classical identities: Roman, Hellenic, Persian, Chinese etc. The cultural content of Hinduism itself is, as you say, a result of continual social intercourse across a vast tract of land. And quite probably the intercourse wasn’t just social 😉

    I personally find the analogy with the culture of Classical Rome to be a useful (though inexact) approximation of what it meant to be Hindu. Not sure what you think of it. Like Romans, the popular religion was (and remains) quite heterodox and amenable to newer gods and deities and the identity was predicated more on a lingua franca, mythos and culture than race (Egyptians, North Africans, Spaniards, Levantines, Germans, Scythians or Aethiopians could be Roman citizens). However, unlike Romans, Hindus did not see extended periods of political and administrative unity. The Roman political model endured long after the original Roman gentes were finished.

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    1. the roman analogy is good. but the chinese analogy works too.

      these analogies were evident to classically trained europeans. some british bureaucrats would muse that talking to brahmins was like speaking to the philosophers of yore in the flesh.

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    2. Classical Rome can’t be thought of without Roman Empire. Rome fits in well with the Toynbeean model of a Universal State. Rome was the U S for the Hellenistic civilization which began in Greece and came to a premature breakdown during the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC). Romans absorbed the Hellenic culture – they considered it their teacher. Rome as a city was just a small corner of the Hellenic world which came to dominate it. So, Rome is no analogy for Hindu society .

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      1. Rome was the U S for the Hellenistic civilization which began in Greece and came to a premature breakdown during the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC).

        hellenistic civilization is usually used as a term for AFTER alexander. you are talking about classical greece.

        be careful about that semantic issue.

        you are also confused about rome the city-state, and rome the civilization. when the franks settled in northern gaul the local peasants and elites called themselves ‘romans.’ the roman identity had spread to all latin speaking people, and to some extent among the non-latins in the east (though this was more semantic).

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        1. To avoid semantic confusion let us call it Classical civilization. Rome was a political salient part of this civilization. Rome – city and empire- was a subset of classical civilization.

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    3. @Slapstick Good comment. The Roman analogy is fit, and I think it actually elucidates many other trends in contemporary Indian politics. Take the cultural and political program of the RSS for example. The RSS’ opponents often criticize it for trying to “abrahamize” Hindu culture by patronizing Hindi as a national language and favoring certain deities that tend to find more favor among North Indians (Ram being the most prominent example), but I think this criticism is overstated. Rather, I think the RSS’ cultural program be better understood as an analogue to Augustus’ religious reforms in the 1st century AD. Augustus launched a concerted program to renovate temples, revive archaic priestly colleges and sideline cults that were deemed too oriental, the near-eastern “magna mater” being the prominent example. Augustan propaganda cast these reforms as a revival of the mythic Roman “golden age”, but it would be a mistake to think of these reforms as purely backwards looking. Ultimately the social and cultural consolidation these reforms helped catalyze bolstered Augustus’ political authority and gave him the ability to expand and strengthen the Empire.

      Similarly, the RSS harkens back to Vedic India (cf. constant references to Ram Rajya) for inspiration, but has also conceded the importance of economic reforms and liberalization to Modi’s BJP to move the culture forward. The importance of this step cannot be overstated given the latent ideological hold of Swadeshi economics over prominent elements of the sangh. This sometimes leads to absurdities (e.g. claiming that ancient Indians invented everything from plastic surgery to genetic science), but such statements should not distract from the fundamentally reformist nature of the movement, culturally, economically, and politically.

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      1. @VijayVan

        Most of what you write in your comments is far too intelligent for a dunce like me.

        @Vishal

        Perhaps the parallels with RSS may be milking the metaphor a little too much.

        For a start, political organization in India is not an RSS project, but RSS is one of many pressure groups working within a far more advanced (Western) parliamentary/constitutional system. The ability of RSS to affect political or economic change is, therefore, an indirect function of the popular swing vote. That makes RSS as much (if not more) of an agenda follower than an agenda setter, at least when it comes to its political relevance. Heck! they even changed their dress code because people made fun of their khaki chuddies 😉

        The economic liberalization espoused by the Hindu Right is for exactly the same reason Christian Right does it in the US. The Jesus-was-poor spiel goes only so far. To fight and win elections in a population of hundreds of millions, you need serious money. And serious money comes from a certain set of people who want to get returns on that cash. And one doesn’t get returns on cash in a place where rate of wealth redistribution is much higher than wealth creation. Purely extractive, rent-seeking behaviour does not lead to the kind of exponential wealth growth (modulo technological improvement) that a globalised, consumer-driven economy can generate.

        While Roman culture was an inexact analogy of Classical Hinduism, modern Hinduism is beginning to look more like American Protestant Christianity to me. Plethora of cults and churches, babas and deras, tele-evangelism, modern apologia of Hindu scripture, increasing capture of the right-wing space by trading and business families etc.

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        1. Hinduism is beginning to look more like American Protestant Christianity to me. Plethora of cults and churches, babas and deras, tele-evangelism, modern apologia of Hindu scripture, increasing capture of the right-wing space by trading and business families etc.

          Fantastic Insight.

          Buddhism was “revived” by American Theosophists like Henry Steele Olcott. That version of Buddhism was called Protestant Buddhism. The last decade or so SL has seen the emergence of militant Buddhism and militant Monks.

          Also Evangelical Christianity is making reasonable inroads into society, percentage wise more among the Tamils, both SL and Upcountry/Indian.

          https://www.buddhistinquiry.org/article/a-protestant-buddhism/

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  9. Razib

    “Of course one might change the goalposts with some semantics. I myself liked to be clever and would say that Hinduism was invented by Muslims or Westerners a few years ago. ”

    I feel that for vast majority of hindus (conservative and religious) its immaterial of what others say about the start of their religion. According to them India’s history = Hindu history(At least pre 8th century/pre 12 the century). For them Buddha is also a part of Hindu history. A sort of corollary would be Arab history=muslim history. Nothing before 7th century really matters(similarly India post 12 century history is seen as dark age). I also feel that for most part hindus are inward looking and for them “Hinduism” was always “here” in India. In a hypothetical question if tomorrow Bali becomes independent and declare itself hindu state , in the mind of hindus it will still not occupy the place of some religious site

    “To a great extent modern day, Hindu nationalism seems to be about creating an analog to the Dar-ul-Islam and Christendom for Hindus, ”

    Hindu nationalism has won the day in N-India irrespective of political outcomes in the future. I would venture a sort of clash b/w hindu nationalism vs soft/liberal/divergent Hinduism of East and South. The great Hindu North-South schism 😛 . Its only after that will you see Hindu-dom taking shape.

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    1. I don’t know what Hindu nationalism is.

      “In a hypothetical question if tomorrow Bali becomes independent and declare itself hindu state , in the mind of hindus it will still not occupy the place of some religious site”

      Many Tirthas exist outside of South Asia. Albeit the exact locations of some of them are no longer known. Hindus might come to a spiritual vortex in Bali and revere/honor it. It would make no difference to them whether the country Bali is in is “Hindu” or not. For that matter many Hindus would regard the Kaaba and Jerusalem as holy Tirthas that they wouldn’t mind praying at. Although they would recognize that the Abrahamics wish to be treated as separate from the east (or not, many Hindus still don’t get the concept).

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      1. “I don’t know what Hindu nationalism is”.

        Don’t be disingenuous. Hindu nationalism (or Hindutva) is the ideology of the current ruling party in India. It is the same ideology that justified destroying the Babri Masjid and the ideology that believes only Hindus can be first class citizens of India. Muslims and Christians have their holy lands outside India and are therefore not to be trusted.

        You can say you don’t know what it is. But the far more important fact is that the people running the show have a coherent ideology and they know what they are doing. They want to destroy the inclusive idea of India that Muslims and other minorities could subscribe to and replace it with a majoritarian Hindu state, like the majoritarian Muslim state to the West.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindu_nationalism

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        1. Most of what the global press establishment reports now is post modernist jibber jabber. Have you seen PM Modi’s most recent speech?

          Is what offends the post modernists most the fact that the sitting PM of India openly, emotionally and authentically eulogizes the prophet Mohammed, may peace be upon him . . . as the Bharatiya equivalent of a great incarnated spiritual master of an age of man?

          This is the first energetically openly pro muslim PM in India’s history (Vajpayee was too . . . but lacked the health and energy to articulate it). This is the first PM to prioritize the protection of reasonable muslims from Islamist Jihadis. He has done more than any other Indian PM to provide Indian muslims freedom of art, thought and intuition. He is a true friend and ally of Sufis, twelvers, sixers, liberal muslims and atheist muslims everywhere. And he is not ashamed to let that be known.

          PM Modi scares the post modernists as no other Indian PM ever has. PM Modi is not afraid to let the goodness, light, greatness and wisdom of India manifest. And not afraid to have the back of Indian muslims as they reform global Islam and transform the world for the better.

          President Bush use to say “Freedom and dignity are God’s gift to each man and woman in the world.” For thousands upon thousands of years beyond all known history Bharat has epitomized extraordinary freedom of art, thought, intuition and feeling. And now that Bharat is slowly re-emerging.

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          1. Modi is responsible for a pogrom against Muslims. PM Vajpayee wanted him fired as Chief Minister but Advani kept that from happening. No amount of words from you will ever make up for that fact. Blaming everything on “post modernists” isn’t going to get you anywhere.

            In any case, you can’t pretend you don’t know what Hindu nationalism is now that you have given a entire Wikipedia article about the concept. It may not be precisely what you understand “Hindutva” to be but this is the ideology that is commonly being referred to when people use the words “Hindu nationalism”.

            I have never hidden the fact that I believe in Congress and in Nehruvian secularism and find Modi to be completely abhorrent. Indians are free to disregard my views. For the sake of South Asia, I hope that there is a regime change after the next Lok Sabha election.

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          2. Since PM Vajpayee was brought up, this article is interesting. I feel that Vajpayeeji was basically a decent man (certainly much more decent that Modi) but even he could not transcend the worldview that he had imbibed through the RSS (the prime Hindu nationalist organization). Calling Modi and Vajpayeeji “openly energetically pro-Muslim” is really a stretch. Is it “pro-Muslim” to justify pogroms against Muslims?
            From the article:
            ” “Wherever Muslims live, they don’t like to live in co-existence with others, they don’t like to mingle with others; and instead of propagating their ideas in a peaceful manner, they want to spread their faith by resorting to terror and threats. The world has become alert to this danger.”

            The statement is classic hate speech, but after it generated a huge controversy, Vajpayee claimed his remarks were aimed not at all Muslims but only ‘militant Muslims’. ”
            And:
            “Apart from reverting to the usual chauvinist line of the Sangh parivar, Vajpayee was also diverting the debate into a dead end. The issue is not whether he personally opposes militant Islam or Hinduism but whether, as prime minister, he is prepared to defend the constitutional rights of all Indians. Regardless of his own views and beliefs, a prime minister cannot speak for only a section of citizens. Do the Muslims of Gujarat have the right to physical security? Is he prepared to punish those who have committed crimes regardless of their political or ideological affiliation? Rather than dealing with these questions, Vajpayee is trying to cover up his own political failure and culpability.”

            https://thewire.in/politics/let-us-not-forget-the-glimpse-we-got-of-the-real-vajpayee-when-the-mask-slipped

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          3. @Kabir,

            Thanks for the link to the article. It brought back memories.

            I agree with you that it’s completely wrong for a political leader, especially one heading a government to make the kinds of comments that Vajpayee made then. It’s the responsibility of the state to monopolize the use of violence and exhibit zero tolerance for mob rule, however big they think the provocation is.

            If I had to guess why even the more moderate right-wingers started to express these kind of sentiments, it was probably because they felt that the Godhra train burning had been promptly forgotten once news of the riots and killings of Muslims started to get out. (I was in the US at the time, and I recall getting reminder by family members back in India that Godhra happened first.) Like right-wingers in the US who are constantly (and sometimes justifiably) suspicious of the “left-wing” mainstream media pushing slanted articles, Indian Hindutvavadis were also on hair-trigger to protest whatever headlines came out in the major newspapers and TV channels.

            (Still doesn’t excuse it though.)

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          4. @Numinous,

            Thanks. I had always thought that Vajpayee, though a Hindutvadi, was basically a decent human being. This article was quite an eye-opener.

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      2. The goras at the turn of 19th century had the idea “kill the Indian save the man” regarding the remaining native Americans. Basically they thought the native Americans were worthy of biological assimilation with the whites but not of keeping their native cultures or languages or religions. They had to go to missionary schools, speak English language only and forget the native languages, marry whites and their kids marry whites and completely assimilate their lines into white American mainstream. In Australia also the modus operandi was same with the adoptions of aboriginal kids.

        This is exactly what our Hindu nationalism is talking of. We want the Muslims to break down into little bitty groups like Bohra, twelver, Deobandi, mureed of x baba vs mureed of y baba, women, etc.

        Again this is basic political posturing. Republicans also like pointing out that Cubans are Republican whereas Mexicans are Democrat or they’ll pull the 5 black people in the crowd of 2000 at a Republican rally and stand them right behind Trump to show and demoralize the black viewers lol. We do the same in India.
        The Islamists even allege we put burqas and skull caps on regular Hindu BJP folks and show them clapping at Modi rallies lmao. It is done with the intention to demoralize the Muslims. I kinda believe the Islamist allegation that these are Hindus masquerading as Muslims. Like below video
        https://youtu.be/wT9TzX4Xc7k

        Yes folks born into Muslim families with Muslim names can always be found in what is so called Hindu spiritual circles and vice versa. Actually in the spiritual space, what really is Hindu/Muslim (again a very Dharmic view)? But those Muslims will not be there in hijabs and skull caps. If one is so post or transcended of their birth identity as Muslims that they are blaspheming with idol worship and aarti etc then it isn’t realistic that they are at the same time being super-Shariati and maintaining hijab etc. It doesn’t work like that in the Shariati-Marfati continuum.

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        1. Garib Nawaz, the twelver line of masters, the sixer line of masters, Kabir; are not “bitty groups”. They are great and high spiritual masters that all humans can learn from. When Hindus praise them the praise is authentic.

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          1. Madari Sufi etc are genuine aspects of the Sanatana Dharma on spiritual plane and I will prostrate on the floor before these sadhus of Bharat
            https://youtu.be/9g-CvB9t6ns

            You might be confusing the spiritual or transcendental plane with the material plane of power and politics.

            Also too much glorification of the Sufi or syncretic aspect in Bharat happens and leads to an obfuscating effect politically for the Hindus. Intentional or not, the Sufi modus operandi is not different from the Jesuit:
            1) Integrate thoroughly in culture, looks, the metaphors used, etc.

            2) Provide a “post” material level identity to the hapless Hindu as if it will be a “step up” in their individual spiritual process/practice (so introduction of Islam/hybrid-Islam as a tariqa or yantra first)

            3) Eventually wean away the Hindu away to identify as Muslim (however blasphemous and non Islamic this Islam might be)

            The journey of all these demographics is eventually a centrifugal force ripping out of the core Sanatani Bharat towards hardcore anti-Hindu politics, that’s all.

            What is also incredible is that the anti-Hindu political nature of a south Asian Muslim demographic is devastating to the Hindu regardless of what stage of journey from Sanatan/Sufi to Shariati/Salafi/etc the Muslim generator of violence is at. In 1964, Hindus of East Bengal were chucked out Punjab style because a hair of Muhammad’s went missing in some mosque in Kashmir.
            https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/1964_East_Pakistan_riots
            Now revering some so called hair of Muhammad is in itself major blasphemy in Islam. That has little bearing on the non converted Hindu though.

            If you feel offended by the mention of the Sufi space, my humblest apologies. I to interact deeply in these regions at the dargahs etc back in homeland. The political emphasis or journey so to speak for all these things is to stop serving as a conduit “out” but rather get thoroughly reintegrated into our pantheon and Hindus will just add a Gharib Nawaz or Panj Pyare next to Shiva, Durga, Buddha etc. We need to use our digestive power to our advantage, instead of sitting back and play this neither here nor there game. I never purported that an individual level Hindu doing the rounds at Ajmer or Sai Baba etc is looking to befuddle and dominate individual Muslims.

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  10. There is something to the Roman analogy. I don’t think anyone now living and willing to share knows the Roman/Greek/Serb religion before before 500 BC. Those few who might know keep it to themselves. If they existed and were willing to share, perhaps their religion could be added to Sanathana Dharma as an 11th Darshana. I think their faith and culture was a kindred to the Arya further east.

    This said the faith was evolving and morphing as the Roman Empire was forming; so this is an inexact analogy.

    +++++++++++++++++++++

    Razib, can you define what you mean by Chinese culture?

    For me ancient Chinese culture is the combination of Buddhism with Taoism and Confucianism. In which case Buddhism is part of Sanathana Dharma. Taoism is eerily similar to Sanathana Dharma [in India it is believed that Lao Tzu (also written Laozi) was the Nath Siddha Yogi Boganathar]. Confuscism appears to me to have independent roots; albeit nothing in it is inconsistent with Sanathana Dharma.

    I love ancient Chinese culture and find in fascinating. When I read english translations of Taoist texts, I can’t tell if I am reading Vedas, Sufi poems or Taoist sayings. They are so similar. Accupuncture, acupressure, Tai Chi, Ki Gong are also very similar to their Arya and Samkhya counterparts (chakras/nadis and meridians). And yet Chinese culture is Chinese. It is a seamless blend of both Chinese and Arya. It is deeply unclear where one starts and the other ends. Ancient chinese culture is vast and deep as the ocean. There is no end to it. And I would love to soak up all of it.

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    1. I have no time to elaborate extensively but there was a good question about who knows about particular religions (Roman/Greek/Serbian) before 500BC. I will say only couple things for thinking.
      If, for example, Greeks appeared in history in the 8th c. BC, how they so quickly built their mythology, in a matter of only couple hundred years? And why their central shrine, Olymp, was not on Greek’s territory than on ‘barbarians’? Who built Delphi (Greeks didn’t)? And why Greek’s gods are all so blonde and no one looks like Tsipras (except for not wearing ties)? Romans built their mythology even faster. It seems that ancient Serbs were the dumbest, it took them thousands of years to build their mythology/religion. They had for example a goddess (of love) Priya thousands of years BC, whose later pandans were Aphrodite (Greek) and Venus (Roman). Really, how much time is needed in sparse populated areas, with substandard living, with low literacy, without any communications to build well rounded mythology?

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      1. Thanks for very much for sharing. Look forward to collaborating with you.

        What is the “central shring, Olymp” you refer to. Mt. Olympus is in Greece, right?

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  11. In the wake of the passing away of Bharat Ratna Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, I would request a tribute post in his memory.

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      1. I am not a very knowledgable person to lay out his legacy. I suppose a few of his videos from YouTube might be good –

        https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=eyzloBabWEo

        https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-YdT_lEGm2I

        https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=vymaVk-2rtc

        What Strikes me most at his passing today is his universal like ability. There is hardly anyone who does not remember him fondly as he passes away from this world. He was also deeply respected across party lines.

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  12. Vajpayee is having his Jinnah moment 😛 Too much revisionism to make them appear moderate. Even though i feel in Jinnah case its more.

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    1. Yea isn’t Vajpayee himself a stalwart in the Ramjanambhoomi andolan? This post death coopting is silly, but also a deeply Dharmic thayng in a way.
      In death you honor the warrior even if they were your “enemy” in the ihakaala. It is like you get a chance to stand and reflect instead of just saying “good riddance to that pest” which means one is carrying that hostility in their heart of hearts. We seek to and are capable of saying at the end of an individual’s Kurukshetra “you came here and did YOUR dharma and I will respect you for that”.

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    2. Saurav,

      Vajpayee definitely came across as much more decent than Modi and his Hindutva was perceived to be of the soft kind. He tried to improve relations with Pakistan and famously said that the Kashmir issue could be solved within “Kashmiriyat”, “Jahmooriat” and “Insaniyat”. Yet, I have read some articles that refer to him as being only a mask for the RSS and it seems he said some very nasty and anti-Muslim things after the Gujarat pogroms. People spoke of him as being the “right man in the wrong party” but it seems he did deeply believe in the RSS worldview.

      I guess the BJP has moved so far to the right that Vajpayee seems like a moderate, which he was not really.

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      1. Kabir

        What you have written is mostly right. I dont really care what type of person he was because someone can have his/ her personal taste /views on certain topics. What really matters is what ideology his institution supports. This is where the Jinnah similarity comes. He had mostly outsourced his bad cop (Hindutva) part to Advani, but whenever push come to shove he held the party line. He did gave the Insaniyat speech but again when the rubber met the road he threw out “restoration of article 370” resolution passed by Abdullah in Kashmir assembly in the late 90s.

        Calling him a mask is a bit disingenuous since he never claimed that he was separate from RSS/BJP. Its mostly his detractors who said he was a mask. He hadn’t asked to be seen separate from RSS.

        On Pakistan i feel lot is being made of his speech “accepting pakistan” at minar-e-pakistan. He faced no heat from the right wing after he came back from Lahore, contrast this to Musharaff unwillingness to salute him as COAS. In India the right wing had long accepted Pakistan (even before the left /secular) and apart from some usual “Akhand Bharat” lip service which doesn’t hurt anyone. Actually the people who would actually like “Akhand Bharat” are the left /secular and the partition people (Punjabis and Bengalis) and these people are not BJP supporters. The right is not stupid , more 20 percent muslim in Akhand Bharat would make their demographic majority irrelevant and they can kiss political power goodbye forever.

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        1. I think it was someone in the RSS who said he was a “mukhota” for the organization. I seem to have read that in the last few days.

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  13. India is a feudalistic tribal society even now. In these kinds of societies, “Great Leaders” matter more. It is the difference between whether you get heard or not, whether you get listened to or not. The generosity of the “Great Leader” matters more. Constitution is a piece of paper! Norms have not been locked in. Many people are being critical of him for his various failures which cost many lives. This is true. So this needs to be said. Until values and norms get locked in, Leaders matter!. And as we are witnessing with trump, even with norms locked in, very poor leaders can change all that. Vajpayee by his generosity of spirit to opposition and allies and his own party workers built a norm that saved many more. He was better than average Indian and better than average Indian politician. Comparison with Jinnah is nonsensical. Jinnah did not have such generosity of spirit. Nehru in that sense is better, a person whom he modeled himself after and who predicted Vajpayee had it in him to become the prime minister. Although again unlike Nehru where not much leadership grew after him, this isnt true under vajpayee. Under him, modi,swaraj,jaitley,venkaiah ,pramod mahajan and other leaders also grew. He led India’s first non congress led coalition to successful full tenure which no other leader had managed in 49 yrs. There was democracy at the level of states but at the center India was still a one party state, this decisively broke in 2003-04 at the end of his tenure. Under him, NC of kashmir (abdullah), JDS (nitish kumar),TDP (chandra babu naidu), Mamata bannerjee WB and even DMK Karunanidhi ,mayawati and others were part of the alliances in that period with BJP. As karunanidhi put it before his death before 2014 elections. “Vajpayee was a good person at least in BJP” looking at the political horizon before 2014 elections. And Both of them are now gone, something similar is also true for karunanidhi,jayalalitha as well. The great swell of tributes for vajpayee we are seeing is also because of that. It also is a rebuke to modi, who learned the lesson after defeat of vajpayee in 2003-04. And other 2 times vajpayee govt was dismissed, once in 13 days and another time with just one vote. Modi learned his lesson well, too much generosity will be abused.

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    1. I trust Siddharth Vardarajan, who is an acclaimed journalist, more than some random guy on the internet who doesn’t even use his own name. Thanks very much.

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      1. Kabir, you don’t know Siddhart Vardarajan. You are authentic. He is not. Please do not risk your personal credibility by endorsing someone of bad faith (even if you believe he agrees with you on some policy issues).

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        1. I am quite capable of judging sources for myself thanks. Someone who is a center-left acclaimed journalist has much more credibility in my eyes than random commenters on the internet. Vardarajan is the editor of TheWire.in which is my go-to Indian news site.

          As for credibility, I’m not the one denying that I know what Hindu nationalism is and blaming everything on the “postmodernists”. Let’s worry about our own credibility.

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      2. Well this shows that you trust your own bias and would gravitate towards those sources that can confirm your bias.

        You can believe what you want about Vajpayee but the outpouring of love and affection by the entire country on his death is proof of his popularity. Majority of Muslims too have today only good things to say about him.

        Vajpayee it was who initiated the peace process with Pakistan by boarding a bus to Lahore. It was under him that the Kashmir issue was near resolution. Inspite of being back- stabbed by the Pakistanis in Kargil, he again reached out when Musharraf came to power.

        Had Vajpayee been a narrow- minded bigot, he would have never done what he did with Pakistan. So let us appreciate him for that.

        It takes a special kind of bigot to ignore all of Vajpayee’s good intentions and actions and dig out something which is questionable to malign the great man. Shame !

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        1. Obviously, I will trust center-left sources, just as you would trust center-right sources. There is nothing strange about that.

          I have read a lot of obits and articles about Vajpayeeji. We can acknowledge that he reached out to Pakistan. His administration was also much more moderate than the current one. However, he was not able to transcend the RSS worldview and did say a lot of anti-Muslim things. Vardarajan’s article only points out one of the most egregious. Blaming a community for attacks upon them is not on.

          Anyway, if you think Mr. Vardarajan is wrong why not try to get a rebuttal published? It’s a lot harder to actually be a journalist than to comment on internet blogs.

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  14. “India is a Hindu nation and nobody can deny this”- Atal Bihari Vajpayee

    ” hindu tan-man, hindu jeewan, rag-rag hindu mera parichay”

    Just like modi, vajpayee was unapologetic about his views. S vardarajan’s wife is a murder accused in india. Leftists in india r responsible for maximum destruction in india, even more than islamists.Their terror group is 4th most dangerous in tge world. Their ideals stalin, mao etc caused 120 million deaths.But lets talk about hindu militancy😂😂
    In vajpayee’s time they cried intolerance too. But there was no sm then. A muslim militant group blasted churches frequently and left bajrang dal pamphlets behind. Even after the arrest of the islamist responsible for it, tgey never ceased to whine.

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  15. “India is a Hindu nation and nobody can deny this”- Atal Bihari Vajpayee

    ‘Hindu tan-man, hindu jeewan, rag-rag hindu mera parichay.
    Vajpayee was quite unapologetic about his views. S vardrajan is a vile leftist whose wife is a murder accused. His ilks sided with china during 1962 war and r responsible for maximum destruction in india, even more than islamists. Naxalists r world’s 4th most dangerous terrorist entity. The ideals of these revolutionaries r mao and stalin whi r responsible for 120 million deaths. They even have their portraits in their offices. 😂😂And they talk about hindu militancy. Even during Vajpayee’s tenure they cried about intlolerance. An islamist terrorist carried out bomb blast in several churches and left bajrang dal pamphlets behind. When he was arrested, they became silent. Same happened in 2014,a bangaladeshi raped nuns, few glass panes of churches broken and aha, intolerance by yindoo terrorists. Neither Vajpayee nor modi gives a damn about them.

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  16. this comes from what was supposedly said to bunch of people in USA. He had no direct source, its a hearsay,clarified by pmo during that period itself. And it is beyond dispute that vardarajan lies,my evidence is his own employee wrote in facebook that when she was troubled by hooligans of jignesh maveni, she wished to complain police but rather than support his employee he told her he wouldnt support her as it would be bad for the groups he is supporting.

    http://www.thehoot.org/media-watch-briefs/reporter-attacked-advised-not-to-complain-10468
    In short, he lied. This was recent, not more than 2 yrs back. So, you are putting your trust on a proven liar. As to get the worst of vajpayee, that too is easy to find even without looking for lies, 2002 and apparently his speech was also one of the catalyst in nellie massacre and he was supposedly positive for operation blue star. my name is bharat, its the last name I wont reveal. bharat, devoted to light/knowledge. And no, I dont believe vajpayee had to earn anyone’s credibility, not least of siddhart vardarajan. He already won the support of some of his most fierce critics who know much more of him than vardarajan. He was far better than an average Indian and far better than average Indian politician. As to his attitude, he asked his minister chandan mitra who was a bitter critic of his invite to musharaff, called him and asked him of it, he listened, and tried to understand and when this was acknowledged, he asked him to try to understand him as a PM and also to try to understand musharaff and introduced them. Now the minister has changed party to trinamool. He revealed this story yesterday.

    As to the statement concerned, I would stand by that because its factually true, china,russia, europe, India,thailand,israel. cant get along with atheists, confucians, hindus ,christians ,jews, sikhs, zoroastrians,jains,buddhists or real communists. This was the statement towards islam and the kinds of people it creates by both ambedkar and karl marx as well. So I do not see this as an issue to burnish vajpayee credentials for being better for it, I actually think he was a fool to trust media which cost him his election as he tried to use their narrative spinning capabilities for his own end and as a result lost touch with the ground. and was a fool to trust opposition which cost him by 1 vote, what they did to him for power lust was despicable and none of his charm worked then and was an utter fool to call musharaff for peace, the man responsible for kargil and deposing pakistan pm nawaz.

    I see distinctions of hinduism/hindutva, jihadists/muslims nonsensical, the belief system/history is so that these kinds of people are flaring up . But for that history could it have been so that there is modi today or ISIS?. It is delusion to try to make some artificial break between ordinary hindus and hindutva folk or ordinary muslims from jihadists in the long run when they are in large numbers and have autonomy. This is nonsense, ordinary people are signing up for jihad or rss/bjp. To be deluded by such vision is the very problem of the world. Its like distinguishing between ordinary german folk who were enthusiastic supporters of nazism/hitler and hitler and his inner circle of people. How could it be otherwise that one could believe in such ideas and not end up with people like hitler.How could it be that bunch of people consider mohammad perfect and not end up with ISIS or saudi arabia. How could it have been otherwise?. In case of hitler and nazism , its not a religion so people are more honest about it.

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    1. Are you an acclaimed journalist?

      If not, then I’m obviously going to trust that person rather than some dude on the internet.

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  17. Zack,

    Are we going to have a tribute post on Vajpayeeji or not ? There is point discussing about him on this totally unrelated thread

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  18. I brought facts and other guy brought titles. s vardarajan as editor let down his very own journalist for his political bias. That is the truth demonstrated here. All the titles and acclaims can go to hell

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  19. “It is impossible to tell whether Vajpayee’s moderation, his much-touted liberalism, was a mask he wore for the party. Or he had indeed changed from his early days in the RSS. Perhaps he was a divided soul who swung between moderate and hardline positions, depending on his own political compulsions. But liberal he certainly wasn’t.”

    https://scroll.in/article/890832/atal-bihari-vajpayee-was-no-liberal-but-he-could-soften-or-harden-his-hindutva-to-suit-his-politics

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