Why Hinduism is not inchoate paganism

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An individual, who I have come to conclude is a troll after further comments (they are banned), mentioned offhand that Hinduism and/or Hindu identity is reactive Islam and the British, and that its origins are in the 19th century. This is a common assertion and presented recently by one of our podcast guests. I myself have entertained it in the past. It’s not prima facie crazy.

But I have come to conclude that this is not the right way to think about it. Or, more precisely, it misleads people on the nature of the dynamic of Indian religious identity and its deep origins. This is why I think Hindus themselves self-labeling ‘polytheists’ or ‘pagan’ can mislead people. Not because these are offensive terms. People can refer to themselves however they want. But these terms have particular relational resonances with other groups, periods, and peoples.

One can point to al-Biruni’s external observations about Indian religion, or Shijavi’s personal opinions in his correspondence, to make a case for Hinduism and Hindu identity (using both terms to avoid troll-semantic ripostes) being older than the 19th century. But this is not the argument that is strongest to me. I have spent many years and books reading about the cross-cultural emergence of religious identity, and its change, in places as diverse as Classical Rome, post-Arab conquest Iran, and 7th century Japan, to name a few places. Many of these places and times had local religious cults and practices. In all of these places, they were assimilated and absorbed into the intrusive “meta-ethnic” religion. In Rome, Tibet, and Japan, the religion had major initial setbacks, but eventually, the meta-ethnic “higher religion” came back and captured the elite.

In the modern world, we see massive Christianization, and to a lesser extent Islamicization, in Sub-Saharan African. The traditional religions persist, in particular in West Africa, but history is clearly against them. Importantly, most of the religious change occurred after the end of colonialization.

The relevance of this is clear. The Indian subcontinent would be an exception for all these above cases if the vast majority of people were unintegrated animists with only local religious cults. The precedent from Europe and the world of Islam is that Brahmins and a few other pan-Indian groups (e.g., Jains) would persist as religious minorities, while the vast majority converted to the newly introduced meta-ethnic religion.

There is another case where there was some resistance to meta-ethnic religions. That is China. Islam, Christianity, and Manichaeanism were present in Tang China by the 8th century at the latest. Manichaeanism was totally absorbed into the Chinese religious milieu by the 14th century, and Christianity disappeared multiple times before its permanent arrival with “Age of Discovery” Europeans (Nestorian Christians disappeared after the 9th century persecution of foreign religions, the Catholics who arrived with the Yuan were not present by the time the Portuguese arrived in the 16th century). Islam seems to be an exception, having transformed into an insulated religious group, but even in this case, there are plenty of cases of people of Muslim religion who seem to have assimilated into becoming Han. European ethnographers even discovered and documented several groups in the midst of such a transition before globalization “standardized” and “internationalized” Chinese-speaking Muslim practice and belief (Islam and Christianity seem to often melt into Pure Land Buddhism).

The exception to Chinese resistance to foreign religion is obviously Buddhism, the original “Western religion.” There are a few things to note about this. First, Buddhism introduced original ideological and institutional concepts into China, which were eventually influential or integrated into both Daoism and Neo-Confucianism to varying extents. Religious Daoism cannot be understood without the existence of Buddhism, and Chan and Zen Buddhism cannot be understood without the existence of religious Daoism.  Similarly, Neo-Confucianism metaphysics is clearly Buddhist influenced.

Second, Buddhism was popularized by barbarian and semi-barbarian dynasties. It was clearly initially a way for non-Chinese elites in the period after the fall of the Han dynasty to legitimize their rule and domination through a sophisticated elite ideology unconnected to Confucianism. In the period between 650 and 850 AD Buddhism occupied a role in Chinese society analogous to what it came to occupy in Japan, Silla Korea, and Tibet: the dominant elite religion and ethos which bound together national identity. But eventually, after 850 it was “driven to the masses” and Neo-Confucianism became the elite ideology at the center of the Chinese state, with Buddhism simply being the most popular religious cult among many.

The key here though is that China had a binding elite religio-philosophical ethos before Buddhism, though it was lacking in some elements (e.g., a fleshed-out metaphysics and an institutional “third estate”).

Looping back to India, the persistence of non-Islamic identity among subalterns is a miracle in a cross-cultural context. Perhaps the Hindu gods exist, and they protected the indigenous religious traditions. But I do not think this is the case. Rather, the religion that came out of popular and elite strands of thought that we came to call Hinduism, which has philosophical schools such as Advaita, and popular local religious cults, did have coherence and self-identity across much of the subcontinent. The elite and the local were threaded together in some level of self-awareness.

This analysis, which is cross-cultural, leaves much unaccounted for. The persistence of non-Islamic identity in the Doab in particular requires an explanation in terms of mechanism. One could argue that the far south of India was not long enough under direct Islamic rule, though one might point out maritime Southeast Asia was never under direct Islamic rule, and the collapse of Majapahit in Java led to rapid nominal Islamicization of the populace after 1500, with a few indigenous Hindu religious minorities.

It also prompts us to ask: were Pakistan and eastern Bengal ever Hindu? Though there are other explanations for why these regions became Muslim while the Doab did not, this cross-cultural analysis does open the opportunity for the idea that the cultural identity which was strong in the middle and upper Gangetic plain was far weaker on the western and eastern periphery. Large Hindu minorities persisted in both regions into the modern era, but vast swaths of the peasantry converted to Islam, just as they did in Kashmir. The fact that Kashmir was obviously Hindu, and occupies an important role in elite Hinduism historically, suggests this may not be the right answer, but the argument above means we need to investigate the probabilities implied by the outcomes we see around us, not abstract ideas of what was.

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66 Replies to “Why Hinduism is not inchoate paganism”

  1. Nice post!

    | One could argue that the far south of India was not long enough under direct Islamic rule

    Curious why you picked South India. Do you have evidence that South India was substantially less Hindu than Doab? From literary and archeological evidence, the South seems to have been pretty well integrated into the Hindu / Sanskrit fold even as far back as the Sangam Era (~300 BCE?). Sangam poetry is full of Hindu imagery and shows clear Sanskrit influence.

    A few possible reasons for the collapse of Hinduism in present-day Pakistan and Bangladesh: (1) the geographical barriers separating them from the rest of India, (2) the sustained nature of attacks on the northwestern frontier from non-Hindu peoples over the ages, (3) Buddhism was more prevalent in the northwest fringes, either for the same reasons why Islam was more appealing later on, or the presence of Buddhism was itself a factor for the relatively quick collapse of Hinduism in the face of Islamic invasions.

  2. Fantastic post. I am personally extremely interested into knowing how come Hinduism came to be the one major pagan religion left standing. The only other candidate would be East Asian folk religions, which remain popular, but often co-exist with Christianity, Buddhism or atheism and are not very religious in nature rather than ritualistic.

    One theory could be that the relatively unscathed Indian south helped the people in the north maintain a connection to Hinduism, though one would again need to explain why this failed on the edges (geographical distance?).

    Either way, geography is probably not the right way to think about it. There’s something inherent in Hinduism which makes it much more resilient. The question is what.

    1. Hinduism is like The Blob. It can ingest almost anything including inconsistencies and outright contradictions, and let out only the smallest little burp. The beautiful Saraswati temple in BITS Pilani (Rajasthan) is a prime example. Per tripadvisor, “A unique feature of this temple is that the outside walls have carvings of all important scientists, philosophers, intellectuals, artists, musicians and influential individuals from all over the world. Famous names such as Christ, Buddha, Socrates, Aristotle, Galileo, daVinci, Newton, Alfred Nobel, Einstein, Madam Curie, Jefferson, Lincoln, Kennedy, Lenin, Gandhi and others are all carved in marble on the temple wall.” if jc, lenin, mkg & jfk can be in a temple, and together, it is clear that hinduism is a binge eater than can consume almost everything. the advantage of this model is that you can add anything you want and choose the pieces you like, a cafeteria-style hinduism. it can be all things to all people, so i wonder why it didn’t catch on much outside of india.

      https://www.tripadvisor.in/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g1207704-d1225367-i89403259-Birla_Institute_of_Technology_and_Science_BITS-Pilani_Jhunjhunu_District.html#:~:text=Famous%20names%20such%20as%20Christ,very%20well%20from%20this%20temple.

  3. Not sure how accurate this statement, is but I remembered reading it from britannica

    “The advent of Islam in the Ganges basin at the end of the 12th century resulted in the withdrawal of royal patronage from Hinduism in much of the area … Many temples were destroyed by the more fanatical rulers, however. Conversion to Islam was more common in areas where Buddhism had once been strongest—Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Kashmir.”

    I remember reading a piece by Al-biruni, who stated something along the lines that the Buddhists in sri lanka offered food and shelter to muslims, while the hindus were more standoffish and were neither hostile nor friendly. The maldives is another muslim country in south asia that was primarily buddhist before. I don’t know, maybe pakistan and bangladesh were more buddhist strongholds before too?

    Also, there are indigenous tribal religions in india, the only one I know is sarnaism.

  4. I don’t know, maybe pakistan and bangladesh were more buddhist strongholds before too?

    this is a standard hypothesis. the last major continental pro-buddhist indian group the pala were based in bengal

    Also, there are indigenous tribal religions in india, the only one I know is sarnaism.

    the argument is that all the communities, like reddys or chamars or pulliyar have their own non-hindu religions, and Hinduism only absorbed them into the identity in the 19th century. this is superficially plausible, but note that in places with genuine known tribal religions Christian penetration is very high (e.g., much of NE India). the fact that local religions get absorbed into pan-indian sanata dharma rather than hinduism and never were islamicized or christianized by and large is suggestive they weren’t so detached from Hinduism as ppl say

    1. “the fact that local religions get absorbed into pan-indian sanata dharma rather than hinduism and never were islamicized or christianized by and large is suggestive they weren’t so detached from Hinduism as ppl say”

      The best example is Jagannath of Orissa. Clearly a tribal figure so mixed, one cannot make out where its tribal part ends and “Hindu” part starts.

    2. One more thing is that pakistan and bangladesh were not 100% muslim. Prior to partition there still existed a large minority of 20-30% hindus in each area. However there were no buddhists left. So it could indicate many of the people who converted were buddhists.

      You also reminded me of goa. I have always thought that was an interesting case. The portuguese occupied goa for nearly 400 years, and they were among the most fanatic europeans when it came to christianity. Everywhere the spanish or portuguese went, the populations eventually became christian because of their aggressive tactics. Yet despite 400 years of catholic rule, the hindu population persisted. it declined for a bit and then picked up again after 1850.

  5. One theory could be that the relatively unscathed Indian south helped the people in the north maintain a connection to Hinduism, though one would again need to explain why this failed on the edges (geographical distance?).

    the question is why more of the south didn’t get fully integrated into the Muslim indian ocean network like maritime se asia. some of the Muslim groups around the coastal fringe are like this, but they remained minority groups and ‘hinduism’ remained dominant in the interior.

    1. The answer to why South India did not convert to Islam partially lies in geography. There is a narrow strip of coastal land on the West coast from which rose the Western Ghats – a forbidding and challenging landscape not conducive to trade and commerce, once you head south from Gujarat.

      Many of these coastal populations did convert to Islam, e.g. in Kerala and parts of coastal Maharashtra, but these populations did not substantially influence the people beyond the Western ghats. In addition, Islam came to Western India’s coast through trade networks and not as a political/military force. [There are a few exceptions such as the Siddis of Janjira – a Muslim and African outpost in India!]

      The east coast in the Deccan has less forbidding geography and is agriculturally productive, but was never a focus for Arab traders. They were more interested in the rich pickings available in trade with the Malaccas. Islamic traders simply crossed the Bay of Bengal from Kerala and Sri Lanka, to the Malaccas.

      None of the South Indian empires that emerged in the second millenium were based on the coast, regardless of whether these were Islamic or Hindu polities. Somehow none of these empires were motivated to invest in a credible navy. There was no successor to the Chola empire.

      Islam penetrated the heartland of South India primarily with Islamic conquerors from North India. But by the time Islam penetrated South India, the Bhakti movement had changed the practice of Hinduism at the ground level. So the impact of Islam on the heartland of South India was relatively muted.

  6. Both the things like Indian mainland Hinduism being stronger at the subaltern level and elite level while Punjab/Bengal subaltern Hinduism not being strong , while strong at the elite level could be true as well.

    Punjab/Bengal/Sindh had interplay b/w Buddhist and Hindu rulers at the elite level. Perhaps by the time the elites could solidify their rule and transmit their ideas to the subaltern , they were thrown by the other. In mainland India, Hindu rulers ruled from Guptas onward, while in Bengal Buddhist Palas (after Guptas) came to rule, and just when the Hindu Sena dynasty was solidifying it was thrown out by Turks. Similarly Punjab Hindu rule really started once the remnants of the Alchon Huns melted away. And in Mihirakula memoirs he mentions that there were lot of Buddhists. Sindh the same, with Buddhist Rai and Hindu Chach rule falling before they could really solidify their rule.

    This perhaps prevented any sort of subaltern religious identity with the elites of whatever faith they were. Even though the way Islam supplanted Buddhism in areas like Turan showed that even subaltern Buddhism in India would have been of any match to Islam.

  7. It might not be correct to look for a common theme in the Islamization of Pakistan and Bangladesh. Pakistan suffered a lot of foreign invasions starting from the 8th century while Bangladesh saw Islam much later. The probability of Pakistan retaining its indigenous identity after that would be much lower than that of any other part of India. Aside from the Buddhist hypothesis, it might also be that while other parts of India saw Hindu kingdoms rising every now and then, that phenomena affected Pakistan and Bangladesh much less. In general, the Muslim population in the Indian subcontinent seems to correlate with the length of Islamic rule. But Bangladesh looks like a much more interesting case study since one would alsmot expect Pakistan to be Islamized.

    >> the persistence of non-Islamic identity among subalterns is a miracle in a cross-cultural context.

    The faith of the Brahmins in the words of their ancestors and the oral transmission of the Vedas is, in my opinion, still underappreciated. Additionally, the disgust of many Hindus towards the Islamic lifestyle might also have played a role. Eating beef, marrying cousins, and other lifestyle differences meant that Hindus, to an extent, looked down upon (and still do) Muslims and categorized them as Mlecchas. Gandhi, Nehru and multiple other secular figures also describe Muslims using slightly barbaric terms. Owing to the more violent nature of Islam, even many liberal secular Hindus today believe Hinduism to be a superior religion.

    1. “Eating beef, marrying cousins, and other lifestyle differences meant that Hindus, to an extent, looked down upon”

      Have u met those “Hindu” folks south of Vindhyas? They might have something to say to u.

      1. Except in Kerala, even where it’s a recent phenomena, most South Indian Hindus don’t eat beef. Even cousin marriage is limited to a few jatis and most only tolerate marrying a scond cousin. The situation in the north is much different. The Khap panchayats don’t allow people to marry in the same gotra. First cousin marriage in the north is a strict taboo.

        Moreover, the fact that people in the north look down upon lifestyles that are practiced in the south or vice versa is irrelevant. It only matters when you are disgusted by your neighbors way of living and want to maintain a safe distance.

          1. I should have used the word ‘gotra’ instead of cousin. Marriage in same gotra is not allowed in the south which means that marrying cousins on the ide of your mother is permissible but not on the side of your father. The customs of cousin marriage are modified according to a patriarchal worldview where cousins related from the mothers side are seen as more distant than those from the fathers side.

          2. Should add cross cousin marriage is still common among my fathers side Jaffna relatives. The female side.*. These are not your rural hicks. Cosmopolitan who live all over the world and extremely smart and educated (read Doctors and PhD’s). Marriage will be set up between one in England and the other in Australia for eg. (None left in SL)

            For whatever reasons, the males i.e. those who carry the same surname as me, marry non relatives, including those from other countries.

        1. Cousin marriage was extremely common historically among Tamils. (I’m, mostly, ethnic Tamil for the record). There’s a paper from the 1960s that estimated that the median relatedness among married couples in rural TN were third cousins.

          1. Even among first cousins on the Father’s side? I was told by my college roommate that there is a different term used for paternal and maternal cousins and only marrying maternal cousins is considered fine. He was also a Tamil.

      2. The first time my Telugu room-mate in college told me there are Telugu love story movies featuring this I was mind blown. He went on the defensive and said only a few communities do it and even they ensure that patrilineal lines (gotras) are never mixed. From then on I had some of the best time of my life harassing him about cousin marriage. Dude became quite proficient in returning Hindi expletives by the time we graduated.

        I love sweet South Indians, in their innocence and artlessness they are what we would have been like if we were left alone. Maybe I will even marry one someday, there is a sweet Mallu girl in my department who has to be rescued from evil cousin marriage 😛

        1. mallus don’t do this as much for whatever reason. also, the really weird thing is uncle-niece marriage

          a tambram reader of BP has said there are these even in his own extended family soo it’s not limited to ‘dravidians’

          1. Yes the uncle-niece thing is very weird. Some extreme people of this generation in my family have gone as far as checking maternal grandfather’s gotra, maternal grandmother’s father’s gotra and paternal grandmother’s father’s gotra to make sure there is no clash. With smaller castes that don’t have so many gotras that eliminates almost all the gotras and shrinks the pool of prospects to nothing.

            Then there are the pride issues especially among Brahmins and Kshatriya gotras each of whom think they are better among their caste and won’t marry ‘down’. I don’t go out on the streets when I visit my closely knit ancestral native place because of the number of feets I was expected to touch of random people for ‘aashirvada’ because they were ‘superior’. I didn’t mind it as the same courtesy is extended to my own family (and me) by others but this caste business is really silly although not as unbearably suffocating as it is sometimes shown in media.

            With increasing costs of living (USD 150K for a 2 BHK apt. in B-tier cities) a girl/guy who earns more is trumping everything else so people don’t go act as crazily but in any case no-blood-relation will forever remain a hard-condition for northerners. I am sure north Indian values will spread all across, already well to do south Indian guys are marrying our (northern) sisters at a record rate, these women will raise next generation of southerner elites.

            I didn’t expect this from TamBrams but thank you for providing the ammunition against these snobs. The more dirt that can be found on them the better, comes in handy as they are the only South Indians who eagerly take the fight to us (Northern Hindus).

          2. The technical term for this is cross cousin marriage. Was the norm and ideal in both sinhalese and Jaffna Tamil.

            i.e.
            children/grandchildren of fathers sisters or (uncle niece) is OK.
            or
            Mothers brothers children.

            The words used for the relationship, is not a generic cousin.

            Sinhala: Fathers brother is Loku Appa/Tatha (Elder Father) or Bappa (Younger father). Tamil: Peri Appa, Chinnappa: Their children are NOT marriageable. Children referred to as brother or sister.

            Sinhala: Mothers brother: Mama. Children are Sinhala/Tamil Massina/Machang* and Nena/Machal. Marriageable.

            Uncle-Niece: My fathers eldest sisters daughter (approx my moms age) and her daughter* 1 year younger than me. I had to chaperone for plays and movies. Expectation that we would hook up and get married. This is the Uncle niece situation.

            My niece (cross cousin) in the Sinhala/Tamil.

            In common parlance Machang/Massina is the equivalent bro/mate.

          3. One of my Telugu friend who has spent considerable time up north once unconsciously mentioned that his sister is married to his uncle, and quickly changed the topic 😛

          4. Why is uncle-niece thing any more weird than cross-cousin marriage? The basis is that the groom doesn’t belong to bride’s father’s lineage and so, good enough to be of eligible pair. (Cross-culturally, Jews also allow these pairings).

            Also uncle-niece marriage pairs are as close in age as cross-cousins ( not that unusual—my maternal uncle and my oldest cousin were in same class throughout high school).

            There was gnxp post by Razib about plough and hoe cultures (wheat vs. Rice). Given the value of female labor in agriculture (particularly rice planting), there being greater emphasis on female worth and daughters well-being historically in rice cultures.

            With that context, what’s so weird about wanting safety/well-being of your daughter with a greater concern than solely genetics of your lineage.

        2. “Maybe I will even marry one someday, there is a sweet Mallu girl in my department who has to be rescued from evil cousin marriage ”

          Another commie in the making. It was good knowing u Bhimrao. Take care

          1. Maratha mindset remember?

            No more net conversions out of North Indian Right-wing Hindu fold. These Bengalis and Madrasi men have been marrying North Indian girls for too long its time for payback.

            As for me, borrowing from K K Menon in Shaurya ‘mere khoon mein meri kaum (right wing Indian Nationalism) sani hui hai’.

            I was just joking about the Mallu girl, its ‘ek anar sau beemar’ situation for her here just like it was in college in India, takes too much time and effort to pursue. As I am growing up, my ability to put up with other people’s shit (faux-idealism, preaching, PC etc) is going down exponentially. When I was younger I used to be much easily swayed by looks. Having said that in all honesty I admit I really like how Mallu girls ‘look’ in a Saari, north Indian girls just don’t have that elan and grace. But then I don’t have to marry one in order to see them in Saari which they will anyway wear only once a year in the US.

          2. U really haven’t been in a relationship with a liberal girl. LOL

            Bro, ask me , early this decade, i was inches away from raising azadi slogans, myself 😛

          3. Tell us more in the open thread. Would make me happy to imagine the horrors that shall befall on the three guys trying to court her.

    2. Pakistan suffered a lot of foreign invasions starting from the 8th century while Bangladesh saw Islam much later.

      be precise. you mean sindh. the Punjab was not nearly as impacted. for various reasons that don’t speak to your point sindh retains far more hindus than Pakistani Punjabi (100x).

      But Bangladesh looks like a much more interesting case study since one would alsmot expect Pakistan to be Islamized.

      eaton’s hypothesis is that eastern bengal was a recently developed marchland, and so looked to the ascendent legitiimating religion (Islam), as opposed to being a stable mature society (west bengal). additionally, the genetic evidence indicates that bengali muslims don’t have caste-like/jati population structure by and large. this is pretty rare in s asia (Pakistan does have it for whatever reason).

      The faith of the Brahmins in the words of their ancestors and the oral transmission of the Vedas is, in my opinion, still underappreciated.

      why are you bring up brahmins when i say subalterns? to be precise, if the brahmins are thought of as jews, their persistence makes sense. the hypothesis is that non-brahmins, and lower castes, had no common identity with the transmitters of brahmanical hinduism. if so, they should have converted. in most cases they did not.

      Additionally, the disgust of many Hindus towards the Islamic lifestyle might also have played a role. Eating beef, marrying cousins, and other lifestyle differences meant that Hindus, to an extent, looked down upon (and still do) Muslims and categorized them as Mlecchas. Gandhi, Nehru and multiple other secular figures also describe Muslims using slightly barbaric terms. Owing to the more violent nature of Islam, even many liberal secular Hindus today believe Hinduism to be a superior religion.

      you haven’t thought about this deeply since again there is nothing special in hindu views here. persians were proud uncirmcised dog-lovers. cousin-marriage isn’t even obligate among muslims. it’s common in Pakistan, but rarer in the turkic world, and very rare in Bangladesh (the genetic data makes this clear). food taboos tend to coalesce in early adolescence. if one converts one does not have to obligate eat beef (beef is not a common dish in much of the Muslim world). none of these are persuasive arguments for why India is particular or special

  8. This perhaps prevented any sort of subaltern religious identity with the elites of whatever faith they were. Even though the way Islam supplanted Buddhism in areas like Turan showed that even subaltern Buddhism in India would have been of any match to Islam.

    not sure this proves anything. turan was always coexistent/intergative with Iran. it took more than 200 years for Islam to really marginalized Buddhism (based on ~700 AD intrusion point). additionally, Buddhism was not hegemonic in turan the way it became in southeast Asia, or even east asia, insofar as zoroastrianism manichaeanism and nestorianism were all alternative legitimating systems. for whatever reasons the sogdians in particular were not attracted to Buddhism, and tended to be Zoroastrian.

  9. One of the issues I have with this particular demographic map is that it recognizes the Muslim-minorities in India at 5% intervals, but does not provide the same information for minorities in Muslim-majority areas, with all regions painted with a dark green hue wherever the Muslim population exceeds 50%.

    This effectively makes minorities invisible in areas where their numbers were nearly 50% in 1941 (Murshidabad and Malda), not to mention ignoring the other regions where they numbered above 10% (most of East Bengal, Sindh, West Punjab, J&K, and parts of Balochistan and NWFP). Even keeping this bias aside the map is not entirely correct, Tharparkar in Sindh was Hindu majority in 1941 and is still painted dark green.

  10. “a tambram reader of BP has said there are these even in his own extended family soo it’s not limited to ‘dravidians’”

    Surprised, TamBrahms I know consider cousin marriages to be a no (one of them was kinda surprised that I even asked about it), curious if the BP reader’s family lives in India or in the west

    Apart from that, cousin marriages aren’t unheard of in TN (even know a song which has a line about it in the lyrics), but aren’t something that happen commonly (my view may be skewed because I only know the urban part)

    30-39% sounds okay or maybe somewhat high, but certainly isn’t too low

    1. Yikes, posted this comment like thrice thinking something isn’t working, and it finally shows up after like half an hour, might wanna delete the extras if they show up

  11. Then there are the pride issues especially among Brahmins and Kshatriya gotras each of whom think they are better among their caste and won’t marry ‘down’. I don’t go out on the streets when I visit my closely knit ancestral native place because of the number of feets I was expected to touch of random people for ‘aashirvada’ because they were ‘superior’. I didn’t mind it as the same courtesy is extended to my own family (and me) by others but this caste business is really silly although not as unbearably suffocating as it is sometimes shown in media.

    ppl touch my mom’s feet cuz she’s the great-great-granddaughter of a local sufi saint. yearly local pilgrimage in comilla to his tomb.

  12. “I am sure north Indian values will spread all across, already well to do south Indian guys are marrying our (northern) sisters at a record rate, these women will raise next generation of southerner elites.

    I didn’t expect this from TamBrams but thank you for providing the ammunition against these snobs. The more dirt that can be found on them the better, comes in handy as they are the only South Indians who eagerly take the fight to us (Northern Hindus).”

    Not a good day to pick on Tam Brahms. Anyway they have to constantly mock fight us, to prove their loyalty to “Dravidians” , behind close doors they act slavishly for N-Indian culture. Understandable.

    I mean everyone already knows the hierarchy of cultures in India. They just don’t admit it.

  13. Islam penetrated the heartland of South India primarily with Islamic conquerors from North India. But by the time Islam penetrated South India, the Bhakti movement had changed the practice of Hinduism at the ground level. So the impact of Islam on the heartland of South India was relatively muted.

    this is key. the rest is marginal.

    Majapahit collapsed just as the deccan sultanates rose. by 1750 the vast majority of javanese were nominal muslims (the exception being a few highland groups around until today and the people in the far eastern salient across from bali). that was not so in the deccan. the deccan produced the marathas. central java never produced hindu revival. rather, the last hindu princes fled to bail (many converted to Islam).

    1. Razib says “Majapahit collapsed just as the deccan sultanates rose.”

      This is true, but unrelated. Even the Vijayanagara empire on whose ruins the Deccan Sultans feasted, was not a naval power. Indic religions were not projecting power and influence in South East Asia after the decline of the Cholas. This enabled Arab and Muslim traders to replace Hindu-Buddhist elites in the Malaccas.

    2. So let me offer a really flimsy hypothesis on rural south india’s resistance to mass conversion to islam. Could extreme endogamy have something to do with it? There was little way for muslims to make matrimonial inroads into local feudal hierarchies. In the deccan, that has a non-trivial muslim pop, not uncommon for towns to be 30%+ muslim, largley artisan communities like weavers ect, but true rural cultivator pops are only around ~5%. Our endogamy manifests as a xenophobia that is underestimated. Now look at the malabar and konkan region that doesn’t really practice consanguineous marriages, they have rural regions with large muslim and christian pops.
      Another thing that doesn’t get much mention on BP, but would make an interesting post is how South Indian hinduism is, for the middle peasantry and above, a more institutionalized religion through a network of “mutts” or seminaries. Exploring if that contributed to resilience would be interesting.

      1. @girmit

        “Another thing that doesn’t get much mention on BP, but would make an interesting post is how South Indian hinduism is, for the middle peasantry and above, a more institutionalized religion through a network of “mutts” or seminaries. Exploring if that contributed to resilience would be interesting.”

        I was reading a book on religion in the Vijayanagara Empire and one of the big themes was how institutionalized Hinduism became through a network of monastic institutions and temples. It might have affected how Hinduism is practiced in the South vs other regions.

  14. it’s totally related. do you not understand my point?

    Majapahit by that time was mostly restricted to java. it was a landpower. the Muslim states were on the coast. > 1500 they conquered the interior. after 1500 the muslims conquered the interior in the deccan. in the latter case not many Muslim converts. in the former case, the nominal hindus became nominal muslims (over time a proportion became world-normative orthodox Muslim, santri).

  15. Razib, I think you are making the point that Islamic dominance in Java proceeded from the coast to the interior highlands and led to the end of the Majapahit. And I agree.

    A different scenario from South India where Islam found a foothold on the West coast, but true penetration of Islam in South India was with Islamic conquests from North India.

    I think you may be underestimating the influence of Hindu Bhakti saints in limiting the spread of Islam in the Deccan. In fact it was Hindu religiosity that was inspired by the Bhakti movement which is often connected to the rise Maratha power.

  16. I think you may be underestimating the influence of Hindu Bhakti saints in limiting the spread of Islam in the Deccan. In fact it was Hindu religiosity that was inspired by the Bhakti movement which is often connected to the rise Maratha power.

    no, that’s my whole point. the two scenarios are analogous. the difference is India had a ‘popular hinduism’ at the mass level so that elite transfer of allegiance didn’t impact the demotic level

    1. Much as i would like to agree with the hypothesis, i am still unconvinced that mass migration to Islam in the deccan was stymied specifically by Bhakti movement.

      The Bhakti movement further subalternized Hindu-ism, but i see even the rise of Bhakti movement as product of already existing subaltern Hinduism. Apart from Bengal and Punjab we don’t see any other mass scale peasants castes converting to Islam in N-India as well, and by the time Bhakti movement reached North it was already high tide of muslim rule effectively 400 years or so. So there was already some form of subaltern Hinduism devoid of Bhakti movement being practiced in N-India already. The probable answer for Deccan resistance is just simple distance from the “Home” regions of Muslim rulers in the North. The coastal ghats for example does see the highest concentration of Muslims, because they were impacted by the Arab traders. If Bhakti movement indeed stop Islamization , y couldn;t it stop it in coasts.

      Also i don’t think Maratha rise is connected to Deccan’s Bhakti movement as well. The Marathas had lot of thing going for them, an already weaponized peasantry from the Sultanates time, over exhausted and overextended Mughals after Aurangzeb, a bigger pool of talent to draw upon etc. And more importantly ‘distance’ from the North. In the North we do see rise of other ‘Hindu’ powers from time to time preceding Marathas, but being smashed by ‘muslim’ forces in their nascent stage, because of their geographical location and the the friction causing due to that. The Marathas on the other hand were accorded time because of various factors after Aurangzeb death. Or else they would have ended like a one hit wonder like Hemu, Pratap or Suraj Mal. I don;t see these events having co-relation with Bhakti movement.

  17. It is unfortunate that is totally ignored the link btw Hinduism and Aryans although it is crucial. Subsequently, the link btw. Buddhism and Aryans. Where the extreme similarities for e.g. btw Hinduism and Serbian ancient mythology, the names of deities (not mentioning now linguistics and other) came from? Why there are no such similarities with other Euro nations?

    Such ignorance was also present in recent Tom Holland’s book here about Christianity where Eastern Christianity was not mentioned although Christianity originated, was legalised, and accepted as the Empire religion over there. It is also similar to the artificial construction that Iliad and Odyssey are foundations of Western (why western?) civilisation by stretching the non-existent Greek history for several hundreds years in the past, proclaiming the elusive ‘ancient Greece’ as ‘west’ and appropriating this history for themselves.

    It is impossible that the Buddhism can be discussed without mentioning Aryans. How Buddhism was ‘exported’ across Asia? It seems that pundits (those who acknowledge the existence of Aryans) are not ready yet to find out who were Aryans, what was their mythology and which language they spoke. We should wait for brown mindsets to mature.

    Wiki says – ‘spiritual teacher called “the Buddha” (“the Awakened One”)’. Buda is a common male name in Serbia. It often has extensions such as Budimir (Buda+peace), Budislav, even female version – Budimka, etc. ‘Probuditi’ means ‘waking up’. ‘Budan’ means – ‘awaken’ i.e. ‘not sleeping’…and dozen other derivatives. Many Serbian toponyms have ‘Buda’in their names, e.g. Budapest or Budishin (city in Germany) and many others.

    1. Are there similarities between ancient Serbian mythology and those of other regions in Eastern Europe and beyond? One would certainly expect there to be some similarities but I guess I’m asking have they been identified?

      I’m not sure I agree with your point about Buddha. Buddha comes from the word ‘buddhi’ which means the intellect or sometimes the brain. It is not really a name in India but more so the title that people conferred on Gautama after they noticed a transformation in him. Moreover, to the best of my knowledge no one prior to Gautama was given this title. If this title had some similarities with the languages that Indo-Aryans or their nearby cousins spoke, then one would expect this name to pop up much earlier in history and not around 400 BC.

      1. All East Europeans are so-called Slavics (7th cAC term). Before, they were all Serbian speaking tribes. Russian name first appeared in the 8th cAC, others much later. They all share the same pre-Christian, ancient mythology originated in Vincha and spread from Europe till Vladivostok and China. Some may have recently developed regional specificities. I wrote couple times about these similarities on the margins of other topics. Unfortunately, although many pundits are well aware of some specific similarities (including the language) this is still not a topic. Pundits treat Aryans as aliens, without any roots and without descendants outside of India. Many are afraid that such discussion would question and destabilize the Indian culture.

        Re- Buda. I haven’t written before although I have some material. The meaning of the name is from the Wiki. I may write about this although the priority should be Hinduism which link with Aryans, unlike genetics, is still unexplored. The question – is there a link btw Hinduism and Aryans? If the answer is ‘yes’, it can be further discussed and researched. If the answer is ‘no’ (what would be highly unlikely, almost impossible) any discussion is meaningless.

        Do you have answer (or perception) about this link or you have any other opinion about this?

        1. I agree that the more relevant link can be found between Hinduism and ‘Aryans’. Buddha, in my opinion, came much later and so even if he was genetically almost completely ‘Aryan’, his ancestors must have been sufficiently absorbed into the Indian ethos of the time.

          Genetics show a presence of the ‘Aryan’ ancestry in Indians so I would expect, at the very least, some aspects of the ‘Aryan’ culture were assimilated among Hindus. I don’t have an answer about what the religious link is but I would expect there to be some. You’re right that there’s an aversion among Indians not to explore this topic and it’s also rare for Christian descandants of ‘Aryans’ to be interested in these links either.

          Although one thing which has always bothered me about this is if there was a strong link then one would expect the oldest Hindu scripture, Rg Veda, to have some physical descriptions of rivers, or mountains, or something else from regions outside of the Indian subcontinent. But, the geographical descriptions in the Rg Veda don’t seem to agree with that. That would suggest that the ‘Aryans’ did not revere rivers or mountains the way Hindus do. Is this lack of revering rivers or mountains characteristic of Serbian mythology? I’m just trying to figure out how we can find links between the two religions.

          1. Thanks, good writing. I did follow Aryans until they came to SA (not only to India also Tibet, Afghanistan, Iran, China, up to Japan, even Gulf) and I understand that after several hundreds of years they became locals and I see from the previous thread that many consider them as indigenous to India.

            It is still open if Aryans came with their religion which interacted with local environment. Future discussions could find out what are the ‘percentages’ of individual components within a new synergy. My point is that significant portion was brought from Aryans’ old homeland. The existence of this link is important, not individual ‘percentages’ or some politics which can be built on this.

            Regarding Buddha I agree that we hardly can talk about original Aryans but it maybe the Buddhism was a branch of previous believing which partially succeeded the old Aryans faith, too. Yes, in old Serbian/Slavic mythology is high reverence of rivers and mountains. They built their settlements on the banks of rivers. I may provide some examples. My writing about Mahabharata rivers Khanishka may publish soon. You probably came recently, and you could not read my earlier comments about mythology.

            So far, genetics is well analysed, and it confirmed the kinship btw Aryans and Serbs/Slavics. There is only a disagreement of the place of origin of so-called ‘Indo-Europeans’, i.e. Aryans because of falsifications in world history. There are 25 candidates but the real place, Vinca, is conspicuously not amongst them. Linguistic is also analysed at some extent but many still do not want to believe that Sanskrit came with Aryans. For mythology links, a few pundits have solid knowledge, but it was not discussed here at all. This thread was supposed to say at least something. Thousands of Serbian toponyms in Asia (I published them here) are still a taboo topic, none tried to take into consideration, but none refuted them either. Well, that is the situation, I will in future OTs present some similarities btw Hinduism and ancient Serbian mythology.

  18. Regarding the subject of cross-cousin marriages, many north Indian readers seem to be ignorant of this culture in south India.

    We have the term murai-maapillai in Tamil, which translates to rightful suitor. So in theory a male has the right to get married to his cross cousin.

    In our marriages, the engagement ritual is built around this, where the maternal uncles of both the would be bride & bridegroom have to confirm that they have no objection to the marriage & exchange gifts to confirm that the marriage can go ahead.

    We do have the equivalent of Gotra but only if we can trace our paternal ancestry to the same. I can trace mine back to 7 generations.

  19. @razib I can’t find the wheat vs rice post mentioned above. Can anyone please link it? @ilikemultis

  20. Interesting thread, among the original article (@Razib) and the multiple comment threads, I did not find a single reference to the survival of Hinduism in the challenge of Buddhism? I mean, referencing the Islamic and Christian expansions are ok.

    But if we are to understand the isomerical magnificence of Hinduism’s survival, we must look to the multi-generational (spanning multi-centuries) fight between Hinduism and Buddhism that strengthened the sinews of Hindu philosophers for the future. In a sense, Hinduism became anti-fragile and was ready for the rather weak philosophical conception called Islam.

    Ambedkar mentions in his book on Ancient India that the whole history of that India is merely a series of fights and struggles between a solidified Ritual Hinduism and a wildly free-flowing Buddhism. Thankfully Hinduism rose to that challenge and produced a series of wide-ranging philosophers in every region who purified the arts, laws and statecraft for the masses. Its not for nothing that the Gupta Age is called the Golden Age in the historical period. Buddhism was in retreat in the core Indic regions and there was a resurgent Hinduism that powered all sorts of innovations (new calendars, modes of revenue collection etc)

    Again it is not a co-incidence that Islam found its easiest and most willing converts in the areas where Buddhism held sway because they were advancing on an ethos thoroughly defeated and stranded from the core Indic innovations and advancements in philosophical enquiries.

    The Buddha saved Hinduism. I do not grudge for one moment the Avatara bestowed upon him.

    paritranaya sadhunam
    vinasaya ca duskrtam
    dharma-samsthapanarthaya
    sambhavami yuge yuge

    In order to save my devotees,
    And annihilate the mischief-mongers,
    And to re-establish Dharma
    I shall appear Millennium after Millennium

    1. Again it is not a co-incidence that Islam found its easiest and most willing converts in the areas where Buddhism held sway because they were advancing on an ethos thoroughly defeated and stranded from the core Indic innovations and advancements in philosophical enquiries.

      How did Buddhism in Sri Lanka survive 500 years of European Colonizing.

      Hindu Invasions and Kings in the North chased away the Sinhalese Buddhists in the 15th Century to create an almost mono ethnic and religious area

      As of the 2012 census 70.2% of Sri Lankans were Theravada Buddhists (almost exclusively Sinhalese), 12.6% were Hindus (almost exclusively Tamil) , 9.7% were Muslims (mainly Sunni), 6.1% Roman Catholic, 1.3 other Christians and 0.05% others.

      1. Not comparable tbh.

        Colonial Dutch and British Protestants, and Tamil Hindus different from various Muslim groups in north west India, Bengal, and Gandhara.

        Not to mention India also went through a colonial period and very little impact on religion outside of the Catholic areas colonized by the Portuguese.

        Also Hindu/ Tamil population in SL is down from 30% of so (IIRC) so pre civil war. So 2012 numbers really understate.

        1. Sumit
          Also Hindu/ Tamil population in SL is down from 30% of so (IIRC) so pre civil war. So 2012 numbers really understate.

          Where did you get a 30% number.
          Approx 12% Sri Lankan Tamil, and 4% Indian Estate Tamil for a long time.

          There was about 8% Indian Estate Tamil. Approx 4% Were repatriated in 1964
          six lakh Tamils of Indian origin who were repatriated to India as part of the Sirimavo-Shastri pact, signed in 1964 between Prime Ministers Sirimavo Bandaranaike and Lal Bahadur Shastri. … Following this, Sri Lanka again agreed to grant citizenship to another 75,000 persons of Indian origin.

          Also cant equate Tamil = Hindu.
          Significant amount of Tamils are Christian or Catholic. As a percentage of their popultaion, I would think higher % of Tamils, compared to Sinhalese.

          Cant even say from names, eg Lakshman Kadirgame, iconic Foreign minister who wworked to proscribe the LTTE internationally , Protestant Christian. Much of the Sri Lankan Tamil political leadership has been Protestant Christian, eg SJV Chelvanayagam, the father of Federalism/Seperatism.

          1. I think I was confusing with 30% total Tamil speakers.

            I forgot Muslim Tamil speakers are considered a seperate community from Hindu / Christian Tamil speakers in Sri Lanka.

            Thanks for the extra info.

  21. Razib, I would highly suggest checking out Alexis Sanderson’s ‘The Saiva Age’; India on the eve of the Muslim aberration was a place in which classical Vedic Brahmanism had been superceded by two monotheisms (Shaivism and Vaishnavism); the reason they get counted among ‘Hinduism’, and Buddhism doesn’t, is because they attempted to find accommodation with the caste order (though in the beginning, they both had specific self-conceptions which utterly rejected the Vedas as valid revelation, for example, and placed themselves over and above varnashramadharma, the caste order, etc; Shaivism more so than Vaishnavism).

    (Also, the Muslims FUCKING HATED Buddhism – the word for idol is ‘but’, and that’s… not a coincidence. I suspect they may have been far crueler and exterminationist towards Buddhism than other things. And Buddhism was more institutional, so loss of patronage and institutions means total death. But boy did the Muslims hate Buddhism…)

    With the coming of the Muslims, who destroyed, well, everything institutional, you have this ‘stew’ called modern Hindiusm. But as such, there was the Vedic-varnashramadharma system, Buddhism, Shaivism, Vaishnavism, and some others (Jainism, the Saurya religion, etc). Very little of this beauty and complexity remains. And the conceptual clarity is completely shot through to hell, with this insane amalgam that is but a folk religion. The puranas make zero sense unless you know the context in which they were composed – which is a genre of literature which was *cross-religious*, and written by multiple religions for their own ends, often to reach out to the masses.

    The overthrow of old-school Vedic religion has two iconic stories associated with it – the Daksha-yagna for Shaivism, and the child Krishna’s giving Indra the (little) finger on which he lifted the Govardhana parvat. Note that both of these are a simple ‘fuck that’ to Vedic sacrifice – the former quite directly, the latter somewhat more indirectly.

    The Shiva Purana begins with a story of a very sinful (like, genuinely sinful) Shiva bhakta who, when Yama’s attendants come for him, cries out to Shiva, and Shiva’s attendants come and kick the ass of Yama’s attendants. This liberation from the tyranny of the classical Vedic-karmic religion – with its endless rounds of rebirth, and autistic accounting of every small thing – was the ‘good news’ that Shaivism brought to the masses. And unlike the Vedic canon, etc, the purana lays out instructions for how it is to be read – and it explicitly gives permission for women and everyone else to attend, so far as I can tell. And boy was it a hit!

    I bring this up to note that these are themes which recur throughout the literatures of these religions, specially as they were forming and defining themselves – these are just illustrative examples, not the complete list. Nothing in Indian religious history makes sense unless you know this. The modern stew is just that – a stew. The original religions were distinct, considered themselves distinct, and behaved like it; but unlike the West, didn’t try to kill each other (because the social order remained varnashramadharma!).

    Shaivism and Vaishnavism were also re-assertions of non-elite, non-Aryan, indigenous/traditional non-Brahmin religious practice. These were the religions under which the Indian religious landscape become actually Indian in the sense of including pretty much everyone, as opposed to just Brahmins doing their thing. These religions wove a coherent tapestry out of India’s massive non-elite religions practices, into a singular variegated whole. And unlike the Christians, they retained the diversity as well. The idea of a sthala-purana, for instance, may be something like a mechanism of both the preservation of a particular local practice, and its assimilation into one of these greater wholes (this is total speculation on my part, though, but I’d bet some money that it’s true).

    Note also that the later Shaiva and Vaishnava practitioners actually challenged Brahminical dominance over the post of Rajaguru, hitherto a purely Brahmin province (see ‘Atharvavedins in Tantric Territory’, by Sanderson). And not only that, but carved out domains of power for themselves where Brahminical restrictions simply didn’t apply. ‘The King Must Protect the Difference’ outlines an excellent example of how this dynamic played out in practice.
    It seems that Buddhism *didn’t* have the same sort of appeal and absolute trust among the masses that Shaivism did; we see, for instance, an Buddhism Tantrik text telling practitioners who needed a female consort for their practice to go to a Shudra family and pretend to be a Shaiva guru when asking for their daughter, because the Shaivas were trusted by the people!

    History is not without a sense of humour, it seems – Ambedkar got it right when he said that the Dalits needed a religion which was their own, but got the actual religion wrong – had he been aware of the history, he may have had a bolder and prouder vision of a reclaimed Shaivism instead. Because honestly, Shiva is *not* a ‘Brahminical’ god, not even close. He belongs to the people, and always has. Similarly when modern leftists bitch about temples – those monuments to the overthrow of the Brahminical sacrificial religion by the power and assertion of the people!

    1. My understanding is that…

      In the early 1st millennium you may have had about five distinct religious traditions that would later coalesce:

      – Vaidika Dharma; there was an ‘orthodox’ or exclusionary group that believed that the other religious traditions were wrong and bad, but there also developed a ‘heterodox’ or inclusive group that you see for example in the Smarta movement that emerged during the Gupta period. These people believed that the other religious traditions listed here were acceptable and consistent with the Vedas or spring from the Vedas.

      – Vaishnavism
      – Shaivism
      – Shakta

      Each of these three had exclusionary groups within them that rejected the Vedas (and the caste-jati system), but they also had inclusionary groups that claimed that their religious traditions were at least consistent with the Vedas if not springing from it altogether.

      – Saura (died out, was more popular in the northwestern part of the subcontinent)

      In the end the Smartas won out in the Vedic tradition and, for the most part, adherents of the other religious traditions at the very least nominally acknowledged consistency with the Vedic tradition but quite often embraced it altogether as a coherent system. Hence you see people from these traditions calling certain texts the ‘fifth Veda’ or another Upanishad (e.g., Gita), and the Vedic tradition absorbing ‘sectarian’ (i.e. Shaiva, Vaishnava, and Shakta) Upanishads in its canon.

    2. Where would you put Ayodhya princes going to protect sacrifices of sages? Was Ramayana the transition period then? It seems like we have a villain who hated fire sacrifices, and a hero who protected fire sacrifices even if he also prays to Siva (or was it a later addition? People did a lot of tweaking to show Hari-Hara are the same….)

  22. thanks for the comment

    (Also, the Muslims FUCKING HATED Buddhism – the word for idol is ‘but’, and that’s… not a coincidence. I suspect they may have been far crueler and exterminationist towards Buddhism than other things. And Buddhism was more institutional, so loss of patronage and institutions means total death. But boy did the Muslims hate Buddhism…)

    to be clear, there’s a clear reason for why idols and Buddhism would be associated for muslims: they encountered Buddhism in eastern iran and turan for several centuries before entering India. the interaction is argued by some to explain the rise of

    1) madrassa culture (from turanian viharas)
    2) hadith culture (from textual analytic traditions in central asian Buddhism)

    1. Yep! I figured as much. Just finished reading Warriors of the Cloisters recently, and my guess is that Buddhism was the primary archetype of the Thing To Be Destroyed for the Muslims (the Kaaba story is far enough into the past that I don’t think it would have been useful as a reference point for The Thing To be Destroyed in practical terms, for people doing the destroying when the destruction was actually happening).

      Thanks for all the central Asia recs, Razib; it’s a pivotal little region which is oddly neglected, given its impact.

      What a horrifying historical arc, though:
      rip off the college,
      rip off what happens in the college,
      destroy the generative tradition which created both,
      have an internal anti-scientific revolution (a Ghazali moment – the West seems to be going through its own now! *sigh*) which destroys your version of what’s left of the tradition (as Beckwith says, after the victory of the anti-scientists, the madrasas *cough* ripoff colleges *cough*, having lost their purpose, disappeared pretty quickly in the Islamic world),
      and finally get stuck wallowing in your own exegesis forever, spending your finest blood *up to the present day* on ever-finer garbage in a tradition that’s an intellectual dead end, which – by modern standards – isn’t even grounded enough to *be* right or wrong.

      Sometimes I wonder – do you *need* there to be a social niche like Brahmins – not necessarily hereditary, but something that allows normies the mental affordance to say, ‘Oh yes, and over there we have Those people doing Their things; they say weird stuff and often terrible stuff sometimes, it’s fine, it’s just what they do occasionally, they’re basically harmless, and occasionally something mind-blowingly amazing comes out too.’, and be mentally OK with that – that’s a *little bit* insulated from society, just in order to have a long-living tradition of science at all? Islam had its al-Ghazali moment, the West its current crisis (which science in the Beckwithian sense is losing, very badly). Do you require something stronger than just institutions, which it’s clear can and have been throughout history co-opted by fervour?

      (I’m cautiously optimistic, but then again I do have a definite vision which I’m working on, which tends to protect against doom-depression.)

      Razib, I know that these are problems that vex you as well. We share most values, I think, and I’m working on these problems – unlike a lot of people, I think they’re actually tractable. As and when I have something substantial enough for an actual discussion, I’d love to get your perspective(s) on things, potentially even collaborate if you’re up for it – I know you’d rather good things (science, liberty, etc) not get killed like they were in the past. In any case, I thank you for curating this excellent space – one of the few where (modulo the usual suspects’ predictable interjections!) it’s possible to have a pretty sane discussion about these things (Indic, etc) at all.

      – Some Guy

  23. The subaltern trap is an ideological dead-end. Any analysis based on elite subaltern dichotomies suffers from the same structural defect underlying Marxian historical analysis. It inserts biases and it creates false categories. It is no use believing that without elite guidance subalterns went about their business like headless chickens. A subaltern group implies an elite, but only tautologically. The insertion of Buddhism into the argument as it pertains to Bengal and Punjab diverts the argument. In India the uncountable local histories do not add up to a national one, and the reasons why a Buddhist Kashmir became Muslim is not the same as it is for Bengal, notwithstanding the late Pala reign. Many elites converted to Islam in Punjab, but many did not, and that goes for the non-elites as well. The conversions were for local reasons certainly non-ideological, and only sometimes induced by fear.

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