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In this episode Omar, Akshar and Mukunda talk to Srikanth Krishnamachary. Krish is an active presence on Twitter at @shrikanth_krish and mostly tweets about Hinduism and Indian history, but has a variety of interests (his intro says he is “a data scientist in financial services based out of New York City, whose interests include economics, political philosophy, Hinduism, American history, and cricket”). We asked him to define Hinduism and give us his opinion of what it was and what it is today. And of course, we asked him about caste. And we hope to have him come back in the future to touch on topics we did not get to today.
Krish also writes on various websites and some of his work can be seen at the following links:
swarajyamag.com/author/545613/ indiafacts.org/author/shrikan indictoday.com/author/shrikanfirstpost.com/author/shrikan
8 thoughts on “Browncast: Shrikanth Krishnamachary, “Traditional Hindu””
Cool, definitely one of the highlights of Twitter. I have learned a lot about Hinduism from his threads. Have been following him since he was an active poster on Marginal Revolution.
Listened to this, whole of it.
I come from the same social background , i.e. Srivaishnavaite brahmins knowna s Iyengars , as Krish/Mukunda who give a trditional SI understanding of Hinduism. Few things
Omar asked what were brahmins doing pre-colonial times 30/400 years ago, which I think K did not zoom in. In pre colonial times brahmins did devote lot of their professional,life to learning to chant vedas and use it for ritual and other religious occasions for a variety of customers , or temple priests . Few of them might go into more abstract stuff like vedanta bashya or commentaries or even occasionally produce original verses. Also astrologers, advisor to kings i.e. fuedal lords . Most of them were not rich even by those standards, even though they did not belong to most vulnerable sections , economically
There was also a discussion of Hindu vs non Hindu , can Jains be considered as Hindu ? Basically Indic religions divided the ‘ends of life’ as Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. Since jains, Buddhists and I think Sikhs believe in these purusharthas , they can be considered Hindu in a broad sense i.e. Pre Modern sense. Indic religions can be considered as theologies of Liberation, Moksha, Kaivalya , Nirvana . This understanding of life makes all these accomodating to others, and even fluid and osmatic in social boundaries. Ishta devata , i.e. god/goddess of your choice is also allowed at a personal level, so that made monotheism of west asian kind impossible and incompatible
For books of Hinduism I think Radhakrishnan’s books can make sense to outsiders as seen by a Hindu.
I would even suggest Wendy Donigers Alternative history of Hinduism worth studying. This in spite of the fact that Doniger is a bugbear of Hindutva people. She makes a valid point biodiversity is at the core of Hindu view of life , and that is what allows many castes, sects and respect for animals . Doniger had also translated Rig veda and other vedas , so she knows what she is talking about – something that can be said of R Thapar or perhaps even Dr.Radhakrishnan. However , caveta emptor, Doniger is an American Liberal Jew , and if you take that into account she has written very well. Her comparison of three shstras Artha sastra, Manu Dharma Sastra and Kama Sutra on different matters is also pertinent – for example homosexuality. Her scholorship on original texts is undeniable
For a quick reading for non-Indians, Thomas Trautmann’s “India Brief history of a Cibilization” is very good. So also, his book on Artha sastra
Artha sastra , even though the title implies Science of Economy , is actually Political economy. AS does not believe in Adam Smith’s ‘unseen hand ‘ of free market guiding everyone to prosperity nor Economic Condition is the fundemental driver of history with politics, religions etc are ideological superstructures, a la Marx. AS belives primarily in a strong , ongoing state guiding economy . That is more realistic than Freemarketeers or Leninists
Thanks for the comment
Guess I’ve avoided Doniger on account of my personal prejudice. I should read her sometime
The discussion was too centered around Veda / Vedanta, and I didn’t dwell enough on Dharma more broadly, Hindu ethics that are rooted in the itihAsas (particularly Ramayana, Shanti Parva)
Some other time
interesting podcast Srikant;
I have read some of Doniger – i found her prone to taking to creative liberties, too prone to leaps of faith based on tenous evidence( viewing through her typical Freudian like lens)
One point of disagreement, is the guest seems to limit reform sects to only 19th century reform movements like Brahmo Samaj or Arya Samaj.
The reality is there is long tradition of reform within Hinduism, from a historical perspective. All the medival traditions are reforms, and prior to that the classical hindu synthesis itself arises as a response to the sramana tradition and incorporation of folk religions.
Also Arya Samaj theoretically attempts to be a throwback to early vedic Hinduism. But I have been to their temples and stuff, it has a lot of later influences (like they are big on yoga classes and meditation). Not to mention abrahamic influences due to being so anti-iconography.
Thanks for the comment.
I meant “reform” in a very radical sense. Where you have v fundamental doctrinal innovation and a clear break from the past. As was the case with Protestant reformation
The more traditional “reform” you refer to was more gradualist, without the abandonment of older influences.
That’s why Hinduism is a palimpsest of sorts. Where the ancient and the new coexist. A person may chant Purusha Suktam in a homa conducted at home in the morning. The same person may go to a Sai Baba mandir in the evening.
Great episode. Learned a lot.
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