Hinduism is not false consciousness , it is “Planet X”

The Caravan has a piece up intended to inflame, The Hindu Hoax – How upper castes invented a Hindu majority. If you are a sudra or an avanra who believes in the Hindu religion the piece seems geared to denying you all agency or independence. You are a dupe, the victim of “false consciousness.” The Brahmins control you!

That is fine as far as it goes. I am not a Hindu or from a Hindu background. Instead of being offended, mostly I just roll my eyes. And yet I have to admit that twenty years ago I would have been interested in, perhaps even attracted to, the idea that “Hindu identity” or “Hindu religion” was “invented” in the past few centuries. It’s one of those counterintuitive “Freakonomics-style” facts that you can deploy for fun and rhetorical profit. “Actually, did you know….”

But after reading and thinking about this for a few decades, I think this is wrong. I don’t think this is wrong because of what I know about Hinduism, as such. I think this is wrong because of what I know about the spread of religion over history.

For many decades astronomers have been arguing about the existence of “planet X”, which is an undiscovered planet-sized object in the outer solar system which may need to exist to explain the orbits of the planets we can see. That is, we don’t have any evidence of this planet itself, but, we have evidence of its impacts on the other planets. Whether “planet X” exists is irrelevant. Every time I check the consensus seems to change. The point is your model of something can allow you to infer facts through deduction.

As many of you know, one of the mysteries and miracles of human history is how India maintained its religious uniqueness despite 500 years of predominant Islamic rule. In Iran, the best data suggests Muslims were a majority after 300 years. Egypt, it probably took a little longer, but 400 years seems right. I’ve written extensively on hypotheses why India was different. This post isn’t about that. Rather, the very persistence of a non-Muslim majority is indirect evidence of the religious character and identity of the people under Muslim rule.

The stylized fact that I see bandied around is that non-Brahmins, at more modestly Hindus who were not twice-born, had their own non-Hindu religious traditions. These local and indigenous traditions were bracketed into and assimilated as Hindu only within the last few centuries. Before that, it’s best to think of them as not Hindu at all. A conspiratorial and unflattering model is that Brahmins and their allies engaged in a massive re-identification and implicit conversion campaign against the pagan masses, who were as distinct from Brahmanical Hinduism as Muslims were.

The fundamental problem with this is in other areas the pagan and marginal people invariably defect and convert to an alien and novel new religion first. This is the Iran and Kashmir, model. Most of the non-Muslims remaining are of the priestly caste (this is the origin of the Parsis). The core of the old religion. But people on the margins or who were always outside of the boundary of pre-Islamic elite identity quickly switched to becoming Muslim. Turan, north of Iran proper, Islamicized more rapidly than Iran, because it was multireligious, to begin with. In the Roman Empire, nobles from the frontier provinces converted to Christianity faster from the inner core zone. The Roman and Iranian example actually has resonances to the Indian subcontinent, as one argument for early and pervasive Islamicization in the northwest and northeast (Punjab and Bengal) is that its Hindu matrix was weak to nonexistent at the time of the Muslim conquest.

Where am I going with this? If I was a believing Hindu, perhaps I would contend that the persistence of Hinduism in the face of Muslim domination is a function of the power of God and the gods protecting their people. It is a literal miracle. But I’m not a believer in religion. Another hypothesis is that India is the exception to the rule universal elsewhere. A mass of pagan people without any religious connection to a priestly caste (Brahmins) somehow maintained their identity and practices in the face of a dominating “higher religion” (Islam). Then, the cunning Brahmins during the colonial people convinced these non-Hindu pagans that they were actually Hindu!

Both scenarios are implausible to me. First, because there is probably no God in the first case. Second, because I’ve met Brahmins, and they aren’t that incredibly persuasive and Machiavellian. Rather, like “planet X”, I default to the thesis that there’s an identity, a self-conception, a set of beliefs and practices, which suffused itself through the matrix of indigenous Indian groups. Though there was some defection, for various reasons, the cultural matrix was strong enough to maintain itself down the modern period, when information technology and modern identity formation created something much more coherent. That cultural matrix is the precursor to Hinduism today. It wasn’t a conspiracy. Just a natural evolution.

50 thoughts on “Hinduism is not false consciousness , it is “Planet X””

  1. Where am I going with this? If I was a believing Hindu, perhaps I would contend that the persistence of Hinduism in the face of Muslim domination is a function of the power of God and the gods protecting their people. It is a literal miracle. But I’m not a believer in religion.

    Hindus have long been conditioned with a “psychological terrain”. The geography of India is akin to a “room with a door” – Himalayas impregnable on one side, oceans on two sides – leaving only the north-west side open.

    A geo-psychic explanation exists to account for many perceived characteristics of people – Rotterdamers are regularly called as having a harbour mentality, many unique aspects of American democracy can only be explained by the frontier mentality, the impact of pastoralism on desert religions and so on. Imagine what would have happened to the island mentality of Japanese if there was an isthmus connecting them to the Korean peninsula.

    From the earliest texts to the latest, Hindu philosophers and emperors have striven to include the setting of a “sacred geography” in all their works. Even Ashoka uses the term Jambudvipa in his stone edicts. Conversely people who came into the room via that “Door” became aliens – so they had to show a firm commitment to assimilation or be vilified. Gandhari and his brother, Shakuni have arrived from the Northwest through the “Door” – they go on to play villainous roles – either by acts or by birthing villains.

    This motif is repeated again and again throughout all famous episodes in Indian history as well – Chanakya is remembered for his planning against the Greeks, Vikramaditya for crushing the Scythians. Emperors who controlled the “Door” or vanquished aliens coming though the “Door” go on to become immortal in history – Bharatas, Mauryas, Guptas, Ranjit Singh etc.

    The clearest example of a anthropomorphic construction in the modern era is Bharatamata – a divinity that is unparalleled for the sheer finesse in combining disparate elements into a coherent meaningful image that transmitted that sacrality to the masses.

    Islam did not even try to substitute/supplant this eternal imagery of a sacred geography. Almost everything they did violated one or several tenets – emphasis on daily obeisance to an alien land, lacking a sacred connection to the land, a pilgrimage outside the Room (!!). In fact only the temporal struggle against Islam proved to be protracted – the philosophical battle was easy-peasy.

    One of the reasons, marxists in India try to impute a foreign or non-local origin to upper castes is to make use of the “Door”. Their desperate hope is that somehow
    the entire Hindu cultural paraphernalia will be re-classified as alien. These are really stupid, very childish, amateur moves – its like the Audi campaign that tried to paint itself as the original EV. Tesla is not even advertising!!

    The “Door” is the reason why so much of Hindu praxis is insular (or self-contained) – it explains the primeval core of the antipathy to Pakistan. Koenraad Elst even speculated that the animus towards Pakistan starts in the Vedas!
    http://koenraadelst.blogspot.com/2015/11/the-concept-of-pakistan-in-vedas.html

    The “literal miracle” is a sustained reinforcement of a psychological terrain whose reality matches with the physicality of the Indian subcontinent.

  2. Curious, this Caravan mag. During 70s I used to think it was for semi- or newly urbaized populations who want to improve their oppurtunity orientation to the newly emerging country and economy. This was like How to improve your skills, life chances, etc

    Assuming the preent caravan is the continuation of the old caravan, this orienattion is completely opposite. It even disawows conenction to India , The 3 authors are referred to ‘Philosophers’ based in the ‘subcontinent’ – pakistan, or Bhutan or BD , !!

    It’s pretentious non Indianness is nauseating

  3. \Second, because I’ve met Brahmins, and they aren’t that incredibly persuasive and Machiavellian.\
    True. That is waht the podcast guest Tim Mackintosh Smith says after his visit to the Sati memorial seen by Ibn batuta 650 years back; his local driver starts paying obeisance to the sati stones; and he remarked no brahmin was around to ask him to do that , he did it on his own

  4. “The fundamental problem with this is in other areas the pagan and marginal people invariably defect and convert to an alien and novel new religion first.”

    The whole thing seems to me that Hinduism seems like more of an in-between religion. More coherence than Pagan but less coherence than Islam/Christianity. So the results are also similar. Not total conversion to the higher religion, but not an insignificant number either.

    For the most part of the 500 year muslim rule, its was to the North of Vindhyas (Pakistan, N-India, Bangladesh), which would roughly amount to around 40/ 60 Muslim/Hindu population breakup (if we discard the Southern India Hindu and Muslim population) . So a decent return i would say.

    1. it’s near 100% in many places so maybe good compared to other movements but bad compared to the shear power islam generally has

  5. The whole thing seems to me that Hinduism seems like more of an in-between religion. More coherence than Pagan but less coherence than Islam/Christianity. So the results are also similar. Not total conversion to the higher religion, but not an insignificant number either.

    i think this is true. but not for the conversion reasons. a minority of Egyptians were Christian by 1100 AD. but Christianity is coherent. a majority of muslims defected to Christianity in Spain by 1400. but it was coherent

    For the most part of the 500 year muslim rule, its was to the North of Vindhyas (Pakistan, N-India, Bangladesh), which would roughly amount to around 40/ 60 Muslim/Hindu population breakup (if we discard the Southern India Hindu and Muslim population) . So a decent return i would say.

    you can’t count 2020 numbers tho. has to be around 1800 when Muslim hegemony was definitely gone.

  6. i already contended in a previous comment that i don’t subscribe to the view that peasant hindus weren’t really hindus to begin with, but were ram rolled into a brahminical framework. this is farcical view at best, and malicious at worst.

    my touchstone for determining if the folk religious traditions were a different religion from brahminical hindusim is to ask a simple question – have the peasant masses ever considered their religion separate from traditional hinduism as practiced by higher castes? and the answer is a resounding NO. never did the brahmins and peasants ever considered their religions separate, though the entrenched casteism of course prevented them from participating in its rites together.

    for a religion to be a distinct religion, at the very least it should have distinct name. folk religions never even had a distinguishing name for the most part.

    contrast this with jainism and sikhism. both jains and sikhs are acutely aware that they follow a different religious tradition than the brahminical religion. culturally they may identify as hindus, but when it comes to pedantic definitions, they will insist that they belong to a different religion.

    i dont know how this whole idea of separate folk/animistic hinduism vs brahminical hinduism came about. i am not really a believer in conspiracy theories, but in this case i will not rule out malicious intent. and i will not lay the blame on usual suspect, the muslims. at the dawn of modern era (around 1800s) indian muslims were simply not in the intellectual position to critically analyze hinduism. the villain of the piece in this case were christian missionaries who were looking for chinks in the armor of hinduism, for obvious reasons.

    1. but in this case i will not rule out malicious intent. and i will not lay the blame on usual suspect, the muslims. at the dawn of modern era (around 1800s) indian muslims were simply not in the intellectual position to critically analyze hinduism

      to muslims it’s all paganism (with a few exceptions). so the distinctions wouldn’t have been made.

  7. I never understand this obscession of indian(hindu) nationalists with religion of Pakistanis , people can convert to whatever religion they want . Differences in south asia arent religious but ethnic.
    Organized religion is a thing of past anyways with more advances in science of neurophyscology, we can scienfically decode the spirtuality and with popularization of scientifically based meditation techniques , you will defitnitely have one less selling point of religion , reality of death will be the major remaining.

    1. Ethnic differences are there for sure, but there are enough religious conflicts. Both ethnic and religious tribal lines are highly politicized still. Enough of the population is still religious, so for power games at least, religion still matters a lot. For S Asia, discussing religion is really discussing who is power vs. who doesn’t. Who has power makes a difference because it shapes the what the future will look like, both overall and also in terms who will remain/become disenfranchised.

      But yes, for more modern people in the West, typically religion is not seen in the same way; hence, the skyrocketing rates of atheism.

      1. “Convinced atheism” isnt that high in the developed west as one might think , its much higher in former communist bloc regions like east europe and china. Many People in the west still want to retain spirtual and moral side of christainity to a certain degree.

    2. Differences in south asia arent religious but ethnic.

      The fact that international boundaries in South Asia today are drawn through the middle of regions that had an identifiable common ethnicity (Punjab and Bengal primarily) shows how wrong you are.

    3. \people can convert to whatever religion they want . Differences in south asia arent religious but ethnic.\

      is it the case? leave alone ‘conversion’ , why even having a different sectarian interpretation of islam by Qadianis sends pakistanis into a spin? are Qudianis separate ethnic category than the punjabi pop around them?

  8. It’s telling how an Atheist from a Muslim background living in the US is more knowledgeable about how Hinduism functions than these room temperature IQ “Intellectuals” that hail from Hindu families. I don’t even think they’re trying to stir shit up on purpose, they’re just idpol NPCs doing what they do best.

  9. “And yet I have to admit that twenty years ago I would have been interested in, perhaps even attracted to, the idea that “Hindu identity” or “Hindu religion” was “invented” in the past few centuries.”

    Most Indian Twitter intellectuals are at this stage where they confuse word games for descriptions of reality. I was one of them in college and I can see a lot of them around me, perhaps even a growing tribe.

    The set of communities that today constitute Hindus, with their overlapping practices and mutual obligations have existed for a long time. Even if this edifice was given a scaffold and called ‘Hinduism’ in the 20th century, it shouldn’t be that big a deal.

    Dalits, Sikhs are both 20th century inventions that way. So is pan-Islamism to some extent.

    “Second, because I’ve met Brahmins, and they aren’t that incredibly persuasive and Machiavellian. ”

    Divya {{{Dwivedi}}} seems to have persuaded quite a few folks out there.

  10. We still haven’t finished (actually, just started) our discussion about linguistics and we are already moving to the next topic – mythology/religion, but this is ok. Just to remind you that we finished genetics, and after mythology, we will discuss toponyms and anthropology. Hopefully, someone will make connections with ancient European mythology or we can just adopt a myopic view and remain in India.

  11. Open question: regardless of what identity label someone possessed or what religious rituals they practiced, could a deep-seated psychological belief in the concepts of reincarnation and karma (both go hand in hand) have been the common thread holding the indigenous people of the subcontinent together, and a bulwark against mass conversion to a religion (any Abrahamic religion) that required people to switch to a belief in no rebirths and judgment days?

    What’s the scorecard of historically Buddhist regions (where I imagine common people would have a similar psychology) against the onslaught of Abrahamic religion? Afghanistan went to Islam quite easily, but were the common people really Buddhist there or was it just the elite? Burma and Sri Lanka still remain Buddhist. Tibet does too, though it’s faced a more dangerous monster in recent times.

    1. This could be correct…. Hinduism is concerned with orthopraxy while the other religions are obsessed with orthodoxy. Many average Muslims in India imitate their cultural neighbors. Also why Deoband is excessively compulsive in keeping the flock within appropriate norms of behaviour.

      1. Hinduism is concerned with orthopraxy while the other religions are obsessed with orthodoxy.

        this is dumb midwit.

        since the ascendence of al-ghazali islam is mostly about orthopraxy. orthodoxy is a particular obsession of christians, and in the modern world particularly reformed protestants, who are not liturgical

        1. I once heard an acquaintance (protestant) telling me that his uncle’s dying wish was to be reborn in his beloved village. And there was a huge fight within the family to get that carved on to his tombstone in Telugu. Make whatever you want, that man is a Hindu now, wherever he may be, whatever denomination he belonged to. Take up the pronouncements of the Deoband ulema in the last ten years – all of them are exercises in theological hair-splitting.

          In India, these religions cannot afford to be orthopraxical, Hinduism will swallow them. We are the masters of this game – this is our secret sauce. There is no “literal miracle” to deconstruct. A visitor to Aurangzeb’s simple grave (mud) remarked on Twitter that a Tulasi plant was growing out of it and it was not disturbed by the Muslim tomb-keepers. Bharata reclaims everyone!

          1. ake up the pronouncements of the Deoband ulema in the last ten years – all of them are exercises in theological hair-splitting.

            you’re being a moron.

            islamic reformism is literally adherence to shariah. practice. not belief.

          2. @Razib

            Indian Islam’s power struggles, utterances and consolidation can be completely explained within the prism of heterodoxy, heteropraxy and orthodoxy. There is a distribution from high to low – and almost all Indian Muslim cultural groups get slotted in this distribution.

            The penultimate doomed attempt at orthopraxy by an Indian Muslim was by Akbar with his Din-Illahi. Nothing was allowed to survive. The next one are the Qadianis/Ahmediyyas – also a genuine attempt at orthopraxy, but we know how that has been received.

    2. Dont think Buddhism fared a lot better than other Pagans. Both Burmese and Lankan colonization was more akin to British rule (more interested in economic than religious) than Muslim rule.

      Sindh is another good example, where folks were either Buddhist or Hindu, now majority Muslim. So not sure how much Buddhism is really a bulwark.

      1. mongolia and cambodia both had muslim kings/rulers. eventually tho buddhism either won over or was chosen (in mongolia’s case).

        but yes, buddhism hasn’t fared that well overall. the turanian buddhists converted and arguably transformed islam in the 8th to 9th centuries

        1. After the USSR broke up, Mongolia became free – of sorts. At that time India sent as it’s ambassador to Mongolia Kushok Bakula Rinpoche , No 3 in Tibetan Bhuddism. That was a great move on the part of Indian govt and height of cultural diplomacy , when after 70 years of communism Mongolians were searching for some kind of native culture to replace communism, putting the right man at the right spot

  12. “Differences in south asia arent religious but ethnic.”

    I dont think there are any linguistic/religious ethnicities in the subcontinent apart from perhaps Bangladeshi Bengali Muslims ? A key requirement for being an ethnicity is intermarriage, and that only happens within castes. Linguistic affiliation is a sentiment, sometimes takes a political expression when interests are threatened, but by no means at the level of ethnicity, much less a nationality.

    1. “A key requirement for being an ethnicity is intermarriage”
      Just because Hindus practice Caste Endomany doesn’t mean that those Castes can’t belong to a Sub-Category within Pre-existing Ethno-Linguistic Groups. If we use endogamy as the sole criteria for defining an ethnicity then there’s no such thing as an “Ethnicity” because people still prefer to marry within their own Socio-Economic class in any given ethnic Group.
      Or alternatively, Castes can be seen as an “Ethnicity”. It doesn’t make sense though, India’s leaders wouldn’t have been able to popularize the idea of Anti-Casteism if Castes were an ethnicity in the same vein as French.
      Linguistic affiliation is a sentiment
      Linguistic groups have a shared cultural heritage that cuts through class&caste lines. You can’t just brush that off as petty sentimentality, Aside from NE States, most Indian States are Linguistically homogeneous, they’ve been that way for thousands of years. That’s centuries worth of Arts&Traditions inherited by a bunch of endogamous groups that speak the same first language, if that’s not ethnicity idk what is.

      1. Arts and traditions in India are seen as the heritage of distinct ‘communities’ (basically caste groups), not linguistic groups.

        Linguistic ethnicity did come to prevail in Europe, but this was a highly contingent process, and one that probably involved a lot of erasure of traditions and culture. Unlike English and French, most Indian languages did not have official status until the modern day Republic of India.

        People have always been conscious of multiple identities, on a day to day level caste was dominant, but there was an understanding that caste identities were intermixed with regional ones, and there was an overarching religious literature centered on Sanskrit.

        1. Bharatnatyam, despite it being of Brahmin character is most commonly identified as Tamil Arts. I don’t think anyone sees Modern India like Winston Churchill did. Castes have no visibility outside its tiny spheres of influence, languages do. Bollywood alone has more cultural influence than all Indian caste groups combined.

          Unlike English and French, most Indian languages did not have official status until the modern day Republic of India
          What about the Maratha Empire, Sikh Empire,Vijaynagar etc etc? There have been Empires for Centuries that gave regional languages an official status. Even the Mughals eventually gave Urdu an official Status, which is a dialect of Hindi.

          1. Minor correction: Urdu is not a dialect of Hindi, its another register of the exact same dialect of Hindi that was spoken around Delhi. The dialects of Hindi today were not really called Hindi before 1947 but were subsumed into it later.

            Mughals mostly used Persian as the lingua franca.. infact Persian was so much used in North India as an official language that even the Sikh Empire had to use it as they had no choice.

            The British were the ones who replaced Persian hegemony with Hindustani (Urdu, and later Hindi). They made this official language in several provinces (including Punjab).

    2. There are definitely linguistic affinities.
      Jews and Arabs have related languages whether they like it or not.
      Chinese and Tibetans have related languages whether they like it or not.
      Similarly,Indians,Iranians,Balts,Slavs,Germanics and Italics have related languages whether they like it or not.
      But that does not mean that relations will be good and smooth.
      For example,other than speaking Indo-Aryan languages,there is hardly anything common between a Kalash living in Hindu Kush Mountains and a Dhivehi living in the atolls of Indian Ocean.

  13. Second, because I’ve met Brahmins

    This isn’t a counter argument though since you haven’t met enough (and never can since no one can) and second Brahmins alive today aren’t the same people Brahmins of centuries past. They are still a part/creation of their generation and current age developments.

    Though in general I support Razib’s position since point 1 is dominant, i.e. dogma, rituals, texts, morals can’t be invoked in to argue on this matter. The most accurate method would likely be Systems Modelling with respect to human behavior.

    Though also Caravan likely was trying to argue about the consolidation process of Indian socio-cultural/religious space doctrines over last 150 years, they may not have done a decent job of that but given their anti-establishment stance on most things (political, economic, socio-cultural) maybe that seemed to be idea, maybe it didn’t come through adequately.

    1. “This isn’t a counter argument… ”

      I don’t think that was a serious point. He was doing humour there

    2. This isn’t a counter argument though since you haven’t met enough (and never can since no one can) and second Brahmins alive today aren’t the same people Brahmins of centuries past. They are still a part/creation of their generation and current age developments.

      that was a joke dumbass

  14. “The fundamental problem with this is in other areas the pagan and marginal people invariably defect and convert to an alien and novel new religion first.”

    Seems to me they also convert to marginal forms of the new religion, at least initially. The Goths and Vandals had a fairly long stint as Arians before entering the orthodox fold. The Berbers were into Ibadism/Kharijitism, and the various Turkic and Iranic peoples seem to have taken to Shi’ism at certain times.

  15. Seems to me they also convert to marginal forms of the new religion, at least initially. The Goths and Vandals had a fairly long stint as Arians before entering the orthodox fold. The Berbers were into Ibadism/Kharijitism, and the various Turkic and Iranic peoples seem to have taken to Shi’ism at certain times.

    this is not crazy.

    but 1) the goths were arian because they were convered when the east roman empire was ruled by an arian (valens). once they converted to the arian faith it kind of became and ethnic religion with the rapid decline of arianism among the romans

    2) the connection of shia islam with iranian islamicization has long been argued. i would be cautious for a few reasons, but two

    – the shia-suni distinction wasn’t huge with the rise of the abbasids. the real bad blood starts in the later centuries

    – the shia religion was disproportionate strong around *arab colonies* in iran, not the persians. when the safavids converted iran to shia islam in the 1500s they brought arabs from lebanon to finish, and as in the early phase shia islam was strong in the least iranian regions

    in india tho some argue that ismaili islam was instrumental in early islamicization, and many ismailis eventually become sunni

    1. I wrote before about Vandals who were closely related to Lusitanian Serbs and moved through Gibraltar to Africa. Spanish (V)Andalusia got the name after them. They established kingdom in today’s Tunisia with the centre on the island Serba (in Arabic – Djerba) which is today the most popular Mediterranean destination and were a strong power which captured Sicilia, Sardinia and Corsica. They were very cultural people with highly developed arts, engineering, music and poetry. They remain known for their sacking of Rome.

      East Roman emperor Justinian sent his military leader Belisarius who defeated them and included in Roman Empire. All of them – Vandals, Emperor Valens (and other emperors – his brother Valentinian, nephew Gratian, Jovian, etc) who was born in Serbia, Justinian and Belisarius were Serbs.

  16. The use of “cultural matrix” is very useful and I am borrowing it henceforth. I think one can consider all religions as cultural matrix. Thinking that way, one could move away from use of the word “religion” . It is a more general explanation .

  17. “…A mass of pagan people without any religious connection to a priestly caste (Brahmins) somehow maintained their identity and practices in the face of a dominating “higher religion” (Islam). Then, the cunning Brahmins during the colonial people convinced these non-Hindu pagans that they were actually Hindu!”

    I think proponents of both the Marxist Feudalism theory (Sharma, Jha) and its rival processual/integrative theory (Chattopaddhay, Kulke) of Indian historiography claim that sundry non-Brahminical communities were integrated into the mainstream elite model of Brahminism in the PRE-Islamic early medieval period (600 – 1200 AD) and that Brahmins had a major role to play in that process (land grants etc). It was only the label of Hinduism that was applied much later.

    1. These integrative processes stretching from Shankara to Ramanuja (600-1200 AD) mark a turning of the pendulum in the dynamic of subcontinental culture and polity that stretches back to Harappan times.

      This dynamic of culture and politics has to do with the balance the elites of the subcontinent saw between allocation to the military vs towards civic goals of (Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha). From Shankara (Advaita) to Ramanuja (Visishtaadvaita) the focus on unity (non-duality) in a philosophical sense, has a secular counter part, which is to expand and knit a Vedic society together. To what end? And why at that time?

      Jainism/Buddhism which are Sramana (non-Vedic) traditions with roots in the trading and business communities had dominant royal patronage and competed on equal or better footing with Vedic/Brahminical religion in the post Gupta period. This is a conservative and insular period for the subcontinent, after Ashokan expansionism. Spending on military is frowned upon under the influence of Buddhism and Jainism, reflecting the aversion of trading and business communities to financing this. The subcontinent prefers to enjoy a peace dividend, so to speak.

      Why was the missionary zeal of Shankara and Ramanuja to convert Jain and Buddhist kings broadly successful in this 600-1200 AD and later period? I would argue that it started with the subcontinent’s encounter with the Ummayad Arabs.

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

      These military campaigns required the Indian kingdoms to band together to repulse the Arab expansion into the subcontinent. This meant also that the kings needed to allocate greater resources to standing militaries and needed the business and trading classes to contribute toward it. They also needed a shared religion/culture to come together with other kings in such military campaigns. Shankara’s Advaita fit the bill and so royal patronage flowed to it, and with that patronage significant (but not entire) conversion of civil society away from Jainism/Buddhism. Shankara’s Advaita was the subcontinent’s answer to Islamic Tawhid.

      While the Arabs retreated, later Afghan and Mughal attacks were more successful in establishing themselves in North India. So by 11th century Ramanuja is advocating the Sri-Vaishnavism to unify southern Indian society against incursions from the muslim kings in the north.

      How does this relate to the caste dynamic referred to in the Caravan article? Caste/Jati cuts across the Jain/Buddhist/Vedic dynamic. All the native subcontinent religions recognized caste (jati/varna) divisions and hierarchies. It was not an invention of Vedic Hinduism. Vedic Hinduism had a greater interest in enforcing performance of caste duties, requiring larger sections of the population to be content with a smaller share of societal economic output, so that larger standing armies could be maintained.

      So this knitting together of subcontinental communities through the syncretic Hinduism we recognize today, is not a recent innovation as the Caravan article suggests. Rather it is the core modus operandi and driven by the underlying Yin/Yang of Sramanic Jain/Buddhist ideals and a more martial Vedic culture that has characterized the subcontinent.

  18. that was a joke dumbass

    If so then what’s with the needless hostility?

    My comment wasn’t patronizing or hostile, it took your point at face value since you added 2 contextual points to it and the Caravan article was also including parts of currently alive generations.

    And on top of that I explicitly mentioned I agree with your general position so my comment even outside of that wasn’t against yours.

    Online space can be full of silly people who test the patience sure but that is no excuse to just lay into people who are not being bad faith & undeserving of it to begin with. This is poor form really.

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