ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Tradition and Modernity

Looking at Hinduism

Hinduism in India: The Early Period edited by Greg Bailey, New Delhi: Sage, 2017; pp 215, 695.

Hinduism in India: Modern and Contemporary Movements edited by Will Sweetman and Aditya Malik, Series Editor–Geoffrey A Oddie, New Delhi: Sage, 2016; pp 311, 785.

The view that the term “Hinduism” was invented in the 19th century (or late 18th century) to denote a unified religion of the Hindus is hardly a matter of debate among knowledgeable academic circles. But whether the concept of Hindu religion too is of recent origin or it can be traced back to the ancient period of Indian history is an issue that continues to be highly controversial. The editors of the two volumes of Hinduism in India, published by Sage, take the latter stand, devoting the first volume to the study of Hinduism in the early period, precisely between 200 BCE and 1200 ACE, although Geoffrey A Oddie, the series editor, takes a more nuanced position in his contribution to the second volume on the emergence and the significance of the term. The first volume edited by Greg Bailey is an aggregation of eight articles dealing with the doctrinal, theological, mythic, ritualistic and visual traditions that have gone into the making of Hinduism. The second, edited by Geoffrey A Oddie, has 12 articles, covering a large interdisciplinary canvas which provides space for divergent viewpoints and debates on the reorientation and functioning of Hinduism in contemporary times. The two books are welcome contributions towards a critical enquiry into the conceptual and material foundations of Hinduism and its use in the politics of Hindutva.

Bailey begins his chapter with a working definition of Hinduism as a religious and cultural system which allows the “coexistence and interaction of three behavioural and ideational complexes centered on ritual, asceticism and devotion.” Obviously, this is based on the Bhagavad Gita, which enunciates three ways of achieving salvation—karmamarga, the path of Vedic sacrificial rituals, jnanamarga, the path of knowledge as explicated by Upanishadic thinkers, and bhaktimarga, the path of devotion, with emphasis on the last. Bailey argues that the Mahabharata, of which the Bhagavad Gita is an integral part, is a text produced by the Brahmanas in the early centuries preceding and succeeding the Common Era to combat challenges to their hegemony.

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Updated On : 14th Oct, 2018

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