Impasses around Contemporary Hinduism

Hinduism’s structural tension between monotheism and polytheism is examined. The interweaving of polytheism and monotheism could be seen to constitute the more and less oppressive phases of Hinduism’s history. Three contemporary impasses have been examined: B R Ambedkar’s proposals to modernise Hinduism in Annihilation of Caste, Hindutva’s attempts to develop an authoritarian version of Hinduism, and Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd’s Post-Hindu India. A democratic politics needs to work with the contradictory practices that constitute Hinduism.

I have noticed that most of us on the secular left tend to condemn a monolithic Hinduism/Hindutva somewhat stridently and shrilly. This knee-jerk condemnation’s effect on our thinking is to let the latter escape the political task of analysing and assessing adequately the threats, constraints, and possibilities that are the effect of Hinduism’s history. This article is a tentative sketch of a framework of analysis, through which I try to address the aporias (impasses and crises) of contemporary Hinduism. The notes that follow are grouped under three heads. First, I review the ways of looking at the historiography of Hinduism. Second, I look at a structural framework of exploration. Third, I employ these sketches of history and structure to understand three different impasses around contemporary proposals regarding the development of Hinduism. In this, I explore some insights and proposals of Annihilation of Caste by B R Ambedkar, the issues with Hindutva, and reflect on some aspects of Post-Hindu India by Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd.

Historical Possibilities

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Updated On : 26th Mar, 2019

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