Hindutva of our Minds

The famous words of George Orwell which say,’ who controls the past controls the future and who  controls the present control the past’,[1] seem to be the way Indian society has been evolving for a long time. The Hindutva[2] forces have been working to control the past, presents and the future of Indians.  They have tried to control all pluralistic conversation of Indians and have tried to homogenise Indian society. This has led to the mono-culturing of as well as semiticization of Hinduism. Some scholars refer to it as syndicate Hinduism. Viewing Indian openness and tolerance of diversity as weakness, protagonists of Hindutva strive to inject masculine Hindu supremists ideology into our society.  They have constructed an anxious history and envisioned an ancient future for India and proudly call it the Hindu Rashtra.  Much has been manifested about their fascination as well as structural resemblance with the Fascists and Nazi groups of Europe.  Their coupling of communalism and nationalism is viewed as parallel to Hitler’s combination of Aryan Racism and German Nationalism.  Like the Fascists in Italy, they have infiltrated police and administration and use religion as a convenient myth.  The Machiavellian policy of end justifying of the means is followed as a Krishnaneeti.  They have craftily usurped the politico-moral authority as divine royalty and speak for the entire Hindu community and nation with no much opposition.  This is why their Sarsangchayalak and pracharyaks are very powerful figures in our society. They believe in the power of fear that induces anxiety in our society both in the minority as well as the majority communities.

Hindutva successfully makes use of the social, cultural and religious symbols embedded in our society.   It is important to explore how Hindutva by spinning a web around Ram develops a theology that animates the politics of BJP. It grew alongside of Islam, particularly its political organisation, the Muslim league.  It seems that Islamic communalism provided background and continues to inspire a constant back drop to the growth and consolidation of Hindutva communalism.  There are many India(s). These many India(s) have many historie(s).  Unfortunately, Hintudva paints a simple monochromic history over the plural past(s) of our people.   It has an ambiguous relation with the West. In imitates its form and enfleshes it into the Indian cultural matrix of the upper castes.  In the context of this study, we wish to understand the Hindutva of our Minds. It has reflects on the matter and form(s) of Hindutva.  There are several forms from the West that have been enfleshed to make Hindutva what it is. We shall consider Nation, Text and Religion   that have been cross pollinated under colonisation and led to the formation of Hindutva in this study.  The notions of Nation and Nationalism inspires Hindutva nationalism and  reinforces the longing for a Hindu Nation, Textualisation of  what was mainly an oral tradition has given us the text of Bhagvad Gita as the holy book and has led to the singularization of Ramayana. The construction of religion unto the model of the Semitic form gave birth to Hinduism and as a result we have Hinduness that we call Hindutva.

The West(s) of our Minds

The philosophical horizons of enlightenment, the academic discipline we know as history and the political organisation that we call nation-state came under colonization into south Asia, mainly through the work of orientalists. In several ways, we in India have mimicked the West. There are many west(s) in the minds of Indians. Under the influence of Enlightenment, the Western civilization was viewed as the product of human rational action under the light of scientific reason. This absolutization of rationality of nature and human mind was appropriated by local positivists with the academic discourse in India. They denied other Indians the right to represent themselves and took it on themselves to do so. Like other parts of the colonial world, in India, nation and the kind of its national history that was crafted emerged in tandem with the struggle for independence.  This copying or mimesis of the West is complex and is a disruptive anti-colonial strategy. In this context, we examine only three areas of Imitatio West, namely Primacy of Nationalism, Primacy of Textual Tradition, and the Primacy of Religion as they are intimately linked with conceptualization and the political formation of Hindutva.  Mimesis is born out of desire to become a recognizable other as a subject of difference that is almost the same but not quite. Becoming a subject of difference, Indians constructed parity with the colonizer and reinforced and legitimated their struggle to displace the colonizer.

Construction of the Primacy of Nation

The idea of nation emerged as a powerful historical idea in the West. There is a constitutive liminal dimension to the idea of a nation. Among other things, this liminal side includes its mobilising power and teleology of progress. This gives us an impression that a nation emerges out of an immemorial past and is marching towards a limitless future. Nations emerged as a representation of cultural life as well as a disciplining practice. As a disciplining practice, it has performative power. The nation calls its citizens into being. This was chiefly achieved through homogenization of culture. Such a social organization is viewed as progress although cultural diversity has to often give way to what maybe called a monoculture. The paradox is that such a mono-culturing is never possible as the local cultural forms may manifest resemblances but not identities. It is in this gaps that are either blurred or opened up that cultural as well as political authority is negotiated.  Although Enerst Renan places the origin of a nation into the mythical moorings of the Germanic tribes,[3] we are more familiar with the idea that modern nations as we know them today are products of the treaty of Westphalia.[4]  Late colonialism was the springtime for the colonies to embrace idealism of a nation and become the other of the colonizer by taking his position of power. Indian nationalism also followed this trajectory as it built it’s on the colonial difference.

Constructing the Primacy of Text

West is a tradition of the Book. This means it is chiefly a textual tradition. Bible was central to the West.  This may be a reason why visibility emerged as an important cultural technology of power in the West. The colonial project was entirely based on this visibilization of difference between the colonizer and the colonized.  One can trace that textual practices are central to the construction of colonial difference. The colonizers used textual practices to gather, classify and codify knowledge systems that they found in the colonies.[5] They employed the modalities of writing like the writing of histories, grammars of the vernacular languages, recording of birth, deaths and marriages, surveying of land and people, introducing of print technology, etc.  This manifests that textual practices were central to the building of the colonial empire.  Textual practices have emerged as powerful technologies of power and have become part of the bureaucracy of a modern nation state.  We can see that textual primacy is appropriated in post-colonial societies in several ways. In India, they are also employed to the field of religion by the local elites. Where orality was sacred, written text has steadily come to occupy its space. The Indian tradition of the upper caste always regarded that which is heard, smrti as the highest revelation. But in the encounter with the colonizers, local elites began to accept the written text as having the authority of revelation. The tradition which regarded Vedas as authorless took up a written text, the revered Bhagvad Gita as the holy book for the Hindus in the 19th century. This is how the form of the Holy Book of the West informed the choice as well as kind of text to match the Bible and Koran. We have also witnessed conflicts over plural Ramayanas and arrived at an absolutization and singularization of one text.

Constructing of Primacy of Religion

If anything is so widespread and appears universal to humanity, it is religion.  There is a rich diversity of beliefs, rituals and practices among religions. Scholars like Jonathan Zittel Smith teach that religion is an academic invention and has no independent study apart from the academy.[6] He teaches that the phenomenon of religion is a second order reflection and a construct of comparison.  Religion as a notion developed in the context of Abrahmic religions. There were other sacred formations besides these religions of one God, one prophet and one book. They were shamanic in nature but they were also assimilated as religions.  Religion, thus, is not a universal given. Several anthropologists think that religion is not a human universal.  The idea that religion is a human universal has more to do with western culture than human culture.[7] One might trace a steady semiticization of Hinduism in our country.  Several scholars think that Hinduism of today became organised in the image and likeness of the Semitic religions in the 19th century under British colonizers.  Before that, it appears that caste was the most important identity marker of our people than religions. It said that with the archival power of the British, caste became rigid and fixated in India.[8]  Hinduism that was a geographical ascription steadily becomes a term that describes their faith acceptable to the rest of India in the 20th century.  Hinduism does not have one central all presiding deity and one prophet yet it is steadily appropriated into the categories of Semitic religions.

Nations of our Minds

Benedict Anderson taught that a nation is an imagined community. This meant that nations are not products of race, religion and language. Nations everywhere are imagined into existence.  This has happened not by mere mimesis. It is not identity but difference with its colonial other that led to the construction of nationalisms in Asia and Africa where nationalism arose as a political battle with the imperial other who was the colonizer.

 Nation and Nationalism

Several thinkers like J J Roseau teach that Nations are a product of natural destinies of Humans.  Nations are no accidents in history.[9]Marxist and liberal- rationalist take up a constructivist position when they say that nations arose out of the intersection of politics, technology and social transformations that provided impetus to universal human urge for liberty and progress.[10]  Benedict Anderson views nations as imagined societies.[11] He asserts that nationality, nation-ness and nationalism are cultural artifacts developed to gain and maintain power. Just like the Monarch legitimated its rule through divine election, nations seek to naturalise their power domain over the people through invented traditions. Eric Hobsbawn teaches that communities invent traditions to legitimate their identities as nations.[12]  Anthony Smith rejects theories of imagination and invention and asserts that role of the elite/ intelligentsia is far more circumscribed.[13]   Thus, nations are constructed from above through a strong binding narrative.  These narratives interpellate the people to become subject by embracing a collective identity.  Bruce Lincoln teaches that nation is constructed on the basis of sentiments, internal affinity and external estrangement.[14]

 Indian Nationalism(s)

There are several Indian nationalism(s). They are not merely born out of a response of Europeanization. They did not just arise vis-à-vis inner struggles due to historical and political situation in the region. They rather arose in the contestation of the British Raj in Indian and borrowed models or forms from Europe but dressed them in Indian clothing.  M N Roy thus, for instance, compares the Indian National Congress to orthodox nationalism of the revivalist as he finds its social radicalism inadequate. He thinks that the nationalist tried to dress the backwardness of India in the glorious garb of its ancient spiritual civilization.[15]  The Congress largely attempted a nationalism that would assist in building the nation that is largely inclusive though one could trace moderates and extremists that leaned to what is thought to be orthodox nationalism amidst its followers.[16]  Bal Gangadhar Tilak took the position of an extremist and promoted orthodox nationalism and thought that it was an integral nationalism.[17]  His followers like Pal and Ghose thought of independence as spiritual uplift rather than political progress.[18] Nehru and Gandhi brought more economic and social content to nationalism. They tied to transform India into an industrialised, secular and liberal democracy.[19]  Alongside of several nationalism(s) that evolved in the congress the Muslim nationalism developed by leaders like Syed Amed Khan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Muhammad Ali.[20] They started as nationalists but ended as communal.  Being afraid of Hindu domination, Jinnah is said to have developed his two-nation theory.

Hindutva Nationalism

The concept of Hindutva was articulated by Vinayak Damodar  Sarvarkar.[21] He thought that everyone who had ancestral roots in India is a Hindu and That they all constituted a nation.  Hindutva vision of the future lies in the past. It constructs a history and presents a loss that missionizes the Hindus to recover.  Appropriating the religiosity of the people, Hindutva forces have elevated the nation to the status of a Goddess and led its worship. Nation, thus become a divine mother, Bharat Mata.  Following the models from the Semitic religions, Hindutva ideologies counter posed Ram and Krishna to the Prophet and Jesus.  Locations like Ayodhya and Mathura became the exact places where the new heroes of Hindutva were thought to be born.  Popular epics like Ramayana and Mahabarata became the preferred texts than other sacred scriptures.  The Hindutva Ideology was elaborated by Golwalkar.  Like the Jews, he positioned India as the God given land of the Hindus.  He taught that Hindus constituted a nation.  He strongly believed that nothing can stop the divine destiny of the Hindu Nation / Rashtra. Thus, he successfully converted Hindutvas into a political theology with a triumphant eschatology.  He presents five markers Hindu Nation as geography, race, religion, culture and language which are Hindustan, Hindu race, Hindu religion, Hindu culture,  Hindu language.

Ram(s) of our Minds

The controversy over the number Ramayanas has seen violent resistance.  Which of these Ramayanas get acceptance is obviously a matter of the one that enjoys hegemony.   Lord Ram has inspired Indians in several ways. The story of Ram was already embedded in the consciousness of our people. Its impact on the minds of our masses is profound. Hence, Mahatma Gandhi made use of its presence to communicate with the people during the freedom struggle. The Hindutva ideologues presented Lord Ram as a warrior who will inspire to build an aggressive Hinduism that will annihilate   Muslims/ minorities their demonized other.

Ramayana and Ramayanas

There are many Ramayana traditions in South Asia. They are Hindu as well as Buddhist[22] and Jaina appropriation of the story of Ram.  They varied as well as contradictory. What we notice is that the Hindu versions are privileged and the rest are largely marginalised. There is a clear politics over a plural tradition of the Ramayana as certain versions have become canonical while others are almost regarded as heretical. The very existence of the plural tradition of the story of Ramayana manifests the openness and democratic character of environment in which they emerged. Some scholars see them as counter Ramayanas because they do not belong to one moment of history but each has its own history and lies embedded in the values and concerns of the communities that embraced them.  Indeed the person and the event of Lord Ram became a prism through which people interpreted the events of their lives. The tendency to mono-culture the Ramayanas is chiefly political and theological[23] and exhibits upper caste hegemony and enlightenment tendencies from the West. The singularization of the story of Rama does not recognize the tremendous impact that the event of Ram had on the people across south Asia and becomes an impoverishment and injustice to Lord Ram. Unfortunately, this impoverishment seems to be inflicted by those very forces who convert the noble name of Lord Ram into political capital.

Ramayana of the Television

The homogenisation of Ramayana got impetus with the telecasting of the story of Rama as a serial on national television in 1987.  Observers estimate that about eighty million witnessed the re-enactment of Ramayana on the television. It captured the middle-class population of our country. The producer, Ramanand Sagar described it as a Ramyana written with a cambera.[24] The unique event emboldened the Hindutva brigade and only a single version of the story of Ram that of Tulsidas steadily begun to be regarded as canonical. This singualtization of Ramayana is used to build Hindu supramists view of India. The televised Ramayana captured the imagination of most people of India. This has steadily led to the closure of it’s the heteroglossic character as well as its multiple tellings began to look illegitimate.  Today there is a censoring of the Ramayanas to the extent that the voices of its plural versions are muzzled and silenced. This mono-culturing of the story of Lord Ram reinforces the Hindutva imagination of India. It has led to the consolidation of Hindu Identity formation and has emerged as a political reference point for right-wing politics. But there has been resistance to the monoframing of Ramayana among several scholars. They refuse to accept the centrality of Valmiki and Tulsidas tellings of Ramayana to the event of Lord Ram.

Ramayana of Hindutva

Ramayana of the Hindutva forces has acquired the power and force of a myth. Myth in Barthian[25] sense stands for an ideological narrative that is fictive but not quite a lie which naturalizes the power action of a particular group at the expense of another.  This myth is successfully historisized and history is mythologized by the Hindutva forces.  Lord Ram has been the primary deity of Sangh Parivar. Even Vedic gods are forgotten of in favour of Lord Ram.  No other God in India has been made political relevant as Lord Ram. The quest for a grand Ram temple and its struggle with Babri Masjid in Ayodhya has put Lord Ram firmly on the political map of our country. This has almost Ramified our society. It led to the militarization of Hinduism and Hinduization of politics. This, in turn, resulted into the demolition of the Babri Masjid in an effort to re-claimed the supposed birthplace of Lord Ram. To Hindutva forces, Ram then emerged as an Icon and politics become enactment of Ramraj. The politics of Ramraj began to provide a cover of righteousness to the political actors as well as lead the Rambakts to daw the Laksman Rekha between them and others who then are demonised and fought to the point of annihilation.

Hinduism(s) of our Minds

The word Hindu has been was a geographical ascription used by the Arabs to name people who live across the river Indus. Later with the Islamic rulers, the term Hindu was used to offer the status of being subjects of their administration. It was a catch all term that caught into its semantics the large motley masses that were plural and diverse. With the coming of the British colonizers, birth, death and marriage records of their subject began in India. It was in the context of this recording exercise that subjects other than Muslims, Christians, Parsis, and Jews were all classified as Hindus. It was a matter of nomenclature but later under Indian Renaissance and reformist leaders this term steadily was assimilated as self Identity and Santana dharma and its later evolution began to be viewed as Hinduism in hindsight.

Hinduism in Hindsight

The Sanatana Dharma is Hinduism only through a hermeneutics of hindsight.[26]  The horizon of Hinduism becomes the prism through which the entire evolution of Sanatana Dharma is viewed. It does not mean that what started as Sanatana Dharma remains frozen only to be named as Hindu in hindsight.  Sanatana Dharma was dynamic and not passive. Its entire journey is appropriated as Hinduism post 19th century.  In fact, Hinduism has become a master signifier that captures the entire history of Sanatana Dharma. These evolutionary changes that occurred into it are imperceptible and lead to the formation of Hinduism which then becomes a totalising gaze through which its entire journey is appropriated. Scholars teach that it was in the nineteen century that a single notion of religion was constructed by the orientalists based upon a Judaeo-Christian understanding of what might constitute a religion.  But this is just one side of the story that simply marks the native as passive and has no contribution to the evolution of Hinduism. Other scholars teach that the Hindu nationalist adopted it to push for their swaraj in response to British imperial rule over India.

Making of Hinduism as the Religion

The word Hindu bore no rebalance to the diverse religious belief and practice in India until the nineteenth century. The term Hindu is a Persian variant of the Sanskrit Sindhu which referred to the Indus River.[27]  The Arabic Al-Hind was a term that denoted a geographical area.[28]   The term does not acquire any religious connotation at that time. Even when the locals used it, they used it to assert their native character until the nineteenth century. We can even trace it alongside other religious terms like Hindoo Christians or Hindoo Muslims in the eighteenth century.  Richard King teaches that the term Hinduism as religion firs came into use among the westerns in the 18th century. Earlier the westerners called the followers of non-abrahmic religions as heathens/ gentoos.[29]  By the nineteenth century, the code of the Gentoos laws was replaced by the religion of the Hindoos. [30]  It is only in the nineteenth century Hinduism was viewed as a religion both in India and the west. The Indian religious thinkers and reformist embraced the term Hinduism and began to revive the Vedic and Upanisadic religion and steadily Brahminical texts and beliefs came to be thought to be foundational essence of Hinduism.[31] This why Hinduism has to be viewed both as a complex oriental and brahminical construct. Hinduism became a new espisteme and began to be viewed as the corrupt version of its former self.

Hinduism  of Hindutva

Hinduism is a shift in espiteme[32] that happened to India. But it has not been viewed with Foucaultian eyes. The discontinuities from the golden Vedic era were seen as degradation of its pristine purity and it was therefore thought to be indeed of reformation. This gap between the ideal and the real of Hinduism was naturalized and normalised since we did not notice its development as a shift in episteme. The tripartite periodization of the History of India by James Mill[33] introduced impression that Hinduism was a single religion with Vedic origins which in the medieval period fell into decay and with the arrival of the West; it has taken the path of renewal.  The gap between the original and fallen Hinduism was attempted to be filled by the growing Hindu reform movements of the nineteenth century.  This loss and recovery impetus naturally among other things placed the blame on the Muslims. Hinduism which was formed on the same apriori assumption of religious unity of the Abrahmic religions undergoes further mimesis through Hindutva that sees Hinduism as having its holy land, fatherland. Thus, Hindutva creatively as well as craftily constructs a religious and cultural nationalism. With the coming of the Hindu Nation, Hindutva promises also restore Hinduism to restore its pristine glory. Thus, somehow Hindutva constructs an anxious present and promises a future of the past.


Hindutva has become the measure of everything that is regarded as Indian. Hindutva is reproducing the culture technology of power employed by the colonizers. Colonialism was among other things was a cultural project of control and we can notice that Hindutva continues this imperial legacy in several ways. The gaps introduced by colonial difference manufactured by the colonizer triggered a complex process of mimesis that borrowed the form(s) from the West and enfleshed them with matter that is distinct from the upper castes. This complex mimesis has led to the production of Caste, Hinduism and HIndutva as we know them today. Unfortunately, Hindutva haunts all Indians. It has become siren that raises the alarm that a Hindu is not Hindu enough and challenges the Hindus to become sankari Hindus. The same logic marks the other minorities as not Indian enough. The purity/ pollution principle of casteism is embodied into Hindutva and it afflicts all Indians in different degree. The colonial difference of the colonizer and the colonized has become a Hindutva induced difference and its power is exercised over all Indians.




[1] See S. P. UdayaKumar, ‘PresentingPast: Anxious History, Ancient Future in a Hindutva India (London: Praeger  2015), 2.

[2] See Joytirmaya Sharma, Hindutva: Exploring the Idea of Hindu Nationalism (Noida: Harper-Collins, 2015).

[3] http://ucparis.fr/files/9313/6549/9943/What_is_a_Nation.pdf accessed on 30/08/2019.

[4] https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-worldhistory/chapter/nation-states-and-sovereignty/accessed on 30/08/2019.

[5] Bernand  S. Cohn, Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge: The British In India ( New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2002),3-5.

[6] https://aeon.co/ideas/is-religion-a-universal-in-human-culture-or-an-academic-invention accessed on 30/08/2019.

[7] See S. N. Balagangadhara, ‘The Heathens in their Blindness…’ Asia, the West and the Dynamic of Religion (New York: Brill, 1994), 1.

[8] Nicholas Dirks, The Castes of the Mind: Colonization and the Making of Modern India (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001).

[9] See S. P. UdayaKumar, ‘PresentingPast, 18.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13]  Ibid, 18-19

[14] Ibid, 20.

[15] Ibid, 22.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid, 23.

[19] Ibid, 24-25.

[20] Ibid, 26-28.

[21] http://savarkar.org/en/encyc/2017/5/23/2_12_12_04_essentials_of_hindutva.v001.pdf_1.pdf accessed on 16/09/2019

[22] It is said that the Buddhist version of Ramayana is the earliest known version of Ramanyana.  It is called Dasaratha Jataka. Dasratha is Ram’s faather  and Sita is his sister. Thier father Dasratha does not banish them but sends them away to protect them from their jealous step-mother. There is no mention of Laksman  and even Ravana and his Lanka .  see https://www.dailyo.in/variety/ram-mandir-ram-janmbhoomi-ayodhya-ramayana-bjp-rss-hindutva/story/1/23549.html accessed on 16/09/2019.



[23] The theologization of Ramayana is a historical process that began in the Srivaisnava community of South India, 1250 to 1600. The Srivaisnavas, was the first religious order to worship the hero of the epic Ramayana. See  Ajoy K. Rao, The Theologization of Ramayana in South India, 1250-1600 ( Chicago: Chicago University, 2006), 1.

[24] See S. P. UdayaKumar, ‘PresentingPast, 64.

[25] See Roland Barthes, Mythologies, Trans., Annete Lavers (New York: the Noonday press, 1991).

[26] The term Hinduism was first used by Charles Grant in 1787. See Will Sweetman, Mapping Hinduism: Hinduism and the study of Indian Religions 1600-1776 ( Verlag der Frankeschen Sfitungen  Zu  Halle:  2003), 56.

[27] Richard King, “Orientalism and the Modern Myth of ´Hinduism’, Numen  , Vol. 46, No. 2, 162.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid., 164.

[30] Ibid., 165.

[31] Ibid ., 170-172.

[32] https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/24f9/e80459e34355d3b5f5b83d40652230559b9e.pdf accessed on 16/09/2019.

[33] https://www.outlookindia.com/magazine/story/the-colonial-roots-of-hindutva-nationalism/297420 accessed on 16/09/2019.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao