History of the Present: Why are we What we are

The symbolic order of our country seems to have become ‘Christianized’ Hinduism. This claim is based on the work of Ashish Nandy. Perhaps, we need the notion of cultural translation and hybridity of postcolonial theorists Homi Bhaba to understand how colonization, particularly by the British one has led to our present condition. Nandy offers an alternate narrative of secularization in the context of India much different from the one offered by Max Weber about the West. Perhaps, we have to like Immanuel Kant look for the conditions of possibility that has led us to this point. This work is done by Ashish Nandy for us. Here we shall try to dig into his labour to understand why we are what we are. This means we need a history of our present.

Another way of seeing this history is to see it through the prism of governmentality of Michel Foucault. Using the notion of governmentality, we are enabled to see how a so called secular nation state came to supersede a historically embedded ‘ comprehensive religious, philosophical and the moral’ doctrines of the people. The West produced political subject subservient to the nation state and the same is produced by India but the path followed in India was different. The West seems to have relied heavily on the culture industry to create a political subject that simply was not there before the new governmentality was applied. West successfully created a subject that serves a capitalist democracy that is deeply connected to Christianity and Secularism notes Weber. Nandy claims that Secularism cannot be dissociated from muscular Christianity. He clearly marks this muscular Christianity is different from the Christianity of Christ that attracted Mohandas K . Gandhi.

Although, Alexandre MacIntyre blames the reformation for the present Western political subject, one cannot do the same for India. Nandy appears to pass the blame to the British colonization in India. It has led India to mimic the West. He boldly declared that India’s attempts to mimic the Western liberal state and Western Secular subject produced communal violence in India. This does not mean that Nandy wanted India to be a theocratic state. He seems to say that India by mimicking the governmentality of the West has come close to becoming a Hindu Pakistan. Nandy says that Hindu nationalism, Muslim resistance and Sikhs defensiveness is an effect of kind of religious identity and subjective morality that has in fact been ‘Christianized’ and which put India on path that is deeply at odd with the indic religious traditions which had somewhat guaranteed peaceful co-existence before the arrival of British Raj. The change that is haunting us today is located in the 19th century by Nandy when a significant number of Hindus re-interpreted India’s religious past and re-wrote Hindu heritage in the image an likeness of muscular Christianity of the British Raj.

Nandy names Michael Madhusudan Dutt as the best exemplar of mimicry of the muscular Christianity of the British Raj. Madhusudan wrote a Bengali epic Meghnavadh Kavya (1861) where he retells the story of Ramayana. In the Valmiki’s Ramayana, Rama is meek and virtues Hero while Ravana is a muscular villain. By contrast, an Anglican Madhusudan converts the struggle between Rama and Ravana into political allegory, where he places morality on the side of the demons. Madhusudan, thus, presents us a corrupt Rama and even portrays the self-accomplished Ravana in his work. Nandy, thus, says that Madhusudan’s attempt exemplifies an anger about , the mid nineteenth century revisionism that tried to make Indian culture more like the Western muscular Christian culture. The portrayal of a corrupt Ram appears to stand for this betrayal. This is why Nandy says that Madhusudan coverts his Ramayana into a tragedy. Madhusudan appears to see the new cultural tradition that is invented around him is like the transvaluation of Fredrick Nietzsche.

The nineteenth century produced a new espisteme that enabled us to construct the religious past of India as a lost golden age. Nandy says this lost religious heritage that is imagined is much more closer to the structure of Christianity. Thus, Nandy asserts that Hindu Gods like Krishna loses his childlike playfulness, androgeny , sensitivity and idealism and becomes a righteous, didactic ‘hard’ god protecting the glories of Hinduism as a proper religion and preserving Hinduism an internally consistent moral and cultural system. Perhaps, Krishna’s Dionysian instincts were replaced and apollonian order was made so that He fits into the muscular Christianity of the British Raj. Nandy goes on to say that the works of Swami Dayanad Saraswati and Vivekananda led to wholesale Christianization of Hinduism. Thus, a Hinduism was rationalized and made to produce a progressive masculine subject to serve the interests of a capitalist state that has put on a secular mask.

This has resulted into an Apollinian Hinduism that has cast of its Dionysian spontaneous, unsystemic dimensions and lost its other ways of being apparently took up the virile Kshatryahood as a way of life. We can see how Hindu Nationalism or Hindutva mimics the muscular Christianity of the British Raj displaying Kshatrya power. Ashish Nandy says that Mahatma Gandhi remained open to the feminine, playful and Dionysian side of the Indian traditions and was able to fight the masculine and muscular Apollinian Bristish Raj. This is why we have the challenge to recover Gandhi again to address the muscular Christianized Hindutva that is haunting us again and converting us into passive subjects of a capitalist nation state. Perhaps, we do not need to go back to critical indic tradition as suggested by Ashish Nandy. What we need is a critical = response that stays faithful to the constitution of our country. We do not need a masculine Apollinian nationalism, but genuine, free, spontaneously playful, lovingly happy subjecthood more like the playful God Krishna of the Hindu tradition. This journey might lead us to the dharmic way of life that is far from the ‘either/ or’ way of thinking of the colonizer. Only through the playful Dionysianism of Krishna that may be able to enabled to live the dharmic way that has metamorphized with the passage of time.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao