The Dalits (untouchables) is a group that does not exist within any of the four Varna categories. This is due to the fact that, in order to demonstrate the superiority of Christianity over Indian religion, generalisation was necessary simply due to the huge number of belief systems that were being challenged. It is, however, inevitable that the modern Caste situation is a direct descendant of the relatively recent events of British colonialism. V, Stietencron. The only invention was the gathering of content under the definition of Hinduism. Pennington states that, “Alongside evangelical Christianity emerged the concept of a unitary Indian religion later known as Hinduism.”[24] Without the evangelical drive to spread the teachings of Christianity, the religious requirement for the construction of Hinduism would not exist. talked about modernity in an elaborate way. Dirks, for example states that, “Caste achieved its critical colonial position because the British state was successful in separating caste as a social form from its dependence on pre-colonial political processes.”[34] In arguing that caste was a British creation, Dirks notes that it is inevitable for a ruling power to embrace local traditions and utilise them for their own means. 3, May 1980, Dirks. The notion of modern citizenship was not a novel invention of the French. colonial discourse as the defining structural feature of Indian society. This essay will establish the extent to which Hinduism and the caste system can be considered a European invention. Colonial governmentality was not merely dependent on knowledge, it was also embedded in the forms of knowledge that provided the basis for the principal practices of the colonial state. Colonial social structures contributed by generalisations of Hinduism through bureaucratic means, and indigenous religious traditions contributed through their construction of Hinduism as a competitor to Christianity. The nature in which Hinduism was invented then needs to be established in order to understand how the vast content was generalised into one religion by the British. D. N, ‘Who Invented Hinduism?’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. Nicholas Dirks argues that caste is, in fact, neither an unchanged survival of ancient India nor a single system that reflects a core cultural value. While this demonstrates an affection for Indian culture, it also leads to misconstruction of the reality of Hinduism. revolution and nor was it a completely radical break with past tradition. This essay will assess the nature of Hinduism and the caste system before, during and after the period of British colonialism in India, while assessing the changes that were brought about by colonialism. This view found a steady refrain among colonial voices, for whom such an analysis was deeply comforting in its projection that Britain’s empire would not be threatened by a genuine nationalist movement for many years to come. We have traced parts of the process whereby India was consigned to an otherworldly and decidedly premodern position, and have pointed out moments when reactions to colonial and Orientalist characterizations led to other versions of Hinduism as the indigenous cultural repository of identity and value. It will be shown that the caste system was part of Hinduisms social content and therefore not invented by Europeans, but simply adapted and utilised by British colonials. Talbot states that endowments and the like were “recorded in Sanskrit on copper plates, a traditionally kingly type of gift and inscriptional medium.”[6] This indicates that the language had potential to be utilised for political as opposed to religious means. While this is arguably true this is a conclusion invented by Moor as opposed to divulged strictly from Hindu teaching. Equally within various sects of Hinduism there are also notable disparities. Colonial state institutions contributed to Hinduism’s construction by creating the bureaucratic categorising that created Hinduism as a religion due to it not belonging to other religious groups. This integration with Islam can be exemplified through the study of dress in Vijayanagara which is widely touted as a Hindu area. E, The Hindu Pantheon, London, 1810, online, accessed  on 1st March 2012, , Narayan. The nature of this manifestation needs to be explored in order to investigate whether Hinduism was invented by British colonials, as opposed to Indians themselves. He states that “it was the idol that was blamed for commanding Hindu fascination and worship and thwarting the missionary’s crusade for the sweeping religious transformation of India.”[25] The vast Hindu population was defined as Hindu not because of their one singular religious worship, but, on the contrary, to cope with the multifaceted religious worship of a vast population. That included not only the use of the all-India literary language of Sanskrit, the patronage of Brahmins, and the memory of the previous Kakatiya dynasty but also the rich symbolism of the age-old fight against demons and disorder.”[7] This use of Sanskrit and use of various other, what would now be considered, Hindu traditions demonstrates that there was not a pre-determined Hindu religion that could be viewed as being altered and added to. R, ‘Caste discrimination a British invention, bigger than steam engine’, in Daily News & Analysis, 26th February 2008, online, accessed on 5th March 2012, , Wagoner. 1, November 1970, Lorenzen. This view is supported by Kopf, who states that, “The work of integrating a vast collection of myths, beliefs, rituals, and laws into a coherent religion, and of shaping an amorphous heritage into a rational faith known now as “Hinduism” were endeavours initiated by Orientalists.”[13] This demonstrates that, while their efforts are considered important as encyclopaedic collections, they are seen as inventing Hinduism. He wrote that there were “three classes of Heathen, each one of which has a very distinct rule... By the second half of the nineteenth century, the colonial state in India was about to undergo several major transformations. 5.4 CASTE AS THE INVENTION OF COLONIAL MODERNITY OR A LEGACY OF BRAHMANICAL TRADITIONS As we hinted above, two opposing viewpoints see caste differently. Sir William Jones was an earlier prominent Orientalist who contributed to the invention of Hinduism. The second observation is that what would now be considered the Hindu group did not define themselves as a singular religious group, even in the face of Islam, both militarily and culturally. Written for: Robert Bideleux Arguments for the ‘invention’ of caste centre more around the way it was utilised within British colonialism. However, the invention is further demonstrated in spite of Hindu nationalism. C, ‘Inscribing the Other, Inscribing the Self:  Hindu-Muslim Identities in Pre-Colonial India’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. By doing so, we aim at submitting the logic of modernity to a post-colonial criticism. At no point should the British be considered to have invented any of the actual content of Hinduism itself, only the general label given to this content. B.K, Was Hinduism invented?, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2005, P.23, [26] Ludden. N.B, The Invention of Caste: Civil Society in Colonial India, CSST Working Paters, The University of Michigan, October 1988, Eaton. J.H, ‘Caste in India’, American Anthropologist, Vol. The two forms of invention that took place due to orientalists were invention through legitimisation and through generalisation. book 121, No.2, April 1977, P.183, [21] Dalmia. The locally dominant caste or the king of a region was often hostile to the process of the lower caste’s taking over of the customs and rites of the higher castes. Lorenzen states that there is a tendency among the academia, “to adopt a postcolonialist perspective that privileges the British colonial period as the period in which almost all the major institutions of Indian society and politics were invented or constructed.”[27] The predisposition to refer to Indian issues as “precolonial, colonial, or postcolonial”[28] means that there is often an over emphasis placed on the importance of the British in the construction of Indian culture. God, thus adored, is called BRAHM: the One External Mind; the self-existing, incomprehensible Spirit.”[15] Considering that this statement is referring to the whole of Hindu culture, it can be considered an unreasonable generalisation. C, ‘Inscribing the Other, Inscribing the Self:  Hindu-Muslim Identities in Pre-Colonial India’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. D.P. Some writings seemed to celebrate scandal, as we have just seen in the case of hookswinging; others focused on the more exotic customs of tribal and lowercaste groups. When thinking of India it is hard not to think of caste. ‘Modernity/coloniality’ is a concept first used by Aníbal Quijano and later developed by Walter Mignolo. 4, No. The Orientalists generalised various Indian religious traditions into a coherent Hindu religion. In comparative sociology and in common parlance alike, caste has become a central symbol for India, indexing it as fundamentally different from other places as well as expressing its essence. There is nothing new in the phrase “Hindu nationalism,” even if it has come to be associated with the recent emergence of political movements expressing Hindu rather than secular ideology. The earliest significant civilisation of the Indus Valley was the Harappan civilisation which existed between 3000 and 1500 BCE. R.M, Reimagining Otherness: A Post-mortem for the Postmodern in India, 1998 Unpublished Essay quoted from, Lorenzen. 41, No.4, October 1999, P.654, Written by: Ben Heath The issue of caste invention can be concluded by stating that the caste system is part of the content of what British colonialists generalised as Hinduism. As King states, “the predominant Christian perspective among the Europeans classified Indian religion under the all-inclusive rubric of Heathenism. The British Empire utilised modern state institutions, therefore determination of population identity was important. The quote demonstrates attempts at legitimisation through Moor’s attempts to show Hinduism as monotheistic. This content was originally written for an undergraduate or Master's program. When V. D. Savarkar wrote his grand history of the Great Rebellion in 1909, he glossed the bloody events following the Meerut mutiny as the first Indian war of independence.¹ The national awakening that grew out of military refusal was an expression for Savarkar of the fundamental injustice of British rule in India. As Walter Mignolo and Nelson Maldonado Torres have shown, the invention of race cannot be articulated apart from the emergence of the modern concept of religion. R.M, Reimagining Otherness: A Post-mortem for the Postmodern in India, 1998 Unpublished Essay quoted from, Lorenzen. Missionaries would attempt to distinguish between the ‘real’ religion of Christianity and the allegedly mystical fallacies of Indian religion. The European viewpoint of religion in India was that all non-Abrahamic religions were considered Heathen. This is due to the fact that caste is an ancient feature of Indian culture and therefore caste is an aspect of the content which would be generalised by the British as Hinduism. While Indian education was certainly Puranic[17], their teaching was not under a unified code of Hinduism, especially considering that Puranical texts exist additionally in both Buddhism and Jainism. Written at: Swansea University  Whereas the nineteenth century was the great century of imperial power, the most astonishing accomplishment of the twentieth century has been the struggle to consign colonial rule to the past tense. These conclusions demonstrate that before British invention there did not exist a cohesive and self-determined Hindu religion. 37, No. D. N, ‘Who Invented Hinduism?’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. Despite the self-serving rhetoric about political chaos and social involution, the British conquest was one of the most comprehensive, long-lasting, and successful campaigns in world history. Buddhism and Jainism are two religions whose liturgical texts are also in the Sanskrit language however they were not considered by the British to be Hindu. First Published 2006 . The impact of colonial social and religious traditions on the invention of Hinduism was very significant. Although that struggle has been successful, it has not only been drenched in violence but it has also led to the general recognition that the effects of imperialism have by no means disappeared with the demise of formal colonial regimes of rule. These observations means that the content existed before British colonialism at was at some point during the period generalised into Hinduism. Rather than a basic expression of Indian tradition, caste is a modern phenomenon--the product of a concrete historical encounter between India and British colonial … By the end of the colonial era in India, Hinduism existed as an accepted cohesive religion. http://www.sdstate.edu/projectsouthasia/upload/Book-III-Concerning-Law.pdf, http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2007/aug/25/art.art, http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Ce2oxAVsZWgC&printsec=frontcover&dq=hindu+pantheon&hl=en&sa=X&ei=B1WDT43KNuGm0QXDxMjnBg&ved=0CDcQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=hindu%20pantheon&f=false, http://www.dnaindia.com/money/column_caste-discrimination-a-british-invention-bigger-than-steam-engine_1152940, An Analysis of the Indian Further Education System Regarding Gender Inequality, Popular Culture & the Representation of Women’s ‘Agency’ During Indian Partition, The Impact of the Alternative Trading System to Small Producers, Revisiting Inevitability and Misperceptions: The 1962 Sino-Indian War, Navigating Nkrumah’s Theory of Neo-colonialism in the 21st Century. Here, secularism functions as the mirror twin of modern religion that welds together the two ends of modernity/coloniality. Colonialism lives on in the massive disparities of wealth and control over capital between north and south, in the contradictory institutional legacies that inhabit political, juridical, educational,... JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit organization helping the academic community use digital technologies to preserve the scholarly record and to advance research and teaching in sustainable ways. He states that “almost every building in Mohenjodaro has a bathing area.”[4] These similarities demonstrate that the modern Hindu religion has tangible religious roots in the region from where its name derives. JSTOR®, the JSTOR logo, JPASS®, Artstor®, Reveal Digital™ and ITHAKA® are registered trademarks of ITHAKA. Pennington explains that, “Sometime between 1789 and 1832, the British perception of Hindu religious traditions underwent a seismic shift.”[11] This demonstrates that the modern understanding of Hinduism manifested during the British colonial period. Madan in his work Pathways (1994). 39, No. J.H, ‘Caste in India’, American Anthropologist, Vol. Observing the situation before British colonialism demonstrated that the content of Hinduism developed from its roots in the Indus Valley, although a consistent religious group did not exist between then and modern day Hinduism. Problems arose however in his attempts at interpretation and assumptions on facts of Indian culture, Dalrymple for example notes that Jones, “passionately believed that the Hindus were a lost tribe of Egypt.”[19] This shows an earlier example of attempts to connect Indian culture to recognised ‘Western’ civilisation in the pursuit of Orientalists to legitimise Indian culture in the eyes of Western Christianity. The ‘invention’ of Hinduism can be demonstrated by simply observing the contrast between modern day interpretations of Hinduism and pre-colonial European understanding of it. However it can be noted that while Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism contain many similarities, notably for example the belief in Karma, they also contain many differences. The reasons for Buddhism and Jainism therefore not being included within the British generalisation of Hinduism is because they were significantly larger than most Hindu denominations and, more importantly, largely self-determined as individual, separate religions. It is important to appreciate that British colonialism’s impact on Hinduism is only largely significant because of its relatively recent history. However these similarities do not do enough to demonstrate that the Hindu religion has a complete and direct lineage from the Indus Valley Civilisation. The International Journal of Social and Cultural Practice. No. And what is further interesting is that D.P’s ideas about modernity have been discussed at length by T.N. As of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, 'Aryan' caste Hindus were widely said by both Indian and British … Moor states that, “Strictly speaking, the religion of the Hindus is monotheism. Firstly, however an understanding of pre-colonial European conceptions of Hinduism must be achieved. Hence, the concept of citizenship did not confer universal rights on all individuals. The history of intensive western cognitive as well as political engagements in matters of caste had started in the early 19th century, with earlier antecedents. For example, while Mahatma Ghandi was a “nationalist and pious Hindu,”[26] he was not a Hindu nationalist but an Indian nationalist. focus our attention on the rich outpouring of scholarship about the ‘invention of tradition,’ the reification of native culture, and the genealogies of colonial modernity in British (and to a lesser degree French) colonial South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. When thinking of India, it is hard not to think of caste. Mignolo, W. (2009) Epistemic Disobedience, Independent Thought and De-Colonial Freedom. Histories Implicated in Colonialism. After all, history is constructed to suit the colonisers and victors.”[35] Vaidyanathan is indirectly supporting the notion that caste most certainly existed within Indian societal history and that its utilisation by the British was normal practice for the ruling classes in India. This conclusion was reached through an assessment of the origins of the caste system which showed that caste existed in not just a religious context but was also socially implemented. The caste system in the West disappeared only with the colonial expansion of the West. This work can be used for background reading and research, but should not be cited as an expert source or used in place of scholarly articles/books. The Harappan civilisation was centred around the relatively advanced cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro.  With an estimated population of 40,000 in each city, which were both described by Fitzsimons as a “utilitarian city-planner’s delight,”[2] the sophisticated base for cultural and religious growth is evident. ©2000-2020 ITHAKA. Mixed-Race and Modernity in Colonial India. For example, beliefs range between monotheism and polytheism in different denominations. Like many postcolonialists, decolonialists seek to draw attention to the relati The group now defined as Hindu can be said to have existed only because it was a group independent of Islam, Christianity or Judaism, although not internally coherent. Due to recent efforts to dismantle caste in India the nature in which the caste system is altered can be exemplified in a different way. They worship God in unity, and express their conceptions of the Divine Being and his attributes in the most awful and sublime terms. 41, No.4, October 1999, P.654, [28] Eaton. A long history of writing—from the grand treatise of the Abbé Dubois to the general anthropology of Louis Dumont; from the piles of statistical and descriptive volumes of British colonial censuses starting in 1872 to the eye-catching headlines of theNew York Times—has identified caste as the basic form of Indian society. All Rights Reserved | Site by Rootsy. DOI link for Caste, Colonialism and Counter-Modernity. Whereas the revenue and authority that accrued from the relationship between land and the state were fundamental to the formation of the early colonial state, the general agrarian revolts that followed hard on the heels of the 1857 “Mutiny” and the steadily increasing economic investment in imperial power (propelled in particular by the joint stock arrangement of the railways and other infrastructural projects) made it clear that things had to change. The foremost of these Orientalists can be considered to be Edward Moor whose book The Hindu Pantheon is the preeminent early English-language collection of Hindu religion and culture. These photographs and the attendant press coverage would be used to draw dramatic media attention to the protests against caste reservations that had been mounting over the previous six weeks. 121, No.2, April 1977, Dalmia. The archive, that primary site of state monumentality, is the very institution that canonizes, crystallizes, and classifies the knowledge required by the state even as it makes this knowledge available to subsequent generations in the cultural form of a neutral repository of the past. An assessment of the origins of the caste system demonstrates not only that caste certainly existed before British colonialism, but it existed beyond religious contexts in a very tangible social manner. The main conclusions drawn on the ‘invention’ of Hinduism by Europeans are twofold. Sanskrit was an ancient liturgical language used across many religious groups, which made it a standard by which British colonialists could define Hinduism. 193, 2004, Orientalism and religion, Richard King, Routledge, London, 2006, Pennington. 39, No. Before the 18th century, Indian culture was viewed as heathen. These statements demonstrate that British colonialism’s contribution to the ‘invention’ of Hinduism was largely one of generalisation and categorisation. S, Imagining Hinduism: A postcolonial perspective, Routledge, London, 2003, Talbot. (2011). Firstly that British colonials contributed heavily to the categorisation of the religion of Hinduism or of Hinduism as a unified body and system of religious doctrine, texts, rituals and practices, which it had not previously been and secondly that the social and religious content of the Hindu group was not in any way invented but developed over thousands of years. D. N, ‘Who Invented Hinduism?’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. A, ‘The Early History of Caste’, The American Historical Review, Vol.19, No.2, January 1914, P.234, [32] Arthashastra, Book 3, Chapter XIX, online, accessed on 5th March 2012, , [33] Porter. An example of generalisation demonstrated by Pennington is the missionary obsession with idol worship. Second, concentrating on the local articulations and dissemination of modernity means paying less attention to the grand designs of the colonial or modernizing state and more attention to the myriad local sites where the modern is produced, and transformed, in its encounter with, and production of, the non-modern. It demonstrates the invention of Hinduism due to the fact that Hindu nationalism only came to prevalence after an extended period of British colonialism, as opposed to an original ‘Hindu’ resistance. This process... On September 19, 1990, a student from Delhi University poured kerosene over his body and set himself on fire. Mukerji and modernity: D.P. To What Extent Were Hinduism and India’s Caste System Largely ‘Invented’ by Europeans? The following section will highlight what aspects of the modern day interpretation of Hinduism existed before British colonialism. In 1862, a proposal that each district have a manual of its own was revived by the Government of Madras, which subsequently charged Mr. Carmichael, collector of Vizagapatam, and Mr. Nelson, collector of Madura, to compile model works for their respective districts. D.P. support open access publishing. Dirks does not contend that caste was invented by the British. A, ‘The Early History of Caste’, The American Historical Review, Vol.19, No.2, January 1914, P.230, [30] Rig Veda, Book 10, Hymn 90, online, accessed on 5th March 2012, , [31] Macdonell. 38, No. M.A, ‘The Indus Valley Civilisation’, The History Teacher, Vol. Colonial conquest made possible (even as it was made possible by) the marking of new territories with the dimensions and coordinates of colonial interest. Caste, Colonialism and Counter-Modernity. Notes on a Postcolonial Hermeneutics of Caste. Created through Indian religions, the caste system divides people into four Varna categories; Brahmins (priests), Kshatriyas (warriors), Vaishyas (agriculturalists), and Shudras (servants). This unifying factor can be considered to be one of cultural as opposed to religious similarities for pre-colonial Hinduism. You do not have access to this What follows is a recap of the work I have since done in collaboration with members of the collective modernity/coloniality.2 The basic thesis is the following: ‘modernity’ is a European narrative that hides its darker side, ‘coloniality’. This is in support of the claim that multiple sources contributed to what was later generalised as the Hindu religion by British colonials. A study into the existence of Hinduism before British intervention presents three conclusions with regard to whether Europeans invented Hinduism. Modernity, a topic in the humanities and social sciences, is both a historical period (the modern era) and the ensemble of particular socio-cultural norms, attitudes and practices that arose in the wake of the Renaissance—in the "Age of Reason" of 17th-century thought and the 18th-century "Enlightenment".Some commentators consider the era of modernity to have ended by 1930, with … The religion of the Harappan civilisation was typical of river valley areas. There is certainly a degree of arrogance involved in suggestions that British colonial rule invented a system which first appears between 1700-1100 BCE and is consistently prevalent in Indian texts up to the era of British colonialism. But under British domination caste did become a single term capable of naming and above all subsuming India's diverse forms of social identity and organization. He states that “The colonizers were part of the Abrahamic tradition, which believes in homogenization, and the heterogeneous and non-conflicting Indian society would not have suited their design. On this view there were four major religious groups [in India], Jews, Christians, Mahometans (i.e. 4, October 1995, P.701, [8] Wagoner. D. N, ‘Who Invented Hinduism?’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India. The third conclusion is that the Sanskrit language, which British scholars would use to generalise Hindus, is the liturgical language for many religious denominations where the majority have been generalised into Hinduism regardless of huge diversity between them. In Woman and Indian Modernity: Readings of Colonial and Postcolonial Novels, Nalini Natarajan, through readings of 20th century novels and (in some cases) their film versions, explores how ‘gender is reconstructed in the literary representations of modernity’ (p. 1). This adaption is also discussed by Vaidyanathan who, while supporting Dirk’s assertions, allows us to draw conclusions on British utilisation of the caste system. Fitzsimons states that “the Harappan religion featured worship of a mother goddess with different manifestations in the realms of vegetable farming and animal-raising and hunting. The second is a view of Indians, apart from so-called tribals and followers of minority faiths, as slaves to rigid, Brahman-centred caste values. Aspects of ‘Hinduism’ before British colonialism to be observed will be its development from the Indus Valley, Hinduism’s tentative existence alongside Islam, and whether Hinduism existed in a religious form. The East India Company arrived in India to engage in trade for goods craved by Europe, only to find local political struggles irresistible, and opportunities for wealth—both private and public—incomparable. caste, which is broadly understood in socio-anthropological terms as an institution of ranked, hereditary and occupational groups. These conclusions are reinforced by observing the caste system, conclusions in this case that the caste system is part of the social content of Hinduism and therefore cannot be considered as having been invented by Europeans. Coloniality, in other words, is constitutive of modernity — E-IR is an independent non-profit publisher run by an all volunteer team. While aspects of their religious beliefs exist within modern day Hinduism, there is not a coherent religion that survived between then and now. It is published as part of our mission to showcase peer-leading papers written by students during their studies. By Debjani Ganguly. 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