Hinduism, Hindutva, and ideology

Authored by: Abdul Shaban

The Routledge Handbook of Religion, Politics and Ideology

Print publication date:  August  2021
Online publication date:  August  2021

Print ISBN: 9780367417826
eBook ISBN: 9780367816230
Adobe ISBN:


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It is no exaggeration to say ‘true religions are things of the past'. This applies to all the major religions of the world. They emerged in a specific time and place as both a fresh mode of thinking and to guide social organisation and the relation of the self to the supernatural or to God(s). Over time, they were transformed and co-opted and now serve the opposite purpose, be it in their relations to political power, capitalism, and violence between communities. In one of its most important applications, religion has been a tool to gain political power and build empires since medieval times via crusades, jihads, dharma yuddhs (war for religion), or through the creation of consciousness of ‘we' and ‘our' and separation from ‘they' and ‘theirs' on the basis of beliefs. But never before in human history and the development of global society and civilisations have countries been so divided on the basis of religion as today (see Huntington 1996). In recent years, we have seen naked violations of human rights in Syria (by Islamic State against Christians and Kurds), in Afghanistan (mainly against Muslim minority groups), in Pakistan (Taliban and other sects within Islam and against other religious groups), in Myanmar (Buddhists against Rohingya Muslims), and in Sri Lanka (Buddhists against Hindu Tamils and Muslims). In addition to the Middle East, which gave rise to three major Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – South Asia is another birthplace of major religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. India is the home of followers of all the major religions of the world: Hinduism (79.8% of its total population of 1.21 billion in 2011), Islam (14.2%), Christianity (2.3%), Sikhism (1.7%), Buddhism (0.7%), and Jainism (0.4%) (Census of India 2011). Beginning with the encounter with British colonialism in India and specifically with the rise of the Indian national movement for independence in the late 19th century, the relationship of Hindus with other religious groups has changed.

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