Hinduism and politics

Authored by: Peter Friedlander

Routledge Handbook of Religion and Politics

Print publication date:  January  2016
Online publication date:  January  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138826991
eBook ISBN: 9781315643922
Adobe ISBN:


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The relationship between Hinduism and politics is a complex issue and has gone through several important stages. These could be described as developments during the pre-colonial period, the colonial period and the post-independence period. In the first phase, prior to the late eighteenth century, the term ‘Hinduism’, or a similar Indian-language word, does not seem to have been used by Indians as a term to describe religion and society in India. The term Hinduism seems rather to have been coined by Western observers of India during the late pre-colonial period. However, once the term Hinduism had come into usage in India by the later part of the nineteenth century various groups in India began to use it to describe how they saw the role of religion in India. During the post-independence period there has also been a shifting understanding of the role of Hinduism in politics in India. In the period up to around 1990 what could be described as a secular approach to politics in India put forward by India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, was dominant. However, from the 1990s onwards there has been a rise in the power of politics that identifies itself as Hindu. This led to a number of tenures in office for the BJP (bhārtīy jantā parṭī, ‘Indian People’s Party’) and to the rise to power in 2014 of the BJP under the leadership of Narendra Modi.

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