Modern Intellectual History

Articles

DEMONS IN HINDUTVA: WRITING A THEOLOGY FOR HINDU NATIONALISM

M. REZA PIRBHAIa1

a1 Department of History, Louisiana State University

Abstract

This article explores the vast body of English language works on Hinduism published since 1981 by Voice of India—an influential right-wing Hindu publishing house headquartered in New Delhi, but contributed to by Indians at “home” and in diasporic communities, as well as Europeans and North Americans. Focus on the construction of the Hindu “Self” and the non-Hindu “Other” shows the manner in which European thought, primarily represented by the contributions of colonial-era British and German indologists, but bolstered by evangelicals, Utilitarians and Arabo-Islamicists from the same era, has become an important feature of postcolonial forms of Hinduism. In particular, the influence of fin de siècle German indologist Paul Deussen, mediated by such colonial-era Hindu thinkers as Swami Dayananda, Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo Ghose and Mahatma Gandhi, not only defines Voice of India's theology, but leads to the construction of a Hindu Self that is the personification of “Aryan godliness” and a non-Hindu Other that is essentialized as a “Semitic Demon.” Although closely associated with and often serving the political initiatives of the Sangh Parivar, the authors of this theology have been kept at arm's length by the organization for reasons of political expediency. Both the growing network of contributors to and consumers of this view, and its periodic use by the Sangh Parivar, insure that it represents a significant development in the ideology of Hindutva.