Hindutva is Indian woke tradition. This will likely look like an odd assertion to make as a result of a) woke-ism has particular post-Warfare American civil rights antecedents and a few have argued for a deeper causal link with Puritan Protestantism which roots it even additional again, and b) it’s a motion decidedly of the self-avowed Left Liberal. However in case you are keen to look previous the superficial variations, I don’t assume there’s a lot separating them in any respect.
The phrase Hindutva is morphologically of Sanskrit however was by no means utilized in that language by anybody. It’s a very fashionable Sanskritised neologism, fashioned by suffixing -tva (denoting high quality of) to the borrowed Hindi noun “hindu”. The phrase “hindu” is a Persian borrowing, a reflex of Outdated Persian hello(n)duš as attested within the Achaemenid inscriptions, which is in flip a possible borrowing from Sanskrit sindhuḥ. Due to this fact, the phrase “hindutva” actually implies “hinduness”.
Just like the phrase, Hindutva is a comparatively fashionable motion with pretensions of classical classic. There’s a kernel of the Hindu reformist thought that goes again to the Maratha state, that in flip owes some debt to the Bhakti Motion of the 14th-Seventeenth centuries. Bhakti Motion was a close to pan-Indian try at Hindu reform that was triggered as C Asian Muslims consolidated political energy in India and its ideologues vary from Lalla Dĕd in Kashmir, Mirabeau in Rajasthan, Ramdas and Tukaram in Maharashtra, “Sikh” Gurus in Punjab, Guru Gorakhnath in Terai/Nepal, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in Bengal, Bhakt Kabir in Uttar Pradesh, and so forth. The function of Tukaram (a low caste Kunbi, i.e. petty peasant) is particularly noteworthy in imbuing a way of cultural nationhood amongst Maratha Kunbis who fashioned the majority of guerrilla troops of the nascent Maratha state underneath Shivaji.
The Bhakti motion was a proto-Reformation of Hinduism strengthening its maintain within the lots and anti-Caste as lots of the Bhakti ideologues had been non-Brahmins against outdated Hindu orthodoxy. The general results of the motion was to strengthen the devotional, personal-God facet of Hinduism, popularisation of epic narratives (Ramayana, Mahabharata, Hanuman Chalisa, and so forth.) and a departure from the norm that authorities on native spiritual thought/philosophy needed to be Brahmin born.
Bhakti motion had a side of competitors with Islam, in making an attempt to soak up it inside a broader Indic custom (cf. Sikhism). It additionally had a proselytising function in changing heterodox (“pagan”) peoples to Hinduism (cf. conversions to gauḍīya vaiśnavism in Bengal, Tripura, Hinduisation of Gorkhas, Axom, and so forth.). A major a part of what we all know of Hinduism at present is a results of the Bhakti reform that occurred proper underneath the noses of the Moghals. Certainly the Mughals weren’t utterly oblivious to those cults of Hindus and worry of conversion of Muslims loomed massive (cf. Tuzk-i Jahangiri on the execution of “Sikh” Guru Arjan). I say “Sikh” inside quotes as a result of the actual bifurcation of Sikhism as a confessional creed separate from Hinduism occurred solely within the lifetime of the final Guru.
There are apparent parallels of the Bhakti motion with European Protestantism, by way of preaching faith in native languages, emphasis on proselytisation of the religion and rejection of orthodox priesthood. There are key variations too, mainly that the monarchies of Europe had been Roman Catholic versus professing a separate faith (i.e. Islam) in India, and the ruling elite actually weren’t beholden to Brahmin priestly class to legitimise their rule.
Just like the European Protestant motion, Bhakti reform was not peaceable nor had been the Muslim ruling/navy elite properly disposed to it, particularly if the new-age Hindu Gurus had been seen as politically lively, had Muslim followers or tried to include/touch upon Islamic canon. The seeds of social/political resentment are, subsequently, embedded deep inside Hindutva’s kernel, and the wrestle is towards caste orthodoxy as a lot towards the Muslim political elite. Though the poor Mughals eclipsed, that resentment by no means did. The identical kind of resentment fuelled Hindu political thought in peak colonial interval. That is evidenced in how Indian literature of the time spins the Hindu view of British rule. Instance: Anandamath used the failed Sanyasi (Ascetic) Insurrection towards the British as a plot machine to underscore political subjugation of the Hindu subaltern.
The era of upper-middle class Westernised elite which arose amongst Hindus within the half century between the Indian Sepoy Mutiny and the start of the twentieth century had been a reformed (and deracinated) topic individuals. They had been in awe of the Empire they had been topics of and aware of their subordinate political standing in it. The Congress social gathering represented the consensus of this pan-Indian Hindu elite, implicitly carrying over that reforming/civilising function into impartial India. The irony of Indian independence, nonetheless, is that it represents the independence of the Indian subaltern from their conventional sahibs excess of the independence of the sahibs from the exogenous Empire. Individuals who used to know their place now now not did. It was a matter of time earlier than the votaries of Hindu politics reasserted their supernumerary will towards the elite.
The devotional strand of Hinduism prevalent within the lots additionally explains the obsession with mythological figures like rāma or kṛṣṇa and the mass-mobilisation of decrease caste Hindus and Different Backward Castes who now type the bench-strength of the Hindutva motion. All of the tell-tale indicators of Western woke-ism: deep victimhood advanced, tearing down symbols of oppression, ban/cancel tradition, virtue-signalling and nativism (aboriginal vs colonial debates, of which Aryan Invasion Idea-denialism is a corollary) have precise analogies in Hindutva.
Whereas higher castes (particularly Brahmins) proceed to play an necessary ideological function in Hindu politics and can do for a very long time, their energy on the route of the Hindu challenge has evapourated. As a working example, the RSS selected its first non-Brahmin head proper after the Babri mosque demolition in December 1992. The identical could be seen in politics too, because the likes of Atal Bihari Vajpeyee gave option to Narendra Modi on account of the latter’s sheer rabble-rousing expertise versus former’s propensity for highfalutin Hindi poetry. Requires smashing “brahminical patriarchy” by the Indian liberals completely miss the purpose as a result of Hindutva challenge is tempered by its Brahmins. It’s the de-Brahminification of Hindutva that the “liberals” must be actually afraid of as a result of that faucets into every kind of outdated and uncooked resentments.
Trendy Hindutva is a pathology and little good comes of it. The liberal sense to want it away or denigrate the individuals who maintain such views received’t work. What is going to work are institutional controls to restrict/right the unhealthy results of this worldview. The evolution of Hindutva politics shall be a bumpy trip in India with a number of tradition wars, occassional occasions trying like retrogressions and reverses to at least one social gathering or one other and like a normal pig’s breakfast to outsiders. The reply to how Indian politics will cope within the period of Hindutva lies in India’s institutional nice print. Might look like mere technicalities now but it surely’s little issues like seat-belts and helmets that make the distinction between life and demise when street meets rubber.
This text first appeared on Brown Pundits.