Book House

This book describes why Hindutva is not an ideology but a historical-civilizational process

Author Aravindan Neelakandan
  • The book “Hindutva: Origin, Evolution and Future” by Aravindan Neelakandan studies Hindutva in both critical and holistic terms.

  • In most studies on Hindutva, a lot of critical knowledge has been left out either intentionally or out of ignorance. This omission has led to characterize Hindutva as a dangerous exclusivist majoritarian supremacist ideology. Hindutva is often studied like other extreme right-wing ideologies. However, the thesis presented in this book is built on the strong foundation that Hindutva is not an ideology but a historical-civilizational process. As such, it does not fit the expectations of any ideological framework.

  • This book is an answer to another fundamental question: Is Hindutva different from, and perhaps even opposed to, Hinduism?

  • Read an excerpt from the book below.

Savarkar–Ambedkar Definition

When in 1923 Vinayak Damodar (‘Veer’) Savarkar was writing his concise treatise (Hindutva, also Essentials of Hindutva), he was in an unenviable position. On the one hand, the traditionalists as well as the colonialists, were trying to insist that the caste system was the distinguishing feature of Hinduness. This view had the tactful British support. The Congress leadership was fast gravitating from cultural nationalism towards territorial nationalism in order to facilitate the inclusion of pan-Islamic forces through the Khilafat movement into the national liberation movement. The idea that Hindus are merely another religious community was gaining currency. Even those who recognized the unique nature of Hinduness paid lip service to it in the form of ethereal utopian dreams, seldom worrying about the dangers Hindus as a people faced in pockets of India where their numerical strength was going down.

Religion as a category predominantly meant religion in an Islamo- Christian sense. The term ‘nation’ was construed mainly as the nation in the nation-state as Europe understood it. Above all, there was the idea of race as a biological entity. In fact, at that time the Aryan invasion theory was axiomatic and was accepted as factual. (Only Swami Vivekananda, Dr B. R. Ambedkar and Sri Aurobindo had questioned the validity of this theory.) It was in such circumstances that Savarkar set out to define Hindutva as a means to salvage the holistic and unique legacy of Hindus and make them aware of their place in the world community. Savarkar rejected the Aryan race as the basis of Hinduness. He strongly rejected the idea of pure races. He rejected the orthodox stand of the Vedas and/or varna as the common basis of Hinduness:

All institution is meant for the society, not the society or its ideal for an institution. The system of four varnas may disappear when it has served its end or ceases to serve it, but will that make our land a Mlechchadesha—a land of foreigners? The sanyasis, the Arya Samajis, the Sikhs and many others do not recognize the system of the four castes and yet are they foreigners? God forbid! They are ours by blood, by race, by country, by God. ‘Its name is Bharat and the people are Bharati’ is a definition 10 times better because truer than that. We, Hindus, are all one and a nation, because chiefly of our common blood–Bharati Santati.

Ultimately, his definition of a Hindu finds as its cornerstone the allegiance to the sacred geography of India. This definition was given by Savarkar in 1939 (based on his earlier work in 1923). In this he states:

Every person is a Hindu who regards and owns this Bharat Bhumi, this land from the Indus to the Seas, as his Fatherland as well as his Holyland; i.e. the land of the origin of his religion, the cradle of his Faith. The followers therefore of Vaidicism, Sanatanism, Jainism, Buddhism, Lingaitism, Sikhism, the Arya Samaji, the Brahmasamaj, the Devasamaj, the PrarthanaSamaji and such other religions of Indian origin are Hindus and constitute Hindudom, the Hindu people as a whole. Consequently, the so-called aboriginal or hill tribes also are Hindus: because India is their Fatherland as well as their Holyland of whatever form of religion or worship they follow. This definition, therefore, should be recognized by the Government and made the test of Hindutva in enumerating the population of Hindus in the Government census to come.

In 1941 Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, who would later become the chief architect of the Indian Constitution, in his book on the proposal of partitioncritically examined the alternative Savarkar proposed for Pakistan. While he was critical of the alternative Savarkar put forth for, he was very much impressed by Savarkar’s definition of a Hindu:

This definition of the term Hindu has been framed with great care and caution. It is designed to serve two purposes which Mr Savarkar has in view, firstly, to exclude from it Muslims, Christians, Parsis and Jews by producing the recognition of India as a holy land in the qualifications required for being a Hindu. Secondly to include Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, etc., by not insisting upon belief in the sanctity of the Vedas as an element in the qualifications.

Perhaps it was this influence which later made Dr Ambedkar adopt a similar legal definition of the term ‘Hindu’ in his celebrated and controversial Hindu Code Bill:

to all persons professing the Hindu religion in any of its forms or developments, including Virashaivas or Lingayatas and members of the Brahmo, the Prarthana or the Arya Samaj; (b) to any person who is a Buddhist, Jaina or Sikh by religion.

The definition is both Indic-centred and accommodative of pluralism with an inherent check towards creation of monocultures. The definitions eschew the colonial-traditionalist emphasis on the Vedas as authoritative scriptures and on birth-based caste system in defining who is a Hindu. Thus ‘Hinduness’ or Hindutva and the word ‘Hindu’ are organically inseparably related. The term Hindutva has come to mean emphatically the holistic historical, social, cultural and spiritual processes of Indian people. Collectively these processes have preserved a very unique and essential feature in the evolution of human consciousness. While Hindutva or Hinduness definitely has a federation of Indic-religious systems in it, it is much more than any of these religions, including the Vedic. Referring to the common confusion of Hinduism with the Vedic stream of Hinduness alone, Savarkar had pointed out the folly:

if you identify the religion of the Hindus with the religion of the majority only and call it orthodox Hinduism, then the different heterodox communities being Hindus themselves rightly resent this usurpation of Hindutva by the majority as well as their unjustifiable re-exclusion…The religion of the majority of the Hindus could be best denoted by the ancient accepted appellation, the Sanatan Dharma or the Shruti- Smriti-Puranokta Dharma or the Vaidik Dharma; while the religion of the remaining Hindus would continue to be denoted by their respective and accepted names, Sikha Dharma or Arya Dharma or Jain Dharma or Buddha Dharma. Whenever the necessity of denoting these Dharmas as a whole arises then alone we may be justified in denoting them by the generic term Hindu Dharma or Hinduism.

The same organic theo-diversity has been time and again recognized and reinforced as the defining unique feature of Hinduism by Indian Supreme Court. Though the term theo-diversity has been introduced earlier, it is apt here to define the term in the context of the present international milieu, particularly with respect to globalization. Prof. Lokesh Chandra, the Buddhist scholar who used the term extensively, explains it as the endorsement of the universality of human civilization:

“True universality” will be rich diversity, with no single meaning. The various lines, the many realities will be lived in everyone’s deepest feelings….Universality of civilization than a universal civilization will seek civil behaviour in the affirmation of diversity. Such a civilization will be multiple and the centre will be everywhere. Bio-diversity is the supreme law of nature…. Likewise, faith has to divine the several meanings of spiritual life, the fuzzy wisdom of nature, the light of the Many, and to image the sacrament that enshrines the Multiple, the Changing, the Silent…. The One has to become the Many. Theo-diversity is an inescapable corollary to the astounding discoveries in science and their universal application in technology. Theo-diversity alone will ensure the ascension of humanity to light and nobility that makes Joy (sac-cid-ananda) not an attribute of the spirit but its essential nature.

Its judgment on Hindutva and Hinduism delivered on 11 December 1995, based on earlier observations by the constitution benches, stated:

These Constitution Bench decisions, after a detailed discussion, indicate that no precise meaning can be ascribed to the terms ‘Hindu’, ‘Hindutva’ and ‘Hinduism’; and no meaning in the abstract can confine it to the narrow limits of religion alone, excluding the content of Indian culture and heritage…the word ‘Hindutva’ is used and understood as a synonym of ‘Indianization’, i.e., development of uniform culture by obliterating the differences between all the cultures co-existing in the country.

The 1995 judgment also quotes approvingly from the verdict delivered by a constitution bench in 1966 on how the architects of the Constitution were well aware of this unique nature of Hinduness, and made it the basis for including the heterogeneous Indic groups under the term ‘Hindu’—again a constitutional reinforcement of the Savarkarian Hindutva:

The Constitution-makers were fully conscious of this broad and comprehensive character of Hindu religion; and so, while guaranteeing the fundamental right to freedom of religion, Explanation II to Art. 25 has made it clear that in sub-clause (b) of clause (2), the reference to Hindus shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jaina or Buddhist religion, and the reference to Hindu religious institutions shall be construed accordingly.

This is the constitutional reinforcement of Savarkarite definition that the heterogeneous nature of Hinduism from the very conception of Indian civilization makes the term larger than any religious sect and that it encompasses the entire process of Hindu existence.

Excerpted with permission from Hindutva: Origin, Evolution and Future, Aravindan Neelakandan, Kali (an imprint of BluOne Ink). Read more about the book here and buy it here.


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