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A History of Hinduism (The Past, Present and Future)

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Item Code: NAR103
Author: R Ramachandran
Publisher: Sage Publications India Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 2018
ISBN: 9789352806980
Pages: 336 (9 B/W Map)
Other Details 8.50 X 5.50 inch
Weight 370 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

Is The History Of Hinduism The History Of Brahmanas From Rigvedic Times To The Present? Or, does the story of Hinduism begin with the descriptions of the ancient roots as revealed by archaeological findings and the evidence from present day tribal, village and regional cultures, This book looks at both. The history of Brahmanas. tracing their lineage to the fifty-odd Rigvedic poets, is dealt with through the chronological ordering of the Sanskrit texts which were first hand. down to us as oral narratives from Gurus to shishyas. The circumstances and purposes for which these texts were written is examin., along with events of a true historical nature. This is follow. by a sequential treatment of Hinduism as a 'Rigvedic religion', the two Mimamsas, Buddhism, Jainism, Dharmasastras, the Epics and the Puranas. The growth of Hindu temples, the role of Adi Sankaracharya and the Bhakti movement is delved into. and the influences of Muslim and British rule of the subcontinent on Hinduism is analysed.

The author explores one major reason for the survival of Hinduism-the support of prehistoric tribal and village cultures which were not modified or destroyed by the later-day Brahmanas and were co-opted into concurrent Hinduism, so-much-so that today these cannot be separated from mainstream Hindu practices and traditions. It is these ancient folk religions that provide a stable foundation for the survival of Hinduism, argues author R Ramachandran, presenting in this book an all-encompassing landscape view of Hinduism as it has been for the last five thousand years. Finally, the present status of Hinduism is discussed along with its survival in the future.

About the Author

R Ramachandran is an indologist and retired professor of Geography from the Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi. He has held positions as the Head of the Dep.tment of Geography, the Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, and the Director of the Delhi School of Economics at various points in time. His first book Urbanisation and Urban Systems in India was published in 1989 and has been reprinted every year since. After retirement in 1996, the author has been devoting himself full time to the study of Hindu scriptures in original Sanslcrit. In 2010, he published his first book on the nature of Hinduism-Hinduism: In the context of Manusmriti, Vedas and Bhagavad Gita.

The author's deep interest in Hinduism is the direct result of his ancestry front an orthodox community of Brahman. and his feeling of indebtedness to his ancestors. The book is in the nature of a historiography and reflects the author's perceptions as a member of a Brahmana community as well as his professional training and experience as a social scientist.


Six years after the publication of my book on the nature of Hinduism, I have ventured to write a sequel. In the meanwhile, I have read many more scriptures in original Sanskrit, besides other relevant texts. Whenever I read the original Sanskrit texts, I maintained short notes and comments on them; this is particularly the case with Valmiki Ramayana, on which you would find a fairly intensive analysis in this work.

What, however, prompted me to write this work are some distorted versions of the history of Hinduism by Western scholars interested in digging up dirt, rather than trying to understand what happened-of which they have no clue. I felt the need to write my own version of the history of Hinduism.

I am a Brahmana and I am very proud of my ancestors. I am convinced that Brahmanas have an intellectual heritage that is unparalleled in the world. They did not impose their views on others, nor did they wield any authority at any time, other than moral ones, to punish or reward anyone. They never tried or even thought of destroying other cultures; instead, they protected them and accepted some of their ideas and gave them a new form. Despite attempts by the British to instill hate against Brahmanas in the South (refer to their role with the Justice parry of 1916), Brahman. still enjoy the trust and respect of all people here. From my personal experiences in the area where I live, I am convinced that the people of Tamil Nadu, of all Jaties and even tribes, have very high regard for Brahmanas. I am sure that this is the case all over India.


Whoever says he understands 'Hinduism does not really understand it in the same way, the abstract God Brahman is not easily defined, nor understood in its totality. Much like the six blind men trying to define an elephant, it remains at best a partial understanding. Hinduism needs a framework or a paradigm to understand it even partially. One way of achieving this is by establishing a chronology of religious texts, in terms of their style and content and then extending it to history by relating it to events and movements outside of Hinduism. This, in short, is the basic objective of this work. A History of Hinduism implies that there is more than one history of Hinduism and none of them can claim to be the ask 'truth'. This work has an academic perspective. It is not a religious text or a religious perspective on history of Hinduism. For the latter, one may mad Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati's work: Hindu Dharma: The Universal Way of Life.

Is Hinduism a Revealed Religion?

In the second half of the 20th century, the elite have come to believe that Hinduism is a 'revealed religion' much the same way as Christianity. To substantiate this, they mention the legend of Veda Vyasa to whom the Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and the Puranas were revealed by God. The Kanchi Acharya (Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati) had time and again asserted that Hinduism is a revealed religion. At the same time, he has said that the Vedas were revealed to the great rishies. How can we have a multitude of revelations? Further, he asserts that the meaning of Vedic mantras is unimportant and only their sound matters. This is entirely irrational. If one reads the Vedic mantras, it becomes obvious that they have nothing to do with revelation. On the other hand, they reveal a lot about the society and life of common folk during the Rigvedic period. This is also true of other religious texts-they are so varied in style, content and purpose.

In revealed religions, there is a dominant historical personality around whom the whole religion is woven. 'Thus, in Christianity we have Jesus Christ and in Islam Prophet Mohammed. Hinduism was never woven around a single individual; instead, we have hundreds of individuals who composed verses and texts, but refused to project themselves. Each sacred text evolved over a period of time. Rigveda took probably 500 years to reach the corpus of over 10,000 verses and at least 50 poets, involving several generations. This is true of later Vedas, Brahmanas, Upanishads, and even Puranas. There is no personality cult in Hinduism. An average Hindu would not have heard of Veda Vyasa, let alone worship him. Certainly, all Christians know about Jesus Christ and Muslims without exception know about the Prophet. How come Hindus alone do not know a thing about Veda Vyasa or anyone worships him? Nor do they have a festival or day in honor of Veda Vyasa. Hinduism, . a revealed religion, does not make sense. In any case, the very concept of revelation is based on faith and it need not be accepted . fact.

For those who still believe in the concept of revelation, history has no relevance (what has been revealed by God is not subject to scrutiny, analysis and inference or rejection); but for those who do not, like this author, history does matter.

Historical Evidence

In Sanskrit, there are no historical writings with one exception in the 12th century AD in the work of Kalhana. What we have are mythologies. Dating the past is almost impossible given the paucity of reliable information. However, we can infer a chronology of the Hindu religious texts from their style of writing and the contents of the texts. To this corpus, we can add evidence from archaeology, the historical records of foreigners who came to India-from Persia, Greece, and China, in particular. Moreover, there is a substantive volume of evidence from Buddhist and Jaina texts which refer to, and borrow from, Hindu religious texts. Historical evidence of events that took place after 300 BC is well recorded and there is little controversy as far as laymen are concerned. For events that took place before that there is archaeological evidence that goes back to millennia. These are well supported by various truly scientific methods of dating the past; these experiments can be repeated again and again to confirm the findings. Hence, the history of Hinduism can be traced with a fair degree of accuracy.

Chronology of Sanskrit Texts

There is no doubt that the corpus of Rigvedic verses is the oldest and they came to us through an oral tradition. Rigvedic verses and the language have many unique attributes; there is a separate dictionary for Rigvedic Sanskrit. The Mimamsa texts are clearly of later origin; these include the Yajurveda and Samaveda with their Brahmans. These define a new religion using Rigvedic verses in a different context and involving elaborate rituals, some of which involve animal sacrifice.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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