Education About Asia: Online Archives

Hindu Beginnings: Assessing the Period 1000BCE to 300 CE

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“Hinduism”—What’s in a Name?

The first awkward issue is definition. What is Hinduism, anyway? During the past several decades, increasing numbers of scholars have occupied themselves with the “problematic” of “Hinduism”—asking not “What is it?” but rather “Is it anything at all?” We hoped that revisionist attitudes would be more helpful than they have been. More effort directed to complexities and intertwinings in India’s history than to re-writing European history and to exorcising one colonial demon or another could have shed more helpful light on expressly Indian topics. Those who insist that “Hinduism” is merely an instance of European imagining, hence part of the unhappy legacy of colonial impositions, have found that their efforts to deconstruct and/or dismantle “Hinduism” commonly have been irrelevant to anyone who comfortably identifies him/herself as “Hindu.”