Brian A. Hatcher
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By the early eighteenth century, the Mughal Empire was in decline, and the East India Company was making inroads into the subcontinent. A century later Christian missionaries, Hindu teachers, Muslim saints, and Sikh rebels formed the colorful religious fabric of colonial India. Focusing on two early nineteenth-century Hindu communities, the Brahmo Samaj and the Swaminarayan Sampraday, and their charismatic figureheads—the “cosmopolitan” Rammohun Roy and the “parochial” Swami Narayan—Brian Hatcher explores how urban and rural people thought about faith, ritual, and gods. Along the way he sketches a radical new view of the origins of contemporary Hinduism and overturns the idea of religious reform.
Hinduism Before Reform challenges the rigid structure of revelation-schism-reform-sect prevalent in much history of religion. Reform, in particular, plays an important role in how we think about influential Hindu movements and religious history at large. Through the lens of reform, one doctrine is inevitably backward-looking while another represents modernity. From this comparison flows a host of simplistic conclusions. Instead of presuming a clear dichotomy between backward and modern, Hatcher is interested in how religious authority is acquired and projected.
Hinduism Before Reform asks how religious history would look if we eschewed the obfuscating binary of progress and tradition. There is another way to conceptualize the origins and significance of these two Hindu movements, one that does not trap them within the teleology of a predetermined modernity.
Hinduism in the Modern World presents a new and unprecedented attempt to survey the nature, range, and significance of modern and contemporary Hinduism in South Asia and the global diaspora. Organized to reflect the direction of recent scholarly research, this volume breaks with earlier texts on this subject by seeking to overcome a misleading dichotomy between an elite, intellectualist "modern" Hinduism and the rest of what has so often been misleadingly termed "traditional" or "popular" Hinduism. Without neglecting the significance of modern reformist visions of Hinduism, this book reconceptualizes the meaning of "modern Hinduism" both by expanding its content and by situating its expression within a larger framework of history, ethnography, and contemporary critical theory. This volume equips undergraduate readers with the tools necessary to appreciate the richness and diversity of Hinduism as it has developed during the past two centuries.
This book offers a new interpretation of the life and legacy of the Indian reformer and intellectual, Ishvarchandra Vidyasagar (1820–91).
Drawing upon autobiography, biography, secondary criticism and a range of Vidyasagar’s original writings in Bengali, the book interrogates the role of history, memory and controversy, and emphasises the key challenge of pinning down the identity of an enigmatic and multi-faceted figure. By examining lesser-known works of Vidyasagar (including several pseudonymous and posthumous works) alongside the evidence of his public career, the author calls attention to the colonial transformation of intellectual and social life, the nature of life writing, the limits of standard biographies and the problem of modern Indian identity as such.
Based on decades of research and an original perspective, this book will be especially useful to scholars of modern Indian history, biographical studies, comparative literature and those interested in Bengal.
Presenting cutting-edge scholarship dedicated to exploring the emergence and articulation of modernity in colonial South Asia, this book builds upon and extends recent insights into the constitutive and multiple projects of colonial modernity. Eschewing the fashionable binaries of resistance and collaboration, the contributors seek to re-conceptualize modernity as a local and transitive practice of cultural conjunction. Whether through a close reading of Anglo-Indian poetry, Urdu rhyming dictionaries, Persian Bible translations, Jain court records, or Bengali polemical literature, the contributors interpret South Asian modernity as emerging from localized, partial and continuously negotiated efforts among a variety of South Asian and European elites.
Surveying a range of individuals, regions, and movements, this book supports reflection on the ways traditional scholars and other colonial agents actively appropriated and re-purposed elements of European knowledge, colonial administration, ruling ideology, and material technologies. The book conjures a trans-colonial and trans-national context in which ideas of history, religion, language, science, and nation are defined across disparate religious, ethnic, and linguistic boundaries. Providing new insights into the negotiation and re-interpretation of Western knowledge and modernity, this book is of interest to students and scholars of South Asian Studies, as well as of intellectual and colonial history, comparative literature, and religious studies.
Before the passage of the Hindu Widow's Re-marriage Act of 1856, Hindu tradition required a woman to live as a virtual outcast after her husband's death. Widows were expected to shave their heads, discard their jewelry, live in seclusion, and undergo regular acts of penance. Ishvarchandra Vidyasagar was the first Indian intellectual to successfully argue against these strictures. A Sanskrit scholar and passionate social reformer, Vidyasagar was a leading proponent of widow marriage in colonial India, urging his contemporaries to reject a ban that caused countless women to suffer needlessly.
Vidyasagar's brilliant strategy paired a rereading of Hindu scripture with an emotional plea on behalf of the widow, resulting in an organic reimagining of Hindu law and custom. Vidyasagar made his case through the two-part publication Hindu Widow Marriage, a tour de force of logic, erudition, and humanitarian rhetoric. In this new translation, Brian A. Hatcher makes available in English for the first time the entire text of one of the most important nineteenth-century treatises on Indian social reform.
An expert on Vidyasagar, Hinduism, and colonial Bengal, Hatcher enhances the original treatise with a substantial introduction describing Vidyasagar's multifaceted career, as well as the history of colonial debates on widow marriage. He innovatively interprets the significance of Hindu Widow Marriage within modern Indian intellectual history by situating the text in relation to indigenous commentarial practices. Finally, Hatcher increases the accessibility of the text by providing an overview of basic Hindu categories for first-time readers, a glossary of technical vocabulary, and an extensive bibliography.