Defending Hindu tradition: Sanatana Dharma as a symbol of orthodoxy in colonial India

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Abstract

Accounts of social and religious reform and of Hindu revivalism in late nineteenth-century India refer consistently to the idea of sanatana dharma as an indicator of 'orthodox' resistance to change in the context of a modernising religion. This article questions this presentation of sanatana dharma as an unmediated reactionary force. It argues that sanatana dharma as orthodoxy in fact emerged as an influential feature of the modernisation process, most particularly in the development of a doctrinally non-confrontational, pan-Hindu identity. The article then argues that this identity was critical to the conception of the Hindu nation in the early twentieth century - an idea which has subsequently developed into a significant force in Indian political and cultural life. © 2001 Academic Press.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-123
Number of pages14
JournalReligion
Volume31
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2001

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