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Hinduism Before Reform

by Brian A. Hatcher

Hinduism Before Reform Synopsis

A bold retelling of the origins of contemporary Hinduism, and an argument against the long-established notion of religious reform. 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 Before Reform Press Reviews

In Hinduism Before Reform, Hatcher engages with two important early colonial religious movements in India to argue that what we think of as 'Hinduism' is intricately involved in an 'empire of reform' bequeathed to us by the British Raj, the Enlightenment, Protestant missionaries, and Indian reformers. The result is at once radically plural, culturally provocative, and intellectually persuasive. Readers are in very good and very sure hands on every page of this sophisticated mind-bender.--Jeffrey J. Kripal, author of The Flip: Epiphanies of Mind and the Future of Knowledge

Book Information

ISBN: 9780674988224
Publication date: 27th March 2020
Author: Brian A. Hatcher
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Format: Hardback
Pagination: 288 pages
Categories: Asian history, Religion: general, Hinduism,

About Brian A. Hatcher

Brian A. Hatcher's previous books include Bourgeois Hinduism and Vidyasagar: The Life and After-life of an Eminent Indian. He is the Packard Chair of Theology at Tufts University.

More About Brian A. Hatcher

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