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Who Invented Hinduism?

  • David N. Lorenzen (a1)
    • Published online: 20 October 2000

Over the past decade, many scholars have put forward the claim that Hinduism was constructed, invented, or imagined by British scholars and colonial administrators in the nineteenth century and did not exist, in any meaningful sense, before this date.I thank many scholars for their comments on this and earlier versions of this essay, particularly Saurabh Dube and Sabyasachi Bhattacharya. Prominent among scholars who have made this constructionist argument, if I can call it that, are Vasudha Dalmia, Robert Frykenberg, Christopher Fuller, John Hawley, Gerald Larson, Harjot Oberoi, Brian Smith, and Heinrich von Stietencron.See Dalmia 1995; Frykenberg 1989; Fuller 1992; Hawley 1991; Larson 1995; Oberoi 1994:16–17; B. Smith 1989; Stietencron 1989 and 1995. W. C. Smith is sometimes identified, quite correctly, as a noteworthy precursor of these scholars.Smith 1991. First ed. 1962. Romila Thapar (1985; 1989, 1996) and Dermot Killingley (1993:61–64) have offered somewhat similar arguments, but both display greater sensitivity to historical ambiguities, distributing the construction of a distinctly modern Hinduism among British orientalists and missionaries and indigenous nationalists and communalists. Carl Ernst (1992:22–29, n.b. 23) discusses early Muslim references to “Hindus” and their religion, but he joins the above scholars in claiming that the terms “do not correspond to any indigenous Indian concept, either of geography or religion.” J. Laine (1983) agrees with Smith and his modern epigones that Hinduism was invented in the nineteenth century, but credits the invention to the Indians rather than to the British.

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Comparative Studies in Society and History
  • ISSN: 0010-4175
  • EISSN: 1475-2999
  • URL: /core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history
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