Social Scientist. v 19, no. 223 (Dec 1991) p. 20.


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SUVIRA JAISWAL*

Semitising Hinduism : Changing Paradigms of Brahmanical Integration

The view of Max Weber1 that Hinduism is not a religion in the western sense of the term, as the concept of 'dogma* is missing from it, continues to be a central point of discussion in the debate over Hinduism. It is often argued that Hinduism as well as Buddhism are not religions but ways of life.2 The concept of religion as it is understood in the west involves the notion of exclusive truth but this is not the case with Vedic, brahmanical, Buddhist or Trantric systems, where what counts is the category of lineage, affiliation, cult, tradition, etc., rather than any dogma. It is asserted that orthopraxy and not orthodoxy is the operative concept and in fact there are no 'true religions' in India.3 However, such statements representing the Christian theological view-point may hardly be regarded as adequate from a social-anthropological perspective, as this means the denial of the universality of religion. On the other hand, religion is counted among the universal categories of culture and it is argued that in the past there has never been a society without religion.4 In our opinion, if in modern societies beliefs and prescribed doctrines are given greater importance than the ritual, it is because of the receding social role of ritual, which in pre-modern societies acts as a tool for social cohesion and social control. In modern societies these aims are achieved through other methods, and religion becomes more and more a matter of individual concern.

However, in Hinduism orthodoxy is to be proved in the realm of ritual and social behaviour albeit qualified by caste and region, but there is no such insistence in the realm of ideas and beliefs. This has led Professor Heinrich von Stietencron to argue that Hinduism is not one religion but an association of religions, such as Vaishnava religion, Shaiva religion, Smarta religion and so on.5 But such fragmentation would amount to equating 'religion' with 'sect' or 'cult'. Surely, the con-

* Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Social Scientist, Vol. 19, No. 12, December 1991



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