Social Scientist. v 28, no. 324-325 (May-June 2000) p. 1.


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Editorial Note

The protagonists of Hindutva portray the Brahmanical religion as a fundamentally unchanging entity. They trace the essentials of present day Hinduism to the beliefs of the Vedic Aryans. The lead article by Suvira Jaiswal in the current number of Social Scientist not only disputes this view and draws attention to the changes that occur over time in the nature of the Brahmanical religion, but also locates the origin of these changes in the evolving material conditions in society. The Rgveda is characterized by the lack of any hierarchical pantheon among the gods, a sort of "communism or democracy" among the gods where individual gods are "alternately regarded as the highest". In the later Vedic times by contrast, this simple democratic vision is lost: even gods are conceived of as divided into varnas and the emphasis shifts to rituals and the power of sacrifice, which is supposed to bend "even .the gods to the will of the sacrificer". This move, away from the "simplicity of the religious feeling" in the Rgveda to a quest for power through sacrifices, is reflective of a shift from a segmentary tribal society with its egalitarian ethos, to an exploitative class society. The misery associated with such an exploitative society finds its echo in the Upanishads which seek to explain and justify suffering in terms of the doctrine of karma andmoksa.

The rise of Buddhism and other heterodox sects represented a reaction against excessive ritualism and the large-scale killing of cattle for sacrificial purposes in the context of rising urbanism and the formation of imperial states. To combat these heterodox tendencies however the Brahamanical religion underwent yet another metamorphosis. It appropriated the ideology of bhakti, and incorporated the worship of popular deities of folklore such as Krsna-Vasudeva and Samkarsana-Baladeva by treating them as incarnations of vedic gods. While the ideology of bhakti proved effective in combating Buddhism and Jainism against the backdrop of the new social conditions that were emerging, it actually led to a consolidation of the varna system.

The relationship of colonialism with science, arid the related issue of the attitude of educated Indians under colonial conditions towards "Western" science, constitute fascinating, though insufficiently-



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