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The Sacred and the Secular: Hindu Ideology and Imagery in Extremist Politics

Shivdasani Seminar
OCHS Library
Dr Swarupa Gupta
Monday, 29 October 2012 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm

My presentation would explore how different visions, versions and heritages of Hinduism were reflected in Extremist politics. It would trace how such reflections crafted a nationalist idea of India. I will see how concepts such as Tilak’s ‘feeling of Hindutva’, Lajpat Rai’s ‘Hindu nationality’, B.C. Pal’s ‘composite patriotism’, and Brahmabandhab Upadhyay’s ‘Sankara’s Advaitic system’ differed from contemporary ideas about ‘Hindu Nationalism’. I argue that the Extremist brand of nationalism cannot be equated to communalism (Cf. J. Zavos: 2000 and 2011; and C. Jaffrelot: 1998). Using a comparative model, I trace regional and trans-regional iconisations of Hinduism in Extremist politics. Why and how were yearnings and devotion to a divine Motherland (India), referred to as ‘Gyan Bhumi’, ‘Punya Bhumi’, and ‘Ved Bhumi’ expressed? This is yoked to the symbolism of Krishnacharitra, and the performance of religious ceremonies for political purposes, such as the Ganapati festival in Maharashtra, which was also celebrated in Bengal. This is connected to the point about dissemination of Extremist religious-political ideas. I see how Kathas, and periodicals on religious discussions disseminated such ideas to a wider audience, and how the latter reacted to these. 

Swarupa Gupta, Ph.D. in History, SOAS (University of London, 2004) is Assistant Professor Member at the Department of History, Presidency University, Calcutta. Her publications include: Notions of Nationhood in Bengal: Perspectives on Samaj, c. 1867-1905 (Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2009); an edited volume entitled Nationhood and Identity Movements in Asia: Colonial and Postcolonial Times (Delhi: Manohar Publishers, 2012); and a book manuscript: Ethnicity, Otherness and Cultural Constellations in Eastern India and Beyond. She has also contributed to various peer-reviewed international and national journals such as Modern Asian Studies (Cambridge University Press), Economic and Political WeeklyStudies in HistoryJournal of the Asiatic SocietyEncounters; and also to several edited books. She is the recipient of Felix Scholarship, University of London Central Research Fund award, SOAS fieldwork grant, and an invited visiting fellowship at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Gottingen, Germany.