Summary of the Article
The main purpose of Lorenzen’s article is to explore the origins of Hinduism. Before delving into religion analysis, Lorenzen discusses the origins of Hinduism. According to one view, Hinduism did not exist until the 19th century and was invented by colonial administrators and British scholars. Another opposing position maintains that this religion existed several centuries earlier; thus, its invention can be attributed to the Indians. Amidst this debate, Lorenzen argues that the claim that European and British colonizers constructed Hinduism is false. According to the author, evidence indicates that Hinduism was invented before 1800 as a result of the rivalry between Hindus and Muslims during the 1200-1500 period (Lorenzen 631). The thesis suggested by Lorenzen states that the invention of Hinduism cannot be credited to any specific individual or group; instead, this religion emerged from the desire to create an identity that would contrast with others in relation to foreigners (Lorenzen 631).
Further, Lorenzen (631) explores the origins of the term “Hinduism” in an attempt to support his claim. He asserts that if Hinduism simply denotes the English word, then one is right to claim that it was not in existence prior to the 19th century. The word “Hinduism” first emerged in 1829; however, the invention of Hinduism is not associated with the coining of the name (Lorenzen 632). The author further argues that British scholars mainly described a set of customs and doctrines, which Hindus did not regard as belonging to them (Lorenzen 632). Those who attribute the invention of Hinduism to Europeans maintain that the Hindus accepted the notion that they were part of a single religious community only after the Europeans had constructed the religion. However, Lorenzen (634) demystifies this assertion claiming that the construction of the Hinduism concept in the 19th century is not consistent with existing evidence concerning the fact that the Europeans, British people, and Indians started conceptualizing Hinduism as a unifying religion. Moreover, European scholars who “constructed” Hinduism based their descriptions on what they observed as well as what native informants told them. These informants simply summarized a construction of Hinduism that was already in existence in their collective consciousness. Hence, Hinduism did not change during this period as a result of European presence (Lorenzen 646).
In addition, Lorenzen (354) argues that if Hinduism is to be considered as a construct, then it is neither a European, colonial, or Indian invention. On the contrary, this construct appears to be rather vague, similarly to any other large institutional construct such as governmental systems (democracy, communism, etc.) and other religions including Islam, Buddhism, and Christianity. Lorenzen (655) supposes that Hinduism is an institution that occurred due to a long historical interaction between a set of ideas, diverse sociocultural practices, and beliefs that influence the daily lives of individuals and local groups. According to the author of the article under consideration, through this interaction, the daily practices, beliefs, and basic ideas are subjected to constant change, either rapid or slow (Lorenzen 655). The key historical changes that occurred in India with respect to the political and economic institutions include the invasion by Mughal, Turco-Afghan conquest, Mughal polity consolidation, and establishment of colonial regime by Britain. It should be noted that all these events had a significant influence on Indians’ religious traditions. However, Lorenzen (655) believes that rapid changes that took place during the colonial period were not significant enough to lead to the creation of Hinduism. Therefore, this religion was not created after 1800 and it did not follow the foundation of the Delhi Sultanate. On the contrary, what eventually resulted in the construction of Hinduism is that in the course of Muslim sultan dynasties ruling in India, people established a consciousness characterized by shared religious identity based on the practices and beliefs of the Hindus. From a contemporary observer’s viewpoint, Lorenzen (655) shows that there is a close resemblance between Hinduism and the early Puranas of about 300-600 CE. Whereas the religious beliefs and practices of the Puranas show continuity of the previous Vedic religion, their main emphasis and attributes provide a justification for describing Vedic religion as something novel that marked the commencement of the medieval and contemporary Hinduism. Thus, the invention of Hinduism cannot be credited to anyone since it appears that this religion emerged naturally.
The first important observation about the article is that the invention of Hinduism cannot be credited to anyone, not even the Hindus. In contrast, it emerged as a result of the conflict between the Muslims and the Indians. The second observation about the article is that European and British scholars are only credited with invention of the term “Hinduism” and not the religious practices and beliefs associated with this religion, which were in existence long before the arrival of Europeans in India. The third important observation is that the establishment of European colonial regime in India did not have a significant influence on Hinduism. The fourth observation about the article is that Hinduism is an institution that started to exist due to a long historical interaction of certain sociocultural practices, ideas, and diverse beliefs peculiar to the local groups and individuals. The fifth observation is that Hindu religious identity originated long before the 19th century.