“Discovery of Hinduism” in Religious Thought of the Bengal Renaissance
The aim of the article is to represent “Discovery of Hinduism” as a specific phenomenon of religious thought in the Bengal Renaissance of modern India. The phenomenon is a part of “Discovery of India” (Jawaharlal Nehru’s term) by Indian intellectuals, who thought on their country, society, civilization, history, and its future. The term “Hinduism” borrowed from the British missionaries and orientalists became convenient for the Bengal Renaissance intellectuals to think and comprehend their own native religious tradition. Based on the works by the Bengal Renaissance thinkers, the paper presents their role in creating the notion “Hinduism” as the term for all group of Indian religions, as well as in interpretation of it as one whole religion. The “discovery of Hinduism” began from the works by Rammohun Roy, who presented its image—tracing its origins back to monotheistic ideal of the Vedas. The “discovery of Hinduism” process can be divided into two phases: (a) invention of “monotheistic” image by the Brahmo Samaj, 1815–1857; (b) the perception and understanding of Hinduism at the second half of 19th century as “unity in diversity” and constructing of its concept by Neo-Hindu thinkers (Bankimchandra Chattopaddhyay, Swami Vivekananda, etc.). They created an image of Hinduism as a system of universal meanings and values and the core of social life and culture as well as the foundation cultural and political identity. The “discovery of Hinduism” by all Bengal intellectuals had many important consequences, one of which is positive and humanistic concept of Hinduism not only for their co-religionists and compatriots, but also for the outer world, primarily for the West. “Discovery of Hinduism” is an integral part of the history of thought, the kind of attempt “to gather India” in religious, social, and cultural spheres for public consciousness and mind.
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