madan and chakravarty - Jan 21

madan and chakravarty - Jan 21 - Religions of India...

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Religions of India Plurality and Pluralism Introductory Remarks, Distributional Patterns If the term 'religion' may be used to refer to particular aspects of India's cultural traditions, the country can be said to have long been the home of all religions thar today have a worldwide presence. Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism-the so-called Indic religions-were born here. Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and the Bahai faith arrived here from abroad at different points of time during the last two millennia. The plurality of religions in India is often obscured by the fact that Hinduism is generally regarded as both the demographically dominant and the culturally characteristic--even hegemonic-religion of the country not only in popular imagination bur also by official reckoning--four our of five Indians are Hindus, and they inhabit the length and breadth of the land. From the cultural perspective, anthropologists and sociologists have provided details of the many components of culture and aspects of social structure of the so-called non-Hindu communities that have either been borrowed from the Hindus, or are survivals from their pre-conversion Hindu past, with or without significant alterations. The foregoing popular view of the cultural scene in India, buttressed by official statistics, needs to be qualified in sevetal respects. Unlike the other religions of India, Hinduism is a federation of faiths which has a horizontal as well as vertical distribution, rather than a single homogeneous religion. Not only do the religious beliefs and practices of Hindus vaty from one cultural region of the country to another (say, between Bengal and Maharashtra), Hindu castes in each area are also characterized by similar differences. We will go into the details of such internal plurality among the Hindus in secrion II below.
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776 THE OXFORD INDIA COMPANION TO SOCIOLOGY AND SOCIAL ANTHROPOLOGY Suffice it to note here, first, that Hinduism has a long and eventful history which has resulted in much internal diversity, and second, that thete are communities today which are considered Hindu by others but which themselves no longer concur in this judgement. Most notably, the Scheduled tastes of official literature, including the Constitution of the Republic, who have traditionally comptised the bottom rungs of the caste hierarchy, and were called Harijan ('the Children of God') by Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), are today by self-description the Dalit ('the Oppressed'). If their claim that they are not Hindu is accepted, the proportion of Hindus in the total population will come down significantly, from four-fifths to two-thirds. Further, clarification regarding the use of the term 'religion' in the Indian context, anticipated at the very beginning of this chapter, may now be offered. Whether we have the Indic faiths in mind, or the major religions of non-Indian origin, notably Islam, religion in India is not a discrete element of everyday life that stands wholly apart from the economic or political concerns of the people. To assume so would amount to yielding to the temptation of
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madan and chakravarty - Jan 21 - Religions of India...

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