Book Discussion: ‘Portraits of Hindutva from Harappa to Ayodhya’, by Sh Rajesh Singh, at the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF), 13 Feb 2019
Welcome Remarks by Dr Arvind Gupta, Director VIF

I would like to welcome you to this discussion on Sh Rajesh Singh’s book Portraits of Hindutva: from Harappa to Ayodhya. Hindutva is a much-debated term that raises emotion and passion, likes and dislikes whenever it is mentioned. It has become an extremely important concept in the political milieu of the country that took shape after the demolition of the Babri Masjid structure in 1981.

Who is a Hindu? The term was first mentioned by the Greek to indicate the people living in the Indus river area. It was popularized by the Arabs later. The attempts to give a precise definition of Hindu and Hinduism have not succeeded. This is not surprising because a religion which is 5000 years old, the Sanatan Dharma has evolved over centuries. It includes within itself diverse strands of cultures, sub-cultures and thinking. The Vedas, the Upanishads, the Epics and innumerable commentaries have sought to interpret and enrich Hinduism. Adi Sankracharya, Ramanuja, exponents of the Bhakti Movement from different parts of the country, Swami Vivekananda, Dayananda Saraswati, Aurobinod, Tilak, Savarkar and many other intellectual giants have added their own interpretations. It is unlikely that a single definition of Hinduism or Hindutva will ever emerge.

Sh Rajesh Singh in his book provides an overview of the evolution of Hinduism, Hindu identity and Hindutva from the earliest times. He feels that Hinduism and Hindutva are the same though many would disagree with him. It is interesting that none of these terms existed when the Vedas were being written but what is today called Hinduism probably originated as a way of life during the Indus-Saraswati Valley period. In public discourse, the term Hindutva is understood more as a political term and is credited to Veer Savarkar who in his book Hindu Rastra Darshan has discussed ‘essentials of Hindutva’ and is discussed in the context of Hindu nationalism. But Tilak and Madan Mohan Malviya were also projective Hinduism and Hindu identity. Savarkar attempted a definition of Hindu, Hinduism and Hindutva and regarded Hinduism as one element of the larger Hindutva concept (pg-113). The concept of Pitra Bhoomi, Matri Bhoomi and Punya Bhoomi are integral to Savarkar Hindutva. Those who regard India as their Matri Bhoomi and Punya Bhoomi are supposed to be true Hindu. But what about those Hindus who have migrated abroad and settled there for long periods? There are many Hindus who are not been in India and do not regard India as their motherland. The Hindutva debate also gets linked with the highly charged debate on secularism, nationalism and Bhartiyata. The concept of Hindutva contains within itself many dimensions i.e philosophical, religions, political, cultural and civilizational.

The author introduces readers to the nuances and complexities of the concept of Hindutva and its evolution very competently. It is in today’s discussion, Sh Rajesh Singh will introduce the book. This will be followed by a panel discussion. I am grateful to Amb Shashank, former Foreign Secretary, Prof Ram Nath Jha, School of Sanskrit and Indic Studies, JNU, Sh Sanjeev Sanyal, Principal Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance and Dr Arpita Mitra, Associate Fellow, VIF for participating in the panel discussion.

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