chapter  8
18 Pages

Encounters with the West

In the course of this book, we have quite frequently noted the impact of colonialism on the development of modern religious traditions in South Asia. In addition to our discussion of the concept of ‘religion’ in the introduction, Chapters 2 and 3 in particular have demonstrated this impact. They showed how colonialism encouraged the articulation of Hinduism as a supremely rational monotheism, and the assertion that the Vedas may be seen as the ‘true scripture’ of that religion. These chapters were, however, primarily designed to explore different aspects of social and religious life in South Asia, rather than being specifically directed at assessing the way in which the colonial encounter produced change. In Chapter 7B, we altered this focus and explored how colonial conditions created the space for the representation of low castes as an identifiable group, defined by their position in the so-called ‘caste system’, now identified increasingly as a defining feature of Hinduism. In this chapter, we address the issue of colonial encounter even more directly, looking at interactions with Europe (especially Britain) and America during the nineteenth century, first in relation to the emergence of different modern representations of Islam and ‘the (Indian) Muslim community’, and then more broadly.