chapter  4
Unity and Plurality: Hinduism and the Religions of India in Early European Scholarship
ByWill Sweetman
Pages 18

"Hinduism" is assumed by contemporary scholars to be a western concept, one not found among those who are supposed to adhere to the religion it designates, which religion in fact does not exist, or at least did not exist prior to its invention by European scholars. For European writers from the sixteenth to the mid-seventeenth century, the paradigm of religion identified by King had yet to become normative, and we ought not to assume that it constrained their understanding of Hinduism. A close examination of Roberto Nobili's writings on Hinduism will demonstrate that not all early European missionaries treated Hinduism as a single religion. The idea of Hinduism as a unified tradition emerges not from the idea of heathenism within the fourfold classification but from engagement with Indians' own ideas of their religious adherence. Indian religiosity was initially conceived, as in the work of Nobili, as consisting of a plurality of religions.