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The Nationalization of Hindu Traditions (Bharatendu Harischandra and Nineteenth Century Banaras)

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Item Code: NAG076
Author: Vasudha Dalmia
Publisher: Permanent Black
Language: English
Edition: 2017
ISBN: 9788178243047
Pages: 507
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
Weight 470 gm
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Book Description

About the Book


This book studies how a dominant strand of Hinduism in North India-the tradition which uses and misuses the slogan "Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan"-came into being in the late nineteenth century. It uses the life and writings of Bharatendu Harischandra (often called the Father of Modern Hindi) as its focal point for an analysis of some of the vital cultural processes through which modern North India, as we experience it today, came to be formed.


First published in 1997, this book has been widely recognized as a work of exceptional scholarship with politically vital implications. It is reissued now with a new Foreword by Francesca Orsini, highlighting the nature of its importance.


About the Author


VASDHA DALMIA is professor of Hindi and Modern South Asian Studies at the University of California Berkeley.


Note of Transliteration


Hindi words which have become part of the English language, for instance Brahman or Pandit, have been written without diacritical marks. When citing directly from the Hindi, the transliteration followed by R.S.Mc Gregor in his Outline of Hindi Grammar [1972] 1977, has mostly been used. The rather vexed question of the difference in Hindi and Sanskrit transliteration has been sought to be resolved, in that the Sanskrit has been employed only in contexts where Sanskrit works are under discussion. Thus Bharatvars in the Hindi context and Bharatavarsa in the Sanskrit. For the Urdu transcription I have mainly relied on the scheme adopted by R.S.McGregor in Urdu Study Materials, 1992, when citing from secondary sources, the author's usage has been retained.




It is rare for an academic book to combine a strong line of argument with a profusion of sources, all carefully presented and analysed, over a very broad canvas, covering a number of different themes: a book in which every small detail makes sense both in itself and as part of a much larger picture. Vasudha Dalmia's The Nationalization of Hindu Traditions: Bhiiratendu Harischandra and Nineteenth-century Banaras is such a book. It is unusual in being at the same time utterly convincing, thorough and light-footed, sensitive to nuances, ambivalences, and con-traditions, and so assured in its reading that there is never any feeling of it forcing an interpretation upon its material. Re-reading it now, nearly fifteen years after it first appeared, is like reading a classic, a work that has not so much shaped our understanding of this period as having created the field, the discipline through which to study it. Cultural history had not been done in this way for India before. For a long time the "colonial encounter", and what was termed the "Indian Renaissance", were defined by studies of Bengal, or more precisely Calcutta. We pictured colonial intellectuals as babus, suited and booted in public and donning dhotis and sacred threads at home, intellectuals who were equally at home in the English classics (often also Latin and Greek) and Sanskrit texts, even as they forged modem literature and the press in Bengali. Other regions and language areas were viewed as variations on Bengal, a little more radical here, a little belated there.


To some extent Bengal still determines the meridian of modernity in India-can for instance Nazir Akbarabadi be considered a modem poet, given that he lived and wrote in Agra at the turn of the nineteenth century? I doubt there would be much difficulty considering his irreverent, street-smart poetry "modem" had he lived in Calcutta over the same period. One of the merits of Vasudha Dalmia's book, as of David Lelyveld's Aligarh's First Generation and Barbara Metcalf s studies of Indian Islam, has been to consider modernity from the perspective of areas and groups where living traditions of knowledge, authority, and culture were still strong. In fact, the rich crop of regional studies on the growth of the press as well as public sphere institutions all over India has now made it amply clear how different and specific the trajectories of colonial modernity were in each separate case. There is no longer one measure that, more or less, fits all. The picture we get of Harischandra from Dalmia's book is of a colonial intellectual with long, curly hair and the richly woven angarkha of the pre-colonial elite, with his courtesan- companion Mallika on his lap, the pair gazing seriously at each other, encapsulating the complex historical background of Banaras that this book traces so thoroughly.


Being a study of the writings and ideas of a singular colonial intellectual, this book acknowledges Sudhir Chandra's The Oppressive Present (1992) as a predecessor. And indeed Chandra's book was remarkable for the range of writers and texts it discussed as well as for the issues it focused on: these were to dominate discussions of colonial culture in the years that followed-historical consciousness, communalism, nationalism. But whereas the vernacular intellectuals of colonial times are in Chandra's depiction beset by anxiety and ambivalence ("Crushed by English Poetry" is the title of one of the chapters), Dalmia's Harischandra is a much more self-assured character whose attitude to orientalist discourse is confidently selective. Dalmia's careful tracing of the development of the historical discourse on Indian monotheism is illuminating in this respect, highlighting not only the significant overlap between European orient lists and Indian intellectuals, but also their contrasting agendas and the selectiveness with which Rajendralal Mitra or R. G. Bhandarkar or Harischandra, for instance, made use of orient list auctoritas. Her meticulous outlining of "three idioms" in her Introduction, and of the third idiom in particular-the "modem Indian", as a sanskritizing idiom which formed itself "in the very process of negotiating the relationship to past idioms and classical texts in the light of present needs and claims, in order to project itself as a coherent and even homo- generous entity" (p. l5)-is borne out in subsequent chapters through her analysis of literary and religious debates and activities.


As a cultural-historical study in English of a hallowed figure of the Hindi literary tradition, this book participates in the productive cross disciplinary trend that has seen primarily historians and scholars of English literature mining regional-language archives to produce rich cultural histories of colonial India. This process acquired particular urgency because of the shadow cast by Hindutva. Scholars searched for the origins of its xenophobic views and counterfactual arguments, and for the "communal common sense" (as one scholar called it) that was apparently firmly rooted in the popular imagination despite decades of Nehruvian secularism. Views that condemned Indian Muslims into being eternal foreigners, Sudhir Chandra had shown could be found in profusion within the writings of Harischandra and his contemporaries. In a different way, given the fractious and hierarchical relationship of Hindi with English, her critical perspective on these themes also exposed Vasudha Dalmia to criticism. Does not writing "angrezi men Hindi"- about Hindi in English-it was asked; mean choosing to be an outsider in the world of Hindi, cut off from its concerns and struggles? The answer seems clear: anyone who reads this book will see that Dalmia writes with great engagement as well as historical balance about Harischandra. Her whole book is a plea for patiently listening to the source material in Indian languages, to look carefully at their longer genealogies and unexpected conclusions. Harischandra's position in the Hindi firmament has always been secure, regardless of whether the emphasis has been placed on his modernity and radicalism or on his loyalty and traditionalism. So, if I may push the planetary metaphor further, the merit of this book is to make Harischandra's moon part of several crisscrossing orbits, not in order to diminish its importance but to see how the movement of this particular system interacted with other systems. And because she does not take on the role of critic as censor or judge-as so often happens in critical works originating in Hindi-Dalmia does not expect consistency or political correctness in Harischandra, be it his ideas on Hinduism, Hinduness, or Hindi. Rather, she brings to life a much more sparkling and nuanced historical character and social animal, someone who made the fullest use of the possibilities provided by print and the new culture of associations. Striking are his many unfinished essays, travelogues, and narratives which reveal a keenness to experiment and write down ideas and experiences even when a genre is not fully formed, an argument incompletely worked out. In this respect, Vasudha Dalmia ' s chronological approach to Harischandra's ideas on Vaishnavism and his theatrical writings highlight this "work in progress" very well.


Another feature that sets her book apart from other studies of the "colonial encounter" is its delineation of a social stage comprising many actors. Dalmia does not frame the intellectual encounter simplistically as a binary relationship between colonial masters or orient lists or missionaries on the one hand, and Indian intellectuals or informants or native rulers on the other-whether one calls that relationship a "negotiation" or a "transaction" or a "dialogue" or something else along the same lines. By drawing a social map of Banaras in which the maharaja, the pandits, and the merchants each had their own source of authority and sphere of influence, she is able to show how each of these negotiated their positions in the new colonial set-up, how their mutual relations were affected, how they moved in the new spaces of social interaction and intervention provided by the press, schools, and associations, and how their idioms were shaped by these encounters "In interaction and ultimately in resistance to the British". Though the focus is primarily on Harischandra, what we are given is an overall picture of a changing society in which everyone is an actor both influenced by and influencing everyone else. One of her arguments-that even the pandits in Banaras were affected by the colonial encounter, directly in the Benares Sanskrit College and more generally by the growing authority of Western orient lists has been followed up in detail by Michael S. Dodson in Orientalism, Empire And National Culture (2007). In Dalmia's work, however, such processes are traced both within writings as well as institutional arrangements, and placed within a much .wider social and cultural web.


While rich as cultural and social history-Chapter 3 could be a book on its own-Dalmia's book is also very powerful as intellectual history. This seems most in evidence in the last chapter, where every strand of religious thought-for instance monotheism, be it Indian or European- is analysed, its origins and developments traced, its claims tested, and its similarities and differences with respect to other strands carefully drawn out. All the time, Dalmia is keen to point out, Harischandra's intellectual articulation of Vaishnava monotheism and religious innovation did not impede his full participation in the rituals of his sampradaya. No book in Hindi on Harischandra has considered his religious ideas and activities in such detail.


Throughout, Dalmia makes it clear that her focus is the making of a national Hindu idiom, and that a significant part of this process was the bypassing of Islamic and Islamicate traditions that had been the dominant elite features of the region for several centuries. She notes that "if the consolidation was emancipatory, it was in its turn repressive, and if it included, it also excluded, not only the Muslims, but also those on the periphery of the Hindu social order" (437). She skillfully analyses Haris- chandra's skit in which "Panch" objects to a young and beautiful Mehtarani getting an education-"And what do you have to do with learning? The jans which have to do with learning are quite different from yours." The girl replies: "Those days are past now, sir, now all grain is weighed by the same ounce" (259)-underlining her interlocutor's middle-class doubts over education for women and the lower classes.


There is little sense in Harischandra's Banaras of the momentous history of the lower classes in this period, documented by William Pinch (Peasants and Monks in British India, 1996), and by Nandini Gooptu (The Politics of the Urban Poor in Early Twentieth-century India, 2(01) for a slightly later period. Parallel to Harischandra's articulation of Vaishnnavism, the lower castes continued to embrace a different kind of Vaishnavism, such as that of the Ramanandis which was open to all castes, not to speak of Dalit assertion through bhakti towards Ravidas and Kabir, also significant presences in Banaras. Similarly, the focus on Banaras necessarily reduces emphasis on the continuing currency of Urdu throughout the nineteenth century, and the linguistic, literary, and religious consolidation that was taking place in Urdu, parallel with Hindi. Muslim weavers are mentioned via Nita Kumar's study (The Artisans of Banaras: Popular Culture and Identity, 1880-1986, 1988) and we have a tantalizing glimpse of Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan as an active member of the Benares Institute: indeed one wonders how he and Harischandra behaved when they met there and what they said to each other.' What role did Persian-educated Kayasthas and Muslims play in Banaras in this period, what did they think? A few decades later one of them, Munshi Dhanpat Rai "Premchand", would write his first major novel about contemporary Banaras in Urdu, Biiziir-e Husn, about which Dalmia has written eloquently elsewhere.'


The Nationalization of Hindu Traditions has not just stood the test of time but continues to stimulate questions and open up avenues of research and reflection. By paying equal attention to nuances in the sources, to the genealogies of ideas, and to the social and political context in which diverse actors simultaneously and diversely moved, this is a book that has become something of a benchmark for how cultural history should be written.




Urban votaries of Hinduism in the twentieth century generally see no reason to question its monolithic character. All doubts on this score tend to be regarded as academic quibbling by the resurgent movements which have largely instrumentalized religion for political ends.' Yet, for all the efforts to eradicate signs of former pluralities, the fissures remain apparent even today. Any serious analysis of the process of cementation, which is still under way, leads back to the nineteenth century, for the movements to reformulate and reassert Hindu dharma were to converge-and in some instances to clash-with unprecedented momentum in the last decades of the century. Hinduism as it formed itself in the late nineteenth century worked with the postulation of a race of 'ancient' Hindus: thus, for instance, the title of R. C. Dutt's book, Early Hindu Civilization, 2000 to 320 Be. Based on Sanskrit Literature (1888), as typical of the retrospective projection of a religion conceptualized as monolinear.To question the monolinearity is not to assert that the affinities invoked had not existed at all. There had been common traditions and common reference points in the past, but they had not necessarily solidified into the consolidated mass which 'Hinduism' in the nineteenth century came to signify, and which had new socio-political dimensions.


Dharma sabhiis in the cause of saniitana dharma had begun to spring up across the subcontinent since the thirties, whether as a defensive measure against proposed legislation, as in the case of the Dharma Sabha founded in Calcutta in 1831 when the practice of sati was banned, or against rising missionary invective, as in Maharashtra. The dharma sabhas were no novel institution, they had always mediated between the precepts of the Dharmasiistra and actual contingency. In the nineteenth century, however, they no longer. functioned with the authority of the political legislator to back them, but, rather, against this very authority. Further, they were no longer composed of learned Brahmans alone, but also of the western educated urban intelligentsia." They were organized according to British models, had presidents, executive boards and secretaries, and often functioned in strict accordance with British parliamentary procedure.' The notion of sanatana dharma itself had remained anything but stationary through the ages." Its renewed propagation tended to congregate around these sabhas, However, it would be a mistake to imagine that these institutions came into being only to conserve inherited practice. As always, one of their vital functions was also to sanction change, however minimal it might have appeared at first sight.


While sifting a wide range of Hindi literature in the nineteenth century, I have found that even while defending tradition, while emphasizing the sandtanatii, constancy, of the ved puriin vihit iirya dharma, the dharma of the Aryas as authorized by the canonical Vedas and Puranas, the spokesmen, in the very name of orthodoxy, of tradition itself, were, in fact, accommodating and articulating wide-reaching changes. The sanatanata which they so firmly posited was shifting ground, whereby certain features, which were proclaimed as characteristic, were being fore grounded in a heretofore uncharacteristic manner. Though a number of studies of sanatana dharma leadership in the nineteenth century have been undertaken in the last two decades,' these movements, often summarily denoted as 'revivalist', have yet to be charted in any comprehensive fashion. There was no centrally coordinated traditionalist movement. of sub continental breadth. To these efforts to defend tradition, which had certain features in common, were added the more radical reform movements, which have often been lumped together under the category 'neo-Hinduism'. This so-called neo-Hindu rejoinder, foremost in formations such as the Brahmo and Arya Samaj, has been taken to represent the modernization of Hinduism. The more widespread, less radical movements which together went into the making of modem sanataria dharma have often been seen as the slow adjustment of traditional Hinduism to the challenge of the modem age. Though the more radical reform movements served as catalysts, the most vital issues concerning notions of cultural, religious and political identity were thrashed out in the traditionalist quarters as well, and perhaps with more lasting effect, and it was here that the face of modem Hinduism-within which temple and via continue to play a prominent role-was finally to be coined. The whole process of change, accommodation and re-articulation, whereby usually only the so-called neo-Hindu movements are taken into consideration, is generally described as the Hindu renaissance or simply renaissance. A closer inspection of the categories used to circumscribe and distinguish the movements may help to clarify the perspective adopted in this study.


Kenneth Jones, who has to his credit detailed studies of the social and ideological impact of the Arya Samaj in Punjab in the period, comes to the conclusion that in fact two broad types of response can be established (1989: 39). The one he sees as 'transitional', i.e. when the movements concerned had their roots in the pre-colonial world, were based on traditional forms of socio-religious dissent and had little or no contact with the colonial milieu, though later, when they perforce came in touch with it, they had to make limited adjustments to it. The other kind of movement, which he terms 'acculturative', led by South Asians who had enjoyed English education, he sees as originating in direct transaction with the colonial milieu. It is a telling fact that when Jones comes to consider the situation in the North-Western Provinces, though he records the Deboned movement as specimen of the 'transitional' variety from Islam, there is no documentation of any Hindu formations of the sort. The changes in traditional formations, widespread as they are, are simply not registered, since they do not choose to define themselves as different, and in fact emphasize the constancy of the tradition they stand for. As against this, the Arya Samaj allows itself to be readily classified as acculturative, though its founder stemmed from as traditional a milieu as any. Thus, the social origin of the founders of the respective movements does not necessarily betray their programme.

Further, though Jones' is a useful distinction, it is equipped only to deal with movements which in the intensification of their position stand out sharply from the rest. When applied to the actual situation in colonial India it leaves much of the broad-based developments and changes undocumented. The task then is to collect evidence and locate the features which gained new emphasis in the confrontation with Christianity and the learning from the West and which in their turn made for cohesion in the broad base as it constituted itself in the late nineteenth century. An overall analysis can only take place at any satisfactory level of abstraction once the evidence for the subcontinent can be pieced together from a number of regional studies.


The Hindu response can obviously be divided into two broad groups for the purposes of analysis. Is it meaningful to retain the terms 'revivalist' and 'reformist' to distinguish between the two? 'Revival' or 'revivalism' has in the past often been seen in opposition to modernization. At first sight, this seems justified, since the sanatana dharma movements propagate concepts and practice rooted in sanskritic traditions. As we shall have occasion to note time and again in the course of this study, the nineteenth century social and religious leadership, specially when defending sanatana dharma, developed its own deliberately antiquarian vocabulary to designate its priorities and preferences, and equally deliberately, it set itself off from the modem. The traditional/modern polarity, used to establish the distinction between the indigenous and the alien, was a part of the self-representation of those who sought to depict their tradition as standing firm against the pressure of change. Yet to accept these poles as genuinely apart and immune to the influence of the other would be contrary to all the evidence presented in the documents of the period, which bear witness to incessant change and exchange. There was intense interaction with missionaries, orient lists and western ideas, and many of the positions occupied by the votaries of sanatana dharma were commonly shared with the leaders of the reform movements, who more explicitly propagated change. Though it needs to be noted here that if indeed there was change, there were continuities as well, and for certain strands of traditions continued to maintain their own and were set forth in one guise or another. The creative act of invention consisted in the rearrangement of older and newer concepts and practice and the historical links in time and space that were forged anew.? A century later, then, it is important neither to be taken in by the antiquarianism of this language nor to fall into the trap of tracing all that was taking shape as sheer imitation of western models, nationalist or otherwise. 'Revival' then is not only misleading since it disallows the possibility of change, it has the added disadvantage of having been used pejoratively all too often, as if it referred to no more than outmoded religious practice which had lain inert up to then, but which had ultimately refused to be suppressed by the more enlightened reform movements, such as the Brahmo or even Arya Samaj. Labels such as 'revivalist' have served to create closures and more often than not precluded any serious attempt to discern the selective criteria which were evolved in order to transpose traditional practice into a modernist mould, a process which ostensibly functioned well enough to enable the varied streams of tradition, which subsumed themselves under sanatana, to flow into what was to constitute Hinduism as a single religious and- by extension-political and national tradition.


The difference between the so called neo-Hinduism and traditional Hinduism have been treated most explicitly by Paul Hacker (1978). He sees nationalism in its peculiar Indian garb as being the chief impulse and distinguishing feature of neo-Hinduism, religion being made subservient to the nationalist objective. The common trait which binds these otherwise heterogeneous movements is the predominantly western orientation of their intellectual formations. Further characteristics of neo-Hinduism are the assertion that Hinduism is a spiritual unity and that it has a message to proclaim to the world. While Hacker concedes that the traditionalists also share some of these concerns, it is only in subsidiary fashion, for, as he sees it, they owe primary allegiance to and stress the continuity of the Hindu tradition, which, by and large, remains impervious to changes in the modem world. As Monika Horstmann has pointed out, these assumptions cannot really stand the test of a closer inspection of the traditionalist positions.! They not only constantly reinterpret and modify inherited practice; they are fiercely nationalist as well and develop increasing missionary fervour with time.


What of the label 'reformist'? Social reform was the one great concern of the century and reformist tendencies were common to all the movements. The difference lay only in selection and the degree of emphasis. However, formations such as the Brahmo and Arya Samaj were more radical in their approach, and propagated more sweeping reforms than the dharma sabhas would have been prepared to concede.


What, then, are the differences and which nomenclatures can be meaningfully retained? I would suggest 'traditionalist' as against 're- vivalist' to describe the one, for their one binding feature was the stress on the sanatanata or constancy of tradition, rather than any breach with some original, more pristine past, which the more radical reform move- ments claimed to fill. The past invoked by the traditionalist was accessible in texts, ritual, social practice and institutions, some of them going farther back in time while others were no older than the late eighteenth century. For the second group, for lack of a better term, while discarding 'neo-Hindu', which reeks of in authenticity, I would continue to use 'reformist'.


The differences and similarities between the two groups can be broadly summed up as follows: 1) The traditionalists recognize the scriptural authority of both sruti and smrti whereby itihiisa and puriina are considered a legitimate part of the evolution of scriptural tradition. As against this practice, the reformists isolate one part of the scriptural tradition as exclusively authoritative; this distinction being usually reserved for the Vedas. They tend to see the rest as corrupt or degenerate. 2) For the first group, the Dharmasiistras remain authoritative as sources for formulating religious and civil law and the essential validity of varnasramadharma is not considered open to question. Though there is obvious modification and repeated concession to social change, the authority of the Dharmasiistrc" is sought to legitimate this: thus the various Dharma sabhas, many of them short-lived, which were called into life by the exigency of British legislative measures. The second group considers its own respective leaders as authoritative in this respect and does not recur to the authority of the Dharmasiistras. 3) The traditionalists continue to lay stress on the centrality of the temple and ritual practice, though here again various reformist measures are called for and sometimes even implemented. The reformists break away from all older places of worship and ritual and establish their own. 4) The modes found to validate the respective traditions are often commonly shared, for in addition to scripture the traditionalists also mobilize rationalist arguments in support of their cause, as also historical scholarship, foremost that of western orient lists. 5) It is hereby that popular religious practice-which continues to be considered a part of Hinduism, since it is not to be allowed an autonomous existence-is increasingly branded as 'superstition' and downgraded. Traditionalists as well as reformists are alike in their condemnation of this 'superstitious' practice.


The term renaissance has been accepted widely for this process of modernization. It came into use in the nineteenth century itself and was certainly a part of the perception of those who contributed most vitally to the process, like Bankimchandra Chatterjee, Aurobindo Ghose and Bepin Chandra Pal.IO Nationalist historiography has tended to make uncritical use of the term. If, on the one hand, the British colonial period has been condemned as one of relentless exploitation, on the other it has been eulogized as the era of 'the great cultural renaissance in India in the 19th century which transformed her from the Medieval to the Modem Age'. This cultural renaissance consisted of 'great social and religious reforms, literary revival, and political aspirations .There are, however, several problems connected with the continued use of the term. As Barun De has pointed out, the political and social premises of the term as used in Europe were based on a periodization, on a sequencing of epochs, which was to culminate in the emergence of civil society and finally, of bourgeois domination. This cannot be held to be uniformly true for all of Europe, and thus even here cannot have a model-building function. The sequence is obviously not analogous to the Indian colonial situation, where no civil society was possible (1977: 186). The subaltern middle class-the social and economic basis of which were new groups created by British rule-worked within a framework of alien rule. The 'enlightenment', which set in under conditions of territorial statehood and the dependent aegis of British intervention, consisted of the cultural response of this subaltern middle class to the modernizing bourgeois of Europe. The basic assumption of the concept of Indian Renaissance is that British rule had positive aspects, bunched together in one phase, in which the revival of Indian culture took place. Yet the linkage was not necessarily beneficial to Indian development (195). In all 'renaissance' is too rosy a view of a much more intricate interaction, which remained fraught with unresolved issues and tensions.


In this study, I have preferred to work with the concept of consolidation-rather than renaissance-of Hindu tradition. In tracing this consolidation, itself no monolinear process, but in its turn fraught with tensions and contradictions, I focus on the work of Harischandra of Banaras (1850-85) which constitutes one significant, but 'cellular'!' response in the construction of Hindu tradition in northern India. Significant, in that it represents and highlights vital trends; cellular, in that it remains organically linked to the intricate tissue of social, political, religious and cultural movements in colonial India, to which it was itself a response. Harischandra typified the new spokesman for tradition; it was no longer to be left to the Brahmans alone to speak in the name of orthodoxy. He was a 'lay religious leader', 14 who used the power of his knowledge of the new as well as of the old to coin the new traditionalist idiom, and who could effectively wield-the modern print media to initiate and direct change. His influence was supra-regional, both because he spoke with the authority of the holy city of Kasirepresenting the new merchant aristocracy reinforced by the Maharaja and the traditional repute of learning-to back him, but also because he propagated and made Hindi the literary language, which even then claimed national status. Today, Harischandra is known primarily as the father of modern Hindi literature, and here again it is his dramatic work which occupies the most space in literary histories. Yet, it was as a publicist, aware of the political potential of public opinion that he coined and shaped views on a wide variety of issues, which were inextricably bound to the question of political and national identity.


Harischandra's literary work has acquired canonical status over the past century. In the process it has become customary to either marginalize his affiliation to tradition, as befitting the initiator of modern literature, or there has been a tendency to view him as a revivalist, minimizing his cultural-political innovations. Literary studies have, in any case, tended to relegate the historical to 'background information'. Historically oriented studies, on the other hand, even those considering the formation of social consciousness, have had little use for the historicity of poetics and for literary categories. The two approaches, the literary and the social-historical, have tended to remain mutually exclusive.


The recent research on nationalism and colonialism: provides a certain conceptual framework within which it is possible to integrate both the above-mentioned perspectives. Is the studies on nationalism, though seldom devoting space to the formal aspects of literature, have considered language and literature in their eminently political roles, vigorous discussion having been initiated by Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (1983). Anderson's definition of nation as 'an imagined political community, imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign' (15) has been widely recognized. At the same time, it has been his achievement to free the term 'imaginary' of its fictitious and 'false' connotations. This has the merit of taking away the ground from under the feet of discussions which seek to separate the false from the genuine varieties of nationalism. Anderson sees the nation as growing from the roots provided by religious communities and dynastic realms primarily by the means of print capitalism which supported nationalist ideologies in their Endeavour to associate particular languages with particular territorial units. The print languages which thus emerged further laid the basis for national consciousness in that they created unified fields of exchange and communication, gave a new fixity to language, creating thereby languages of power different from that of the older administrative vernaculars (46-8). Here I will not enter into a discussion of the three models of nationalism as conceived by Anderson. Suffice it to note that, according to him, the former colonies have been unable to deviate from the models created in the West in order to create new models of nationalism moulded according to their own needs."


This is an issue which is taken up by Partha Chatterjee in his monograph on Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse? (1986), which most acutely summarizes and dissects the discussion on nationalism in its colonial context." He distances himself equally from the liberal apologists of nationalism, who tend to see what they consider as imperfect varieties of nationalism, most of all in the excolonies, as stages on the way to at least some measure of the progress and democracy achieved in the West, as well as from such conservative critics who see nationalism as false or even perverted ideology, particularly unsuited to the needs of politically unripe societies. According to Chatterjee, nationalism as a concept was historically bound to the social and political preconditions of enlightenment as it unfolded in the countries of its origins. It could not on this basis acquire universal applicability to all phenomena, especially those developed under colonial rule, which were first labeled 'nationalist' and then found wanting in comparison to the western models. Since there could be no knowledge independent of culture, there could be no unbounded universality of concept. Categories of thought originating in an alien culture were bound to acquire new meaning in a new cultural context (27). In the colonial context, the assertion of national identity was a form of struggle against colonial exploitation (18). In spite of the fact that Chatterjee is also doubtful as to whether the nationalist project, bound as it is to the same essentialist conceptions based on the distinctions between East and West, can ever take off in the colonial context, he nevertheless remains convinced that it is worthwhile to explore the changing relations of power within societies under colonial domination.


Europe Reconsidered: Perceptions of the West in Nineteenth-Century Bengal (1988), Tapan Raychaudhuri's study of three prominent nineteenth-century figures-offers further critical insights.'? The three figures studied belong to the same milieu; yet within the apparently narrow range of upper-caste Bengali culture, their experience and assessments remained diverse. According to Raychaudhuri, apart from ignoring the diversity of the response, theoretical analyses of third world nationalism do not take full account of the autonomous positive cultural contents of Afro-Asian nationalism. In the Indian case this is sought to be undermined in that the sanskritic tradition is seen as also mediated by western Orient logy. The access to the indigenous tradition, in the Bengali case, was not necessarily routed through the western understanding of it. In India, there had been an unbroken tradition of Sanskrit scholarship as an autonomous source of knowledge about the past.


In this study, it is not the autonomous contents alone which are sought to be emphasized. Rather it is in the interaction with the western, within the special framework provided by the colonial situation, that their nineteenth-century genesis is traced. This process is neither viewed as renaissance nor as revival, but as a complex tissue of assimilation and welding, as also of antagonism and resistance.


Methodologically, two perspectives emerge as determining the course of this study. Firstly, in seeking to trace and disentangle the autonomous positive contents of the nationalist discourse as represented by Harischandra and his contemporaries, it will be one aim of the study to trace their connection with western notions and their subsequent modulations. At least three distinct interacting strands, which are together woven into the fabric of the nationalist tradition specific to this period, allow themselves to be distinguished to a certain extent in Harischandra' s works: I. Direct access to pre-colonial tradition, literary as well as social religious (as demonstrated in the composition and translation of traditional literary genres, perpetuation of public festivities, of royal and temple rituals). 2. Ancient 'Hindu' texts and institutions as mediated also by British and western orient lists (such as, for instance, the whole historiographic complex connected with the notion of 'Aryan'). 3. British colonial administrative, legislative and educational measures (themselves shaped by attitudes prevalent in Europe) and missionary activity.


It was in the interweaving of these strands that the various Hindu nationalist tradition formed and consolidated itself. To trace and hold apart these strands in retrospect is a complicated procedure, for the terminology used by the emergent tradition was almost always antiquated.


The traditional or indigenous Indian attitude and the alien western attitude were posited as polarities by those who considered themselves as representing these. The self-consciously Hindu intelligentsia, by virtue of having to maintain their own, culturally and politically, were constrained to emphasize the indigenous. In creating the new public sphere, they used a deliberately Indian terminology to circumscribe the concepts needed to articulate the nationalist agenda for the future. These were developed in response and resistance to the colonial government, and in this respect everything that it stood for (as branded formally as alien. Yet, in the given political constellation, the polarities posited could be none other than interactive.


The question, then, is one of negotiating the difference between the two extremes. Two important insights developed by Ranajit Guha/? Suggest fresh methodological possibilities, the one is concerned with the political framework, the other with the interaction of idioms within it. According to Guha, the historical articulation of power in colonial India can be conceptualized in its institutional, modal and discursive aspects as the interaction of the two principles of dominance and subordination. Dominance consists of persuasion as well as coercion, whereby the latter decidedly outweighs the former. Subordination, similarly, consists of resistance as well as collaboration. These interacting pairs then offer a conceptual framework within which it is possible to place the contradictions and ambivalences of the relationship of the colonized to the colonizer.








Constituting Tradition in Colonial India: Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan



How can India Progress: Harischdra's viewpoint



The Colonial Government and the formation of Public opinion



Hindus and Muslims, Hindustan and Bharatvars



Assessing Harischandra's view: Dichotomies, ambivalences and the third idiom



The Holy City as the Source of 'Traditional' Authority and the House of





Banaras as the Holy City of the Hindus: The Myth in Interpretation



The Rajas of Banaras and the creation of Hindu Tradition



The Brahmin presence and the tradition of Learning



The Colonial experience : The missionary impact and cultural interaction



The house of harischandra of Banaras






Hindi as the National Language of the Hindus



The genesis of Hindi



The development of Hindu/Bhakha as a literary language



East India Company: The language split and the college of fort William



Addressing the Hindus in Hindu: Missionary tracts and school books



The court language controversy: Increasing politicization and Ideologization



Codifying the language ; Grammars and dictionaries



Occupying the public sphere: Harischandra and the Nationalist aspirations


of Hindi






The National Identity of the Hindus and the Emergence of Hindu Literature:


The periodicals as a Discursive Sphere



Language literature and the politics of representation



Hindi journals and the formation of the public sphere



The role of Harischandra: Literary and journalistic














Social and political space: Demarcating the middle ground



Hindi as a literary language and hindi literature as the autobiography


of the nation



Mapping the literary terrain: The generic encounter






Prose Narrative






Prose Essay






Book Reviews






The Only Real Religion of the Hindu



The traditionist response and the public sphere


Harischandra's Three phases



The colonial framework: Missionary representations



The first phase: roots and their offshoots



The kasi dharma sabha



Critique of sacerdotal tradition



Second phase: assimilations and demarcations



The debate with the reformists: The defence of image-worship



Orient list discourse: Construing the true religious traditions of the Hindus



The third phase: Dharma as constituting the nation















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