Hinduism Before Reform

Hinduism Before Reform

by Brian A. Hatcher


View All Available Formats & Editions
Members save with free shipping everyday! 
See details


A bold retelling of the origins of contemporary Hinduism, and an argument against the long-established notion of religious reform.

By the early eighteenth century, the Mughal Empire was in decline, and the East India Company was making inroads into the subcontinent. A century later Christian missionaries, Hindu teachers, Muslim saints, and Sikh rebels formed the colorful religious fabric of colonial India. Focusing on two early nineteenth-century Hindu communities, the Brahmo Samaj and the Swaminarayan Sampraday, and their charismatic figureheads—the “cosmopolitan” Rammohun Roy and the “parochial” Swami Narayan—Brian Hatcher explores how urban and rural people thought about faith, ritual, and gods. Along the way he sketches a radical new view of the origins of contemporary Hinduism and overturns the idea of religious reform.

Hinduism Before Reform challenges the rigid structure of revelation-schism­-reform-sect prevalent in much history of religion. Reform, in particular, plays an important role in how we think about influential Hindu movements and religious history at large. Through the lens of reform, one doctrine is inevitably backward-looking while another represents modernity. From this comparison flows a host of simplistic conclusions. Instead of presuming a clear dichotomy between backward and modern, Hatcher is interested in how religious authority is acquired and projected.

Hinduism Before Reform asks how religious history would look if we eschewed the obfuscating binary of progress and tradition. There is another way to conceptualize the origins and significance of these two Hindu movements, one that does not trap them within the teleology of a predetermined modernity.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674988224
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 03/10/2020
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Brian A. Hatcher’s previous books include Bourgeois Hinduism and Vidyasagar: The Life and After-life of an Eminent Indian. He is the Packard Chair of Theology at Tufts University.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Introduction 1

1 Before Reform 24

2 Fluid Landscapes 48

3 Polities before Publics 73

4 On the Road with Nilakantha 101

5 Upcountry with Rammohun 126

6 The Guru's Rules 151

7 The Raja's Darbar 174

8 The Empire of Reform 200

9 Old Comparisons and New 224

Abbreviations 249

Notes 251

Bibliography 281

Index 305

Customer Reviews