Klostermaier , and even that of Benjamin Preciado Solis and myself The fact that many such books have been written by Europeans and Americans does not, I think, have anything to do with a European predilection for inventing things. Rather it reflects the need for textbooks in European and American universities, where basic Hinduism is more likely to be taught as an academic subject than in universities in India itself. More interestingt han a forwardr eadingo f Monier-Williams't ext is a backward reading that compares his treatment of Hinduism with earlier European Christian ,H indu,a ndM uslim attemptst o summarizei ts morei mportantc haracteristics.
In what follows I will attempt to show how such earlier accounts, althoughg enerallym ore fragmentaryc, onsistentlye mbody substantialp artso f Monier-Williams' standard model.
I have already mentioned the article by John Crawfurd as one of the earliest sources to use the word "Hinduism. What I want to show here, however, is that virtually all of the more scholarly observers among the European visitors and residents in India before had identified Hinduism as a diverse but identifiable set of beliefs and practices clearly distinguished from Islam and, less clearly, from the Sikh and Parsi religions as well.
Between and , as the British commercial beachhead in Bengal transformedit self into an Indiane mpire,E nglish languages tudieso f Hinduism becamem oren umerousa nda ccurate,p articularlya ftert he foundingo f the Bengal Asiatic Society by William Jones and his friends in Even scholars who acquired the linguistic competence to work directly with sources in Indian languages, however, regularly employed native intellectuals as teachers and informants.
In most cases, the contributions of these native scholarst o the constructiono f Europeank nowledge aboutI ndiaa ndo therA sian regions were never adequately acknowledged. Mohammad Tavakoli-Targhi has called this "orientalism's genesis amnesia," a criticism that is applicable not only to the original orientalists themselves but also to Edward Said and other modern opponents of traditional European orientalist scholarship. If Hinduism was invented, it was invented by European and Indian scholars working in tandem.
Of more interest here than the professional scholars such as Jones, Wilkins and Colebrooke, however, are two rather dilettantish writers, John Zephaniah Holwell and Alexander Dow, who wrote about Hinduism in the s, before the East India Company regime was well-established and before its authorities had begun to sponsor more serious research.
One curious word used to refer to Hindus in many eighteenth century and even earlier English texts, including those of Holwell and Halhed but not Dow , is "Gentoo. In early Italian texts about 16 Representativet exts by Halhed,W ilkins, and Jones are all convenientlyc ollected in P. See also Grant Marshall's book I, pp. In early nineteenth century English usage in South India, "Gentoo"s ignified "Telugu" language or person as opposed to "Malabar"o r "Tamil" language or person Trautmann Here Manrique quotes, with his own gloss in parentheses, the harsh words of a Mughal official in Bengal against a Muslim member of Manrique's party who had offended the Hindu population by killing a peacock: " 'Are you not, in appearance, a Bengali and a Muslim which means "Moor" and follower of the true law?
How did you dare, in a district of Hindus which means Gentiles , kill a living thing? If we can show that the view of Hinduism presented by these pre Europeans closely resembles that of later British colonial scholars, then we have moved much closer to being able to say that Hinduism is not a colonial construct or invention, nor even a European one, but rather that European observers were attempting, with native help, to describe something that had a practical and conceptual coherence both for outside observers and the Hindus themselves.
The lives and writings of the European missionaries who worked in India in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries have still not been adequately studied. The best-known of these missionaries is the Italian Jesuit Roberto de Nobili , who lived for many years in south India.
Some of his works have been published and the modern Jesuit scholar S. Rajamanickam has written 20 For Italian texts, see below. For Spanish, see the Itinerario of Sebastian Manrique , written in Halhed, however, preferred a fanciful derivation of "Gentoo" from the Sanskritjantu, meaning "animal"a nd also, he claims, "mankind" M arshall1 Garcia de Orta, dated , used as the epigraph to this essay. Eaton's note p. In the passage Eaton quotes, the original has indus not once but twice.
The incident referred to took place in The monks themselves, on the other hand, were certainly more intent on saving souls than on gathering intelligence for European rulers. The essential point for present purposes is that the monks were observing Hinduism in societies in which the influence of European imperial expansion was still negligible. Since the missionariesh adr eligioust raininga ndo ften knew the local languages, however, the scope and detail of their accounts rival those of the later colonial scholars.
A few examples will have to suffice to illustrate this point. Although some of the concerns of both the precolonial and colonial writers are related to an implicit, or sometimes explicit, comparison with Christianity, on the whole they describe a Hinduism whose main features correspond to those found in the Puranas, supplemented by visual observations of temples, ascetics, pilgrimages, and daily or occasional rituals.
Whether all of the early missionaries had any direct knowledge of the Sanskrit Puranas is uncertain-although at least de Nobili, Zeigenbalg and Marco della Tomba probably didbut most of them knew the local vernaculars well enough to get information about the Hindu beliefs, practices and myths directly from local informants.
See also Halbfass and Neill Halbfass and Neill give references to several other texts by and about de Nobili in their notes. On Ziegenbalg and Stephens, see also Halbfass and Neill Other general works useful for a study of these and other early missionaries include Lach , Murr , Petech ; and Wicki None of these works have much to say about Fernandes Trancoso or Marco della Tomba. Marco della Tomba was part of a large Italian Franciscan mission to Tibet, Nepal and North India that was active throughout the eighteenth century.
An important seven volume collection of some of the writings of those of these Italian Franciscans-and one important Jesuit, Ippolito Desideri-who worked in Nepal and Tibet has been published by Luciano Petech Unfortunately, no comparable collection of writings by the Franciscans of this mission who worked in North India has been published apart from the single volume of selected texts by Marco della Tomba.
A notherw ork by this same title has been attributedt o Costanzo da Borgo San Sepolcro in India and Tibet from about to , but this is in fact a slightly modified version of Giuseppe Maria's text together with Costanzo's line-by-line Italian translation. A few facsimile pages of the manuscripts of both versions have been published in an article by Umberto Nardella , Both manuscriptsa re now in the VaticanL ibraryI. His writings include several essays on Indian religion and translations of various religious texts from Hindi to Italian.
Among these translations is at least one chapter of Tulasidas's Ram-carit-manas. This is by far the earliest translation of this key Hindu text into any European language, but Marco has never been credited with the feat, since the few scholarsw ho have commentedo n this translationi,n cludingC harlotte Vaudeville, all mistakenly took it to be based on an original text associated with the Kabir Panth.
He divides up the "diverse tribes of men" that, he says, are believed to originate from the body of Brahma, and hence that are all in some sense Brahmins, into eight religious sects: the tribe of Brahmins and cows, the Vaishnavas Bisnuas , the Ramanandis, t he Saivas, the Smartas Asmaetr o f Sankaracaryat,h e Nastikas or atheists, the Pasandas or hedonists according to Marco , and the Saktas. He further subdivides the religious practitioners of these groups or sects, according to their style of observance, into Yogis, VanaprasthasS, annyasis, Nagas, Vairagis, and Avadhutas.
Marco ends his essay with discussion of the Kabir Panthis Cabiristi and the Sikhs Nanekpanti , two groups that he regards as somewhat separate from the other eight. In his discussion of the Sikhs 98 , he quotes the Hindi phrase "Nanak fakir, hindu ka guru, musalaman ka pir" in order to show that the Sikhs had staked out a religious position combining elements of the religions of the Hindus and Muslims.
At first glance Marco'se ssay seems to confirm the constructionistv iew that there was no Hinduism, in the sense of a coherent set of beliefs and practices, before , for what we have here is a heterogeneous collection of sects and ascetics, each with its own set of beliefs and practices. Against this I would argue that what is more significant is the clear distinction that he draws among the gentili, the Muslims, and Christians, and also the correctly ambiguous distinction that he draws between the gentili and the Sikhs and Kabir Panthis.
In addition, another of Marco's essays, Libri indiani , contains a discussion of the four Vedas, eighteen Puranas, and different philosophical darsanas more in line with the standard model of Hinduism. There is, however, an alternative way of looking at this question.
A strong case can, I think, be made that Marco's conceptualization of Hinduism in Diversi sistemi represents a more specifically Christian construct than the stan- 27 I discussed Marco's translation of this text and its misidentification by several scholars in a paper presented at a June Heidelberg conference held to celebrate years of Kabir.
A revised version of the paper will appear in a book being edited for Manohar by Monika Boehm- Tettelbach. What could be more convenient from a Christian point of view than the idea that Hinduism was not really a single coherent religion at all, that it was not viewed as such by its followers, and that it was instead a heterogeneous collection of miscellaneous sects, beliefs, and idolatrous practices? Since many later colonial scholars were also committed Christians and, even if not, had little good to say about Hindu beliefs and practices, it is not surprising that they sometimes adopted similar views.
It was precisely this that was absurd in the speculations of medieval scholasticism, of Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel, and the German Begriffsjurisprudenz. Jainism prohibits non-vegetarian food altogether. The monks of Shvetambara sub-tradition within Jainism do not cook food, but solicit alms from householders. Skip to main content. Should he give away the merchandise free of charge? Among the earliest portrayals of suttee is an engraving, , to illustrate the account of the Dutch traveler, Jan Huygen van Linschoten , who lived in India from to
The locus classicus of arguments for the diffuse and incoherent nature of Hinduism is the famous study by H. Wilson begins his study with these words : "The Hindu religion is a term, that has been hitherto employed in a collective sense, to designate a faith and worship of an almost endlessly diversified description: to trace some of its varieties is the object of the present enquiry.
This sort of catalog approach to the conceptualization of Hinduism can be traced forward to imperialistic works such as John Campbell Oman's The Mystics, Ascetics, and Saints of India and the many semi-official studies of the "tribes and castes" of various regions, and also to more nuanced academic studies such as Sir R.
We cannot, however, correctly claim that even this catalog approach to Hinduism is wholly a Christian or colonial construct. Wilson himself refers back to two earlier Sanskrit works-Madhavacarya's Sarvadarsana- samgraha and Ananda-giri's Sankara-digvijaya-as native precedents and sources for his own study.
Other such early works can easily be cited. It is an empirical fact that the beliefs, practices and human organization of Hinduism are less standardized and centralized than, say, those of Roman Catholicism or Sunni Islam. For this reason a description of Hinduism in terms of its various sects, gods, ascetics, and metaphysical doctrines is often appropriate and useful. Half a century earlier than Marco della Tomba's essay, on July 29, , Giuseppe Felice da Morro, another Italian member of the Franciscan mission, wrote a letter from Kathmandu, Nepal, that sets out a short account of Hindu religion closer to the standard model.
He correctly notes that Hindus refuse to believe that God created the universe out of nothing, as Christian doctrine 28 Published in Petech part 1, pp. Giuseppe Felice da Morro was in Katmandu from the beginning of to about , then in Dvags-po, returning to Katmandu in He died there the following year, at about forty years of age.
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Instead, he claims, they insist that the souls of every person, the souls of every thing, and God himself are all one and the same. According to the somewhat curious account told to Giuseppe Felice by his Nepalese informant, God first created a woman named Manasa,29 who soon began to long for offspring.
God then created the gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesa Siva. Manasa invited Brahma to mate with her, but he refused. Next she asked Vishnu and he too refused. Mahesa, however, accepted, provided Manasa would change her form to that of Parvati. Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesa each assumed different functions: Brahma would concern himself with spiritual matters and scripture, Vishnu with conserving and governing, Mahesa with punishment and death.
Giuseppe Felice then notes the Hindus regarda ll the thirty-threec rore male gods to be transformationso f these three gods while the many goddesses are transformationos f Manasa.
H e gives a list of the names of nine goddesses that corresponds roughly to the list of emanations of Devi found in the well-known Puranat ext, the Devi-mahatmyaN. After this he gives a descriptive list of the gods associated with the various planets, the north star Dhruva , eclipses Rahu , followed by a list of some of minor gods such as Yama, Kubera, Indra,V arunaA, gni, Vayu,K umara,G anesa,a nd the eight Bhairavas.
T he discussion then turns briefly to the Brahmins' veneration of the sacred cow, followed by the story of the origin of the Brahmins, the Kshatriyas, the Vaishyas, and the Shudras from God's mouth, shoulders, thighs, and feet respectively. Giuseppe Felice concludes his account with a description of the four yugas and the Hindus' belief in enormously long time periods. One-hundred years earlier, in the first part of the seventeenth century, the abovementioned Jesuits de Nobili, Stephens, and Fernandes Trancoso were working and writing in south India, while the Augustinian Manrique worked in Bengal and elsewhere.