New Focus on Hindu Studies

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Item Code: NAW012
Author: Arvind Sharma
Publisher: D. K. Printworld Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 2005
ISBN: 9788124603079
Pages: 160
Other Details 9.00 X 6.00 inch
Weight 400 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

This work surveys the state of Hindu studies over the ages by studying the history of Hinduism in four periods: Vedic Hinduism, Classical Hinduism, Medieval Hinduism and Modern Hinduism. Commencing the study with some general observations on the study of Hinduism such as confinement of the study by and large to India and lack of a political history of Hinduism, it examines features of Hinduism that established themselves during the different periods. Critically analyzing the literature that emerged during various periods and the light they shed on Hindu thought, it focuses especially on the Hindu- Muslim encounter at various levels especially political, religious and mythic — in the medieval period with particular bearing on the mystical encounter between them as available through royal records and literature. Considering the views of religious thinkers and. scholars like Raja Rammohan Roy, S. Radhakrishnan and Mahatma Gandhi, it examines the source material especially in English and authored by Hindus themselves for study of history of Hinduism in the modern period. Delving into the ideological forces modern Hinduism has had to contend with — to wit Islam, Christianity and science; it analyses the concept of conversion and secularism in India and deals with the origin of Hindu fundamentalism in Hindu society.

The book will be useful for students and scholars of Hindu political thought, philosophy and religion and especially those concerned with Hindu studies as a discipline, as it throws up new areas for research in Hindu studies which have so far been neglected.

About the Author

Arvind Sharma, formerly of the I.A.S., is the Birks Professor of Comparative Religion in the Faculty of Religious Studies at McGill University in Montreal, Canada and currently engaged in promoting the adoption of a Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the World’s Religions.


THE study of Hinduism (or Hindu studies for short) has emerged over the past two hundred years as a major terrain of intellectual activity, or at least presents the spectacle of a widely cultivated landscape if one would prefer the horticultural metaphor to the terrestrial. I formed the impression a few decades ago that the individual scholars were so busy mining their own corner, or cultivating their own garden, that no one had taken the time off either alone or in collaboration with others, to offer a overview of the state of the field.

Three books have appeared recently which try to plug this loophole. The contract of the first to these was finalized on the very day I commenced work at McGill in 1987 and it has now appeared under the title: The Study of Hinduism (Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 2003). Then followed The Blackwell Companion of Hinduism (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004), edited by Gavin Flood and fast on its heels there has now appeared The Hindu World (London: Routledge, 2004), edited by Sushil Mittal and Gene Thursby.

It was necessary to provide this background to enable the reader to appreciate what this slim volume, by way of contrast with the sturdy ones mentioned earlier, sets out to accomplish. As one surveys the vast field of Hindu studies — either as thematically sliced into texts, ritual or art and so on, or conveniently periodized as Vedic (and pre-Vedic), classical, mediaeval and modern, one is struck by the presence of certain tantalizing loose ends which arouse one’s curiosity even as they constitute a gap in one’s knowledge. This book is meant to identify some of these teasing issues, along with the evidence which gives rise to them, in the hope that they might provide new foci of interest to scholars in the field jaded by sheer familiarity with its existing patterns of presentation.

There is for me the further curiosity that these consider- ations emerged as I combed through the tradition with which I formally identify myself, namely, the Hindu one although for several years I had been more concerned with the issues agitating the study of world religions. It has been said that writing about one’s own tradition is somewhat like flirting with one’s own wife; it has its charms but the result is often too predictable to be exciting. However I had this curious exchange once with a female passenger on a flight who wanted to know what I did for a living. After explaining the nature of my work to her I concluded ruefully: "You know! I have been teaching comparative religion for close to thirty years now and people still think I am a Hindu," at which she sympathized with my plight as follows: "You can’t do anything about it. I have four children and people still think that I am a virgin."


It was said of Confucius that he attempted what he knew to be impossible’ and thereby became, at least a source of amusement, if not a target of derision, for his contemporaries. What I am going to attempt is next to impossible and may, therefore, not escape the fate of Confucius. But as they say in the British movies, with a stiff upper lip: "Someone has to do it." In this case that someone happens to be me. As I start, I draw some consolation, if not courage, from the fact that what I am attempting is largely, but not entirely, unprecedented."

Any attempt to survey the state of the study of Hinduism is bound to fall short of the mark — the only question is how short. One may begin by rendering the undertaking less impossible. It will still remain impossible, but less so, if some areas were excluded from its purview. Three such areas seem appropriate for such exclusion. Each has matured as a field of study within Hinduism to achieve a measure of independence. (1) Hindu Philosophy: This survey will exclude the area of Hindu philosophy and focus on that of religion. Although this distinction {fs anathema to the Hindus themselves, it is academically useful. For more in this field, the reader may turn to the several volumes of The Encyclopaedia of Indian Philosophy, which have been appearing regularly under the editorship of Karl H. Potter. (2) Hindu Law: P.V. Kane’s monumental multi-volume History of Dharmaégastra enables us to set aside the area of Hindu legal studies as well, as a unit to be pursued on its own. (3) Hindu Art: The area of art in general as such may also be excluded, with the appearance of the volumes being edited by Michael W. Meister under the title Encyclopaedia of Indian Temple Architecture, now in collaboration with M.A. Dhaki. Earlier works of T.A. Gopinath Rao (Elements of Hindu Iconography) and Ludwig Bachhofer (Early Indian Sculpture) remain benchmarks in the field. For a felicitous overview see Pramod Chandra, On the Study of Indian Art (1983).

The survey of the state of Hindu studies, as undertaken below, therefore involves the triple exclusion of philosophy, law and art as such.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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