Hindutva and Violence

V. D. Savarkar and the Politics of History

By Vinayak Chaturvedi

Subjects: India And South Asian Studies, Hindu Studies, Asian Studies, History, Postcolonial Studies
Hardcover : 9781438488776, 479 pages, September 2022
Paperback : 9781438488769, 479 pages, March 2023

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Table of contents



Part I: Principles of History

Part II: Hindutva is History

Part III: Modes of Hindu History

Part IV: The Impossible History




Examines the place of history in the political thought of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, one of the key architects of modern Hindu nationalism.


Hindutva and Violence explores the place of history in the political thought of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (1883–1966), the most controversial Indian political thinker of the twentieth century and a key architect of Hindu nationalism. Examining his central claim that "Hindutva is not a word but a history," the book argues that, for Savarkar, this history was not a total history, a complete history, or a narrative history. Rather, its purpose was to trace key historical events to a powerful source—the font of motivation for "chief actors" of the past who had turned to violence in a permanent war for Hindutva as the founding principle of a Hindu nation. At the center of Savarkar's writings are historical characters who not only participated in ethical warfare against invaders, imperialists, and conquerors in India, but also became Hindus in acts of violence. He argues that the discipline of history provides the only method for interpreting Hindutva.

The book also shows how Savarkar developed his conceptualization of history as a way into the meaning of Hindutva. Savarkar wrote extensively, from analyses of the nineteenth century to studies of antiquity, to draw up his histories of Hindus. He also turned to a wide range of works, from the epic tradition to contemporary social theory and world history, as his way of explicating "Hindutva" and "history." By examining Savarkar's key writings on history, historical methodology, and historiography, Vinayak Chaturvedi provides an interpretation of the philosophical underpinnings of Hindutva. Savarkar's interpretation of Hindutva, he demonstrates, requires above all grappling with his idea of history.

Vinayak Chaturvedi is Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of Peasant Pasts: History and Memory in Western India and the editor of Mapping Subaltern Studies and the Postcolonial and The Pandemic: Perspectives on Asia.


"This book offers a fresh perspective on V.D. Savarkar's ideology and political philosophy, a topic rarely debated in academic circles … Chaturvedi's work is a significant contribution to understanding the rise of the 'Right in Southeast Asia' and offers valuable insights into historiography, particularly Savarkar's focus on the 'context' and the 'Spirit of History' over empirical data." — Religious Studies Review

"For those seeking to understand India's turn to authoritarian Hindu nationalism, and its concomitant violence, this book is essential—if challenging—reading." — International Affairs

"…a fascinatingly prescient examination of the literary works of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar … Chaturvedi's analyses of the prolific and prolix juxtaposition of religion, philosophy, politics, and autobiography in Savarkar's work is meticulous and piercing." — H-Soz-Kult

"…[a] must-read intellectual biography." — The Print

"Chaturvedi takes a thoroughly critical position against Savarkar's variety of Hindu nationalism but, unlike a lot of dismissals from the left, employs the critical apparatus of historical scholarship to seriously examine the oeuvre of a major right‐wing thinker who had imbibed the modern ideas of nation, race, and revolution from nineteenth‐ and twentieth‐century Europe. The research that has gone into this book is impressive. I have no doubt at all that it will be a very significant contribution specifically to the literature on Hindu nationalism but more generally to modern South Asian history." — Partha Chatterjee, editor of The Truths and Lies of Nationalism as Narrated by Charvak