India's Agony Over Religion

By Gerald James Larson

Subjects: Religion And Politics
Series: SUNY series in Religious Studies
Paperback : 9780791424124, 408 pages, February 1995
Hardcover : 9780791424117, 408 pages, February 1995

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Table of contents


1. Introduction: Beating the Retreat

Permanences Amid the Inescapable Flux
Present-Day India: An Introductory Profile
The Terms "State," "Nation-State" and "Civilization"
Theoretical Perspective

2. Discontinuity as Continuity (i): Old Indic Formations

The World Turned Upside Down
Two Metaphors: Fault Lines and Banyan Trees
Discontinuity as Continuity
The Indus Valley
The Indo-Brahmanical
The Indo-Sramanical
The Indic (Hindu-Buddhist-Jain)

3. Discontinuity as Continuity (II): New Indic Formations

The Indo-Islamic
The Indo-Anglian

4. The Minority as Majority

The Problem of Coherence in Indian History and Civilization
Frameworks of Meaning in Conversation (Old Indic and New Indic)
The Problem of "Religion" in Indian History and Civilization

5. The Secular as Religion and the Community as Citizen

India's Hybrid Discourse of Modernity
The 'Secular" As "Religion"
The Community as Citizen
Five Current Crises


The Sikh Community in Punjab
Kashmiri Muslim Demands
Shah Bano Begum
The Mandal Commission
Ayodhya (Babri Masjid)


6. Conclusion: The End as the Beginning

Two Closing Tasks
Concluding Summary
The Search for a New Beginning
"Abide with Me. . ." "...Mother Great and Free"


Select Bibliography


Presents the contemporary religious crisis in India, providing historical perspective and focusing on the crises in Punjab, Kashmir, and Ayodhya.


Many of ancient India's religious traditions are alive in modern India, and many of these religious traditions are in conflict with one another regarding the future of India. Even the so-called "secular state" is deeply pervaded by religious sentiments growing out of the Neo-Hindu nationalist movement of Gandhi and Nehru. A careful analysis of the current religious scene when placed in its proper long-term historical perspective raises interesting questions about the nature and future of religion not only in India but elsewhere as well.

Gerald James Larson is Professor of History of Religions in the Department of Religious Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara.


"It is comprehensive in its approach to the contemporary crises. I found it to be an extremely interesting book to read." -- Ramchandra Gandhi

"It is precisely Larson's competence in classical indology that permitted him to explain so lucidly and perceptively the present Indian situation--and also to encompass so clearly the religious developments during the six periods he distinguishes in India's past." --Andre Padoux

"The stunning December 6, 1992 event of the destruction of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, and the chaos that ensued, pinpointed the 'agony' that is the subject of this book. The perspective that Larson employs to unpack and analyze that agony is not the social sciences (sociology, anthropology, political science--although insights from these fields are in constant use throughout the book), but rather the perspective of one who thoroughly knows the cultural history of South Asia and allows the history and philosophy of religions to confirm fundamental experiences and enduring expressions cumulative for more than four thousand years in the subcontinent. We begin at the beginning, in prehistory no less, and work from there to build an understanding of a great cumulative, multilayered, densely configured civilization." -- David M. Knipe

"This book is an impressive achievement. It ranges widely in time, reaching from the present back to the Indus Valley Civilization, and it weaves a wide and impressive number of secondary works together to offer a new interpretive framework through which to understand India's present level of religious conflict." -- Robert D. Baird