Reforming and Reformulating Hinduism
Madhav Nayar
ELUSIVE NON-VIOLENCE: THE MAKING AND UNMAKING OF GANDHI’S RELIGION OF AHIMSA by Jyotirmaya Sharma Context Publishers, New Delhi, 2021, 271 pp., 699.00
January 2022, volume 46, No 1

This book is the fourth and last volume in a quartet by Professor Jyotirmaya Sharma, examining the restatement of Hinduism by some of its most influential exponents and thinkers. The first book Hindutva: Exploring the Idea of Hindu Nationalism discusses the thought of Dayanand Saraswati, Sri Aurobindo, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and Swami Vivekananda, all of whom sought to marshal Hindu identity in the service of nationalism. The subsequent volumes focus on the thought and writings of Golwalkar and Vivekananda. The series is an attempt to look at the question of Hindu identity and the restatement of Hinduism in the late 19th and early 20th century. The author has provocatively argued that there is no distinction between Hinduism and Hindutva, the latter only being the politically dominant form of the former. The book under discussion focuses on Gandhi’s attempt at reforming and reformulating Hinduism.

The book begins with an interesting discussion around the image of Gandhi and his popular appeal. From Barack Obama’s admiration and Winston Churchill’s snide remark to Richard Attenborough’s cinematic representation and the romance around Gandhi in Hindi poetry, the author emphasizes how Gandhi’s image(s) have enjoyed a longer afterlife than his ideas.

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