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Criticism of Hinduism

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Criticism of Hinduism has been applied to both historical and current aspects of Hinduism, notably Sati and the caste system.

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Historical background

Early opposition

Some of the earliest criticism of Brahminical texts, including the Vedas and especially the Dharmashastras, comes from the Sramana (or renunciate) traditions, including Buddhism and Jainism. Sramana scholars viewed Brahminical philosophy as "heretical." In particular Sramanas denied the sruti (divine) nature of the Vedas and opposed sacrificial rituals which were at the heart of Brahminical philosophy at the time.[1]

The criticisms of Hinduism and Brahminical philosophy by Sramana scholars occurred primarily during the 6th century BCE to around 8th century CE in ancient India.[2] This period witnessed a flourishing of diverse philosophical schools, including Buddhism, Jainism, Ajivikas, and other Sramana traditions that engaged in debates with orthodox Vedic practices.

The Sramanas rejected the rigid social hierarchy enforced by the Brahmins, which placed individuals into fixed social classes based on birth. Sramana scholars criticized the emphasis on elaborate rituals and sacrificial practices in Brahminical philosophy. They believed that true spiritual progress could not be achieved through external ceremonies but rather through internal transformation and self-realization.[3][4] While Brahminical philosophy placed a strong emphasis on the authority of the Vedas as sacred texts, Sramana scholars questioned this authority. They advocated for individual experience and direct realization over 'blind' faith in scriptures.[3] Another point of contention was the contrast between ascetic practices favored by many Sramanas and the ritualistic approach promoted by Brahminical traditions[5]. The Sramanas believed in renunciation and austerity as paths to spiritual liberation, while criticizing excessive materialism and attachment to worldly possessions[6]. Sramana traditions such as Jainism placed a strong emphasis on non-violence (ahimsa), which stood in contrast to certain Vedic rituals that involved animal sacrifices.[4]


An 18th-century painting depicting sati

Sati was a historical Hindu practice, in which a widow sacrifices herself by sitting atop her deceased husband's funeral pyre.[7][8][9][10] Vidya Dehejia states that sati was introduced late into Indian society, and became regular only after 500 CE.[11] The practice became prevalent from 7th century onwards and declined to its elimination in 17th century to gain resurgence in Bengal in 18th century.[12] Roshen Dalal postulated that its mention in some of the Puranas indicates that it slowly grew in prevalence from 5th-7th century and later became an accepted custom around 1000 CE among those of higher classes, especially the Rajputs.[13][14]

According to Dehejia, sati originated within the Kshatriyas (warrior Caste) aristocracy and remained mostly limited to the warrior class among Hindus.[15] Yang adds that the practice was also emulated by those seeking to achieve high status of the royalty and the warriors.[14] The increase of sati may also be related to the centuries of Islamic invasion and its expansion in South Asia.[14][16] It acquired an additional meaning as a means to preserve the honour of women whose men had been slain,[14] especially with the variant of mass sati called jauhar, practiced especially among the Rajputs as a direct response to the onslaught they experienced.[10][17]

The Mughal Empire (1526–1857) rulers and the Muslim population were ambivalent about the practice,[18][19][20] with many Mughal emperors forbidding the practice,[21] and later European travelers record that sati was not much practiced in the Mughal empire.[21] It was notably associated with elite Hindu Rajput clans in western India, marking one of the points of divergence between Hindu Rajputs and the Muslim Mughals.[22]

With the onset of the British Raj, opposition against sati grew. The principal campaigners against Sati were Christian and Hindu reformers such as William Carey and Ram Mohan Roy.[23][24] In 1829 Lord Bentinck issued Regulation XVII declaring Sati to be illegal and punishable in criminal courts.[25] On 2 February 1830 this law was extended to Madras and Bombay.[26] The ban was challenged by a petition signed by "several thousand... Hindoo inhabitants of Bihar, Bengal, Orissa etc"[27] and the matter went to the Privy Council in London. Along with British supporters, Ram Mohan Roy presented counter-petitions to parliament in support of ending Sati. The Privy Council rejected the petition in 1832, and the ban on Sati was upheld.[28]

Caste system

Human Rights Watch describes the caste system as "discriminatory and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment"[29] of over 165 million people in India. The justification of the discrimination on the basis of caste, which according to HRW is "a defining feature of Hinduism,"[30] has repeatedly been noticed and described by the United Nations and HRW, along with criticism of other caste systems worldwide.[30][29][31][32]

See also


  1. ^ Thapar, Romila (1989). "Imagined Religious Communities? Ancient History and the Modern Search for a Hindu Identity". Modern Asian Studies. 23 (2): 209–231. doi:10.1017/S0026749X00001049. ISSN 0026-749X. JSTOR 312738. S2CID 145293468.
  2. ^ 1a628-religion-and-philosophy
  3. ^ a b Johri, Arushi. "Brahminic and Shramanic Traditions in Ancient India".
  4. ^ a b International Buddhist Yound Scholar conference
  5. ^ "Main Answer Writing Practice". Drishti IAS. Retrieved 2024-06-13.
  6. ^ Robertson, S., 2003. Periyar EV Ramasami's critique of priestly Hinduism and its implications for social reforms. Indian Journal of Theology, 45,
  7. ^ Feminist Spaces: Gender and Geography in a Global Context, Routledge, Ann M. Oberhauser, Jennifer L. Fluri, Risa Whitson, Sharlene Mollett
  8. ^ Gilmartin, Sophie (1997). "The Sati, the Bride, and the Widow: Sacrificial Woman in the Nineteenth Century". Victorian Literature and Culture. 25 (1): 141–158. doi:10.1017/S1060150300004678. JSTOR 25058378. S2CID 162954709. Suttee, or sati, is the obsolete Hindu practice in which a widow burns herself upon her husband's funeral pyre...
  9. ^ Sharma 2001, pp. 19–21.
  10. ^ a b On attested Rajput practice of sati during wars, see, for example Leslie, Julia (1993). "Suttee or Sati: Victim or Victor?". In Arnold, David; Robb, Peter (eds.). Institutions and Ideologies: A SOAS South Asia Reader. Vol. 10. London: Routledge. p. 46. ISBN 978-0700702848.
  11. ^ Dehejia 1994, p. 50.
  12. ^ Nandy, Ashis (1980). Sati: A Nineteenth Century Tale of Women, Violence and Protest in the book "At the Edge of Psychology". Oxford University Press. p. 1.
  13. ^ Dalal, Roshen (2010). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin Books India. p. 363. ISBN 9780143414216.
  14. ^ a b c d Yang 2008, p. 21–23.
  15. ^ Dehejia 1994, p. 51-53.
  16. ^ Sashi, S.S. (1996). Encyclopaedia Indica: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh. Vol. 100. Anmol Publications. p. 115. ISBN 9788170418597.
  17. ^ Jogan Shankar (1992). Social Problems And Welfare In India. Ashish Publishing House.
  18. ^ Annemarie Schimmel (2004). Burzine K. Waghmar (ed.). The Empire of the Great Mughals: History, Art and Culture. Reaktion. pp. 113–114. ISBN 978-1-86189-185-3.
  19. ^ Sharma 2001, p. 23.
  20. ^ M. Reza Pirbhai (2009). Reconsidering Islam in a South Asian Context. Brill Academic. p. 108. ISBN 978-90-474-3102-2.
  21. ^ a b XVII. "Economic and Social Developments under the Mughals" from Muslim Civilization in India by S. M. Ikram, edited by Ainslie T. Embree New York: Columbia University Press, 1964
  22. ^ Asher, Catherine B.; Talbot, Cynthia (2006), India before Europe, Cambridge University Press, pp. 268–, ISBN 978-1-139-91561-8
  23. ^ Sharma 2001, pp. 6–7.
  24. ^ Marshman, John Clark (1876). History of India from the earliest period to the close of the East India Company's government. Edinburgh: W. Blackwood. p. 374. ISBN 9781108021043.
  25. ^ Sharma pp. 7–8.
  26. ^ Rai, Raghunath. History. p. 137. ISBN 9788187139690.[permanent dead link]
  27. ^ Dodwell 1932 p. 141.
  28. ^ Kulkarni, A.R.; Feldhaus, Anne (1996). "Sati in the Maratha Country". Images of Women in Maharashtrian Literature and Religion. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. p. 192. ISBN 978-0791428382.
  29. ^ a b "Hidden Apartheid". Human Rights Watch. 2007-02-12. Retrieved 2021-01-09.
  30. ^ a b "CASTE DISCRIMINATION". Retrieved 2021-01-09.
  31. ^ "OHCHR | Caste systems violate human rights and dignity of millions worldwide – New UN expert report". Retrieved 2021-01-09.
  32. ^ "UN report slams India for caste discrimination". CBC News. 2 March 2007.


External links

This page was last edited on 21 June 2024, at 07:00
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