Religious experiments in colonial Calcutta: modern Hinduism and bhakti among the Indian middle class
Colonialism and neocolonialism
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AbstractAny discussion of India from the point of view of the West must deal with the problem posed by the colonial past and the ways in which India was colonized, interpreted and constructed to fit into an imperialist agenda. The terms ‘Hinduism’ and ‘religion’, for example, are themselves quite problematic, since they are born of Western and Judeo-Christian thought, and may not reflect the complexity and diversity of Indic traditions well enough. A translation and transmission of terms and concepts from one cultural domain to another is required, but it is bound to be merely tentative and approximate, since a comprehension of the full meaning of words and concepts related to Indic religions presupposes an extensive grounding in the rich religious thought of India. Bhaktisiddhānta lived on the border between the nineteenth and the twentieth century, between the black and the white towns of Calcutta, between India and the West, and between two world wars. His effort to search for and apply bhakti to the social, political and cultural crises of his time is important for grasping the vitality and dynamism of Indic religions in our time. It is also important for appreciating the struggle carried out by a growing Indian and Hindu middle class to bridge the gaps between East and West, and on the basis of indigenous culture produce new ideas for reciprocal co-operation, which in the case of Bhaktisiddhānta were related to the idea and practice of bhakti.