Contesting Symbols and Stereotypes

Essays on Indian History and Culture

D.N. Jha

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The construction of Hindu religious identity began in the late nineteenth century and has continued unabated. Accompanied by the demonization of minorities, especially Muslims, and the creation and propagation of absurd ideas about Hinduism, the Hindu identity has become increasingly aggressive in its manifestations. Its ideologues incessantly try to create fanciful stereotypes about Hinduism and redefining its boundaries is their monomania. By projecting Rama as the supreme god, denying the diversity of religious beliefs and practices, negating the plurality of epic traditions, and by appropriating and inventing cultural symbols of questionable Hindu association, they present a grossly falsified view of India's past. They censure anything that does not fit into their scheme. They burn books that do not endorse their view, vandalize objects of art which they consider blasphemous, and demonstrate against films which present a counterpoint to their propaganda. They distort Indian history and religion, and nurture a culture of intolerance. The essays in the present anthology are intended to counter some of the many distortions they have introduced in the common man's perception of Indian identity, religion and culture, and thus damaged the rich mosaic of social and cultural diversity which India represents.

D.N. Jha

Dwijendra Narayan Jha (1940-2021), popularly known as D.N. Jha, was educated at the Presidency College, Calcutta, and Patna University where he taught history for more than a decade. He was professor of History at the University of Delhi until his retirement in 2005. He has authored several books including The Myth of the Holy Cow (London, 2002) and Rethinking Hindu Identity (London,2009) which have not gone well with India’s Right Wing establishment. Professor Jha was elected sectional President of Andhra Pradesh History Congress (1987) and General President, Punjab History Conference (1999). A UGC National lecturer (1984-5) and Honorary Research Fellow, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, he was secretary, Indian History Cogress (1986-9) which elected him its General President in 2005-6. A recipient of the prestigious H.K. Barpujari Award in 1995, he was honoured by the Asiatic Society of Calcutta in 2011 for his significant contributions. (2004).