V.28: No. 5-6 May-June 2000 #324-325

Editorial Note, p. 1

"Change and Continuity in Brahmanical Religion with Particular Reference to Baisnava Bhakti," Suvira Jaiswal, p. 3

"Science and Society in Colonial India: Exploring an Agenda," Deepak Kumar, p. 24

"Trade in Pre-colonial Bengal," Biplab Dasgupta, p. 47

"Nazi Propaganda in India," Eugene J. D'soua, p. 91

The Burden (and Freedom of Photography, Vinay Lal reviewing Christopher Pinney's Camera Indica: The social of Indian Photographs. London Reaktion Books, 1997; Chicago: university of Chicago Press, 1998. 240 pp. $29.00 and James R. Ryan's Picturing Empire: Photography and the Visualization of the British Empire. London: Reaktion Books, 1997; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998. 272 pp.

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Editorial Note

The protagonists of Hindutva portray the Brahmanical religion as a fundamentally unchanging entity. They trace the essentials of present day Hinduism to the beliefs of the Vedic Aryans. The lead article by Suvira Jaiswal in the current number of Social Scientist not only disputes this view and draws attention to the changes that occur over time in the nature of the Brahmanical religion, but also locates the origin of these changes in the evolving material conditions in society. The Rgveda is characterized by the lack of any hierarchical pantheon among the gods, a sort of "communism or democracy" among the gods where individual gods are "alternately regarded as the highest". In the later Vedic times by contrast, this simple democratic vision is lost: even gods are conceived of as divided into varnas and the emphasis shifts to rituals and the power of sacrifice, which is supposed to bend "even the gods to the will of the sacrificer". This move, away from the "simplicity of the religious feeling" in the Rgveda to a quest for power through sacrifices, is reflective of a shift from a segmentary tribal society with its egalitarian ethos, to an exploitative class society. The misery associated with such an exploitative society finds its echo in the Upanishads which seek to explain and justify suffering in terms of the doctrine of karma and moksa.

The rise of Buddhism and other heterodox sects represented a reaction against excessive ritualism and the large-scale killing of cattle for sacrificial purposes in the context of rising urbanism and the formation of imperial states. To combat these heterodox tendencies however the Brahamanical religion underwent yet another metamorphosis. It appropriated the ideology of bhakti, and incorporated the worship of popular deities of folklore such as Krsna-Vasudeva and Samkarsana-Baladeva by treating them as incarnations of vedic gods. While the ideology of bhakti proved effective in combating Buddhism and Jainism against the backdrop of the new social conditions that were emerging, it actually led to a consolidation of the varna system.

The relationship of colonialism with science, and the related issue of the attitude of educated Indians under colonial conditions towards "Western" science, constitute fascinating, though insufficiently


explored themes. The paper by Deepak Kumar, which contains the text of his Presidential address to the Modern Indian History section of the Indian History Congress in Calicut, takes up these themes and outlines an agenda for research in this area. A particularly interesting issue raised in the paper is the view held by many practising scientists, notably P C.Ray, that the consolidation of the caste-structure, with its separation of mental from manual work, was responsible for the decline of the scientific spirit in India.

Certain related issues are also raised in Biplab Dasgupta's piece on Trade in Pre-Colonial Bengal. The fact that increased demand for textiles was accommodated through an increase in the work-force engaged in this sector rather than through an change in technology has led many to suggest that it is not colonialism that sabotaged the prospects of an industrial revolution in India, but India's own technological incapacity. Dasgupta joins issue with this view and argues that in the absence of colonialism, the stimulus of expanding markets would itself have brought forth technological upgradation, as happened elsewhere including in Britain itself. To be sure this relates to the realm of "might-have -beens"; and of course one must eschew any suggestion of automaticity. But the fact that colonialism foreclosed other possibilities, as emphasized by Paul Baran long ago, can scarcely be denied.

Finally we publish a piece by Eugene J. D'Souza which provides interesting information on Nazi propaganda in India, and especially on the role of the Hindu communalists in disseminating such propaganda. The admiration of the Hindu communalists for Nazism is well-known, but research, such as D'Souza's, on the subject, is extremely valuable.

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