Religious Beliefs

Are there Hindu fundamentalists?

If fundamentalism may be defined as an aggressive and intolerant religious exclusivism, there are several manifestations of it in the history of Hinduism. A nineteenth-century reformist movement called the Arya Samaj (Society of Aryans) sought to cleanse modern Hindu thought and practice of unnecessary clutter that had contaminated the tradition over the centuries. The Society condemned not only Muslims and Christians but members of various Hindu denominations as well. To its great credit, the Arya Samaj attempted to make Hindu practice more egalitarian, giving women and socially marginal groups equal access. Another fundamentalist-style force in recent times has been the political faction called Bharatiya Janata or BJP. In 1992 the party supported agitation by the militant Vishva Hindu Parishad (Universal Hindu Assembly) to destroy a sixteenth-century mosque in Ayodhya. They wanted to replace the mosque with a temple to Rama and to rededicate the site as Rama’s birthplace, which Muslims had desecrated centuries before. The VHP throws its considerable weight behind political candidates who promise to do whatever is necessary to keep power in the hands of Hindus.


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