Welcome Remarks by Dr. Arvind Gupta, Director VIF during the Vimarsh talk by Prof Arvind Sharma on Hindutva and Religion on 17 May 2023
Dear Friends,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to today’s Vimarsh talk by Prof Arvind Sharma on “Hindutva and Religion”. I am also grateful to Sh S Gurumurthy for moderating today’s session.

Formerly of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Arvind Sharma is the Birks Professor of Comparative Religion in the School of Religious Studies at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He has also taught in the United States (Northeastern, Boston, Temple, Harvard), Australia (Queensland, Sydney) and India (Nalanda).

He has published extensively in the fields of Indian religions and comparative religion. He is the general editor of the Encyclopaedia of Indian Religions (Dordrecht: Springer, 2017) and his book on the Manusmṛti is currently awaiting publication.

He was also instrumental in the adoption of a Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the World’s Religions, at a global conference held in Montreal, in 2016.


Hinduism is often described as a ‘way of life’. Radhakrishnan termed Hinduism as a “commonwealth of religions”. But what is Hindutva? The term Hindutva is extensively debatedin the media, academia, and political circles. Several books have been written on the subject. Sawarkar’sbook “Essentials of Hindutva” written in 1923 is a classic. Arvindan Neelakandan’s recent book Hindutva is a comprehensive volume on the subject. In 1995, the Supreme Court also gave weighed in on the concept of Hindu, Hinduism.

With the rise of ‘Hindutva’, the consciousness of Hindu identity, critique of secularism, etc, in India’s political scenario, do we have room to discuss such issues? How can we make such discussions more productive by elevating it beyond the concerns of identity politics?

Yet, the concept is highly misunderstood and often leads to controversy. In the Western media, the term is used in a pejorative sense. The questions often raised are: What is Hindutva? What is its relationship with Hinduism? How did the term originate? What is its history? Does it have a broad meaning, or, is it a precisely defined term? Is it a religious ideology? Is it a political ideology? These are genuine questions. Prof Sharma, who is a leading scholar of comparative religion, is eminently placed to provide some answers to clarify the Hindutva idea. Given the topicality of the subject, the VIF is happy to organize a series of lectures and roundtables by him on the Hindutva theme over the next several weeks while he is in India.

I now request Sh Gurumurthy Ji to kindly moderate today’s session. He needs no introduction. An eminent thinker, journalist, and Chartered Accountant by profession, he is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Vivekananda International Foundation.

Thank you

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