The purpose of the book, Hinduism : A Gandhian Perspective (Ist Hard Cover Edition 2006, 2nd Edition in Paper Back, 2008), is to present a holistic understanding of Hinduism, to analyse its dynamics and historical process, to remove misunderstandings about Hinduism, and to capture the whole process of rediscovery of Hinduism from time to time. This is done in terms of a Gandhian perspective, viewing Hinduism as happy to co-exist with other religions and also respect them. The continuing relevance of Gandhiji’s perspective on Hinduism consists in asserting that the authentic view of Hinduism is to see it as a liberal, inclusive, pluralist and socially concerned religion.
The book demolishes several myths – that the caste system is intrinsic to Hinduism, that Hinduism is other-worldly and indifferent to economic development, that its assimilative nature is subject to hierarchy, that it is anti-individual, that it is anti-rational, that it is indifferent to ethics and so on. It shows on the basis of detailed documentary proof that the caste system emerged due to factors which had nothing to do with Hinduism and its principles and that its sacred scriptures (Vedas, Upanishads and the Gita) have on the contrary strongly opposed it, and there has been opposition to the caste system within the framework of Hinduism all along. The book also shows that Hinduism is not confined to Vedic or even Sanskritic tradition alone, and has undergone democratisation and broad-basing, involving the lower castes and working people in the process of religion-building, particularly under Bhakti Movements during the Medieval age. The Bhakti movements made Hinduism literally in to a working class religion. The book argues that Hinduism is not Brahmanism, and that it is an extremely narrow view to equate the two. Similarly, it is misleading to identify Hinduism with idolatry and polytheism.
But the book goes beyond apologetics and presents the dynamic process of change as well as continuity in Hinduism, and its capacity to rediscover its values from time to time in tune with the times. It is not a static or rigid religion, though always upholding certain ethical values of eternal relevance such as truth and ahimsa.
The dynamics of Hinduism is presented in terms of three phases: Classical, Bhakti Movements and Modern. The rich diversity of different schools of thought, and of eminent leaders and their preaching is presented without any sectarian bias. It is shown that each of these phases has contributed richly to the development of Hinduism through the ages, balancing continuity with change.
The book also explores Hindu approach to Economic and Social development, which is found to be both humane ecologically sustainable. Finally, the book seeks to analytically answer why religion has become a cause for conflict and identifies factors that would promote peace, pluralism and progress, offering a perspective of hope.
The book illustrates its arguments with interesting anecdotes from the life stories of Sants and presents some of their highly poetic compositions. It uses a variety of sources including literature in Indian regional languages. It is addressed to everyone who is interested in Hinduism, as well as to scholars in social sciences and religion.
The book had the privilege of a public discussion by a Panel four eminent scholars (Prof. C T Kurien, Prof. N Jayaram, Dr Ali Khwaja and Dr Narendar Pani) on 30 Jan, 2007. It was sponsored by the Bangalore Institute for Religious Dialogue (BIRD, Mr P N Benjamin being its distinguished coordinator), and was held in the premises of St. Mark’s Cathedral, Bangalore.
“… The book is a ‘Must Read’ for its thought-provoking analysis and valuable insights….”
- Prof. K T Pandurangi
“This definitive work on Hinduism is marked by high scholarship and penetrating analysis. The book takes a critical look at Hinduism with a rare measure of objectivity and without any rancour towards other religions. It is a masterly documentation of numerous corrective processes helping the Hindu Society to assimilate modernity, pluralism and secular modes of governance. Truly, a book Gandhiji, who figures in the subtitle of the book, would be proud of.”
- Prof. V.M. Rao
“Your perspective is much broader than Gandhiji’s and much fuller… “
- Prof. G.S. Amur
“ … In my many years of listening to people to talk on religion, dialogue and harmony, I was rarely as inspired and impressed as I was with your thoughts. … very balanced, insightful and lofty way of thinking and expression…. “
- Prof.Ali Khwaja
“If someone were to ask me to name one contemporary book on Hinduism that is comprehensive without being pretentious,wide-ranging without being didactic, scholarly without being snooty, and all-encompassing without being doctrinaire, an obvious choice would be M.V.Nadkarni’s Hinduism: A Gandhian Perspective . ... To read this book is an education in itself. Gandhiji saw Hinduism as a river which permits fresh water streams to join it. Nadkarni provides such fresh water in abundance”.
- Shri M.V.Kamath
( Organiser ,August 31, 2008, p.13)
“Written in an accessible and authoritative style, the book is the product of impressive library research and personal knowledge. …Throughout the book, Nadkarni turns time and again to Gandhi for insights, and in this indeed lies the distinctiveness of the book. …He [Nadkarni] has accomplished very well the task he set himself.”
- Prof. T N Madan
( Sociological Bulletin, 57 (2)May-August 2008, pp.302-6)
“It is scholarly but not meant for scholars only. …Nadkarni knows his task and approaches with confidence. He is knowledgeable without being pedantic.”
- Prof.Nikhiles Guha
( The Quarterly Review of Historical Studies, 46 (3&4), Oct 2006 – March2007, pp.202-4).
“Nadkarni has presented in this monumental work many ideas covering several millennia of a very ancient civilization.”
- Dr Ramdas Bhatkal
( Journalof Indian School of Political Economy, 19 (1 & 2), Jan. – June 2007,pp.349-53)
“…the amount of patience and serenity that he [Nadkarni] owns, becomes clearly evident as one turns leaf after leaf of this huge book, invoking fresh currents of thought about Hinduism and making them flow gently along the exceptionally lucid language. The main concern of the book is to underscore the best parts ofHinduism, including its deemed secular, adaptive and vibrant epitomes, as mostcapable of meeting needs and challenges of any given time as also of emergingcomplex as well as progressive tendencies of the modern age. Thus the book embodies the multifaceteddimensions of Hinduism to make them ever relevant and fine. Indeed, almost every governing principle ofHinduism has its say in the making of this book.
- Dr Manohar Yadav
( Journal of Social and Economic Development , 9 (2), July – Dec 2007, pp.260-65)