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Conceptualising Hinduism

TitleConceptualising Hinduism
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsScheifinger, H
Date PublishedMarch 2009
UniversityAsia Research Institute, National University of Singapore

There is not a homogenous religion that can be referred to as Hinduism. Instead, ‘Hinduism’ encompasses a diverse range of practices, beliefs, and groups that can be subsumed under the term ‘Hindu.’ Despite this, Hinduism is often used in both popular and academic works to refer to a religion that is comparable to, for example, Christianity or Islam. This is clearly highly problematic. In this paper I show that although there is certainly not a homogenous religion that can be referred to as Hinduism, the use of the term is still acceptable. However, use of the term demands that it is adequately conceptualized. With such a conceptualization, the term can be used with confidence. After I have shown that the term ‘Hinduism’ should be retained, I want to briefly consider aspects of Hinduism in the light of key ideas in the work of Baudrillard. The reason for this is that Baudrillard has interesting things to say regarding the nature of images and the image is of extreme importance within Hinduism. Furthermore, it is worthwhile considering Baudrillard’s ideas in the light of Hindu images because in his work ‘Simulacra and Simulations’ he makes specific reference to religious images. I will argue that his conclusions regarding religious images are not universal and are highly questionable when applied to Hinduism. Finally, despite my reservations concerning the applicability of Baudrillardian ideas to Hinduism, I consider online images of Hindu deities in the light of the theory of simulacra. This is because there does not appear to be a strong link between the medium of the Internet and Baudrillard’s notion of hyper-real simulacra. However, I can conclude that replicated images of Hindu deities on the WWW are no more hyper-real than their original counterparts.