Criticism of Hinduism

From Bharatpedia, an open encyclopedia

Criticism of Hinduism refers to aspects of Hinduism which have been criticised. For prejudice against Hindus, see Anti-Hindu sentiment.[citation needed]

Definition and scope[edit]

Hinduism includes a diversity of ideas on spirituality and traditions, but has no ecclesiastical order, no unquestionable religious authorities, no governing body, no prophet(s) nor any binding holy book, meaning Hindu traditions can range from polytheistic to atheistic and everything in between.[1][2] According to Doniger, "ideas about all the major issues of faith and lifestyle – vegetarianism, nonviolence, belief in rebirth, even caste – are subjects of debate, not dogma."[3]

Because of the wide range of traditions and ideas covered by the term' Hinduism', arriving at a comprehensive definition is difficult.[4] Hinduism has been variously defined as a religion, a religious tradition, a set of religious beliefs, and "a way of life".[5][note 1] From a Western lexical standpoint, Hinduism like other faiths is appropriately referred to as a religion. In India, the term dharma is preferred, which is broader than the Western term religion.

Hinduism derives its traditions from a variety of sources. After the Second Urbanization in the 6th century BCE, non-Vedic sramana traditions became dominant, especially in urban areas. To counter this, Brahminism began incorporating extensive sramana influences, indigenous traditions, and new developments such as the Bhakti traditions, giving rise to contemporary Hinduism.[6][page needed]

Historical background[edit]

Early opposition[edit]

Some of the earliest criticism of Brahminical texts, including the Vedas and especially the Dharmashastras, comes from the Sramana (or renunciate) traditions, including Buddhism and Jainism. Sramana scholars viewed Brahminical philosophy as "heretical." In particular Sramanas denied the sruti (divine) nature of the Vedas and opposed sacrificial rituals which were at the heart of Brahminical philosophy at the time.[7]

Caste system[edit]

The "discriminatory and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment"[8] of over 165 million people in India justified on the basis of caste, "a defining feature of Hinduism,"[9] has repeatedly been noticed and described by Human Rights Watch and the United Nations, along with criticism of other caste systems worldwide.[9][8][10][11]

See also[edit]


  1. Kurtz, Lester, ed. (2008). Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace and Conflict. Academic Press. ISBN 978-0-12-369503-1.
  2. MK Gandhi, The Essence of Hinduism Archived 24 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Editor: VB Kher, Navajivan Publishing, see page 3; According to Gandhi, "a man may not believe in God and still call himself a Hindu."
  3. Doniger 2014, p. 3.
  4. Flood 1996, p. 6.
  5. Sharma, Arvind (2003). The Study of Hinduism. University of South Carolina Press. pp. 12–13.
  6. Witzel, Michael (1995), "Early Sanskritization: Origin and Development of the Kuru state" (PDF), Electronic Journal of Vedic Studies, 1 (4): 1–26, archived from the original (PDF) on 11 June 2007
  7. Thapar, Romila (1989). "Imagined Religious Communities? Ancient History and the Modern Search for a Hindu Identity". Modern Asian Studies. 23 (2): 209–231. ISSN 0026-749X.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Hidden Apartheid". Human Rights Watch. 2007-02-12. Retrieved 2021-01-09.
  9. 9.0 9.1 "CASTE DISCRIMINATION:". Retrieved 2021-01-09.
  10. "OHCHR | Caste systems violate human rights and dignity of millions worldwide – New UN expert report". Retrieved 2021-01-09.
  11. "UN report slams India for caste discrimination". CBC News. 2 March 2007.

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