Summary of The Golden Age of the Vedas and the Dark Age of Kali - Hugh Urban

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Religion & Culture
Brent Hagerman

The Golden Age of the Vedas and the Dark Age of Kali  Tantra / Tantrism o Scholarly category inseparable from historical encounter between Western and Indian imaginations that took place during colonial era o Contact zone – space of colonial encounters involving conditions of coercion, inequality and conflict o Not a colonialist or Indian fabrication o Appears in European missionary works, orientalist scholarship and early Indian reform movements  Dichotomy between Hinduism and Indian Mind o Ancient, pre and uncorrupted Golden age o Perverse and degenerate era  Discourse focuses on Western problem with sexuality and sexual deviance in Modern Europe o Orient imagined as exotic world of forbidden sexuality and sensuality  This view intensified and continued during Victorian Era England  Era had special fascination with sexuality in its most “deviant” forms o Anything that wasn’t part of the monogamous heterosexual norm o Discourse about Tantra became enmeshed in biopolitical issues  Also became key part of conceptualization of India and “Hinduism” th  19 century – Tantra serves as critical element in reofmration of Indian religious, cultural and political identity  Hinduism at its last and worst stage of development: “Tantrism” in the Orientalist imagination o Conquest of India was for knowledge, India had to be classified and evaluated o India came to be perceived as passionate, irrational and erotic world  Compared to progressive, rational and scientific world of Europe  Imagined as heartland of mysticism o Tantra – most extreme, irrational embodiment of Indian mind’s worst tendencies o Orientalist view of India  Shifted from benign romantic kinship to Indophobic view o 1813 – Evangelical/Utilitarian influence  Started campaign to do missionary work to end “barbaric rituals”  Wanted to conform them to Western ideals o The term “tantrism” did not enter discourse until much later  No mention of the word “tantra” in early writings by European explorers th  Not until the late 18 century did it enter literature  Sir William Jones “On the literature of the Hindus” (1790) o Colebrooke  Tantras are the opposite of the Vedas  Vedas – noble, pure and admirable aspect of Hindu tradition  Tantras – embodiment of polytheism/idolatry that has corrupted Hinduism in modern times o First detailed discussion on Tantras come from Christian Missionaries  Went to reconvert the Islams back to Christianity  Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies – Abbe Dubois  Describes Hindu religion as licentious and sexually explicit  Wanted to highlight the grandeur of Christendom o Reverend William Ward  Viewed Hinduism as “the most puerile, impure and bloody of any system of idolatry that was ever established on earth”  Describes the practices described in the tantras  Had practices described that could make an Indian blush  Standard points used in discussion of the Tantras  Violation of caste and laws of purity  Consumption of normally prohibited substances  Sexualthicense o H.H. Wilson (mid 19 century)  Set of unified body of Indian lite
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