How British Colonization Affected Hinduism

How British Colonization Affected Hinduism

It had an influence on an entire tradition, as well as a system of values.

Although this may seem and random, I like history and here I am trying to bring some different articles to everyone.

The subcontinent of India- now a large country was once a colony possession of the British Empire. The main religion practiced in India is Hinduism, which is comprised of many different aspects and customs. The British Colonization of India had many effects on these beliefs. These effects ranged from a different use of the Caste System and how it was practiced, or, on a larger scale where many Hindus converted due to the many circumstances surrounding the conversion. The British Raj lasted from 1848 to 1947, however the effects of the colonization deeply impacted Hinduism. The British rule of India truly first impacted the Caste System when many British working for the British East India Trading Company started to assimilate into the native Indian society. This process also known as sankritization- where people of a lower class emulate the behaviors of an upper class in order to assimilate. This was specifically evident with the British for they were foreign to the system as they underwent kshatriayazation- this was assimilation into the warrior and noble class of people.

The Hindu tradition in this instance was forever changed because now the Caste System which was a traditional and vital part of the culture was swiftly changed by the British by reasons of economic and political power. The British however thought of themselves in a higher manner than that of even their native Kshatriyas. Traditionally however, the Brahmin who were the highest class in the caste typically, were held in a lower regard than the Kshatriyas because the British valued royalty over the actual religious and cultural aspects of the Caste System. Moreover, typically within the Caste System, marriage was between those in the same class. However, the British who worked for the East India Trading Company were basically given a wife and many mistresses, yet this violated typical marriage arrangements because although the marriages were arranged they were within the same class. In the case of the British, they married women regardless of class further disrupting the traditional Caste. The lack of the regard of the Hindu tradition is evident since “ones obligation (dharma) with regard to one’s position in society, that is, class (varna), and obligation to one’s stage of life (asrama). This model of living in this Hindu model is commonly referred to as varnasrama-dharma, which under traditional Hindus is the essential way to live.

The British colonization of the Indian Hindu culture abruptly stopped the pure tradition which happened on a daily basis. Another effect of said colonization by the British had an unexpected positive byproduct. A rather new, modern Hindu movement is the women’s voice within the Hindu culture is finally being heard as a means to reach equality on that level. Many have felt that Hinduism is inherently patriarchal although not lacking female gods, because of their typically passive and nurturing characteristics. However, in the time of early British rule in India, when the British men married native women they treated them with respect as well as considering their children and marriages legitimate although they were native. The British men with these wives and children would go as far as to leave their property and possessions to their native spouses and children. Women were held in regard in Hinduism in terms of motherhood, giving birth, and many other aspects, however these early British workers simply sped up the process for women to be more equal to men. The British Colonization of India was mostly negative to the traditional way of Hindu living, however there is an indirect positive which was the reinforcement of having respect for women.

There were many effects of the British Colonization, these effects weren’t always necessarily a change in the belief system, rather a challenge of those beliefs in the modern world. An instance of this was in the middle of the nineteenth century the British Empire imported bullet cartridges which were greased in both cow and pork fat. Forcing the Hindu soldiers, formerly known as sepoys, to touch these cartridges would’ve been sacrilegious. In the traditional Hindu culture, it was considered vile to even touch a pig or anything which may come from it because it is dirty and impure. In order to give perspective of this belief, the colors associated with the highest caste and the lowest class is in the Brahmin class the color is white, for its pureness, and in the Sudra class, the color is black, for its clear impurity The cow is sacred in the Hindu tradition for its association with being a provider and a peaceful animal as well as its associated with the lord Krishna. People in the Hindu tradition should treat the cow with respect and using it for cartridge grease is inherently disrespectful. Ultimately there was the Sepoy Rebellion which was abruptly quelled by the ruling British government.

These events didn’t necessarily change the Hindu tradition, they merely cemented the idea that although the world was modernizing, many core beliefs of Hindus were not going to change with the world. As previously mentioned, the British colonization of India had severe effects on the Hindu tradition. First Off, the British arriving in India thought of most Indians as uncivilized savages who needed the British. Some lower class Hindus converted to Christianity in order to prevent being an outcast in the modern British Raj, simply out of fear. Other lower class. Hindus converted for the comfort of the soup kitchens in order to be fed. Although the lower class Hindus had the most to gain on the short term end of conversion, “Hindus of all castes converted as a result of their involvement in government and administration, intermarriage, and change of heart”.

The conversion from Hindu to Christianity signaled a shift in the value system of the people of India. They no longer cared about their dharma to follow their caste, to be reincarnated and eventually reach moksha, they cared about personal gain. This chain reaction would not have been caused without the infiltration of Western ideas provided by the British colonization of India. Sometimes however, usually sepoys (soldiers) who had crossed the Indian border to go fight which was against Caste rule were reconverted by giving the priests silver from the spoils of war, essentially bribing them to be Hindu once more The British in an attempt to reinforce social structure, would take a census of all their provinces as well as the caste of each individual. If the person was unhappy with their caste, they could challenge it with a local ruler. Regardless of approval of a caste change, the principle that a Hindu would challenge their current caste to move up without being reincarnated which is a core Hindu belief cements the idea that British colonization affected not only the Hindu tradition as a whole, but also the value system of those who practiced.

BAM- an article that could possibly have some objectivity to it, just to try it out.

Cover Image Credit: Chee Huey Wong

Popular Right Now

A Senior's Last Week Of High School

The bittersweet end.

Well, this is it. This is what we've worked so hard the last four years - who am I kidding - basically what seems like our whole lives for. This is the very last week we will set foot as a student in our high school's hallways. As most schools are getting ready to set their seniors free at last, it all begins to set in - the excitement, the anxiousness, and also the sentiment and nostalgia.

For seniors, the years since our first day as a freshman at the bottom of the high school totem pole have seemed endless, but as we look back on these last few weeks, we realize that this year in particular has gone by extraordinarily fast. It was just yesterday that we were sitting in our classrooms for the very first time, going to our 'last first' practice, and getting our first taste of the (very real) "senioritis". With all that's going on in our lives right now, from sports and clubs, finals, and the sought after graduation ceremony, it's hard to really sit down and think about how our lives are all about to become drastically different. For some it's moving out, and for some it's just the thought of not seeing your best friend on the way to fourth period English; either way, the feels are real. We are all in a tug of war with the emotions going on inside of us; everything is changing - we're ready, but we're not.

THE GOOD. Our lives are about to begin! There is a constant whirlwind of excitement. Senior awards, getting out of school early, parties, and of course Graduation. We are about to be thrust into a world of all new things and new people. Calling our own shots and having the freedom we have so desperately desired since the teenage years began is right around the corner. Maybe the best part is being able to use these new things surrounding you to grow and open your mind and even your heart to ideas you never could before. We get the chance to sink or swim, become our own person, and really begin to find ourselves.

Things we don't even know yet are in the works with new people we haven't even met yet. These friendships we find will be the ones to last us a lifetime. The adventures we experience will transform into the advice we tell our own children and will become the old tales we pass down to our grandkids when they come to visit on the weekends. We will probably hate the all night study sessions, the intensity of finals week, and the overpowering stress and panic of school in general, just like we did in high school... But it will all be worth it for the memories we make that will outlive the stress of that paper due in that class you absolutely hate. As we leave high school, remember what all the parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are telling you - this are the best times of our lives!

THE BAD. The sentimental emotions are setting in. We're crying, siblings are tearing up, and parents are full-out bawling. On that first day, we never expected the school year to speed by the way it did. Suddenly everything is coming to an end. Our favorite teachers aren't going to be down the hall anymore, our best friends probably won't share a class with us, we won't be coming home to eat dinner with our families...

We all said we wanted to get out of this place, we couldn't wait, we were ready to be on our own; we all said we wouldn't be "so emotional" when the time came, but yet here we are, wishing we could play one more football game with our team or taking the time to make sure we remember the class we liked the most or the person that has made us laugh even when we were so stressed we could cry these past few years. Take the time to hug your parents these last few months. Memorize the facial expressions of your little sister or brother. Remember the sound of your dad coming home from work. These little things we take for granted every day will soon just be the things we tell our college roommate when they ask about where we're from. As much as we've wanted to get out of our house and our school, we never thought it would break our heart as much as it did. We are all beginning to realize that everything we have is about to be gone.

Growing up is scary, but it can also be fun. As we take the last few steps in the hallways of our school, take it all in. Remember, it's okay to be happy; it's okay to be totally excited. But also remember it's okay to be sad. It's okay to be sentimental. It's okay to be scared, too. It's okay to feel all these confusing emotions that we are feeling. The best thing about the bittersweet end to our high school years is that we are finally slowing down our busy lives enough to remember the happy memories.

Try not to get annoyed when your mom starts showing your baby pictures to everyone she sees, or when your dad starts getting aggravated when you talk about moving out and into your new dorm. They're coping with the same emotions we are. Walk through the halls remembering the classes you loved and the classes you hated. Think of the all great times that have happened in our high school years and the friends that have been made that will never be forgotten. We all say we hated school, but we really didn't. Everything is about to change; that's a happy thing, and a sad thing. We all just have to embrace it! We're ready, but we're not...

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

When Words Are Not Enough

Sometimes you just need to be.


Life is a roller-coaster of ups and downs. We all desire easy fruitful lives where no one ever dies and no one ever leaves. Instead, we suffer through hardships and great trials that test our faith. These conflicts often leave us worn down and feeling helpless. This is the time when words become a languid breeze, going through one ear and out the other. This is what you should do when words are not enough to satiate the pain you hold in trembling hands.

Focus all your energy into just being. No one expects you to get over the tragedy that occurred in your life, so don't force yourself. Just eat, breathe, and sleep until you feel up to doing normal tasks. Whatever circumstance that has stolen your breath and turned your life upside down won't go a week in a couple of days or a week. Wounds like yours don't go away instantly; instead, they take time and nurturing. Sometimes it's best to keep a sore covered but in some circumstances, know that seeing someone is okay.

These tragedies you face are real, and they try to break down the very substances that make you who you are. Counselors and therapists can help you make sense of the burden you carry. There are many reasons why you might be hesitant to see a therapist, but if the burden you carry becomes too much, a therapist can help you lighten that load.

Know that what you are going through is real and it is tough, but you will make it out on top. You are a survivor and a success story. Every single bad thing that has tried to tear you down hasn't succeeded, and this will be no different. Trust me, your story is not over.

Related Content

Facebook Comments