Book Review: ‘Soul and Sword’ by Hindol Sengupta

Navigating the Intellectual Landscape of Political Hinduism in India – Unraveling the Past, Understanding the Present, Shaping the Future.

Book Title: Soul and Sword: The History of Political Hinduism
Author: Hindol Sengupta
Publisher: Vintage Books
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN: 978-0670093786
Date Published: Jan. 1, 2023
Price: INR 434

Soul and Sword by Hindol Sengupta Book Cover

Book Review

In the insightful exploration titled “Soul and Sword,” Hindol Sengupta takes on the ambitious task of unraveling the historical evolution of political Hinduism in India. Once relegated to the fringes of ideology, political Hinduism emerges as a foundational theme in India’s nationhood, predating even the Indian republic. Sengupta delves into the intricate journey of this ideology, tracing its roots from early Indian resistance to invasions to the intellectual definitions crafted by 19th-century literati and its contemporary manifestations in electoral politics.

As a resilient political theory, political Hinduism has weathered bans, boycotts, and periods out of power, ultimately rising to prominence in the twenty-first century as the dominant political force in India. Sengupta sheds light on the contrasting perspectives surrounding this ideology, portraying the determination of its adherents alongside the relentless criticism from its detractors. The ideological battleground is marked by accusations of promoting religious strife and debates over whether political Hinduism is the savior or the bane of India’s future.

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Soul and Sword” situates political Hinduism in its historical context, examining the sources and narratives that have shaped its worldview. Award-winning writer Hindol Sengupta’s meticulous study serves as critical reading for those seeking to comprehend India’s present and future. By scrutinizing the intellectual foundations of political Hinduism, the book not only elucidates the rise of figures like Narendra Modi but also provides an ideological framework to fathom India’s political, economic, and diplomatic decisions on the global stage. In this first intellectual history of political Hinduism, Sengupta navigates through medieval origins to contemporary India, offering readers a comprehensive understanding of the ideological forces steering the nation’s trajectory.

Thus, “Soul and Sword” can be seen as an in-depth study, emphasizing its appeal to readers interested in history, religion, and politics, particularly those curious about India’s role in the world. The book emerges as a significant contribution, offering insights into the ideological underpinnings that have shaped India’s rise as a major player in the global political landscape.

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