Globalisation, faith and darkness

That modernity and the market would serve to dispel the remaining vestiges of superstition, ritual and religiosity in India has been belied. Rationality and the scientific temper have not necessarily demolished blind faith and reliance on godmen or institutionalised religion. Yet while secularists of all stripes have lamented the rise of fundamentalism that has  condoned violence and excesses in the name of religion, there has not been adequate examination of the steady  encroachment of all democratic institutions by  religious  orthodoxy.  Secularism, the vision of India's constitution-makers, has failed to take root,and the culprits are usually identified as rabid rightwingers or regressive elements.

In this issue of Himal, scholar  Meera  Nanda  makes  a  compelling  argument  for  being  equally  wary  of a  seemingly  modernising  force  such  as globalisation, as it increasingly feeds religious nationalism the world over. Nanda's analysis  of  how  economic  liberalization fits  effortlessly  alongside  the  project  of 'Hinduising' the Indian polity makes a persuasive  case  for  an  understanding  based on a critique of the 'free market'. When religion is stripped of its spiritual element and commoditisation is the buzzword of a   packaged religiosity, reaching for the essentials of religious teachings is an exercise few undertake. Our cover  image,  "She the  Question", a section from a mural created by New York  City  artists   Chitra  Ganesh  and Christopher  Myers,  draws  its  inspiration  in part from the narratives  of  the Mahasiddhas, a Buddhist following circa the 12th century that engaged in acts of excess in order to attain enlightenment.  In the modern era, we seem impelled towards excess,  while moving further into the darkness.

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