Perspectives on Hinduism

Within the tradition, the great gods continued to be important, and to be depicted in their traditional poses

Brahmins, as ever, continued to be the guardians of the high tradition
Early efforts by outsiders to understand and depict the deities were not very satisfactory-- the work of *Picart* is a notable case in point
But even as time passed and understanding improved, traditional austerities and other religious practices were often treated by Westerners as exotic spectacles
Above all, the sacredness of the cow was fascinating to outsiders
Other animals too, including elephants, monkeys, and rats, sometimes received veneration
But there were also (rare) animal sacrifices, especially in Bengal, where goats were sometimes offered to Durga
Ceremonies in which devotees swung from flesh-embedded hooks were viewed with repugnance-- and outlawed by a coalition of missionaries and Brahmins
The burning of the dead on riverbanks was a perpetual source of fascination
The practice of sati aroused horror and revulsion; but also sometimes, when it was voluntary, evoked a certain romantic awe
And old temples were often seen as picturesque and artistic

The Brahmo Samaj reform movement, founded in 1828 by Ram Mohan Roy and Dwarkanath Tagore, was further developed by Keshub Chunder Sen
Swami Dayananda, founder of the Arya Samaj (1875), was markedly hostile to Islam, Christianity, and other religions; he also sought to redefine caste
Shri Ramakrishna, the charismatic Bengali mystic, claimed to experience all faiths in his ecstatic visions
Swami Vivekananda, Shri Ramakrishna's greatest disciple, made a tremendous hit in the West, and attracted a number of British disciples
Sri Aurobindo too left a large and complex legacy of writing, teaching, and organization (*Sri Aurobindo Ashram*)
Bankim Chandra Chatterjee's novel "Ananda Math" popularized the song "Vande Mataram"--and also gave the nationalist vision an anti-Muslim slant

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